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Lessons from adopted community go beyond hospitality

I recently got up early, put myself on a morning plane and went to Old Mexico to visit some Mexican-American friends who were remodeling their winter home. What an experience!

First, let me tell you my husband and I owned a farm for roughly 50 years before his passing. We had pumped over $3 million into a small community of 5,000, which was now was at a 73% poverty level.

I felt like a rock star when I walked down the street. People would come out of the woodwork to speak to me and ask if I remembered their cousin’s brother-in-law’s nephew who worked for us in 1984. Ahhhh. What was his name? Yes, I remembered writing him a payroll check!

There was even a cousin whose name was Moises, and I called him “Moi-siete” because “seis” means “six” in Spanish, and he was always more of a 7 — “Moi-siete” — than a 6 to me.

Anyway, for the top 10 guys who worked for us, I went to TJ Maxx and stood in front of the women’s foo-foo counter and bought the wives perfumes, powders, lotions and whatever I could find to send home with the husbands. I always gift-wrapped them and sent a boatload of candy for the kids because it was fall, when candy was in abundance.

We were invited to an anniversary party at Moi-siete’s, and his wife put her hand on mine and said, “You probably don't remember this (all in Spanish), but years ago you sent me a gift of a box of perfume, and I wanted to thank you because that was the BEST perfume I have ever had!” Oh, I remember, and I told her thank you for remembering — and together we recalled the year: 32 years ago. What a heartfelt thank you that was for both of us!

I learned a lot of things about hospitality in Old Mexico.

Mexican hospitality 101: There may be four bedrooms, but only one has a window. I graciously stayed in that one.

Mexican hospitality 101a: There may be two bathrooms, but only one has a door. I was grateful to get to use that one.

Mexican hospitality 101b: There is no Home Depot in Mexico. Only the corner hardware store, and they don't deliver. So the construction was REALLY slow but consistent. The workers worked 10 hours and got paid $37, where the American equivalent of a loaf of bread costs $3, but thank goodness they don't eat much bread!

Mexican hospitality 101c: Be prepared to eat 10 times a day. This is the reason there are no all-you-can-eat restaurants in Mexico!

Mexican hospitality 101d: Never, ever eat in a hot wings place in Mexico unless you want to burn your face off and possibly stunt hair growth for the rest of your life! That's why they call them hot wings in a place where the name is literal. Good grief!

We went somewhere every day, participated in a traditional Mexican wedding, a baptism and a nine-day rosary for the death of a friend. All reasons to cook, congregate and celebrate!

On the day of my arrival, they held a reception for me. They cooked “sachipulpos,” which aren't octopuses like the name would indicate but hot dogs cut in half and scored with legs that will curl when deep-fried, becoming octopus-like. They also had bologna sammiches and french fries in my honor. I was flattered, and it was actually tasty! Who knew?

We Americans could learn a lot from the family-oriented culture I experienced in Mexico. They live close to the heart and generously share what bounty they have. They are respectful of the virtues of faith and decency. They contribute to each other’s well-being with sincere connections. I am filled with gratitude and honored to be an adopted member of this community.