I’d like you to meet my friend Gloria and her husband Adrian. In fact, I’d like to invite you to join me for a Fish Feast at their new home! I know Gloria won’t mind if you come with me – she’s proud of her new home and loves to cook and entertain.
I met Gloria at Manos de Amor. She works part time in the kitchen and helps clean the home. She speaks no English, but we are friends and I have been cheering her on for the last year as she and Adrian build their dream home down the river on the outskirts of town.
Life has not been easy for Gloria. Just over a year ago she lost her oldest son in a car accident and she has never fully recovered. What mom could? Her oldest daughter has a learning disability. But Gloria is strong and resourceful and over the past few years she has been paying tiny sums of money each month to buy a piece of land. Her dream was to own her own home, so she would not have to pay rent. On her small salary, the rent was killing her, and she was determined to create a better life for her family.
Finally, the day came when Gloria announced to us she had paid off the land and she was ready to start building. And by ‘ready to start building’ I don’t mean calling a general contractor, and an architect and an engineer and an interior designer and a bunch of crews for different trades. I mean she was literally ready to start building. She and Adrian took a saw and some machetes and headed into the bush near their land. They cut down trees to form the posts that would hold the structure. Over the next few months they accumulated some cement blocks and a friend donated money for a roof. They created two bedrooms and a tiny kitchen area for storage of food and dishes. The cooking and eating will be done outside. In fact, as in most Mexican homes, most of the living is done outside with family telling stories gathered around a fire. Adrian dug a hole that will be their underground pit oven for cooking birria. Birria is a spicy Mexican stew usually made from goat, a favorite dish from the state of Jalisco which is just a few miles from Bucerias. The rocks in the bottom of the pit will be heated and a clay pot full of meat and chilies and other spices and covered with maguey leaves will be roasted for many hours. Gloria also planted a garden to keep her family supplied with the important Mexican salsa ingredients – tomatoes, avocados, chilies, onions and cilantro. To ensure her late son was not left behind as they moved into this new chapter, Gloria hung pictures of him in every room – there is no doubt he is still a big part of her family and even in her new joy, she continues to mourn.
Yesterday Gloria invited us to her home for a feast of grilled fish, homemade spicy sauces, beans and of course corn tortillas. The entire fish was brushed with a spicy sauce made of garlic and chilies and flattened on the grill. It was delicious and there was something comforting and liberating about pulling the white meat off the fish bones and licking the spicy sauce off our fingers. Some of my friends popped the cooked eyeballs into their mouths – I drew the line there!
Grant and I tried to keep up with the Spanish conversation but mainly we just enjoyed sitting back and celebrating success with this family – including their 2 dogs, some cats and 2 baby parrots. They still have work to do. They don’t have lights yet. Eventually they’ll have windows. But this is their forever family home, built with their own hands and dreams and love and we say SALUD GLORIA AND ADRIAN!