Today, we met Larry for brunch at the Cafe Parroquia next to the bookshop La Tecolote that sells English books. Rhys and I enjoyed cactus omelettes with a side dish of beans.
Larry seemed somewhat subdued but was still as friendly as he's been since we arrived. While sipping margaritas and lounging on his expensive leather couch we've speculated and talked to each other at length about his life. It was easy to imagine all sorts of nasty reasons why he'd give over his palace to a couple of older foreigners while he was off in Equador, but for the past fortnight Larry's been house-sitting a friend's house, five minutes drive from here, overseeing the installation of a new sewerage system. The noise from the pile drivers means he tries to stay out most days. It has meant he's not been able to shower and because there's no purification system, he's had to buy bottled water. He still comes to the gym at the bottom of the road here most days.
On our first night he said it would be like a vacation and that he needs to stick around because he thinks he has a prospective buyer for another house he's recently built and wants to sell to a Mexican (rather than an ex-pat, I guess). He's called on the phone a couple of times and on Wednesday Rhys helped him clean his tall windows and prune his banana trees. Ofcourse we're watering his plants twice a week (although it's rained a little the last couple of nights). The maid comes in once a week and cleans. He has an alarm system. To our minds he doesn't really need us to be here. He could alternate nights here and at his friend's house. So, why does he allow complete strangers to stay in his luxurious pad full of precious objets d'art? Why hasn't he suggested we do a bit of travelling so he can reclaim his home for himself? In effect, he's giving us a free holiday. In theory, we could all be in this situation for another two weeks.
'Do you miss your home?' I asked Larry at lunch
'No,' he said.
Is he being polite or has it been our enormous good fortune to meet an extremely generous-hearted human being with sound values, who has no trust issues? We may not know the answer until we leave, or ever, but for now it's made us think and talk alot about our own issues of trust and not just with complete strangers either.
It's made us wonder what it would be like to be a Gringo permanently living here. We've seen mostly older people, mainly American retirees we think, at the Biblioteca, in the supermarkets, at The Institute. We Gringos really stand out. The men are tall and fair and some women look so thin, perhaps anorexic. One such woman power walks each day in and out of town in the mid-day sun. Her face is bronzed, wrinkled and in the kind of pain that comes from enforcing hard regimes on the body and the psyche.
What do Mexicans really think of the wealthy white ex-pats? To what extent is there integration here in San Miguel de Allende? Clearly, many are making a contribution to the community and language will be a big factor in developing relationships. We wondered if some Mexican people speak Spanish to foreigners as a political statement even though they can speak English, rather like some Welsh speakers do at home. I have no problem with that, but in just visiting for a short time as a tourist, we feel the weight of colonial history on generations of lives. Should we carry the sins of our European ancestors on our shoulders like El Pipilo-the war hero, immortalised on the roundabout by Mega, carrying a huge stone slab on his back ready to fight for his beliefs? Guilt doesn't feel a healthy emotion here unless it's a trigger for change. It's made us think about how we can establish trust between people and nations focusing on the present and the future rather than our past?
We haven't told Larry yet, but we've decided to accept an invitation to visit a voluntary organisation down in San Cristobel de las Casas at the end of the month. It will mean leaving a week earlier than agreed. So much for being trustworthy,eh?