One of the questions I'm most often asked is, "Is it safe at the lakeside?"
I've always felt much safer here than anywhere I've lived before. Yes,
we have theft, but rarely is it accompanied by bodily harm. Children play
safely in the streets until well after dark. There's no concern for kidnapping,
rape or random shootings. We do not live in fear.
Now, after the horrendous events of September 11, I feel even safer here.
I'd like to scoop up my family and friends and transplant them south of
the border where I don't have to worry about them.
Coincidentally, one of the women I interviewed for the
Los Picaros article a week before the terrorist attacks had
said, "Originally, I didn't consider México as an option for retirement
because of banditos and terrorists." I transcribed that tape a week after
the attack. It made me shudder. This horrific catastrophe has changed
many of our perspectives.
As has happened all over the world, those of us living in México have
come closer together-the Mexicans and those of us privileged to live in
their country. The day after the attack, the San Andres church held a
special memorial service. On the evening of October 11, we honored the
heroes, the victims and the families and friends of the victims with a
special candlelight celebration.
Our own editor-in-chief, Judy King, felt the love of this kind country
hosts on the night of their own Independence Day celebration:
Every year at 11 p.m. on September 15, in every Mexican town and village
the town officials reenact Padre Hidalgo's Grito. While the entire speech
was not recorded, all the versions end with cries of "Viva México! Viva!"
It was this cry that rallied farmers and townspeople to begin México's
difficult battle against Spain-eventually bringing independence to México
and relief from the harsh slavery they had experienced for so long.
Tonight several friends and I went to Chapala to hear El Grito. When the
presidente of Chapala, along with several other area dignitaries, filed
through the crowd to the town hall, they were wearing small American flags
in their lapels. At one point during the proceedings, the MC welcomed
the North Americans present and commented on the importance of the foreign
community living at Lake Chapala. He assured all present of the pain and
solidarity the Mexican people felt for the United States after the tragic
events of the week.
Mexicans nearby patted our shoulders, shook our hands, and whispered their
encouragement, sympathy and sorrow. The evening deeply touched us. We
didn't know what to say, other than "Gracias." Both my friend and I shed
a few tears and decided we wanted to share this with all of you.
VIVA MÉXICO. . .VIVA!
VIVA USA. . .VIVA!
A short time later, I received this email from a Mexican friend and writer,
Ilse Hoffman. She gave me permission to share this with you:
I have no words to express to you my feelings in this moment of trial
after the World Trade Center and Pentagon tragedies, that is why I will
let my heart speak to tell you that this attack has not only been against
your country, but against the whole civilized world, and against the human
race, including Mexicans.
Some of you, my friends, are living in México; some went back to live
in the U.S., and some have just visited México as tourists or to do business.
To all of you I want to say that the Afghans and Talibans might not be
fond of Americans, but in México, we are. We love you guys. You are most
welcomed into this land because you are an asset to this country. You
are so caring and sensitive, always trying to help our poor people, natives,
disabled children, etc. You probably do for our people more than we Mexicans
do for our own people. God bless you for that.
My prayers, respect, and love go to all of you in these moments of trials
and tribulations. May God give you all the strength to overcome this tragedy.
And, from Ruth Ross Merrimer, a local news reporter:
On Friday, September 14, in an emotional display of support for the U.S.
community, fifty students from the Ajijic Junior High School, wearing
sparkling blue and white uniforms, marched onto the Lake Chapala Society
grounds in single file and formed lines facing the patio. They embedded
candles in the flowerbed, raised their right arms across their chests
in salute and stood for a moment of silence.
During my Spanish lessons, I asked our instructor if Mexicans were now
afraid to fly commercial airlines. He looked surprised and said, "No.
Always, as we board a flight, we cross ourselves and put ourselves in
God's hands. He alone determines when we die and we do not fear death."
Perhaps some of the Mexican faith and fatalism rubs off on us when we
have lived here for a long time. Every American and Canadian I have spoken
with since the tragic events in September have expressed their gratitude
to be living here at the lakeside, where we feel safe and do not live
Judy King and I send prayers and condolences to our fellow Americans and
hope that peace and safety will soon return to the United States and the
free world. God bless America.
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