It's no secret that I love Los Laureles. The people, the homes, the very contours of the community evoke my affection. In thinking about what to write on this month I found myself at a loss for good stories. There's a funny anecdote here and there but no grand meta-theme to tie it all together and Lord knows I like me a good meta-theme. What I did find though were about 356 photos that I've taken over the last few months. Taken as a whole these photos highlight what I love best about my people in Laureles; their joy, their resilience, their freedom and true community.
Oh and worry not, I didn't post all 356:
Oh and worry not, I didn't post all 356:
This is Noel a sweet kid and one of the few students that I'm helping this year with their studies.
He comes from a good solid family, is driven and generally avoids bad influences.
He's a joy to be around.
One of my all-time favorites, beloved Chucu.
I told him I needed his photo for a project and this is what he gave me.
He's another that I'm supporting in school; everyone that's ever met him agrees that there's something special about him. One lady said that just the way he carries himself is unique.
I have high hopes for this one.
Her not so much.
This is Chucu's Aunt Paola.
I've never heard her string a coherent sentence together; she's just a quirky gal that has eschewed nearly all social relationships, preferring the radio and the bottle to human interaction.
This day that I stopped by I found her sitting chest deep in the family's sole source of clean water, the outdoor sink.
She was drinking booze and eating Cheetos.
Admittedly it was an oppressively hot day and the water looked mildly inviting, the bloated and floating Cheetos notwithstanding.
Dear, sweet, selfless Heidi. Perhaps the kindest person I've ever met.
She's another that we're helping in her studies.
She's so quiet and timid though that she won't ask me directly when she needs something for school, rather she'll use Duke as a liaison.
Speaking of Duke and this girl.
There's nothing romantic going on between the two, though I wouldn't object to such an arrangement.
Heidi is so loved by this community that at the beginning of the school-year, when I had nothing extra with which to help her go to school; Duke took it upon himself to buy her school supplies and uniform.
He works Monday-Friday and studies on the weekends and the little extra that he had he used to help Heidi study.
That should give you an idea of how highly the people of Laureles hold Heidi in their estimation.
He's a crippled Cobbler.
Cobbled a number of my shoes for me, this one.
I overheard a conversation between two younger men in the community a month ago.
One suggested that the other, being a better cobbler ought to give up his back-breaking, day-laborer work and start cobbling shoes for a living.
The recipient of the suggestion, the aspiring young cobbler calmly quashed the idea.
His reasoning was that the community couldn't support two cobblers and that if he hung out his shingle, El Renco's business would quickly dry up and he'd be ruined.
"El Renco is old, this all he has left to support himself, it would be a sin to take that away from him."
That's Los Laureles, right there.
A pigeon with clipped wings.
Not sure what to say about this one other than it never ceases to amaze me what the children (and adults) find to keep as pets here.
I once saw a kid here walking a crab on a leash.
After some goading from his friends though he used that leash as a slingshot of sorts to fully pulverize that poor crab against a brick wall.
I wanted to slay that child.
Still do at times.
Never liked that child...or anyone in that family for that matter.
The whole lot seems rotten right down to the core.
Families like that, where the lot of them are just downright intolerable (and slay-worthy), are just so frustrating.
I'm recollecting an old Williamsport family from the swim team right now.
They were that way.
Still are I would imagine.
I'd bet the swim team family and the crab family would get along famously.
Not to be outdone, the sister had her own clipped-winged pigeon.
Misery loves company.
Sundays after church have become our sacred time in the river.
Johnny loans me his truck, I load up as many children as I can in the back and off we go to Las Mangas.
Sometimes my Gringo-friends join.
Nodi doesn't seem terribly impressed with them though.
The lot of us that particular Sunday.
This past week I was at Marta's one evening and thick black smoke began billowing out of one of the abandoned buildings in front of her house.
Turns out a few kids decided to set a tire on fire inside of it.
There's not much to say here.
It made for a cool photo-op though.
Tolo and I share April 22nd as our birthday.
Every year we try and celebrate together in some way.
This year he opted to go out to dinner with me in the evening.
He brought Chihua along as well because...it's Chihua and who doesn't love him.
That's all I've got. That's my view of Los Laureles. It may be biased and partial at times but I'm ok with that.