We bought our property here in Sayulita 12 years ago, almost to the day. The woman who sold it to us, Ruperta, lived in a house on the corner across the street from the plaza where they used to sell gas out of jerry jugs. In fact, she still lives there, but the jerry jugs are long gone. On the night we went to her house to finalize the transaction we sat in her living room amongst her family members. I remember her grown daughter was there, a spitting image of Ruperta herself with the exact same hair cut and the same watchful eyes that frightened me just a little (or maybe I was afraid that they would change their minds after recalculating the exchange rate and decide that $3200 dollars just wasn't enough pesos). She watched us as we counted out our money and then took the stack of bills and recounted them herself. Sitting on the opposite end of the couch from me and Dave, was an adult son of Ruperta's who really could not be bothered with the whole business of selling properties and was far more interested in the soap opera quietly playing from the TV in the corner of the living room. There may have been another adult there, too, but I can't recall. I do remember Ruperta's grandson; her daughter's son, who was about 8 or 9 years old at the time. He played quietly on the stairs off the living room, observing the whole affair indifferently and every now and then glancing our way to sneak a peak at Cole (who was 13 months old).
Since we've been back in Sayulita we drive by Ruperta's house on the corner almost every day. I often see Ruperta and her daughter sitting up on the front stoop watching town bustle by on the cobblestone. And ocassionally I would see a young man with them. Once he was watering the orchids. Another time he sat on the steps and chatted with friends. At some point I realized that this young man was the boy I remembered from 12 twelve years ago. This young man, this boy from 12 years ago, died last night in a terrible car accident. Two other boys from Sayulita also died in the crash. It is a sad, sad day here in Sayulita. Our town is mourning. The street in front of Ruperta's house was closed to set up chairs for people to sit and grieve. Stores were closed. Kids were let out of school early to attend the service. Mass was held. The church bells rang. People cried. Oh, people cried. And for the first time since we've been down here. I felt like an intruder; an outsider. I felt like a guest overstaying my welcome in the midst of a family tragedy. These wonderful people share their town with us. Open their hearts and their homes to us. They let us take advantage of their beautiful weather, their fabulous surf and their generous hospitality. Then in the wake of a tragedy like this, they have to put up with clueless gringos on vacation; laughing and taking pictures of dogs in the plaza. It was a poignant distinction as the funeral procession marched down Revoluccion followed by most of the locals while vacationers lined the sidewalks taking pictures.
And although our family didn't march in the procession or go to the special mass service, neither are we here on vacation. Over the past four months we have become a part of this community, albeit on the periphery. We aren't family, but we feel the pain of the people who have become a part of our lives down here. Our heart aches for Ruperta and her family, their history having been woven with our own. And for Namo, our favorite electrician, when he tells us with teary eyes that two of the boys were his cousins. We feel it when Violeta recounts the details of the crash having seen it first hand when walking home with her husband. We fear for our own kids when we hear the crash site was on the highway right near where Cole walks to school. Our heart aches for Mario, who works on our crew, because those were his best buds. And for Cole's friend, Jonathan and his family, who own Carmelita's Restaurant (our favorite), because two of the boys were their family, too.
If you are so inclined please keep these people on your hearts that they may have the strength to endure this sad time. And give your kids an extra hug.