October 2009 home page


How I Got Into Trouble in Mexico
Rich ("Ricardo") Simons

Rich & Pals in Cerra Azul

It began stupidly - I was reading a local newspaper. It was the winter of 1983 and I had retired to write the Great American Novel. The paper said that a local caterer was planning a Christmas party for a girls’ orphanage in Tecate, Mexico. That sounded like something that a guy with writer’s block should do, so I signed on. It was bitterly cold that winter but the little girls (about thirty of them) in their thin jackets were very brave and I was “hooked.”

The following Easter we set out to do a party for the girls, but discovered that we had way too much “stuff.” My wife, Ruth, got on the phone and found that there was a boys’ orphanage nearby. The Mother Superior arrived for the party with forty some odd dusty little boys clinging to her skirts. Thus did our tribe increase.
From then on our parties were ambi-gender, a good thing because a lot of kids in either orphanage had siblings in the other. Then suddenly, before I could object, I inherited the non-profit organization Los Amigos de Los Niños from the elderly couple who had founded the girls’ orphanage.

Time passed. The plot thickened. Seeking to make our lives more difficult, someone led us to a village south of Tecate called Cerro Azul. It is a typical “frontier town” of the sort you will find all over Mexico. The streets are not paved and there is no electricity and water arrives in trucks. We helped out the primary school there, and for a number of years hosted Christmas parties (for about 450 kids). And we began to take in “Dear Santa” letters.

Although our Christmas efforts were well received, it came to us that there was something more important – education. Education in Mexico is not cheap. Students must provide their own supplies, uniforms, and shoes, and pay tuition from 7th grade on. And there are no school buses. So we cranked up a scholarship program for good students who come from poor families. We support them as far as they can go – through college if possible. And a lot of them have. I stopped counting awhile back.
Over the years a number of these kids have become like our own children, and their children are our grandkids. And at last I have something to write about. It will be the Great Mexican Novel.


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