Welcome to Mexico!
By Victoria Schmidt
I miss Mary. Some say she died of a heart attack, someone else said it was complications from diabetes. Whatever took her from our midst, stole away a joyful and generous spirit.
Mary sold jewelry. She could be found at most all the “hangouts” of the tourists and the expats. She would lug around two different sample boxes, one contained rings for both fingers and ears, and the other contained necklaces. Mary always greeted you with a smile, and while her jewelry was mostly stainless steel, her memory was crystal. She would remember a purchase made six months prior, and would recommend more purchases to compliment it.
Never too pushy, she’d offer a price, and then the negotiations would begin. “For you, $200—no, $150 pesos” she said one day as I admired a small beaded necklace. All I needed to do would be to hold it up, glance back, and before I could say anything else she said: “OK, $125.”
At the Ajijic square one day, she dropped by our table and asked if anyone wanted to buy. No one did; yet she sat and talked with us for a few minutes, helping us with our Spanish. Then she gathered her things and went on. Later that night, my husband and I were at a restaurant in Chapala—and there was Mary still out selling her wares. I wondered how many miles she put on in a day. It seemed like she worked such long hours, and she seemed so worn and tired.
Since it was near Christmas, my husband decided to treat me with a beautiful necklace. But we had to get to an ATM to replenish our cash. So we left the restaurant with Mary following us in her car.
While my husband worked the machine, she and I talked about her work, and her family. She had already lost a brother, and only had one sister. Just then, a young girl came running up and hugged Mary—one of her nieces, she explained. Mary said she didn’t have any other family. I asked her if she was done for the night, and she said, “I think so now, it’s late…it’s enough for today.” We left her talking to her niece.
In January we had a visitor from “up North” and Mary showed up at yet another restaurant as we ate. Our friend selected a necklace to buy, and we bought Mary some coffee and cake, which she readily accepted… and then turned and shared half of her cake with the man who sells baskets.
When I saw her next, she told me her sister died. She was so sad, and seemed only to think of her loss. We didn’t talk about jewelry that day, and that was the last time I ever saw Mary.
I miss Mary. I miss her joking with us, her smile, and I feel as though I lost a friend. Others at Lakeside seem to feel the same. When Mary died, her nieces didn’t have the money to bury her, and rather than allowing the State to bury her, one Lakeside woman put up a loan to have Mary buried by a funeral home. The total cost was about $7000 pesos. Lakesiders have been donating to the fund, which is now down to $3000 pesos. Yoly’s is taking donations so the balance of the bill can be paid. I think it speaks volumes about the kind of person Mary was that people are contributing to help lay her to rest. But it also speaks volumes about the hearts of the people who live here at Lakeside.