Undertaking a big project like Casa Nana in a foreign country can leave one with feelings of uncertainty, whether you’re choosing materials for your floors, or just trying to do right by the workers. The albañiles on our site have proven to be considerate, hard-working and good-natured. They have been so patient and polite as we’ve paraded guests through the property last week. (In the above photo, we found evidence that they were working on pleasantries, as well.) They were hired by the civil engineer who was hired by our architect, so we naturally have no real connection to them. But we feel a responsibility to do right by them, and not take them for granted.
Then our friend Jorge, who is a Mérida native, told us that we had just missed Labor Day, Día del Trabajo, but it wasn’t too late to offer the routine gesture of providing lunch to the workers. Paul and I immediately agreed, but we don’t have a car and don’t know where to buy things, so we asked Jorge and Joanna to help us out. We planned to go to the market early Saturday and pick up roast pork and trimmings.
But as the day came closer, Jorge said he had a better idea. The pork is better at a certain place out by the baseball stadium, he said; we’ll get it there. We agreed, not quite understanding what was coming next. (This last sentence could be dropped into all my blog posts, by the way. I’m always nodding and trusting.)
I thought we might swing by and drop off a tray of roast pork, habaneros, etc. But when we met Jorge and Joanna on The Big Day, they took us to the campus of their beautiful school in the Centro and led us to their lab kitchen. There was the pork, along with cabbage, piles of sour orange, beautiful huge avocados, and a large bag of fried pork skins called chicharrón. Two school employees were busy at work combining the ingredients into a bucked-sized container, to be served as tacos, also called chicharrón. Paul and I took a sample. Delicious! A nice balance of flavors, and a good hearty dish for a group of men after a half-day of physical labor. Actually, a nice dish for anyone; I’d serve this to my closest friends without hesitation.
The platter was covered in foil and I had Paul carry it a couple of blocks to the car. Pedestrians swirled around us. Don’t drop it, don’t drop it!
They then drove us down to the work site. The work site was busy, and dustier than normal. Paul carried the platter by an area where workers were excavating rubble and dirt. He couldn’t really see the ground, but it was rocky and pitted. Don’t drop it, don’t drop it!
Saturdays the crew breaks up at 12:30, and we arrived shortly before noon. Jorge and Joanna spoke to the supervisor for us, and then directly address the crew of 12 or 13. They were hard at work, but paused to hear them tell us that we want to thank them and honor their service with this small token of chicharrón. We were running late, so we gave the supervisor money for Coke or beer.
The whole time I was stunned by the sheer generosity of Jorge and Joanna. They cared enough about the workers, and about maintaining tradition, to make sure we paid proper tribute for Labor Day, went out of their way to give them the best platter they could find (as opposed to the easiest and most convenient) and then made it all happen for us, taking time out of their very busy day.
Here’s a backgrounder on our friendship with the Rosados, starting with a winter day in Connecticut reading Magic Made in Mexico… Joanna and Jorge are teachers at heart, and they’ve taught us so much.