I first learned of its healing powers during my first visit to Alamos in 196l. Our two-month-old baby had just died from a birth defect and my husband, Dave, and I decided to take a trip to the little town to recover. Dave had visited Alamos while dove hunting in Navojoa and was awed by its charm and beauty. From the time we landed at its grassy airstrip, I was comforted by the warmth of its soft, sweet air.
Thus began a series of visits and then a three-year rental of Kathy Rodriguez’ home. We were able to leave our home in Palos Verdes, California on a Friday afternoon in our small plane and enjoy a long weekend in Alamos at least once a month. We were immediately made to feel welcome by friends like the Windermans, the Nuzums, the Cunninghams, and the Schofields during our frequent dinners at Los Tesoros. We soon decided this was where we wanted to retire. In the early 90’s we began house hunting in earnest. At one point, Joan Winderman said it was time to fish or cut bait, and we purchased our 250-year-old home at 20 Calle Obregon.
With the help of my dear friend, Sandra Felando, who was a talented interior designer and had a family history in Mexico, we set out to return the home to its Colonial roots. Our first step was to measure every inch of the 6000-square-foot plus house to see what furniture in our Palos Verdes home would fit. We then traveled to Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende, Talaquepaque, and Tonala to purchase furniture, glassware, pottery, and terra cotta pavers for the floors. Thanks to Sandy, when the movers arrived with all our possessions, we knew exactly where they could put them. After trips to Bev Krucek’s art gallery and Hector’s gift shop we were ready to host our first T.G.I. F. I subsequently added some beautiful paintings by dear friends such as Jim Wilson and Babs Watson.
Because I had enjoyed many of the house and garden tours and felt so strongly about education for the Alamos youth, I joined Los Amigos de Educacion and became its leader. As a former cable television marketing executive, I drew up a budget, established committees and held regular board meetings. (Joan found these boring and preferred to volunteer for the Saturday tours!) Dave lent his legal skills to drawing up our by-laws and gaining tax deductable status for the organization. Because our house was within walking distance of the hotels where the tours buses parked, I believe we led over a 1000 tourists through our home during a season. Our efforts were more than rewarded at the annual gathering of what would become 300 scholarship students and we heard how much the opportunity to gain an education had meant to them. My favorite story was from a young woman who was a medical student in Culiacan. But for the beca, only her brothers would have been allowed to go to school.
I also joined the Alamos Garden Club and my passion for gardening truly began. It was wonderful sharing seeds, cuttings, and advice on gardening in the deciduous tropics. When we had an exchange with the Tucson Garden Club, one woman asked for the name of that “beautiful blue-flowered vine in the lobby at Los Tesores.” (Thunbergia grandiflora) This prompted Joan, Stephanie Meyer, and I to try to identify all of the flowering vines in Alamos. We found that more than two-thirds of what have been described as “The Most Beautiful Vines in the World,” could be found in Alamos gardens and the surrounding countryside. This led to my writing, and Joan photographing, and Stephanie offering her botanical expertise to a book that we someday hope to publish.
One of my main challenges to living in Alamos was to learn to speak Spanish. I had studied Latin and French in high school and college, but no espanol. During my hour-long commute to Century City, I listened to The Granada School of Languages’ audio tapes over and over again. These gave me the basics in grammar. Then Joan, Elizabeth, Babs, and I gathered each week to watch the PBS series “Destinos.” It was such an engaging soap opera and its hero, Allejandro, was so handsome, we would not miss a single episode. Joan and I supplemented our sessions by studying with Hermalinda and tackling 3rd grade Mexican readers. I never became fluent, but was able to get by as long as everyone spoke slowly and avoided using a lot of idioms.
After 13 years in Alamos, our son and daughter asked us to “come home” to be more a part of theirs and their six children’s lives. However, it was with great sadness that we left our friends and our Mexican home. As Richard Elkus wrote in his book, Alamos, A
Philosophy in Living, “Each town in Mexico has is own character, its own style, its own life. In Spanish, they call it duende or elf, and every town has its own elfin charm—that colorful spark which contributes to the large canvas of the nation as a whole. It is quite possible that Alamos has more of the magical and elusive duende than any other town in that country….” I heartily agree.
Sonoma, California June, 2012