Notes from San Blas

By William Haydon

The Cracked Tiles Of San Blas


note_march2011I have lived in Mexico for well over a year now. I have experienced Mexican weather through good seasons and bad. From virtual non-existence, my Spanish language skills have progressed to a sort of primitive fluency. I have eaten bad chorizo and recovered from the experience to the point that I can once again be in its presence without vomiting. When I walk to the plaza I receive so many friendly greetings I can easily pretend I am downright popular.

In short, I feel like I have become a local.

The town seems a bit smaller now as the faces become more familiar, and I have gotten to know the back-stories of many of my fellow gringo expats. I learned very early on here to be careful about asking people what brought them to San Blas, because more times than not, they will be happy to tell you, and you had better hope that you have a comfortable seat and a cold drink as the stories are seldom short.

My friend Lou says that San Blas is a mosaic and we are all cracked tiles.  When I first arrived here, that comment might have offended me but after a year, I can say I think I know what he´s talking about. In a mosaic, there are places for tiles of virtually every shape and color and in fact the only common trait they all share is that they are all broken. Of course I don´t mean to say that all of us gringos living in San Blas are actually broken, but we are, quite frequently, very uniquely shaped.

Those of us who are not actually living out our golden retirement years have often ended up here because of hardship or adversity back home. Most of us are motivated by financial necessity. Some of us are seeking a fresh start after a failed relationship or business endeavor. Others are nursing chronic health problems. There are various other reasons people end up here, many characterized by some type of misfortune, and yet in spite of this we don´t seem to think of ourselves as that unfortunate.

Quite the contrary.

Mexico has rewarded us with one of mankind´s rarest, most precious commodities: a second chance. Whatever it was that compelled us to relocate to Mexico becomes immaterial upon arrival here. It is part of our former existence, a skin we can shed and leave behind. It may have little or no bearing on the life we now lead here.

As for myself, I have actually grown to regard what once seemed a personal tragedy instead as the cathartic event that changed my life by convincing me to give up trying to fit in with the other perfectly square tiles back home and to find my place here, among the other cracked tiles, in the mosaic of San Blas.

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