Situated in the middle of seven barrios where ruling gangs fight for territory, not a day goes by that we don’t see new graffiti on the walls around our home. The youths spray their gang colors on the walls and vehicles of the rival gangs’ turf. Even our own home and trailer has been decorated in times past. The gangs mostly leave us alone now, as our work in Tepehua is well known and they want us there. Derrumbles, the most violent of the neighboring gangs, seem to be the most creative in their designs. Each design is meant as an intimidating reminder of who is lord over where.
A local artist has recently been hired to help clean up our streets. A young father, Carlos, has been hired by our sweet neighbor to paint images of the Virgen Maria over the main walls that have the most offensive graffiti. He is quite gifted and has recently painted a beautiful picture of the Virgen de Guadalupe on the main wall around the corner of our home.
Now, with the image of such an honored saint on that wall, we hope that that area will better respected. Since the painting went up, families stop, genuflect and pray for the hope of a better life to come.
This is the season where we honor our patron saint in the village. Each night is a festive reminder of how our neighbors hope and long for the things of the Living God by singing and honoring the saints. The last few nights the local bands sang Las Mananitas to the Virgen in celebration of her birth. It is a loud and rowdy time each night after dark, as juettes (fireworks) are set off every few minutes all night long, and people gather around man made images of dead saints. It will continue this way well into the New Year. People will wrap themselves in heavy blankets and sit by bonfires blazing along the sides of the road. Men will drink even more than they have as the women carefully and prayerfully finger their rosaries. Children take advantage of the late nights by playing well into the dark.
The recent rise in violence has dampened their festive spirits only slightly. The other night as our neighbors were singing to their dear Maria, we heard more gunfire. The narco problem is on the rise and the war for the area of Jalsico along the drug corridor from South America is seriously on now as the two major narco gangs rally for dominance.
Our great hope in being here and living amongst these precious people is to be able to share the grace, hope and love of The Living God, with each one.