Acapulco Stories: Old Man on the Hill
The ride up and down our hill is one full of waves and smiles from various people who at this point recognize us as a part of the neighborhood. The only time we don’t get waves is when there’s no one out, either early in the morning or late at night. Sometimes we get whistles...often from people asking for rides down.
I look forward to going places because of Acapulco itself and the people within it. So when I go down the hill I look for the regulars, that is the people who are generally around to smile or wave at us as we go by.
There’s one guy I look for in particular and he often has people gathered around him. It’s an old man most of the way up the hill that sits by the road just outside of his house in a plastic chair most of the day. He lives in what most people would consider a shack so there’s a reason he sits outside when he’s home, there’s not much room for him inside and certainly not his guests.
I have no idea his age. Something tells me he’s a lot older than he looks but he’s fairly active for being old. He’s almost always got a bible in his hands, even if he’s not at that time reading it. I’m not a religious woman, but I do admire his dedication to anything despite what most people would consider not great circumstances.
Now while he lives in a tiny wooden house and is fairly poor he seems healthy and happy and uncaring of his economic situation. There he sits every day to offer a smile and a wave. Sometimes we forget things and have to go back home, passing him repeatedly in a short time, but he still always waves at us repeatedly (often with a chuckle) if he’s paying attention. The only time he ignores us is when he’s got his face turned towards the open bible in his lap.
He’s been there longer than we have and he’s been friendly to us since it was obvious we lived somewhere in the neighborhood. Once it was clear we weren’t scared and running or screaming, we had the respect of the locals. We also treated them with respect, so long as you don’t act like you’re better than the people you’re surrounded by they’ll treat you with respect.
Last year I walked up and down the mountain a few times for various reasons. The first time I walked up the mountain was brutal and he was there at the point where I was fed up to cheer me on. Walking down the mountain is actually something I’ve done repeatedly at this point and it’s honestly a nice walk, it’s up that’s the bitch.
That day, I had just been refused by every collectivo driver I tried to get to stop(collectivos carry more than one passenger along a set route, like a bus but in a car) , from what I could tell they were all off duty for lunch due to the timing of the day. I was new to the system so I didn’t understand there’d be a time of day where they’d stop to eat, just like everyone else.
So, I’d just walked all over the city looking for butane and was giving up. At that time we had EXTREMELY limited access to both weed and butane so finding either was an adventure and often a fruitless one. Putting it simply I walked from the beach to my house on the top of the mountain, all because I really didn’t have the spare cash to blow on a regular taxi to go home empty handed. So the pictures where you see the beach down and I’m at the top, I walked from that beach up to where those photos are taken.
So I walked with the hope that maybe I could catch a break some way up the hill and I just didn’t. I didn’t know of the meeting spots to get a collectivo at that time, so I was stuck just trying to catch one with an empty seat on it’s route which isn’t easy when they’re all ready for lunch.
That day I saw just how hard it is to climb the mountain I live on and while I’m glad I don’t have to do it all the time, it wasn’t as bad as I expected. I was honestly only really having a hard time about the time I reached that old man with his bible. I was freshly dreaded, that means my hair had just been turned to dreadlocks so it looked like a frizzy crazy mess and it was not well contained when he saw me.
He was reading his bible but couldn’t ignore me. When he saw it was me he raised his fist and cheered for me and said “Bueno Bueno Bueno!” I instantly went from hating my life to laughing and saying gracias.
So to this day every time we drive down the mountain during the daylight hours I look for this old man and I sometimes wave to him even when he’s got his face in his bible. He lives the defintion of a simple happy existence and it oozes from him.
Even with his modest property he still takes care of it. We often see him fixing or cleaning things on his property and the ones nearby as he seems to have a good relationship with his neighbors. You often see people of all ages sitting and talking with him. Sometimes his family sells tamales from his house.
I don’t know if his life really is simple and nice but it seems that way from the outside but that’s all that matters to me. He’s a source of inspiration because I think he’s the type that could look happy even when things are falling apart. He lives in a wooden shack in a place where wood houses do not hold up but he doesn’t seem to mind and you can tell with the vibe that surrounds him and the people that visit him.
I’ve never spoken to him but I have considered taking his picture MANY times but haven’t because I don’t want to be rude. If I ever do take a photo, I’ll stop and ask for it and it’ll likely be something I keep to show my kids later in life.
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