Two Sunday’s ago, I was invited to a Finca in Nueva Concepción. It was a real treat.
Our host was Tito, an older gentleman who was delighted to have us, and chock full of good stories of days-gone-by. Pictures of us, below, with Tito and the famous 5 pound mango.
As always, CLICK on a PICTURE to enlarge – these are fun fruit shots.
Thinking the Finca would be a distance from the center of town, I was surprised to see it was literally “steps away” from the main market. We turned left onto the street at one end of the market and right there, almost across from the side entrance was a short dirt road we turned onto, which leads to Tito’s Finca and Auto-Hotel.
One thinks of a Finca as being “in the country’ and a fair distance from town, but being so close, this walk-ability turns out to be a very good thing for Tito. Tito had worked in a textile ‘fabrica’ for 34 years. Straining his eyes every day, often into the night hours, he can no longer see things in the left field of vision of his left eye; this resulted in two accidents within one month, so no more driving for him these days.
Tito told us how he used to fix the machines in the mill, and that he knew them all so well, when he walked into the fabrica and a machine was ‘off’ he could tell, and would say, “something Better check the machines, one of them isn’t working right.”
The Finca was relaxing and a great diversion. It was extremely hot, as it is in that area of Chalatenango, but we stayed cool in the pool. It’s a common misconception that Chalatenango has Cooler weather (‘Chalatenango es Frecso’), even among Salvadorans. *
Tito was a great host. We passed him walking into town to make a few purchases as we drove on the driveway and he told us straightaway to hit the pool, he’d be right back.We spent some time in the pool and the kids had a blast. I was holding my sister-in-law’s baby, and she being much ‘whiter’ or “chelita” than other kids, I tried my best to shelter her in a small corner of the pool in the shade. So much for that – later when my sister in law had her, they were all over the place, and I felt so foolish trying to “protect her” from the sun – this is a very American thing, and likely more necessary with people of serious northern-skinned ancestry. Although little Wendy is on the pale side, her mother’s nickname is “Morena” – which means dark-skinned, and by day’s end little Wendy showed no signs of looking pink or red.
Tito was so generous, I would say almost OVER-generous, with us. After the pool festivities winded down, and it appeared things were wrapping up, Tito announced “And now we’re going to have a little lunch….” This little lunch was a GIANT box of Pollo Campero with all the trimmings – fries, slaw, bread, and flan. He had picked up some horchata as a cool refreshment, and even bought a six-pack of beer for us ‘adult ladies’ to drink.
While we ate lunch, Tito told us stories from when he grew up on this Finca. His parents had him help keep “watch” for small animals and other intruders, outfitting him with a hunting rifle to keep vigil at the age of nine! Tito showed us the tip of a nail sticking out of a large tree near the patio. You see this nail, he said, when I was nine I’d hang the rife on it, and would sleep right here, on this root of the tree….at that time the nail, which was about a foot long, was nailed only 3 inches or so into the tree. Look at now…it shows how much this tree has grown – only 2 inches of it is left sticking out!
Although Tito grew up at the Finca, at the age of 17 he left abruptly. You see, he explained, I was talking to a young girl my age right here, in the brush – he gestured – when a neighbor saw us, and well, my mom sent me to “work in El Salvador” straightaway to keep me out of trouble. That’s when I started working at the Fabrica, he said, and he’d worked there ever since, the job he held his whole life.
Living in San Salvador, he married and raised children there, but always longed for the life he remembered back at the Finca.The Finca passed through different hands during those years, first from his father to his brother. Then his brother sold it to his mother, and his mother ‘willed it’ (I really bought it, Tito explained, having given his mother money almost every weekend as he was working). Tito moved back to Nueva Concepción to take over the Finca 16 years ago.
Tito’s three children live in and around San Salvador, and make it out here once every 2 or 3 months. Raised in the city, unlike their father, a Finca in a country town might not have the same appeal to them. Tito also has three step-children whom he’s in touch with daily. He says every day before he goes to bed at 9:00, he talks with each of them, all 3 living in the United States; he never goes to bed without doing so. Tito believes kids who aren’t from your own biology often appreciate you more than your own children. It appears in this case at least, the relationships you have to ‘work at’ instead of the ones that are automatically set up for you can become ones you treasure. It also helps that Tito had a lot of practice with the first three before the second set came along.
He told us he is also close with his helper / ayudante; this young man has been with him for ten years, and by now they are like father and son. Even though it is his day off, Anibal stopped by to help clean up the pool to prepare for Tito’s grand-daughter’s visit later in the day. He really liked Wendy, and asked if he could pick her up. You could see that he, like many Salvadorans, adores children. While in many parts of the Western world, children are often partitioned from adults and adult activities, children are seen and cherished everywhere here, and are called “blessings from God” ( Bendiciones de Dios ).
For a Salvadoran coming from a somewhat older generation, I was surprised at some of Tito’s viewpoints, and discovered him to be a bit unique from most: he seemed to have a libertarian attitude in some respects broke from the religious mores in another. He announced quite firmly at one point: “I don’t believe in the Devil!” This is a bold statement here, as nearly everyone in El Salvador is indoctrinated in one main Christian religion, often Roman Catholic or some version of Evangelism. He said humans are always trying to overcontrol each other with all these rules and systems and don’t let people live as they should. Regarding teenage pregnancy, he said “You know what he problem is when a young girl gets pregnant?” It’s the “Panza!” ( her big belly ). Everyone is ‘ashamed’ because their daughter is walking around with a big belly but soon after the baby is born their the first to go spoiling it with all kinds of things.
After lunch was done, Tito sent us off to pick fruit, even providing large plastic bags to fill up, saying take all we want, there’s plenty. At his Finca, there are mangos, bananas (guineos), maracuya (passsion fruit), guayaba (guava), limes, and a few orange trees. Morena went crazy picking the “loroco” which was intermingled with the passion fruit vines, a favorite among salvadorans pan-fried and cooked with cream, or most often in pupusas with cheese. Also, a leafy plant called ‘moro’ I think, which Jessica and Morena grabbed tons of, is used in cooking.
An odd fruit which I thought was Marañon Japones (Japanese cashew-fruit) is really called watery apple (manzana de agua).
It looks peculiar and does taste watery!
Jessica was a brave fruit soldier. She climbed way up the giant mango tree and pulled these big ones down with a special fruit picker a flexible net basket on a metal ring, attached to a long bamboo pole. She grabbed ’em and I pulled them out the basket.
|Here’s Jessica, with Guayabas- isn’t she gorgeous?
* In actuality, a few geographic pockets within the department of Chalatenango have a cooler climate, mountainous areas usually famous for tourism such as La Palma, or mountaintop towns like Las Pilas and El Pital. San Fernando de Morazan is a mountain town we visited once, driving through Dulce Nombre de Maria to get there. Many parts of Chalatenango are hot and dry, including where my husband grew up near Agua Caliente. Farms and cows everywhere, hot and dusty during the dry season.