Was it the lighthouse that his ancestor Porfirio Díaz built on the point of Los Corrales that guided him there? Was it the benevolent hand of Tlaloc who directed the tides of the Pacific ocean, gently pushing the young lovers towards safety in the hidden cove away from the disapproving eye of her father? Was it simply the single-minded and courageous act of a young man in love to find a place where he could be with the love of his life? Whatever the catalysts, it is a quintessential story of love and life and it begins some fifty years ago with the carving of a canoe.
What is a man to do when he finds the love of his life but to make a way to be with her? Agapito Guerra Díaz found such a love in Amelia Joya and at the tender age of 16 he realized that there could be nothing, not even the violent disapproval of her father, to keep them apart. Left with the choice of risking physical harm, even death by Amelia’s father or the death of the fierce love he had in his heart Agapito made the choice to pursue life and love and steal Amelia away. Hand carving a canoe he slipped Amelia away from her father’s house and together they paddled up the coast until they came to a quiet cove and put in for shelter. It was the first time Agapito had set foot on the quiet beach there and instantly he knew it would be the place where they would live and love each other for the days they had remaining.
Amelia’s father, livid at her elopement sent his brother to seek them out. Amelia’s uncle found their cove of paradise and the two young lovers there. Taken in by the beauty of the cove and perhaps, his heart softened by the obvious love the two teens shared, the uncle asked to stay. Agapito, with wisdom and heart beyond his years then established one of the founding principles of the village of Corrales when he responded to Amelia’s uncle by inviting him to clear the land and share in it.
Entering the town of Corrales, Jalisco Mexico today you will not find elaborate homes or anything that exists merely for luxury or to impress. It is a working fishing town whose people work hard each day to provide for their families and the greater community. It is a microcosm of the spirit of community and hard work that built the Mexico of today and a reminder of the principles which will carry her into the future. Agapito stands on the porch of his home in the centre of town and surveys the scene with an approving eye. It is the Quinceañera of his granddaughter today and the town is abuzz with last minute preparations. Clad in an uncharacteristic suit, he is approached by townspeople asking questions and looking for direction and approval which he happily gives. This is his village which he founded with his love, Amelia, and he watches over it with a heart wide open and obvious to all who live there. Amelia stands nearby, the matriarch of the community ensuring that everything is in order, knowing that what she teaches the young women of the village by her example, will be the foundations of their lives and the breath of the town for generations to follow. The village is an extended family and Agapito and Amelia lead it with love, grace and humility.
Sitting with Agapito to talk, you are the sole focus of his attention. He examples the now sadly old-world concepts of respect and honour towards me despite being a total stranger. For the least bit of interest I have shown in his village and his people, I am now afforded membership in it and he is now listening intently to me like I have lived my whole life here with him. He is the penultimate patriarch. Responding to my inquiries he speaks of only the positive qualities of the people he loves. Every community has its issues, but you will not hear them spoken of negatively from Agapito. He shares openly and honestly about his hopes and dreams for the future as the generations gather around nearby to celebrate a traditional milestone. His brow furrows with concern only when he speaks of the recent interest of foreign developers in buying out the village to build tourist accommodations.
Despite the lack of formal education, this fisherman grasps the ambiguities of the corporate offers and counsels his people to understand fully what is, and isn’t, being offered to them. He sees the corruption that has led to this outside threat as appointed representatives wheel and deal to try to turn the village into the next new tourist destination and he quietly but fiercely opposes it to preserve something that is good and right and undeniably so. As he looks intently for my reaction I am ashamed as I briefly consider what the outrageous monetary offer might be like to receive and then realize that it is a tiny partial payment on something truly priceless. Seeing the realization in my eyes he asks me if I would take a piece of land and live here if I could and I must answer an emphatic, “Si.” In the few hours I have been in this place I have been inspired by love, reminded of what is real and what is temporary and challenged with choosing the lasting good over the momentary flash of wealth. Agapito sits back in his chair, a wry smile on his face as he sees that another member of his community, that I, have seen his heart as he had hoped.
When it comes time to leave we cannot depart without receiving the heartfelt thanks and hugs of appreciation for our visit. It is difficult for me to accept it as I feel indebted to Agapito and Amelia for their welcome and inclusion in their community, in their very family. But this is what is remarkable about much of Mexico today still and what must be preserved as progress marches forward. Carefully and intentionally these principles must remain and it is in these communities, founded on love and raised with grace and humility, where it can be found. Looking up as we go, the lighthouse at the point of the cove shines out into the darkness over the ocean to warn the ships at sea and guide them to safe passage. In the same way the village exists as light and life to a state and country that will either see it or risk peril at its disregard for it. As for me and my house, we will remember it and cherish this remarkable and special place in My Mexican Neighbourhood.
** Special thanks to Jennifer London of LONDONOGRAPHY for some of the photos (the good looking ones) and The Pacific Coast of Mexico site for the aerial photography. **