|The cake was chocolate, a cinnamon infused Mexican|
chocolate, and saturated like a tres leches cake.
I happened to be around the corner and saw the white Hyundai van pull up. A dozen kids piled out and hurried excitedly off to the party. Then at least 10 smaller children emerged, more tentative but eager, tugging at the adults to accompany them. I approached a woman who seemed in charge, “Necesita ayuda?” I glanced through the van windows and spread my arms out, indicating I was ready to carry some of the gear in back. She said something about there being only a baby.
Maybe I wasn’t clear. I pointed directly at a sack of beach toys and repeated my question. She repeated her response, something about a baby. I reasoned that she meant the only thing that remained in the van was a baby, that she didn’t need any help.
She called after me as I walked away. She pointed into the van and again said something about a baby. My Spanish is too poor to catch the verb in her sentence.
I climbed in and saw a small boy lying fast asleep on a bench seat in back. He appeared nearly two years old. I turned to the woman for clarity, “El nino?”
“Si, gracias,” she said.
|Brayan and me.|
I reached under his arms and he stirred as I lifted him. I held him close, hoping he wouldn’t wake. His skin was hot and sweaty, like all of us. I turned and contorted out of the van, ready to hand off the sleeper, but nobody was there. I slid the door closed and walked with my little charge to the party.
Today is Mexico’s independence day, celebrating the 201st year since they escaped Spanish rule. This is a very big deal in Mexico, like July 4 in the United States. The few cruisers staying at Marina Riviera Nayarit (and with support of the marina) held a bake sale this morning to raise money to host a party for the 23 orphans living at Manos de Amor, the Bucerias orphanage serving the local area.
|Kids lined up to take a swing at the pinata. Two blonde-haired cruising kids are|
mixed in with our guests. My little buddy Brayan is poised to lead off.
There was plenty of food, a piñata, the beach, games, music, face painting, and a cake. I spent the first half hour holding “the baby,” Brayan. He didn’t speak, but eagerly pointed to the foods he wanted on his plate and walked hand-in-hand with me to the beach and around the party. My little buddy.
He, his 3-year-old brother Carlos, and the other 21 kids were a happy, interactive bunch. I don’t know what it says about me, but I imagined we’d be hosting a group of withdrawn, downtrodden little souls with a terrible lot in life. I thought I would spend my day trying to coax a smile out of just one child. Ridiculous me.
|Windy applying her face painting skills.|
In addition to their overt joy, all of the girls and boys cared for and helped each other like siblings at their absolute best. It was amazing. When one kid would fall, another would be there to pick them up faster than any adult could react. There were no tantrums, no fighting, not even a look askance.
From my very lay, shallow perspective, I think that this orphanage model offers benefits missing from the foster home model in the United States. Again, I know that I spent only a few hours observing only one group of kids, but they seemed like members of a big, close family. They were joyful and curious and seemed content. I imagine any one of these kids would be shattered were they adopted out to a childless couple and shown to their clean new room, alone.
Surprisingly, while most of these kids are true orphans, a few have families in the area who simply do not have the means to care for their kids. In these cases, the kids see their parents on a weekly or monthly basis, often visiting for days at a time.
|He hits his mark and a cloud of flour erupts.|
|Kids, flour, and shaving cream leads to the inevitable.|