Sahuayo is without question the least pretty place that I have ever lived in my life. But thankfully pretty doesn’t matter to me much anymore.

Sahuayo is also a town without much culture. Jiquilpan, just 7 km. south of here, has tons more culture. Their public library has 10 giant murals painted by that seriously famous Mexican realist master, Jose Clemente Orozco. And their library actually has books (unlike ours).

But for better or worse I have come to love this town. Not the town so much as the people.

A typical day. I went to Mercado for lunch. I stopped outside and picked up a fresh squeezed orange/carrot juice from Alberto’s stand. He’s 73 years old and still works 7 days a week just like his two sisters. I then ducked inside for three tacos at Beto’s carnitas place.

One taco was chopped up crunchy pig’s ear (which by the way has now replaced gelatinous snout as my favorite). Another was pig spleen. And the other one was made from some of that always delectable rib meat. Like most fondas Beto keeps his condiments out on the counter so I put on the finishing touches by doctoring them up with avocado, onion, serrano chilis, and sliced radishes.

Beto’s is my favorite carnitas place in town. And there are dozens and dozens to choose from. Maybe because he only boils his pig parts in the finest and freshest rendered lard. That’s what he says anyway every time that I’ve complimented him. And I like the guy. He is an affable 40-something year old man with a bit of a pot belly who for reasons unknown to me has one extremely gorgeous wife.

While eating my tacos, Pancho stopped for a quick chat. Much more the aficionado, Pancho favors carnitas tacos from closeby El Chino’s but maintains that Chelis, out on the boulevard, makes better carnitas plates. In just a short exchange I learned that he kept his cantina open until 4 am. He was a bit haggard around the eyes – on his best days he looks a lot like the French actor, Jean Reno – but still managed to have a smile on his face in spite of the 100 hour work weeks he puts in. He shops in the Mercado every single day for the food that he serves at his cantina. What would take 15 minutes to buy in a modern grocery store takes him at least three times that given all the different stops and all the people he visits with along the way.

After Pancho left, Eva came round to give me a kiss. This is something she usually does which positively charms me to no end. Her father, Mario has a birria stand just around the corner from Beto’s and his adorable 4 year old daughter keeps him company most afternoons when she isn’t racing around the Mercado playing with two or three other little girls.

On my way out of the Mercado I got to visit for a few minutes with Jose, one of the fastest runners in all of central Mexico. Then I saw his equally fast running buddy, Manuel just a few minutes later. He tooted the horn on his scooter at me as he sped past, waving and smiling furiously.

On my way up the hill I stopped into the lavenderia and got to hold my six month old little buddy, Edgar for a few minutes. The ladies there look after him part of the day and probably don’t even get paid for it. His parents live upstairs in a beautiful apartment. Dad works. Mom is stay at home. And grandpa owns the building. I’ve come to notice that smiling little Edgar gets passed around like a football. And it’s become apparent that he likes getting held by the women more than me. Even at only six months he’s no dummy.

Little Edgar is a prime example of why people here are so socially oriented. Kids here aren’t kept locked up and fed electronica. Nope. Everyone here lives very outside, very social lives. Maybe the perfect climate is the enabler. I don’t know. What I do know is that I see a town full of laughing, playing little kids. Beautiful women and warm friendly men.

The last thing I saw before I closed my gate was my 90 year old neighbor talking to another old woman on the corner. And my neighbor had her hand gently resting on the other woman’s shoulder. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if those two women hadn’t known each other their whole lives.

It has actually brought tears to my eyes when one of these old women in my neighborhood has taken my hand in theirs and leaned up to give me a kiss on the cheek; smiling, radiating some unfathomable joy and happiness.

I can feel like crap from something I’ve seen in the news or a nasty I’ve gotten via email. But ten minutes out the door and on the street. A few handshakes. A pat or two on the shoulder. Some smiles. A kiss on the cheek. And here in Mexico I’m a happy man.