I Am Supporting My Wife Candelaria

A few days ago, I wrote the following: “There is a little man, who was surely a much bigger man when he was young, who stands in an alley in the center of Guanajuato, selling little bags of delicious calabacitas, small round squash, that taste, in my opinion, like corn on the cob. Only after years have I begun buying the squash from him. I suppose because of the way he looks. I would say he is about three feet tall, and that is because he is bent over, his torso parallel to the ground. He is dressed as the very poor are dressed: clean, worn, more than modest. I am not even sure he can see, because he never looks up, or out from under his straw hat. Nor does he move around; it is always the same posture. Bent over, announcing his wares over and over, in a kind of singing croak, whenever he senses someone passing. I do not know his name. I do not know his history. I think he is too old to cultivate and harvest what he sells. So, someone must supply him with his produce: squash and, I think, sometimes, garlic. And then set him up at his spot, where he stands, I think, for most of the day. He has a history, and a story, perhaps grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He has surely loved and been loved. And I know nothing about it.”

Today, I stopped a bought five small round zucchini squash from him. I asked him his name. He mumbled something. I asked him two or three times more. My writing partner, who is Mexican, stood beside me, also trying to understand. I asked the man his age. “Ninety-five,” he said. “I’m supporting my wife Candelaria.” We finally understood his name. “Apolinar Mesa,” he said, patiently, repeating each time more clearly the information I was asking for. And each time, he would add, “I’m supporting my wife Candelaria.”

I was bent over, as I talked to him. His seemed to have different colored stones in his eyes. It wasn’t clear to me that he could see, although he appeared to be looking right into my eyes. I walked through the alley (callejón) again a few hours later. The shadow where he had been standing had disappeared, and he was also no longer there.

Barbara Davoli, a friend and Facebook friend commented as follows:

“What a great story about Apolinar. My neighbor and I were just talking about him a few days ago. I was thinking of trying to sell the buckets of limones that fall from my tree daily, and he came to mind. According to my neighbor, he really does support his wife and himself by selling these veggies. He has several children here in Guanajuato — a few are professors at the university — who want him to move in with them. But he refuses — he prefers to stay in his home with his wife and continue to support her as he has done his whole life.”

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