The first time I met Martha, I was a bit stunned.
I mean, it’s not every day I meet a young, vibrant Mexican woman in a full hijab.
Martha, born and raised in the fishing village of Bahia Kino, was searching for something deeper in her life and looked to religion. She found what she wanted in the Muslim faith.
She studied the Koran online and learned passable Arabic. She began to going to Hermosillo to pray in the mosque rather than to shop for clothes.
But there she was, office manager, the first time I entered the office at Islandia Marina in Kino Viejo, smiling and welcoming me in English.
Over the years, we became friends and I saw her meet Mohamed, a Moroccan man who spoke Spanish. She married Mohamed, and had a beautiful baby, Ryan Mohamed, who is now almost three. Martha continues her job as office manager and Mohamed has found a job in town.
My partner and I are in Kino through the holidays and Martha invited us to her parents’ home last night for a piñata party for the kids. “Five o’clock” she said.
In typical Mexican fashion, we arrived around 6:30 to find the festivities not quite yet underway. Martha told us the party was going to be a bit low key since right across the street a family was holding a wake and they didn’t want the party to interfere. Still, the stuffed piñata hung from the tree.
And it was not just a piñata party. We soon learned there would be a complete barbacoa, a sort of Mexican barbecue in which very thin slices of meat are grilled over wood, usually mesquite, then chopped and stuffed into fresh, warm tortillas.
There were five small children in attendance, and about seven teen and pre-teen girls, all ages eleven to seventeen, who were great hams and jumped in front of my camera at every opportunity.
Margarita, Martha and Alfredo were okay with photos, too.
Soon, however, the fire was lit – after a quick dash to Margarita’s house for charcoal lighter.
Martha filled the tea kettle so people could have tea or coffee.
The meat, however, is the man’s domain.
Two of Mohamed’s Moroccan friends from Hermosillo came to the party. They are both graduate students at the university. Abraham, Mohamed’s childhood friend, studies Spanish and is currently polishing his thesis and studying for his final exams which are coming up in February. Abraham speaks five languages including his native berber dialect. Aris is studying linguistics and is far more comfortable with Chomsky’s theories than I am (try it sometime if you want to be totally confounded).
Abraham and Aris arrived and immediately retired,with Mohamed, for evening prayers, then rejoined the small crowd in the front yard.
As the fire settled into coals, it was time for the piñata. The little children were lined up by size, smallest first.
He and Aris would hold the piñata, pulling it up, down and sideways while the blindfolded children swung at it with a long stick.
The candies and toys and even a few of the nuts were scooped up by the children.
The other women carried plate after plate to the adult males. Then I was served, then the boys and girls and then the women served themselves.
We continued with stories and laughter for the next forty-five minutes or so. Then we saw the family gathered around the Christmas tree inside, forming a large arc around it. All were there, from toddlers through grandparents, holding hands. That is when we quietly left.