An account of my life (1957-1978)
Triangulo is the name of the street where I spent 20 years of my life, growing up and having different experiences as a child, teenager, and part of my youth. I lived in a poor, lower-class neighborhood in Mexico City, full of life, with children playing soccer, riding bicycles, and rollerblading while young people flirting with each other. I grew up observing, learning, working, and enjoying. I understood the importance of learning about society’s different attitudes and needs at home, at school, with friends, and on the street. In this particular place, I played different games, grew up understanding other people’s needs and attitudes, and learned some of the most critical topics: being mindful of life, responsible for school and work, the importance of friendship, and practicing teamwork. In other words, in my neighborhood, I learned and practiced not only some economics, risk analysis, psychology, and sociology basics but also some surveillance and intuition skills. Some of the most important basic knowledge in life.
My mother had her own business, a kind of little convenience store, in front of our house. As my mother helped our poor neighbors, giving credit to them to buy food in her store, everybody knew us, and in a certain way, some of them protected us in our childhood. In this store, I, my three brothers, and four sisters had to work about ten hours a week, at different times depending on each one’s age, helping my widowed mother, learning to work, being responsible, and sharing experiences working as a team. Of course, we had to go to school, do homework daily, and help in the store.
Risk analysis. After my duties, I played different games in the streets, soccer usually every day, throwing ourselves to catch a rope from trees like “Tarzan,” biking in my big father’s bike, roller skates using old metallics pair, hide and sick, or dance with girls. I analyzed and decided which option fitted better daily for me and took the chance to go for it.
We usually played soccer in the afternoon in the streets. As there were many kids, we organized three or four teams, two playing to score the first two goals to change a team, and the loser gave his place to another. It was a challenging activity because if you were not good enough as expected, the rest of the team would ask you to leave for another better player, so you had to give your best. On several occasions, I had to go, and I had to overcome it emotionally and improve so as not to repeat it. Once, I remember one day that I was not playing well; the team’s captain told me very aggressively, “hey, with balls, bastard! if you are not capable of playing well, better go to take care of your mother’s store!” Of course, with such a motivational treatment like that, I improved; there was not any doubt. Kids in this neighborhood were tough people; you had to understand and face the situation in every game. Therefore, as time went on, I grew up, became aware of different attitudes, and at the same time, I learned. I also had more friends, links, and relationships with some of them, in such a way that we practiced, without knowing it, a kind of psychological therapy among ourselves, observing and supporting each other as a teamwork effort. Soccer was not only a sports activity but, as a reasonable observer, a learning “laboratory” of teamwork, friendship building, training to deal with different attitudes, and focusing on improving your soccer and emotional skills to face that challenging typical neighborhood climate.
Living in this lively neighborhood, I started to be aware not only of my family’s reality but my neighbors’ general conditions of life, how were their families, housing, education, economic situation, happiness, and needs. Some of them were living only with their single mother, others with minimal economic conditions; in some cases, my friends tried to staled food from my mother’s store; I had to be alert when two or three of them arrived because I knew they needed something to eat but didn’t have money to pay for it.
Some of my neighbors went through drugs and alcohol habits quite early, others died being relatively young, and just a few of us had the chance to continue studying. Fortunately, all my brothers and I had it, but most of my neighbors did not. So, while I was growing up, I became more and more aware of my neighborhood reality. I experienced and lived real situations as if I were in a movie or a “real-life cases” documental; this way, I became conscious of many issues of society and life.
At Triangulo street’s end, a river runs perpendicular to the streets, with many eucalyptus trees; I still remember its pleasant aromas. The outer part of the river has two-level altitudes. When I was about 12-13 years old, I played with a group of friends throwing ourselves in the air to catch a rope with a car’s tire at one extreme and the other tied to a high branch in a tree, as the “Tarzan” character does in the stories. It was a more significant challenge because you fell 4 or 6 feet high if you failed, which hearts a lot. I lost a few times; it was excruciating; you could have broken an arm or a leg, but it was a colossal adrenaline shot to fly and take the risk to reach and trap the wheel in the rope to slide in the air like a pendulum and get the satisfaction prize to face and overcome your fears, and sometimes, also a girl’s smile. A typical insensate teenager’s action!
Fortunately, none of us ever had to go to the hospital.
In short, I would say that while I lived in this neighborhood, I grew up observing, playing, enjoying, and learning about some critical issues in life. I experienced and lived real situations that helped me to learn how to make decisions about my life, be more and more aware of myself and my environment, analyze different scenarios, decide and face risks, understand the importance of studying and working, being responsible and sharing support and experiences with my teammates. As a consequence, I have developed specific skills and attitudes that have shaped my personality as a determined, direct, uncomplicated person that can adapt to different social environments quickly; I use to share my time, activities, thoughts, and conversations with many people; I like making and retaining friends; I highly appreciate friendship, sincerity, and loyalty. This neighborhood was a kind of “real-life laboratory,” a unique learning center that my destiny allowed me to meet and mature.
Leo, it was a real pleasure to read these two essays. It gives me great insight into just how warm and caring you are. It is my privilege to know you and enjoy good times on the futball pitch.