I live in the same place where I was born: Puebla. More specifically, my town is called San Andrés, and my neighborhood is Concepción la Cruz. My father moved there when he was around seventeen years old. He has eight siblings and he is the oldest one. They are a big family. My grandfather took advantage of that: he had chickens, horses, and cows. Hence, my father and his brothers all took care of the animals. My grandfather sold milk to the neighborhood. He had a truck which he used to carry his milk in the back of it and go from house to house shouting “¡La leche!” I remember when I was little that he would go to my house at night to give us milk. Fresh milk was the best. My mom would boil the milk and then make atole or just the hot milk with a piece of sweet bread was the best dinner I could ever ask for.
When I was a kid, my neighborhood was small and we knew everyone there. When we left the house and walked in the streets my dad said “hello” to almost everyone passing by. I liked that, it gave me a feeling of belonging. I knew this was my home and I felt safe knowing who everyone was. The streets weren’t paved so when it rained it turned to mud. Therefore, it was extremely difficult to walk, and it even flooded. My street is on a slope and at the bottom crossing the adjacent street, there’s the river. So, when it rained all the water poured down directly to the river. It was like another river appeared. However, the government started to pave our streets and soon this problem disappeared.
There were enough stores for the essentials. Bakeries, stationary shops, grocery shops, stores where they sell chicken and meat, a hair salon, a public library, and three public schools: a kindergarten, a middle school, and a high school. Those were all small business owned by people living in my neighborhood. So, every time I needed something, I only had to walk a block or two to get it. However, as any other place, it started to grow and new people came in to live here. They came from other cities looking for jobs. Moreover, close to my neighborhood the city started to develop: buildings, supermarkets and malls appeared. New and young people arrived. Then, with big stores like Walmart there wasn’t a need for buying fresh milk from my grandparent’s cows. Also, my uncles grew up, got married, had kids and found jobs. So my grandfather had no help with the animals. Hence, he sold the few animals he had left. This happened not only to him but to other families that had the same business close to us. With new people coming in, my neighborhood got bigger and not as safe as before. We stopped trick or treating and playing outside.
Now I can’t really say I know even one third of the people living there. People started moving out and left their houses for rent. Others built new apartments or designated spaces in their own homes to rent to others. Then, new people came to occupy all these places. Seeing new people started to get normal. Crossing the streets and not greeting everyone was also normal. My neighborhood was my favorite place. It had everything I needed. Walking through the streets on my way to the stores I loved the sound of chickens, roosters and turkeys coming from my grandparent’s backyard and also from other people’s house. My neighborhood was quiet, but the only sound was of animals. The sound of animals was then changed for cars and people shouting in the streets in the middle of the night. I used to know every sound there was and that made me feel at ease. I knew every street, every store, every family, every house. This was my place, my home. However, the change wasn’t fast, it started one street at a time. I was late to notice it until most of it was gone. While I enjoyed having supermarkets close to me, I failed to realize how the small stores in my neighborhood started to change. I was happy that our streets were paved now but I didn’t realize that a whole street disappeared. Where that street was, is now a large boulevard. It feels like the city is trying to force its way in. Still, my neighborhood hasn’t given up completely. I am happy that we still maintain some traditions: like having a feria to celebrate the patron virgin of the place and having big parties where you invite almost everyone. The feria is a big festivity. It is on December 8th in the streets surrounding the church. Everyone goes to mass, then to eat street food, play in the games and see the fireworks. Also, small stores owned by the residents are still being open. Many food stands are still there and doing well. We still have several tortillerías and when I go, I can still taste a fresh and worm tortilla with a pinch of salt while waiting in line for my order to come out. The church’s bells still ring when a resident passes away.
I like this. It still feels like we are a tight community that cares about each other. It now seems that we are the last spot of land that represents a rural neighborhood left in the area. I am scared for the future, but I have high hopes that traditions are hard to erase completely. So, even when I do miss the quietness from before and how safe it used to be, I know that changes are inevitable and we need to learn to live with them and be grateful for what we have now.