Guanajuato City Neighbors

Guanajuato Capital, also known as Guanajuato City, is fairly typical in terms of “neighbors” in Mexico. The Casa en Pueblito is no exception. Let me explain.

There are certain advantages sometimes to not speaking a lot of Spanish. It’s good to learn when to speak Spanish and when to “not know how to speak Spanish” if you’re living in Mexico full time. Anyone who’s lived in Mexico long enough will agree. Everyone knows from childhood that to not be able to hear or listen can confer some level of political power in certain specific situations. On the other hand, learn as much Spanish as you can so that you can hold your own when speaking with people in positions of authority. 

In Guanajuato, it’s rare to not have neighbors literally right next to you with no yard space between houses. This was very different for us than living in the United States. Overall, we didn’t mind it. The neighbors on one side of us functioned as allies. The neighbors on the other side, less so. And then the neighbors behind us, as a family, were mixed in terms of whether they were friends or foes. So we ended up with a fairly balanced experience as far as neighbors in Guanajuato City goes. Nonetheless, there were still challenges.

Guanajuato City construction projects always create some level of turmoil in the neighborhood because the houses are so close to each other. The neighbors get sick and tired of hearing the construction workers pounding away on projects next door. This is totally understandable, yet unavoidable. When we were constructing our house, the neighbor to the south would get irritable about the noise in our property. Though at times, he’d agree that we could have a window overlooking his property (which is rare in Guanajuato), at other times, after we made a lot of noise, he’d say “No windows allowed!”. A city worker would then come to our door and talk to us about the window overlooking this neighbor’s property. This city worker was familiar with the neighbor. We would explain the situation, the city worker would note it, and life would go on. 

The neighbor to the north is currently an extended family and not just one person. They recently erected a wall between two sets of houses that open into a courtyard inside the overall structure. This wall replaced some rusty metal that functioned as a street-front fence for years. 

The family to the north has always been friendly with us though they have the usual soap-opera-type of dramas happening inside their tiny enclave. One of the sons, Moneen, is learning disabled. He’s the friendliest of the family members and though he’s not educated and only partially literate, he has a creative spark. We paid him $20 pesos to take our trash down to the dumpster every few dayswhich was convenient for us and for him. During COVID, we gave him some leftover wood scraps and he used them to construct a special flower pot for a tree that he planted lovingly across the street in front of what used to be the DIF building. He tended to this tree with great care and attentiveness.

Moneen generally wants to be helpful and though at times, his helpfulness is annoying, he’s never seemed like a threat to Lydian or I. In fact, we’ve often been grateful for his presence when returning home later at night. He doesn’t sleep well so he’s often up and out on the street in the wee hours of the morning. That being said, we’ve never gotten terribly chummy with Moneen either. He seems more interested in John as a father figure and always seems to be trying to get John’s approval for different things. John also has avoided making close ties with the family next door simply to avoid some of the drama that they have going on in their extended family. Both neighbors on either side of us are relatively quiet in comparison with other neighbors that we’ve had in Guanajuato capital, but the family to the north is a bigger group of people and at times, we’ve stood on our 5th floor terrace to watch funerals that they conducted at home for family members who died in some tragic way (a fall from a high place, for example). The past few years have been difficult for this family and the trauma in their lives has taken a toll. Nonetheless, they have often functioned as our allies, particularly in weird situations with SIMIPAG (the water company), etc. 

We currently live on a farm near Mexico City and we have neighbors there, but they’re 100 yards or more away from us. We know the neighbors, but we’re not right next door to them, with our walls touching their walls. So we don’t mix as much. In Guanajuato though, we felt connected to the community where we were living. Honestly, it felt good overall because in the United States, we never had that feeling of being a part of something even though we were U.S. citizens. There are only a few isolated places in the U.S. where you can live and be a part of a real community. In Guanajuato city, and in Pueblito de Rocha specifically, having neighbors right next door helped us see and understand Mexico better in a very general way. 

Pueblito de Rocha is a community that has its own school, its own food stores, hardware stores, and its own cafés and restaurants. People know each other there. It is not just a grouping of houses huddled together so neighbors have shared experiences and that does create a sense of connection. This is one of the things we really liked about this neighborhood in Guanajuato, especially given our proximity to Tepetapa and the main street too. We were able to walk to the centro and leave the community behind whenever we wanted but return to it again and again each night.

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