Letters from Lorraine
Glitch in Paradise
If you are a friend or an acquaintance of mine, you know I try my best to live an open and honest life. Therefore, I want my letters to you to be truthful and not portray, in any way, that my new life in San Miguel is trouble-free — it is far from it.
In previous Letters from Lorraine, I have said that my biggest disappointments since moving here have been some the Americans I have met, both casually and now up close and personal.
Although I was born in Alabama, which has a long history of racism, my parents instilled in their three children a respect for not only black people, but for people of all races. At the time of my upbringing, though, there were basically only black and white people living in my home state.
I carried that respect and compassion my parents taught me into my adulthood, and as I aged, that respect deepened, especially after living on Martha’s Vineyard for forty-one years. And for those of you who have the misfortune, I’ll call it, of not knowing the Vineyard, it is truly a homogenous place for many nationalities and races.
I had a substantial amount of Black women as customers in my clothing design business. In fact, many of these women were my favorites, due to their authenticity, lack of neurotic complaints about their bodies, and sense of humor. Black women have always seemed so fun and down the earth, in my estimation, and that is why the event I am going to tell you about was beyond shocking; it was in the realm of nightmarish.
My outlying neighborhood, Los Frailles, is completely residential; this is why I and my neighbors choose to live here; otherwise, if we wanted to be living in houses intermingled with stores, restaurants, hotels, and other businesses, we would live in town. The majority of ex-pat and Mexicans do; it’s fun and exciting, but noisy. We have one restaurant in Los Frailles, and, of course, a few people sneak and do Airbnb’s. And if they are quiet, nobody really cares, including me.
Almost a year ago — enter stage right — a Black American woman, and unbeknownst to us, she has plans to operate a boutique hotel, spa, and event house in a rental property on our quiet, little, sleepy street. This woman does not own the house nor does she live there. She tells us she will be doing yoga retreats. This was a ruse. Months go by, and there’s are no problems, really, except that suddenly she would not talk to any of us.
A friend sent me this woman’s website, and it clearly defines her business plan for this house that she has stupidly sunk a lot of money into. I am floored with all the events she has lined up at the house — religious revivals, dance parties, a Day of the Dead makeup and tequila party, dinner parties for every American holiday you can imagine. And for every event, she of course charges money to attend.
The evening of the makeup-- and tequila party arrives, and I hear, in front of my house, a bunch of extremely, loud drunken women. To make the point that I was not going to put up with their noise, I went out onto the sidewalk and shouted over the drunken raucous crowd, “This is a residential neighborhood, so please be quiet.” That was all I said.
By the time I got back safely into my house, ten or more extremely drunken Black women (I had seen them pre-makeup) in full, frightening, Day of the Dead makeup were banging on my windows, banging on my glass gate, shaking the metal panels on my wall, which is three feet from my house, chanting at the top of their lungs, “Fuck you, cunt . . . Fuck you, cunt,” over and over. The woman renting the house was among the crowd.
The front of my house, outside every window, and completely down the side of my house was being attacked by a drunken mob of Black women in the scariest version of Day of the Dead makeup there is. Had they been able to get into my house, I feel certain they would have hurt me.
Even though I am pretty good with words, I find it hard to describe how horrifying and surreal this was for me. San Miguel de Allende is a beautiful, spiritual, religious, and peaceful town. The contrast with their behavior was truly incomprehensible.
Also, the Day of the Dead is a very religious and spiritual celebration for the Mexican people’s ancestors and families who have passed away and for these women to have turned it into a drunken mob attack is just sick.
I called my house manager during the attack, and he called the police. We stayed on the phone together until they arrived, and he translated to them what had happened. Of course, the mob had gone into town by then, but the incident was recorded by the San Miguel police.
It was a living nightmare. Luckily, I had an old friend staying with me for the week. Unfortunately, she was in a cab at the time, coming from another town, where she was having dental work done. She was a true friend during this horrible night and has been ever since.
Before this happened, my guest and I were planning to go into town the next day to be made up in “pretty Day of the Dead” face paint and then stay for the annual parade. I could not bear the thought of looking at her with that makeup on; pretty or not, it is still scary, and then a parade and crowd of thousands all looking the same? No way. So, we stayed home, talked, and caught up with each other’s lives for the past fifteen years.
I had also called a neighbor right after it happened, and we both agreed that what the woman had done to me was an unforgiveable, reprehensible act; she had crossed a line we could not accept. And we also now understood that our hopes that her business would be quiet, something we could ignore and live with, were not going to be realized.
My neighbor friend and I actually had nothing to do with what happened next. The president of Los Frailes got wind of the illegal hotel and the attack on me, and had the woman’s place of business shut down two days later. There are now two large, day-glow orange signs on the front of the rented house she never lived in that say Business Closed in Spanish; in Mexican law, if you remove them, you immediately go to jail, no questions asked.
A good Mexican friend said to me a few days later, “Lorraine, don’t you find it ironic that the only trouble you have had here has been with an American?” I instantly said, “No, it doesn’t surprise me in the least.”
I now have terrible PTSD from this. I won’t get into the details, but I will get over it. In many ways, I resent this part of the terrible experience more than the event itself.
The sad, truthful fact is that this woman is an embarrassment to the Americans who live here in peace. But, to me, what is worse is that she and her mob are an embarrassment to Black women everywhere. And this is what sincerely breaks my heart.
Don’t worry, I’ll be fine.
P.S. Pearl and Ruby are wonderful! I love my house, my piano lessons, and the horses I visit at the stables down the road. But, most of all, my love for the Mexican people and their culture grows every day.
And I’ll be damn if some fucking American is going to ruin this for me.
My book is coming along. I’m a third of the way through the second draft and hope to have it finished and printed by the early summer. Who knows, I may see you on the Vineyard next summer at my book-signing party! One can hope and dream, right?
I’ve included a few photos of the makeup for the Day of the Dead for those who don’t know what it looks like.
On occasion, a picture is worth a million words.