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Jonathan Roldan – BAJA BEAT

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Friday, November 11, 2011
Cabo Magic's REAL Winning story
Thursday, December 08, 2011
Salsa de pavo?


A bit of history and Mexican spirits
History isn't necessarily about events and dates. It's about the people who made those things happen. People who mostly aren't with us any longer. Or are they?

 

As I'm writing this it's a few days before Dia de Los Muertos...the Day of the Dead. A big celebration here in Mexico.  Not in the morbid sense, but rather a time to remember and celebrate the lives of loved ones who have gone before us. It's getting more commercialized, but for the most part, it's version of Halloween.

 

So, let me tell you a story of historical building. In fact, it's the very building where my wife and I run our Tailhunter Restaurant & Bar on the La Paz waterfront.

 

We have refurbished an old three-story building next to the beach. It's over 100 years old.

 

Over the years, we have found that it has been a home many times, an offices, a museum, a warehouse, restaurants; and an apartment to name a few. There's a dark interior stairwell that goes from the 1st floor offices to the restaurant kitchen on the 2nd floor. Covered in old ceramic tiles and graced with a metal rail that has seen too many coats of paint, it allows staff to move between the floors without having to walk through the actual restaurant and bar.

 

Jill and I were working at our desks one afternoon. 

 

Jill saw or sensed the lady in black first.

 

"Did you see that?" she said a bit startled? "Who was that lady that just went up the stairway? That wasn't one of the staff."

 

"Who honey? I didn't see anyone, I replied. I had been looking at my computer screen.

 

"There was a lady in black that just went by our office door."

 

She went on to say that youngish woman dressed in black, wearing a big ruffled dress like you would see on an old Mexican hacienda just walked by the office door and up the stairs!

 

We both got up and looked out the door up the dark stairwell to the kitchen.  Nothing. I shrugged.

 

Jill insisted. "She made no sound!  It was like a whisp."

 

We checked upstairs and no one in the busy kitchen just above us had seen anyone come up through the stairwell.

 

Jill and I just looked at each other. Hmmmm...another shrug between us.

 

Over the next 3 years, the "lady in black" has walked up the stairs several times  According to Jill, she's not scary.  In fact, Jill says she seems to be lost or like a mom looking for someone or something. I saw her once and agree.

 

We kept it between us until one day we happened to mention it to several of our staff members who were talking about noises they sometimes hear in the old building. All eyes went wide. 

 

They had seen her too! But no one had said anything. "You've seen her too?"

 

She is always in a full hacienda black dress. Imagine Zorro's wife. There is never a sound. She is never scary, but seems anxious or looking for something.

 

And although she was usually seen near our interior stairway, she was also seen near our restrooms and on the terrace briefly looking out towards the bay. Looking for what?

 

The answer came from our landlord only recently. He had heard a story about a wealthy woman who had lost one of the children to illness and the child had died in the nursery...on the 2nd floor at the spot where our restrooms were now located!

 

Hmmm... our staff has reported that after we're closed at night during clean-up,  they sometimes hear children laughing in that area or a woman crying! Toilet paper is sometimes strewn about and raised toilet seats will sometimes fall back down loudly...all at the same time!  Water in the sinks sometimes turns on and off by itself. 

 

The family of our lady in black? 

 

Several years ago at the restaurant, I met another woman who said that she had lived in the building back in the 40's. She said her father had been the director of customs for the City of La Paz and described wonderful childhood in the house when the highway in front had been packed dirt and burro-drawn carts still shared the "road" with the few cars in town.

 

She mentioned how easy it was to walk out  front and dig all the clams she wanted and how commercial fishermen would sell fish right on that same beach including tuna and dorado they had caught literally yards in front of our restaurant that had once been her home. A bygone time!

 

I gladly accompanied her as she asked to look around. She said our offices had been her parents' bedroom and told stories about how our downstairs cantina and store had been the living room and garage. She said she had great memories of living there.

 

Upstairs, she said the 2nd and 3rd floor had been patios and more bedrooms and how she and her sisters would play overlooking the ocean. 

 

When we entered the kitchen, she looked quietly around.

 

"This was my grandfather's bedroom," she said. "He was a wonderful playful good man to be around." 

 

She went on.

 

"He passed away in this room." Pause.

 

"Do you ever notice anything strange around your bar?' She said with a raised eyebrow and smile.

 

I raised an eyebrow of my own. Little prickly hairs perked up on my arms. 

 

"Why do you ask?" I replied with a guarded smile.

 

"He always says he wanted a bar and if he had one, he would LIVE there," she replied. 

 

Well, as a matter of fact, I told her, things move around in the kitchen from one day to the next. Glasses move. Sugar seems to find new places to hide. Packets of spices move from one side of the room to another with no explanation. Bottles of tequila will be found  taken out...even after they have been put away for the evening.

 

"Mi abuelo (grandfather)!" she seemed to say happily. "He loved playing pranks and he loved tequila!" I think you have my grandfather's ghost enjoying your bar!

 

And indeed, I think we do! As I found out later from staff members, sometimes they also hear old rancho music and what sounds like someone in scuffed shoes dancing!

 

Our "grandfather ghost?" Maybe. I hope he's enjoying himself. I like to think he's keeping an eye on us. I'm not sure what to think of our lady in black! Maybe the two know each other. Maybe they dance when the band plays!

 

But, if they are indeed spirits from the past, they don't seem to bother us.  "Haunted" doesn't mean scary. I think we're kind of blessed to have a bit of "living history" still with us.

 

To be fascinated by history is to know about real flesh-and-blood ordinary folks like you and me who were just going about their daily lives and have passed on before us. Like our resident ghosts!

 

As someday, I will also. Mavbe my own spirit will be found laughing at the bar or cutting fish in our fish room! If I have to wander for a bit of eternity, it might as well be in  a place of laughter and camaraderie. What better place than a bar!  

 

I hope I am having a good time  with my wife as our place has been a good space for friends, family, fishermen to meet and enjoy each other! Maybe they will tell stories about me the funny-looking short guy and the laughing redhead who once owned the place. Our daily life today will be someone else's "history story" of tomorrow. 

 

Cheers to life...and the afterlife!  
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