This month our VIP is Cirino Budarth Espinoza, President of the Tercera Edad seniors facility located on the Canal Road opposite the Charrro (rodeo). In his late 60s, this softly spoken gentleman is incredibly hard working, and with help from only a few of the seniors, he has made a big change in their lives.
Cirino, you are not originally from Bucerias?
No I am from Vallarta. I came here about 1997, 18 years ago.
You spend a lot of your time working at the Tercera Edad (“TE”) as you are now retired – what did you used to do before?
I have worked in restaurants. I was manager at the Tango, an Argentinian steak restaurant inside the Krystal hotel, I was there for 4 years. That restaurant doesn’t exist any more. Then coming to Bucerias I rented the restaurant on the beach called Marco’s where I sold seafood as well as meat, and I did that for 5 years. 6 am to midnight, every day. The beach vendors would come to me saying they hadn’t sold anything so I would give them something to eat, fish or ceviche.
You are married – and have children?
My wife is “Chela” that’s short for Graziela. Graziela Martinez Rodriguez. We have been married 46 years, but we went out together for five years before getting married. Her family liked me very much and my family liked her family very much. We have two children: our son is an engineer and he works at the Vallarta airport. Our daughter is an accountant and works for an insurance company in Tijuana. She’s married to a doctor there and they have two children.
My daughter calls every week, on Sundays, and that’s when my son visits us also. I would like to see him every day, but … We only have the two children. I wanted a big family, seven children, as I figured I would at least get one good one. But my wife did not want so many, she said: “you’re not the one going through it”! Our children are very good.
Your house is in Colonia Las Brisas – do you rent it or do you own it?
I own it. I built it,that was 2006. There was nothing much here, it was all wild. I worked in the restaurant at the Krystal from 6 am to midnight every day – every day, just like I did at Marco’s. It’s only a small house but still I had to work like that and save my money. I hadn’t really planned on staying here, I wanted to go to Acapulco. I had earned and saved enough money to pay for my son to go to college there. My wife went visiting him for three months, July to September and I was alone. So I bought this little land with the money I had saved for the lean times – there was not much tourism at all in the summer – and built my house in that time, complete with water and electricity. She didn’t know. So when she came back I surprised her with “Look at your house!”
The land cost 18,000 pesos, and the construction was 400,000 pesos. I put in a nice floor. It is not big, in fact it is quite small, but it is fine for the two of us. We have two bedrooms and a bathroom, and a small yard with palm trees where we sit outside to eat at a table with an umbrella. We are at peace, the two of us. Bucerias was only a small town then, I had to pay to put in the lightpost, that was 2,500 pesos. We took in my mother who was ill, and Chela’s mother because her other children were mistreating her. Actually there’s a lot of seniors whose children beat them up. The seniors come and complain to me, the children don’t want them living with them. My mother and my mother in law both died in our house.
How much is a funeral service here?
I don’t know exactly, but it is between 4,000 to 6,000 pesos, that’s for the casket and the burial. On top there is … “the wake” …wine etc but I don’t like that, I recommend coffee and cookies. It isn’t expensive, but there are people who don’t have the money. I know some people go out to Valle and ask for a donation for the burial.
Is it cheaper for cremation?
I don’t know because almost no one wants it, they prefer to be buried.
I understand some people have a private burial in their garden or land?
Yes, it used to be done many years ago. People had their lands with cows on them, big lands, and they would bury their elderly out there. And if the sons wanted to be buried out there, they could also do it. It can still be done today but it is not done so much. It is not against the law, they declare I would like to be buried here in the shade or under that tree. Maybe I could be buried here in the garden!
(You do need a death certificate, that costs 74 pesos and to register it costs 186 pesos.)
Originally the TE was on the land behind Miguel Angel’s Restaurant, at the downtown plaza. How did the move to here come about?
The TE started 26 years ago. Then by 1997 the place was too small, and the Board members at that time spoke to the owners, who also owned the Comex. Those owners made a trade with the owner of this land – both lands are ejidal. This is on the outskirts of town and not central, but it had much more space. The TE moved here in 1998.
There was a tamarind orchard here, and high weeds. Nothing else, it all had to be cleared. It was a forest, a jungle. There were dangerous animals: snakes, raccoons, big rat like creatures similar to possums, armadillos, scorpions … all kinds of wild animals! But the seniors of the time cleaned it all up the weeds and the bushes, with their machetes.
The previous generation of the elderly people who wanted somewhere they could gather and to play games constructed this existing building, the kitchen, everything, with the financial assistance from Presidente del Valle Sr Tapia. He was the 4th President, I believe, of Bahia de Banderas. None of this was given to us by DIF, nor by the Municipality, nor the State.
I understood President Paniagua helped?
He was President for two terms (either side of Presidente Cuevas) but did not pay for this building, that was all President Tapia his predecessor. But Paniagua and his wife would come with gifts. (Whoever is President of the Bahia, his wife automatically becomes head of DIF, the social services/assistance department ). They would come with cake for those who had birthdays. His wife was a nice person, she has now passed away. They would bring clothing and food for the people, especially in December. She would come every 15 days or so. Everyone liked her because she was such a good person. She would bring little gifts. But since then, there has been no president, no medicines, no walking canes, no wheelchairs…
DIF, as with all such departments world wide, has very limited resources, in fact, almost none at all. So the reason this was a Club was because the people paid to be members?
Yes, but I found it a kind of exploitation of the people. They were getting charged 5 pesos membership every 8 days or 20 pesos a month for nothing. I voiced an opinion that it wasn’t just. It was a small amount but it hit their pockets. I thought it would be better if they used their 20 pesos to buy chiles, tomatoes, tortillas. They would go home with empty stomachs the same as they arrived. DIF had not helped with food or money or anything. They just send people here to tell the seniors to keep themselves clean, to have a good diet, show them how to make flowers and other decorations out of plastic or whatever. At least with this new Administration there was a mobile mammogram service provided free here, that was for anyone who came. And at our Christmas party DIF provided pozole and oranges for everyone.
When did you become part of the TE?
Without any position or title, that was 2010.
And how long have you been President?
I have been President since 2012. The Delegada of the State, Sra Celina Perez Orta, noticed how much work was being done. She came to Club TE many times. I would get clothing to give to the people, and she liked this. The people liked it too ! I just got elected for a second term of three years.
You are elected by the members, and not by DIF?
That is correct, by the members.
When you took over as President, was this land farmed at all?
No, just some tamarind trees, it was all weeds which I cleared with my machete. Then I started planting bananas and papayas and also cilantro, radishes, parsley for people to take as condiments for their stews. I spoke to the people to try and get them to work and clean but they didn’t help.
So in March 2013 I went to the Presidenta of Amigos de Bucerias, Sra Ronnie, because our situation was bad here. There was no medicine for the 65 diabetics. There was no food, nada. When I first started working here we would drink water from the garden hose, now we can buy garafons. There was nothing – no fan, no refrigerator (there was one before but it had been sold to pay the electric bill), and the electricity owed was more than 1,000 pesos – it was in arrears for more than a year. Everything was in arrears! With the help of Amigos and their friends we now have a refrigerator and many of the other items we were lacking. Fundraising started, clothes and other needed items were donated. We used to have help from Jim & Marilyn and from a group of ladies from Condos Moona, who made items for sale, but not any more. We now have help from Senor Todd.
(Background details regarding the initial involvement of Amigos, and updates, can be found on the Amigos website under Volunteering – Tercera Edad).
Tell us about the food parcels, the “dispensas”
Senora Sandi came along from the John Ozzello Memorial Food Bank, and she gives us 50 dispensas every month, this is for the most needy. The dispensas are the basics: flour, beans, sugar, rice, oil… It is all non perishable so the people who receive this can see what they have, how to make it last. Sandi and her husband buy this wholesale from all the fundraising they do, and then we have a team of people who assist to make it into individual sized bags. This takes some doing, Sandi delivers a lot of food! We are very grateful to Sandi, her husband and to the JOMFB.
You can only give these dispensas to the most needy, that’s currently 50. But people who do not receive the dispensas are jealous of those who do. I was present when it was said at a Monday meeting that if you did not get a dispensa you should be grateful because that meant you were not as needy! Have those people taken this into consideration?
Well…no – I have many problems with those who have means but still want these food parcels! One has her own restaurant! Another has a building and rents out rooms! Another has a hotel and he is a moneylender, he charges 15% interest! When I don’t give them anything they get mad at me and try to get rid of me. Recently there were about 6 of them who were being organised into gathering signatures to have me removed but they couldn’t do it because the people were on my side. Sandi ordered me, ordered me, to give dispensas only to those who actually need food, who are hungry.
Do these people who complain help keep the TE clean, tidy, help with the gardening, the hens?
No! I get very little help, maybe 4 people only. I tell the people we have to work together, plan ahead. The orchard isn’t too much, cleaning and watering is all, but they don’t really want to do even that. I like to save and organize well. Mexico is a grand country but very poor – because the people don’t want to work and are lazy.
Can anyone come along and be a member?
Yes, anyone can, without paying anything, they just have to be older than 60 years.
So – could any non Mexicans join in?
It doesn’t matter what country they are from, they are welcome and if they need help, we will help them. I take them on faith and I give them what they ask if I can. But if someone comes to ask and obviously has a car or money, then I tell them I can sell you food. Or if they ask for 10 eggs, I will give them 4 instead. I have to make these decisions. It is all in good faith. There is a priority and the most needy are chosen first. The dispensas only go to those who are the poorest.
I came across a blind man – he sells peanuts and pumpkin seeds from a wheelbarrow, and a man with no forearm who sells banana bread on the street. They were both very humble. I was thinking to give them 1,000 pesos each but if I did that to help with their business, imagine what everyone would say if they are so upset at not getting a dispensa! I am thinking maybe to give them a chicken every 15 days to help.
Some of the money from fundraising in the season 2013 – 2014 paid for this sizeable outdoor oven. Why did you want this?
Every Monday we have meetings here and that is when we give the people food – if we have it. In this oven we can bake bread for them to eat here, or take home. Once in a while we also make pizza which they like very much! Nobody wants to help but we make more than 200 breads every 8 days!
With other money raised your members built this very large chicken coop.
We needed to make it large, to make enough space, the chickens can run around freely inside. We started with 100 chicks provided by Many Venegas. We ordered 3 day old baby chicks from Guadalajara, they cost us 14 pesos each. By November 2014 we had over 1,000 chicks and hens of all ages and sizes! Unfortunately there was a sudden storm and although Teodoro helped me move them, we could not prevent 60 of them from drowning. The big rain we just had, with all that flooding, well 6 died and then a further 27 died from the cold. Sra Bertha generously donated the black plastic sheeting you see, it gives them shade but it didn’t hold up to the rain. We need a roof, and it has to be put up before the rainy season starts.
We sell the hens for 30 pesos a kilo, compared to the stores which are 45 – 48 pesos a kilo. We sell cheaper to our elderly. Those who are sick, we give them a hen every 15 days, right now we have 9 people ill in bed. Every few days I make a stew from some of the hens. The hens take a lot of feeding! Some of the sales money is used to buy their feed: ground corn at 220 pesos a sack and special hen food at 320 pesos a sack.
I go and get the fruit and vegetable bruised left overs from the Sunday market or tiendas. And the day old tortillas, we dry them in the sun and then crumble them. We also get the oyster shells and crush them up – that is good for their digestion. And it also improves their laying – we’re getting 3 to 4 dozen eggs a day. We keep the laying hens separate from the eating ones. We now have four roosters. People come here to buy eggs and chickens, we get a lot of Americans/Canadians, or they make orders with Todd. We could kill and prepare maybe 10 – 15 chickens at a time, we sell that many to the Colegio every 4 days, sometimes we have to start at 6 in the morning.
Also Chela and I put eggs in a wheelbarrow and go out on the streets to sell eggs, the price is 3 pesos each. We only have 96 hens right now as all the others have been sold or eaten. But on 18 March I took 207 fertilized eggs to be incubated and on 8 April I will collect the baby chicks. Out of the 207 eggs I will get probably 180 – 190, they won’t all make it.
Have you known about raising poultry for a long time?
No! I didn’t know how to raise hens at all! But I had to learn through necessity because of the existing poverty.
Are you worried that wild animals might come along and take them?
No, we have our guard dog Canelo , a pitbull, on duty, he runs around free at night and he can protect against them – and any 2 legged thieves!
Do you sell the hens alive?
If that’s what the buyer wants. It is not unusual to see someone walking along with a live chicken in their arms or hanging by their feet. We are an agricultural area. Otherwise we kill them, hang them upside down to drain off the blood, and then Chela and some of the ladies gut and pluck them. Those that help get some of the chicken, like the liver, or some eggs.
We wanted to sign a contract with the Decameron Hotel to sell our chickens when they weigh 2 kilos. Before Christmas Todd and I talked with the Assistant Manager and he said he would come but he never came and we couldn’t make the sale. So some of them are 4 kilos and to make a profit you have to sell at 2 kilos, so at 4 kilos it’s a loss or at least no profit. People don’t want 4 kilo chickens! I don’t know why, they taste good.
Couldn’t you sell the chickens at the Sunday market?
Yes, but I need someone to help me take them there – and nobody wants to help!
Every Monday we have our meetings and there is food for all. I kill 4 or 5 of the big chickens, we cook rice and beans and we buy 15 – 20 kilos of tortillas. It is put it on the table and everyone serves themselves, and if someone wants to come back for seconds, he can. If there is anything left over, it is given away to take home. At our meeting before Easter we also had a large birthday cake as there were 6 of our people with birthdays during the month of March, so we all celebrated. We’re like a family. About 80 to 120 people come. We are now a total of 137, so we always make enough for 137, but not everyone comes.
Here is your garden project. There used to be corn here. What are you growing now?
We have jackfruit (rich in protein and vitamins), pineapples, bananas, papayas, eggplant, zucchini. Radishes and cilantro, cucumbers, jicama. The corn season just finished, and the pumpkins also. We don’t stop, we keep on planting. We have some herbs for medicinal use – papalo, which is deer grass, some say is good for the liver. Here is pasote which can be added to frijoles and quesadillas. People come by and get a little of the condiments for free. Theo has a granddaughter who is studying agronomy. She gave me seeds for American cucumbers but I don’t know them – she told me to plant them 20 cms apart but I planted them a little further apart – we’ll see what happens!
Do you use any fertilizer?
No, we don’t add anything to the planting. We asked the man across the road if we could have the manure from his horses. He said we had to pay for it – and then he wanted us to give him our bananas for free! We said no. So now he is complaining that our chickens smell. Well, this is the country, it is rural. He has horses and cows and – he has 80 chickens himself! We will clean up the coop and use the waste for natural fertilizer.
You had a harvest of corn a while back, that was using Canadian seed. How were the sales?
Pretty good. It was decided to just ask people for donations and to take away a bag full – we had a lot! – and people were very generous. We had corn left over but we gave it to some schools, some to the orphanage, and of course our people to eat here on Mondays and to take home, and finally we fed the chickens, so nothing was wasted. We are growing this on some land nearby which has been given to us to use, the farmer keeps the corn watered, all we have to do is get a group of people together to harvest it. We had a lot of young people help out, Mexican and others, so that was very good.
The second harvest has not been so good, some of the corn is damaged. We will sell what we can and then deal with the rest as we did before. It’s not big, it is sweet and delicious.
Not too long ago there was nothing but bananas and a little corn – it all went fast! Things are so much better now, we have meat and eggs and what we grow.
Todd does a lot of the fundraising at the Luna Lounge, the owner Hugh is a very good person, and he is very smart. I am very grateful to him because he helps and does positive things. Other owners or rich people don’t do anything, they think “Why should I help, it doesn’t do anything for me.” This gentleman works there, he even waits on tables. That’s how I used to do it. Chela would be a waitress or a hostess. My son would leave the airport after work and come and work as a waiter, and my daughter would work too.
What do you do with the money you receive from Todd?
Let me first say that Sr Todd is a tall man with a golden heart. He helps us, all old people. I use the money depending on need: medicine or food, I am very careful, I go and talk to them in their house. I know that the people who donate the money will be returning to their own countries for the summer and I must plan and budget. People need walking canes, I have now bought 19 at 175 pesos each. People need dental plates. Last year 7 people got false teeth, this year it will be another ten. One lady had gone 20 or 30 years without any teeth at all. In order to eat tortillas she had to break them into tiny pieces and roll them in her hand, mashing them up. First they have to remove the little pieces of teeth left in the mouth and when all is healed then they can be measured for the false teeth.
Which dentist do you use?
We go to Dr Adrian for problems with the actual existing teeth and to Dentista Mejares Lopez near the old ice factory and her technician Alonso for the dental plates. We get discounted rates, I have receipts for cavities at 500 pesos, and for dental plates at 6,000 pesos each. Some people need both top and bottom plates.
For medical consultations you go to Dr Gutierrez in Nuevo Vallarta.
Yes, the office visit is free. If he has the medicine he will give it to us for free.
In addition to accompanying the seniors, buying them a refresca and a taco if it is a long day, I know that you have been out to Valle, to the government offices, dealing with people’s water bills and whatever else, acting on their behalf, and you were paying for the bus fares etc out of your own pocket.
Yes, Chela was not very happy with me! But I explained this to Sr Todd and he has told me to take an allowance for these expenses, and a cellphone card – I give him the receipts, the tickets.
The TE facility is available for hire for events – we have now had the Pets Picnic there three times – with great success! You have also had children’s birthday parties there. It is a delightful venue, and very reasonably priced. You were in charge of the BBQ – and at the following event at El Eden. These were on Sundays, didn’t you want to sit and relax?
No, it’s fine – I like to cook!
You have attended the Drag Race at the Luna Lounge –this must be a very unusual experience for you ! What did you think of it?
It was very nice (he said with a modest smile). It was very amusing. We all laughed a lot. I know they don’t really dress like that! But they did in order to help us. The most important part was that the money ended up being used on the elderly people here.
Are you going to participate next year?
Yes (he said, shaking his head and blushing. That’s most likely a No).
In your spare time, what do you like to do?
Well I don’t have too much, I work here 14 hours a day! But I like to cook for my wife, I’ll ask her “what do you want to eat?” I know how to cook and I like to and she doesn’t. So I cook and we eat and then we watch TV together. I tell her to go to bed and I wash the dishes fast, and it’s done. I live very happily with my wife. I am very happy. I love her very much.
It is so much work here – do you want to keep doing this?
Oh yes. I want to keep helping the people of this town, somebody has to work for things to get better. And they are, already we have a big improvement, people have food and medicines.
Sr Cirino – thank you for your time, and thank you for your dedication in helping the seniors of the Tercera Edad !
As you have learnt, Cirino is very much a “hands on” President, and he would welcome any help, especially with the gardening. This delightful venue is very rural yet only 4 short blocks/ 5 minutes from the main highway. Arriving from Mega, turn right on Encino (orange hardware store on one corner, taco restaurant opposite). Continue past the excellent El Eden nursery, then the recyclers yard, turn right at the end of the road. You are welcome to visit at any time. Donations of gently used clothing, shoes, umbrellas, non perishable food, glasses, medical supplies – eveything is needed and much appreciated.