Esta es su casa
By Janell Meador, photos by Linda McLaughlin
On a cool and windy morning in April, Magdalena Gutiérrez held precious little María José in her arms as she welcomed a group from Casita Linda in San Miguel de Allende. Magdalena Gutiérrez, alone with her little pink bundle, represented her family (Rigoberto, the husband at work, boys Alex and Christian at school) and offered a place to sit outside at a table under a mesquite tree—but first she insisted on cleaning it.
The Gutiérrez family lives in a home constructed of scavenged pieces of tin, thin plywood and corrugated cardboard with a roof of plastic bags protecting a dirt floor. Ragged blankets serve as doors for the two rooms the five of them call home. The small piece of land they have been able to buy with their wages is over three kilometers down a nearly impassable rocky road that taxis refuse to traverse and the water truck chugs up only twice a month, after the driver has been paid a bit of encouragement. When Magdalena brings home supplies, she must trudge up the three dusty kilometers holding Maria Jose and pushing a small cart while negotiating around the soccer-ball-sized boulders. The boys, Alex and Christian, walk all the way to school in Allende Nigromante every day— a distance of several miles. The boys have bicycles, but the thorns from the trees and cactus needles keep the tires perpetually in need of repair.
The beautiful ending to this story is that just behind this home are the concrete walls and floors of the Gutiérrez family’s new home, which will be finished before the rainy season. Built by a crew of five Casita Linda construction workers, the 580 sq. ft. home will have a concrete roof, two bedrooms, a bathroom and a covered area that will double as kitchen and living space. The house is a gift to the Gutiérrez family from Casita Linda, a Mexican non-profit organization dedicated to building homes that create a dignified, safe and empowering environment that will provide a foundation of hope for families living in extreme poverty.
Just down the path from the Gutiérrez family, the Barron Barron family invites the Casita Linda group into their completed three-bedroom home with big smiles and many “Mucho Gustos” even though they are sitting down to lunch. This home, also 580 sq. ft., housing five children and three adults, was completed in March 2014. Just behind this concrete home with a bathroom is the shack constructed from discarded, rusting tin, old boards, and wire fencing where these eight people once lived on dirt floors. Many goodbyes and smiles follow the group to their vehicle as they head off to visit one more family.
Down another dusty road on the outskirts of San Miguel, the Casita Linda group pulls up next to a traditionally painted two-story house built by Casita Linda and presented to the Cervantes Villabranco family in Colonia San Martin. Greeted by the patriarch, octogenarian Moses Villabranco, with a protective and vocal boxer pup named Rocky, lives in an inventive house built of tree stumps with a cactus roof. The first thing one notices is the neatly swept the walk, with a beautiful flower bed and blue flower vine curling up around the front door. Señor Villabranco has come from the tin lean-to on the side of the home where the family of seven, including his daughter, granddaughter, their husbands and a great-grand-daughter all lived before they received their Casita Linda home. “When we first started working on this home for the Villabranco family, Moses told us he felt as if his life was just about over,” says Sid Martin, a Casita Linda volunteer. But he pitched in and carried buckets and bricks all day. He said he felt like he had been reborn.
Moses knocks on the door, then the windows, hoping to show off the home of which he is so proud, but receives no answer. “The children are at school, and their parents are at work,” he tells the visitors. It dawns on them that this is a Casita Linda success story, and they are happy to say, “Hasta luego,” and drive back down the dusty road.
Donations from people around the world make Casita Linda possible. In the years since Casita Linda’s founding, people who work with the organization have learned that a safe and secure home fulfills a very basic family need. Simple stoves for making meals, ready water for washing and laundering—basic things most of us take for granted—can change lives.
“There is a saying: mi casa es su casa. When we dedicate the houses, we present the family with a plaque, and I tell them: esta es su casa,” says Sid Martin. “That is when big tears begin to roll down their cheeks.”
For information contact: www.casitalinda.org
Casita Linda wishes to express their deepest appreciation and thanks to Scott Grice for his generous donations of time and expertise to our mission.