El Abuelo del Parque Deportiva

El Abuelo leading the children in a play about how not to get kidnapped.

In about 1999, I took a week-long trip with a friend to Chihuahua City, Mexico. One afternoon, we went down to Deportiva Park, downtown. It wasn't much like the lush, over watered parks we have here in the states, but it was large and had its own appeal. As we were walking around, we saw a large crowd gathered near an old train car. It seemed really strange, like maybe there was a fight or something weird was going on. We walked in to see what was happening. What we saw were tons of little kids and their parents gathering around and watching, who I soon found out to be, "El Abuelo" (His full name was actually something that translates roughly as The Grumpy Grandpa, or the Know-it-All Grandpa, but I can't remember what it was exactly, so I'll just be calling him El Abuelo.)

El Abuelo has turned out to be one of the most charismatic people I have ever met. He is tall, youthful, and has the sharpest, crystal blue eyes imaginable. I think I fell instantly in love. It was obvious, too, that all of the people there felt the same way. This man could have led us all joyously over a cliff. Easily.

Instead, he lead hand-picked "volunteers" through a series of morality plays. The first play involved younger children and he took them through dances and songs and play acting, all to teach them how to protect themselves from kidnappers. For the second, he recruited some of the older children and similarly tried to convince them not to ruin their futures by getting pregnant. The most fun to watch, however, were the adults. He somehow cajoled these machismo guys to wear funny animal hats and dance around as El Abuelo taught them about the evils of government and business corruption. They all smiled and laughed and listened as he passionately lectured them.

Here he is leading the adults in a play about how not to give in to corruption.

Afterward, my friend and I approached him and introduced ourselves. He immediately said, "Aha! I know some english!" and began reciting an old nursery rhyme. (I forget which one.) Luckily my friend spoke spanish fluently and she translated for me while I asked questions. I was most curious to know what kind of group he worked for, and I was surprised to find out that he worked by himself and makes his entire living off of what people leave in his donation basket.

Leading the march.

I don't even know if he's still there prancing around with the children and the grown-ups, wearing funny bunny hats and waving his basket around. I sure as hell hope so, because his are the kind of people that inspire me to become better and bigger than I am.

Skipping around.

March 2006. Heather Bowden