I met Lilo for the first time about ten years ago in my tiny town in Mexico. I was doing a yoga therapy retreat at one of the local “bungalows” and my dear friend and student Bess Abrahams came out from New York to assist me, with her one year old – or around there – baby, and her friend, Jenny, who watched baby Adam when Bess was busy.
Bess spoke Spanish and would wander around the town with Jenny and Adam on time off, discovering places I had not yet seen. One of them was an afterschool program called Casa de Los Niños, which turned out to be right around the corner from my house. “You should go over there, Molly, that’s a great resource for you,” Bess told me. And so, when the retreat left, I went over to introduce myself.
Sasha and I walked in together and met Trini and Lilo. We didn’t know it at the time, but Trini is Lilo’s sister in law and was working at La Casa, and Lilo was there to pick her up. Our Spanish was not very good, but we introduced ourselves and were warmly welcomed by Lilo and Trini both. We asked a little about the program, and then asked if they needed any donations that we could bring back for them from the States. Lilo joked and said in Spanish, “How about a laptop?” Sasha, not joking, said, in his very limited Spanish, “Sure, I have one for you!” We all just kind of laughed and talked some more, and then we left.
The next time I went down was many months later, and I ended up going by myself. But Sasha was serious about giving Lilo his laptop so gave it to me to take with me. A couple days after I arrived, I was walking around one of the back roads, when this old pick up truck – I can’t remember if it was the green Toyota or if there was a truck before that one – either way, this old truck comes calunking down the pitted dirt road and this man is waving to me with this huge smile, his wife in the seat next to him and his family, standing, holding on to the wooden rails in the pick- up bed. I was looking at this guy and was like, “I have no idea who this is.” Then he stops the truck, jumps out and hugs me, and I’m thinking, “Ok, I guess I must know this guy.” For some reason, I didn’t recognize him. I was new, I didn’t really speak the language, I had no real bearings of my surroundings. Well, then he starts speaking to me in Spanish, and all I could understand was “computadora.” “Oh right!!” Him! The guy who I am supposed to give the computer to! I arranged for him to come over to my house to get it the next day.
From that day on, Lilo Becerra, and his family – his wife Chenda, and his four daughters, Kenica Becerra, Nora Becerra, Lourdes Becerra, Francia Becerra, and the whole extended family – have taken care of, invited, befriended and supported me as part of their own family. I used to ride my bike to their beach restaurant every day when Sasha couldn’t come down with me and sit with them at the “family” table – playing cards and dice, learning Spanish and Lilo practicing his English. Later I ended up teaching English at Casa de Los Ninos and all the Becerras except the oldest, who lives out of town, took class with me twice a week. Sasha and I made a tradition of cooking the entire extended family a meal at our home every time we were in town. We would plan elaborate meals from other countries – Italian night, Chinese night, Vietnames night – for them and practice our Spanish all night. Lilo and Nora both spoke a little bit of English, a very little bit, but no one else spoke any, so we would really get to connect in Spanish – it was the only way we could, so we all just made it work. The women were all interested in yoga, so I started teaching them yoga in Spanish in my little backyard studio. We’ve spent birthdays, Christmas, New Year’s with them, and Sasha has eaten armadillo and tejon while Chenda alwayss make a vegetarian plate for me. One year, I had the idea of making a family tree so I could understand all the relationships of everyone in the extended, extended family. I asked the youngest daughter, Francia to help me. We took a poster paper out and Francia began to show the family relationships starting with Lilo and Chenda’s parents. The tree branched out and flowered into the various relationships, kids and families on each side. At the bottom, Francia made me Lilo’s sister, and Sasha Chenda’s brother, then drew a line to connect us, to show that we had married from either side of the family. We officially made it on to the family tree.
Over the last ten years, I have seen the daughters have babies of their own, Francia grew from that cute kid into a stunning young woman. I’ve seen Don Vincente go from a spunky 84 to a spunky 94. The Becerras became an integral part of our life, and some of my very best friends in Mexico. If not for them, for Lilo and his bold personality, dazzling smile and mischievous flare, if not for that first chance meeting, I may not have been so determined to make a home in Mexico. But Lilo was there, and I met him at the right time, and I knew this move would be alright. That I would always be cared for here.