Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle….the Mexican Way

Quite some time ago, I wrote about some of the ways that Mexicans reuse, repurpose, and recycle (  And more recently I’ve been writing about our drive to collect used warm clothing for the old folks in my neighboring barrio of Nestipac for their Christmas party.

There’s an obvious correlation between the two, of course.  But over the past few days, the happy roots (see picture above) of reusing, repurposing, and recycling have shot off even more.  (No, I don’t know if roots actually “shoot off”.  I’m an unintentional plant killer and botany terminology is totally beyond me.)

ANYHOW….I’ve received a lot of donated clothes from folks around Lake Chapala.  So many so that they have taken over my spare bedroom and many remain on my dining table and other pieces of furniture here in the house.  Most of them will be given to the ancianos in Nestipac, but some are just really not suitable for them.  They’re great clothes, but not very warm or, in the case of the men’s clothing, just too large for the old guys who, by virtue of nutrition or genetics, are quite small.

So what’s a gringa to do with such things?  Well, a couple of things.

The first thing I did was hold a teeny, tiny bazar (i.e. sale) for my friends who had contributed clothing or money.  Any money collected went right into the fund to purchase other things for the old folks, like despensas (food packages) or blankets.  The clothing was priced right (30 pesos/$2.30US per item) and I rather quickly managed to take in about 740 pesos ($57US), the cost of about 15 blankets or six food packages.

Not only that, I know I’m gonna get some great blouses for Christmas from my friends, because Jonnie bought four for me and Kathi and Sher bought another!  Now these are gifts that keep on giving and which are guaranteed to please me because I pretty much chose them.  It made Jonnie, in particular, happy because she doesn’t have to shop for my Christmas present!  And, hey, she’s also being especially good environmentally because she doesn’t have to drive around looking for a gift or buy something imported from China and she knows the “profits” from her purchase are all going to go the local folks!

The second thing I did was ask my good friend Antonio if he was interested in some of the larger size blue jeans.  Antonio’s not particularly large, but because he’s younger he’s bigger than the old guys.  In this case, I’m betting because of nutrition.  Antonio said that he did need some work pants and checked out what I had for sale.  He chose seven pairs of jeans that he thought would fit him or his cousin.

This cousin (one of hundreds of Antonio’s, I think) works in the berry fields here (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries….if you’ve ever purchased Driscoll berries at your local supermarket, they’re from here) and doesn’t really make enough to buy jeans, which are rather expensive hereabouts.  So it seemed like a win/win proposition to me.

Now I have some Canadian friends who winter high on a hill outside of Joco and while they were still in Canada this summer, they had asked me to have Antonio do some jobs for them.  They sent him the money for the jobs, but I had paid him to go up and do the estimates.

Frankly, I had forgotten that I’d paid Antonio a bit of cash, so when my Canadian friends Barbara and Rick arrived a few weeks ago and then gave me the money to cover my output, I had a couple hundred more pesos in hand that I didn’t expect.  And what better way to spend them than to contribute to the old folks’ fund and buy Antonio and his cousin some blue jeans?  So that’s what I did, and there was another 210 pesos in the blanket/despensa fund!

At that point, I wrote my friend Phyllis (, who established this posada for the old folks in Nestipac, and told her, “I LOVE this shit!  Not only are the old folks gonna benefit, so are my friends!”  And Phyllis responded, “And you really, really brought a big smile to my face with that one!”  Because Phyllis knows that the old folks in Nestipac are not the only ones around here who need a little something sometime (and I totally include myself in that).

So, yet again, this had worked out well for the old folks and for my friends and for anybody who believes in the idea of reuse, repurpose, recycle.

But I think that this might have been my favorite example of recycling these clothes.  A few nights ago, about 6PM, my friend Ruben (who happens to be Antonio’s uncle), his wife Josefina, and one of their seven (yeah, seven; the oldest being, I think, 14!) kids came over on their moto.  Uncle Ruben was here to spray my yard and garden for things like spiders, scorpions, and ants.  Ruben works full-time at a hotel here in Joco but picks up other work when he can get it.  Hey, he’s got seven kids at home!

While Ruben was spraying the grounds, I had Josefina and (I’m guessing here) eight year old Cynthia come in and see if Josefina could find some pants to fit her.  All the women’s pants that had been donated seemed to be either very small or very large.  The warm ones I had pulled out for the old ladies, but I had some that just didn’t seem like anything they would wear (i.e. light-weight capri pants/pedal pushers/clam diggers, whatever they’re called these days).

But I had forgotten how really tiny Josefina is.  Seven kids and she’s still probably a size zero!  So no pants for her, or for her 14 year old daughter who is about the same size.

However, I had found in my own dresser a pair of jeans that I never wear, as well as a t-shirt.  I’d contributed them to the clothing collection, even though I knew that probably nobody would need anything that size.  But, hey, it turns out that Uncle Ruben and I are probably about the same size and Josefina was thrilled to find some work clothes for her husband.

I also found a large sweatshirt that my friend Kathi had brought over and “bought” that for Ruben.  I’ve known Ruben for probably two and a half years and he always seems to be wearing the same thing.  Hey, when you have seven kids at home to feed, clothe, and send to school, I’m guessing that the last thing on your mind is buying clothing for yourself.

Anyhow, Josefina gathered up the jeans, t-shirt, and sweatshirt for Ruben.  By this time, it was about 7PM and dark outside.  I paid Ruben for his work and the chemicals and went out to bid the three of them adios.  They were loading up their moto with people, clothing, and huge sprayer when I noticed that little Cynthia had on the sweatshirt.  On her, of course, it was like a long dress.

Over the years, I have met every one of Ruben and Josefina’s seven children and it is patently obvious that every one of them adores their father.  This is evidenced by the fact that the older kids will gladly do absolutely anything he tells them with regard to working and helping him out, and by the fact that the younger ones will do absolutely anything to hang out with him or sit on his lap.

To them, Ruben is just the best guy EVER.  So I can only imagine how proud and happy Cynthia was to be wearing her dad’s sweatshirt on the moto ride home!

And isn’t that the best reuse, repurpose, recycle story that you’ve read in a long time??

About Barbara

in april of 2008, i moved from the united states to mexico. during my working days, i held lots and lots of jobs....almost all chosen because they were fun or interesting instead of how much they paid. when i started thinking about retirement (in my 40s), i realized that i would never be able to retire to a country where english was the native language. and although i had traveled to every state in the US -- and lived in lots of them -- i had never been outside the country with the exception of canada and mexico. and since you now know that i could never afford to retire in canada (even to the french-speaking area), mexico won by default.
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6 Responses to Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle….the Mexican Way

  1. That is such a cool story and you are a good person! Love your people!

  2. Kate says:

    Barbara – I have your lap quilt ready for the old folks. It turned out really nice if I do say so myself! Give me a call so I can turn it over to you…..Kate

  3. This is such a great story about doing something good. We have enjoyed reading your blog, your insite into your Mexican experience and new life is fun to read. Keep writing and we will keep reading…and taking pictures too. We will be down in the Lakeside area for a few months starting next month 1/14 and if we can be of any assistance please do not hesitate to ask, perhaps we could meet for a beverage and a bite to eat …..we have a friend who lives in Jocotopec and have visited there a few times.

    Randy & Kelly

  4. Peggy says:

    Thank you for this story.

  5. says:

    Barb, I just love your blog! The way you describe things, it’s like I ‘m right there with you! This was a great story. Good luck with your clothing drive for the older folks. I think what you are doing is amazing!! Keep up the great job!

  6. Karen says:

    I love the sense of community you have going, Barb! And what a great community-minded way to recycle!

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