Friday, September 9, 2011

The Dig

The afternoon tropical rain has just passed, leaving the city clean and fresh. I walk down the steps into the pool saying “Adie come to Mama”; she answers with a splash, swimming to me, and then back to the steps, running around to her favorite jumping off place to start the cycle again. After our swim, Gringa Dog nestles in my lap; we sit awhile enjoying the soft sound of the fountain in the coolness of the evening. My mind wonders from this peaceful retreat, to the flurry of activity that has been our life for over four months. First, let me say, we bought a great house; the previous owners had taken great care and made it their home for eight years. We did not buy a ruin, we bought a home, and then we started making it ours. We wanted the addition of a porch, built to enhance the charm of our old colonial, a retreat to sit and watch the rain, to dine alfresco, to entertain, and a pool to enjoy all year round. Did I mention Gringa Dog loves to swim?

The back of our home when we bought it

I sat for hours drawing and redrawing the plans, settling on our favorite design, we began searching for a contractor. We utilized several resources and after a couple of interviews hired a local man to manage the job. He brought in his architect and engineer and we looked forward to seeing our dream go from paper to reality.
Buen Provecho
Albinales is the name for concrete construction workers in Mexico, who arrive in the back of a pick up every morning after making the forty-minute drive from Motul. First on their agenda is breakfast, sitting communally on buckets or cement blocks around a piece of plywood, they consume homemade dishes of eggs, tomato and chilies, carnitas, the always present black beans, a half kilo of tortillas, and a bag of habanero peppers, all washed down with a three liter Coke.
The start
Using a pick, shovel, and a digging bar Carlos, Juan and Antonio begin digging the soft shallow layer of dirt. Carefully removing the grass and transplanting it to a new location. Alberto watches and gives direction with the excitement of starting a new job. Since we are living in our house, we are totally immersed in local culture; it arrives every morning in the back of a pick up!
At the end of the first day
The Yucatan Peninsula is solid limestone shattered eons ago by a meteor, some places in Yucatan have less than a quarter inch of soil. Dynamite has been outlawed to build swimming pools (although used in the past), and since everything comes in through the front door, heavy machinery is really out of the equation. Our swimming pool will be dug by hand along with the strong arms and backs of men descended from the Mayan pyramid builders.
You can see the layer of topsoil, then a layer of cement, more dirt, and another layer of cement.
Below the second layer of cement was some dirt, a lot of old tiles stacked up, and solid limestone
The digging is easy as we soon discover there are several layers in the first few feet. Evidently, over the hundred and thirty year history of the house, porches or driveways for carriages had been constructed, now long covered with additional layers of tile, concrete and dirt. The workers find old bottles, coins, pieces of tile stamped with French writing, a horse shoe, fossil rocks too numerous to count, and a broken Metate y Mano (stone corn grinder).
Some of our finds. Still looking for the Spanish gold.
We soon become accustomed to the repetitious tap of the digging bar and the scrap of a shovel, for now at least it is music to our ears.  


  1. Gold or not, you've uncovered wonderful little treasures. This is why I don't want to renovate while I'm still in the US of A. I want to be part of the treasure hunt!

  2. Yeah Lee, it's tough living there while construction is going on but it's an experience you'll never forget.


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