What happened to Alfonso?

   Blacksmith: A metalsmith who creates objects from wrought iron or steel by forging the metal, using tools to hammer, bend, and cut

 

IMG_3715

 

It’s something about the sound it makes. The sound the hammer makes when you bang it against the metal. Or maybe it’s the color of the horseshoe, you know? That blazing red when it comes out of the forge. Or the carving of the hoof that reminds you of a wood smith working on his next piece. It’s a way to protect the horse. It’s a trade. It’s an art.

It dates back as far as the early domestication of the horse. Ancient people recognized the need for additional protection on the horse’s hoof. Hence the conditions they were exposed to would cause their deterioration. But this has not been proven. No one really know when this was invented or by whom. Back in the day, iron was a valuable commodity. Worn pieces were melted and reused for some other things. Therefore, the archeological evidence is just not there. But this isn’t a history lesson on steel or our ancestors. This isn’t an essay on the importance of the horseshoe an how it helps the horse run faster toward the jockey’s trophy. This is a story about life and  destiny. About how the universe has this way of compiling things and making it work out for our own good in the end. It’s a story about disappointment. It’s a story that proves that when one door closes an other one opens. It’s a story about a lost art and how one man is keeping it alive through his hard work and passion.

IMG_3759

His name is Alfonso. The blacksmith that is, not the horse. He was raised Ranchita, a small rural village in Mexico between Veracruz and the Pacific Ocean. It’s the village you see in paintings hanging on the walls of authentic Mexican restaurants. It’s the village you go to if you want to experience the real Mexico. Away from the booze infused tourists of the Yucatan Peninsula. Dusty roads. Houses with red tiled roofs. Horses. And soccer. Lot’s of soccer. Soccer on dusty fields. On lush fields. On paved roads or on dusty roads. It’s a passion. The type of passion that keeps groups of kids playing outside. They play outside from morning until the rays of the setting sun perforate the dust hovering over the field. The dust caused by the running and kicking of restless energetic, passionate feet. Alfonso’s feet were always in there.

It was his passion. He was one of the best in the village when he was 10. He was still one of the best when he and his family suddenly emigrated to the states. He was one of the best when the other kids would ask “what happened to Alfonso?”. He was one of the best in Arizona when he was 17. He was one of the best when they offered him a scholarship. And he was one of the best when the old coach left and the new one did not choose him to receive the  scholarship. IMG_3699

It was the first time he felt it. That door had closed. His heart missed a beat and his stomach sank. It sank into an abyss of hopelessness and disappointment. Into an abyss of what he thought there was no getting out of. But it was also the first move the universe made on his favor. They say that once you make a decision, or when you have a dream and a goal, the universe will conspire to make it happen. I think that it not only conspires when you have a dream. I think that regardless, it conspires to make things good for us humans.

Three hundred and eighty three miles west, in Los Angeles, CA, Alfonso’s uncle was getting a divorce. He got a divorce and was moving to Florida. He gathered his belongings and loaded them to the back of his burgundy 89′ Chevy. Driving cross country he stopped in Arizona. Alfonso’s grief was still fresh and his uncle noticed. This is when the other door opened.     Alfonso hopped in the Chevy.

IMG_3731

He learned to remove the old shoes. He mastered the process of carving and trimming the hoof. He mastered the hammer and anvil to bend the shoe into the precise shape. And he learned how to read the horses. “They look at you”, Alfonso says.Nowadays not even people look at you. You feel what the horse is feeling. And he feels you.” He learned that people cross the country and our paths for a reason.

Alfonso works nonstop for hours. He drives his pick up truck, dragging the tin cart with all the tools behind him. The anvil. The hammer. The hoof knife. The nippers and the clinch block. He pulls up next to the stable and begins to work. He sweats. He gets thirsty. He gets swarmed by flies. And he occasionally gets kicked by horses.

IMG_3734

Back in the day, farriers (the person who changes the horseshoe) was called a blacksmith. They did everything from bending the steel into the shape of a horseshoe, to installing in on the horse. Today, Alfonso receives pre fabricated horse shoes from Europe. It’s rare to see a farrier crating his own horseshoe. It’s almost as rare as seeing a farrier work as passionately as Alfonso. They say that it is a lost art but he keeps it alive. He keeps it alive through his sweat. Through the thirst. Through the hundreds of flies that swarm him while he works.

IMG_3702

A person crossed his path and his whole life changed. He found a new passion and something to wake up to every day. And so if you ever go to that village between Veracruz and the Pacific, and they ask you what happened to Alfonso, that’s what you tell them. Tell them that the universe worked its magic. It closed doors. It opened an other. It moved a truck across the country.

Tell them that Alfonso is content.

Advertisements

A Lesson on Cultural Relativism

Cultural Relativism: The perspective meaning that no culture is inherently superior or inferior to any other.

We live in a melting pot. A pot where humans from an array of races and cultures come together to live, work, celebrate and connect. Cubans. Colombians. Brazilians, Argentinians and Mexicans (to name a few). All of these cultures have a certain thing unique about them. A thing that can spark our curiosity and want to fly hundreds of miles to experience it ourselves.

This is what human beings do. 

We are generally opposed to the idea of staying in one place our whole lives. We move. We move a lot. We moved out of Africa 1.8 million years ago and spread across Asia. We’ve moved from Europe across oceans and into South America. We’ve sailed the North Atlantic from England to Plymouth, and flown from our mother lands to where we are today.

 IMG_3618

Adventure lives outside your tent.

It’s only normal for us to to be a bit ethnocentric. We really can’t help it. We are proud of where we came from and want to hold on to those roots as close to ourselves as possible. But this can sometimes get in the way of your move. The move that is going to open your eyes to new sights. The move that will open your ears to news sounds. The move that will spark new taste buds. The move will make you realize that there are other places outside of your tent worth exploring.

IMG_3625

Your move does’t have to require walking across continents or sailing oceans. Start small. Start local. Start with the flea market off of 258th and Dixie Highway. Explore the tented alleys and the vendors along them. Try on cowboy hats. Eat the pinchos, arepas, mazorcas and mangos with chili. Listen to the live bands playing ranchera. Have a conversation with the lady selling beans. Cool off with a strawberry “raspado”, or snow cone. Buy a handcrafted bag and fill it with fruits and vegetables from the market. Immerse yourself in the culture of Central America just a few miles from your backyard. You will realize that there really is no culture inherently superior or inferior to any other.

IMG_3635

Unlocking the Chain and Breaking Through the Cement

What is it that makes us human beings open up to others and tell them our stories, our struggles, our successes or our regrets?

We tend to hold on to our feelings or our stories a bit too much if you ask me. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to share our stories as painful as they may be or as marvelous as they turned out. The cavemen did it with cave painting. The ancient Egyptians with calligraphy. The monks with the manuscript. Michel Angelo with the Sistine Chapel. Our mothers with bedtime stories. The distribution of all these stories function as much more than a blanket to help us fall asleep. Or as a diversion when we feel disinterested. Stories spread knowledge. Stories spread messages of truce. Stories sometimes help us fall in love. It all comes down to the resolution that we are all human. We all have a story to tell. We all came from somewhere and struggled with things that made us who we are today. It may be somehow straightforward to speak about ourselves our our stories (even though we don’t always do it), but it is perhaps even more difficult to get someone to remove their blanket and tell you their story. We see it all the time. There are two types of people in this world: the ones whose life’s an open book, and the one’s whose books are locked with a chain and sealed with cement. These are a few tips to help you unlock that chain and break through the cement and write a good story about them. Happy interviewing!

Describe your childhood

How were you as a kid?

How was your relationship with your mother? Your father?

What do you miss the most?

What was the best time of your life? What was the worst time?

What is your biggest fear?

Bring me back to an event in your life that had a profound effect on who you are today

What would you say is the biggest misconception that people have of you?

What philosophy do you live by?

How do you want to be remembered when you die?

Finish this sentence for me: (Subjects name) is…..

Calle Ocho- Tacos and Mojitos

 

Venture west of I-95 and you will find a little neighborhood called Little Havana. Not only is this a busy and colorful neighborhood, much like the rest of Miami, but unbeknownst to most tourists, and even locals, Little Havana  is as much as a cultural immersion destination as it is a culinary one. Man1

Little Havana dates back to the 1930s, when it mad a primarily Jewish neighborhood. In the 1960s, as Cuban immigrants emigrated into Miami, Little Havana became what it is today- a concentration of colors, races and cuisine.Chips

Tucked behind two frog statues on 8th street and 13th avenue you will find “El Taquito”, a Mexican hole in the wall serving the best sangrias, “lengua de vac a” (cow tongue) tacos, and chips you will ever find outside of Mexico.

Bar

Just a block west on the first floor of the white building with the pillars, lies Cuba Ocho Arts & Research Center, Little Havana’s cultural hub and the world’s largest rum collection.

B&C

Ball & Chain

Mojito

La Esquina

Man2