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Books have the power to enlarge our world and enrich our experience of it.

They teach us about important issues and other people’s lives. They transport us to new places.

They help us understand our own lives better and discover what it is we truly believe.

Support your local bookstore this holiday season by buying a book for someone on your list,

you just might change his or her life for the better.

In Good Company

In Good Company

THANK YOU SEATTLE! for the huge show of support for The View from Casa Chepitos. And special thanks to Lesley Burvill-Holmes for sharing her lovely photos of San Miguel de Allende and callejon de Chepitos. The really GOOD NEWS is we sold so many books on Saturday night that The View from Casa Chepitos will be included on Elliott Bay’s BEST SELLER shelf for the month of December. HO! HO! HO!

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Laura Stern, Frances Marshall and me at the reading

MamaBookThe View from Casa Chepitos: A Journey Beyond the Border is due for release on September 15th! Read further for a synopsis and to hear what people are saying about my memoir.

On a ten-day a visit to San Miguel de Allende, Judith Gille falls in love…with a hot pink house on a rundown alleyway. Without consulting her husband or knowing how she’s going to pay for it, she makes the owners a full price offer.

Despite a bumpy start in the new culture, Gille and her family eventually befriend their neighbors on callejón de Chepito and form a close bond with the Cordova clan. As their affection for the lively Mexican family grows, so do the complications of their cross-cultural relationship. When the oldest daughter seeks to cross the border illegally, the lives of the two families become inextricably entwined.

The View from Casa Chepitos puts a human face on the immigration controversy and paints an intimate portrait of Mexican life. But the story also explores the deeper issues women of all ages and cultures face: affirming their self-worth and purpose, building enduring relationships, and discovering where it is they truly belong.

PRAISE FOR THE VIEW FROM CASA CHEPITOS

“Judith Gille offers a clear-eyed look at making a new life for oneself in another country. Setting her new existence against the one she left behind, she finds revelations at every turn.”

—Tony Cohan, author of On Mexican Time and Mexican Days.

“Reminiscent of Frances Mayes’ Under the Tuscan Sun, Judith Gille tells us in elegant and evocative prose, how a tourist becomes a traveler and how a place where we were once a stranger can become home.”

— Mary Morris, author of Nothing to Declare.

 

I’d always intended to throw a big party in San Miguel de Allende for my 60th birthday. I figured I’d not only celebrate my birthday, but also the twelve years I’ve lived part time in Mexico.

Ten years earlier, my husband had invited fifty friends to our house in Seattle to celebrate my half-century mark. It was a big surprise and people came from as far away as Oregon and California. The best surprise, however, was when my friend Martha showed up and brought her son Silas, who I helped deliver into the world when the midwife was too preoccupied unwrapping the cord from his neck to catch him. His mother and I had been estranged for over ten years and a teary rapprochement at the party led to our renewed relationship.

I remember thanking everyone, not only for coming, but because each person there had helped me, at one time or another, through a difficult time. That party was the closest thing to a perfect birthday I’d had since the surprise slumber party my best friends threw for me in 9th grade.

But the closer I got to 60, the less I felt like partying. In fact, I felt quite the opposite.

What I wanted most was a week of contemplation and retreat: yoga, meditation, reading and a tiny bit of writing sounded ideal. My only other requirement for it was that it be in Mexico, the place I love most in the world. So I signed up for Elizabeth Rainey’s yoga/meditation retreat in Sayulita, in the state of Nayarit, and booked an extra three days at Playa Escondido on the front end for a pre-retreat retreat. I spent those first three days meditating, reading, getting massages and staring at the ocean for hours at a time. My idea of pure bliss.

The day the retreat started I walked up the hill from Playa Escondido to the Haramara Retreat, ten minutes away. The following week held even more delights than the first three days: there were abundant ocean and mountain views from Haramara; six a.m. meditation sits as the sun came up; an amazing array of birds twittering, tweeting, or bursting into song; morning and evening yoga sessions with the yoga goddess, Rainey, that strengthened my muscles and my commitment to do yoga until the day I die; a congenial and interesting group of fellow yogis; the ever-present sound of the ocean, clear air and brilliant blue skies. And a very special night spent watching the full moon in Libra rise over the coastal range of the Sierra Madres from the lower pavilion.

For me, however, the sweetest surprise of the retreat happened the night a guitar player came by to serenade us at dinner.

The main course had been cleared as we sat around a big communal table gabbing. The guitarist was playing an assortment of old Mexican favorites mixed with a smattering of Flamenco. He played La Llorona, a Mexican ballad I adore, especially when Chavela Vargas sings it.

Then a waiter emerged from the kitchen bearing a giant gluten-free birthday cake for me and my fellow yogini, Joyce, and the guitar player immediately switched to Las Mañanitas, the Mexican birthday song. The guitarist’s friend, a buxom middle-aged woman dressed in a hot pink t-shirt, stood and sang the complete version for us. Like the Spanish language in general, the Mexican birthday song is far more romantic than the English one. I translated for Joyce and our group as she sang:

Wake up my dearest, wake up, see now that the day has dawned
now the little birds are singing, the moon has finally set.
How lovely it is in this morning, when I come to greet for you
we all come with joy and pleasure and to celebrate with you.
The very day you were born all the flowers here have bloomed
and in the baptismal font all the nightingales have sung.
The dawn has come my darling, and the sunlight’s here for us.
Rise and shine up with the morning and you’ll see that here’s the dawn.

Later, as we were all straggling out of the dining room and back to our palapas for the night, I stopped by the table where the guitar player and his woman friend were sitting.

Muchas gracias for singing Las Mañanitas to us,” I said to them in Spanish. “It was a very special birthday present.” The singer smiled at me.

“Can I give you a birthday hug?” she asked.

 “¡Claro, que sí!” I said.

She stood up and enveloped me in the most generous, life-affirming embrace I’ve ever received. And that’s saying a lot. I’ve been hugged three times by Amma, India’s Hugging Saint, and it didn’t feel half as love-filled and genuine as the woman in hot pink’s hug. She smelled sweet and spicy like a good Oaxacan mole. Her body was warm and her skin smooth and soft. I felt as if I were being embraced by Mother Mexico herself.