Bet You Didn’t Know We Have A Senior Center

And like everything else around here, it needs attention
BY: CATHY WATKINS

The Cabo Senior Center is called Club de Abuelos San Miguel or Grandparents Club.  Sinai Mota is the director which is open three days a week from 7:30 to 5:00, serving breakfast and lunch.  Five to ten volunteers help with cooking and assisting.  Th center supplies food, medical, and other supplies and services to approximately 250 seniors living at the poverty level. (Yes, there is a social security pension available in Mexico, but you first have to pay into the system in your earning years, and over half of all Mexicans don’t pay taxes.)

The center offers recreational activities such as crafts, music, folk dance, yoga, breathing exercise, and more.  The “abuelos” (grandparents) learn special skills through workshops, allowing them to produce and sell hand crafted items. They also operate a second hand store, selling donated items. These fun activities allow them  to earn a small income and feel less dependent.

After Hurricane Odile the Club de Abuelos San Miguel had to be rebuilt, as it was totally wiped out. It received a grant  and has a fresh new look with awnings for shade and green astro turf.  There is a large kitchen, a clinic, and a bazaar selling what the seniors make, and lots of tables and chairs.  The ambiance is tranquil and happy.

As you enter from the street, an elderly man sits behind a small wooden table with an old timey scale, melons, and small tomatoes he has grown.  It appears you have stepped back in time, or so you think as he weighs his produce, but then he whips out his calculator to figure the price.  He stays there all day until he sells all he has. 

Under the shaded areas, people are enjoying a variety of activities.  At one table, a group of nine men are playing dominoes.  No women, just men, and they look serious.  One of the gentlemen is blind, but he’s got game.  Another area has music where people dance or sit and socialize.  A different group plays bingo while others work on crafts.  One or two might be reading, but many who attend don’t know how to read.  In the kitchen, a woman who had a stroke is seated on a stool and a woman is teaching her to speak again by pressing her cheeks together to say the O sound. 

The clients are there in an attempt not to remain isolated. For example, Flora Torres Mena is 65 years old, full of energy, and very positive.  Even though she doesn’t have much herself, she comes to the center to volunteer.   She helps in the kitchen cooking and serving the food.  It costs her $1.50 USD round trip, taking two buses each way.  Flora has been coming to the center three days a week for a year and feels valued and believes she makes a difference. Flora’s been on her own for 29 years.  She and her five children fled their home because her husband was abusive. In Guerrero, she worked in the fields and never paid taxes, so she is not entitled to social security.   Her children, now grown, continue to work in the fields picking nuts, corn, and beans and only make around five dollars a day, so they are not able to help her.

Four years ago, she came to Cabo with two of her children, moving in with her son’s family.  All six of them now live in a one room house in thr barrio El Caribe since the hurricane destroyed their house.  In the small yard she has planted nuts, carrots, garlic, beans, and potatoes, but she needs more seeds.   Flora hopes to build her own room onto the house one day to die in.  Her message is be humble and serve God. 

Then, there is Ricarda Herrera who is 80 years old and has been coming to the center for four years.  She usually comes on Wednesdays and Fridays, taking two buses to get there.  For her the center is a place to socialize and get out because she is bored at home alone.  She likes the classes the center offers and has learned to make dolls and paint.  Ricarda was a housewife with eight children, so she doesn’t get social security.  She can’t read or write because she didn’t go to school much.  However, she proudly stated that she could print and sign her name.  Her one room house has a concrete floor and a tin roof that leaks.  The kitchen is actually set up outside since there isn’t room inside. One of her daughters lives in front of her and helps by giving her some food, but not money.  Still, at times, Ricarda lacks food at home, and may only eat a tortilla or piece of bread for breakfast.   In spite of everything, she looks younger than her age, has a smile, and is positive.  Claiming she never gets sick, she has never been in a hospital.  To earn a little money, she makes chicken tamales and sells them in her neighborhood and at the center for around 50 cents each.  

Olfelia Guevarra Sanchez is 76 years old and has been coming to the center for five years.  She’s one of the more fortunate because she receives 70 dollars a month from social security since she worked in an abalone packaging plant in Sonora for many years.  For health care she can go to the government hospital.   Due to heart issues, she went to the hospital recently, but when they drew blood incorrectly a nerve was injured, and her arm is in a sling for now.  

Olfelia told us she didn’t go to school as a child because her father sent her to work as a baby-sitter.  Her husband passed away from lung cancer and drinking.  When she came to Cabo she worked at Marina del Sol washing laundry and then baby-sitting and was able to save a little money for a house with no running water. Well, in Cabo’s barrios, even people with running water have no running water, so that may not be a big loss. It’s common to buy water off a truck.

She said the center helps her because she can eat here.  On the days when the center is not open, she eats if she has food at home, but sometimes she doesn’t. When she has the money for the bus, she comes to the center all three days.  For her, the center provides protection since she has no support from her family.  Her three daughters live here, but they don’t talk to her or visit, not even on Mother’s Day. Must be quite a story there, but who wants to get involved with that? Not us. Before the senior center was a part of her life, Olfelia felt desperate, but now she feels comfortable, knowing this place is a safe haven and provides a social environment. 

Many of the seniors who come to the Center live in conditions that are unthinkable to most Americans.  The majority of grandparents  live with their children and have a roof over their head because the Mexican culture takes care of family.  But in many cases there is not enough food to go around and the seniors are confined to a very small living space shared with several other family members, as in Flora’s case.  Some have been, and are being physically abused.  The lucky ones like Ricarda and Olfelia have a small home  Many lost their homes in Hurricane Odile over a year ago and are living in a house still under construction. It’s common for people to complete a home little by little as they have the money.

The center needs food, clothing, and any other household items that will make life a little easier for these people. Every donated item will go directly to the seniors.  Email robzolezzi@gmail.com  to let Robby Z  know what you can donate and a pick-up time will be scheduled. Yup, that’s the same Robby Z who toils at the humane society, too, a lot of you might know him.

The Senior Center also needs a place to store the household items, so alert Robby if you have a place for that. Z Man will zip around to resorts and restaurants and pick up left over food, if any is available. (He will also hold a dog down while a vet carves on it but that’s another story). 

The facility operates 100% on donations. Board members are Rob Zolezzi - President, Rick Zirpolo, Joe Tyson, John Woods, Adriana Mondragon, people well known in the American community. 

A donation site has been established at www.gofundme.com/eobscs. For more info go to  www.caboseniorcenter.com/language/en/ , www.facebook.com/CaboSeniorCenter.  Donations can be a tax deduction in Canada for Canadians. 

The Senior Center is on Avenida Los Cabos, between Calle Erizo and Calle Esponja, in Colonia Auroras, in the general vicinity of Casa Hogar.