La Manzanilla, Mexico: Baby needs new shoes

  • Jackie rings the bell.

In La Manzanilla, Mexico, and its surrounding villages, shoes can be hard to come by.

Especially if you’re poor. And you’re a kid.

So Lucero Castelazo, who now runs her late mother’s place, Casa Maria en La Manzanilla, also carries on Maria’s charitable spirit, collecting and distributing shoes for kids who need them. She gets money from friends and buys discounted shoes from companies in her hometown of Leon, a shoe-manufacturing mecca. Then she hauls them in her white van to La Manzanilla.

When we visited for Christmas, we were lucky enough to be included in a couple of the distribution runs.

We piled boxes and bags of shoes, everything from flip flops to beautiful decorated leather lace-ups and headed first to a nearby village.

There, Lucero’s sister, Jackie, rang the bell at the small covered gathering area, and kids, knowing something good was in store, came running, cats, dogs and chickens in tow.

The race was on to match kid to shoe. Jackie’s husband, Brian, a banker in his regular work day, leaned over nearly upside down to help a small boy try on a pair of sneakers. Sometimes, if the small face tugged especially hard at his heart, he’d give them two pairs.

Jackie and Brian’s kids, Carson and Campbell, consulted on sizes and styles, and my husband, Tom, and son, Nate, babbled with enough broken Spanish to get feet into coverings.

No one left without new shoes.

Another day, with cousin Diana and her husband Bob, we took the van on the backroads of La Manzanilla, parking and talking to kids on their bikes. Soon, the word was out, with older kids running home to get their younger siblings, friends pointing out a house where we should stop, and mothers carrying babies, hoping for tiny treasures.

There were no forms to fill out. The feet and need were obviously real.

Everyone was grateful.

(If you’d like to contribute, contact Lucero at Casa Maria en La Manzanilla.)

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