Keeping Alamos Clean

93… Sweeping Alamos streets and cleaning Church candlesticks…

Alamos prides itself on clean streets. For some, it is a lifetime occupation. For others, it is a family chore. For all, it is a signaling that they care and they respect all of those who have, are and will travel these streets. These are serene moments.

Street cleaner at work on Calle Aurora, Alamo, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

Keeping the streets clean by hand is an unending ptrocess.

Clean is as clean does. There is a sense of order to freshly swept streets and side walks along with a charisma of community caring and municipal pride. The post man delivers and the street sweeper taketh away. The eastward-slow-rising-tilt of oneway Calle Aurora shows off any street debris from a distance. There is no place for litter to hide. If it is there, it’s sheer presence, no matter how large or small, casts stained shadows upon aging walls – all is influenced by its reflection. Order is disturbed. The street’s two century old character is challenged by an errant plastic cup. The illusion is gone. In this way, the street cleaners are magicians: they take us back in time with each sweep of their brooms. Order, and respect, is restored.

Cleaning steps to the Bours mansion on Plaza de las Armas in Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

Another sunrise, another opportunity to tidy up the streets by hand.

It is morning in the Plaza. Women open their shops and offices for business and sweep their entrances. This woman is sweeping the street in front of the former Boors mansion, now a convent. It is a humble but gracious act. She can sweep away the trash and reveal the patina, if not spirit, of human travelers who have passed this way by foot, horse, carriage or car.

There was a 16mm film made by a North American couple living in Alamos, The Brooms of Alamos, about a girl, her true love and her eternal sweeping. It was suggested by an Alamos contact that the filmmaker’s name was Al Gordon. Anders had access to a film print, via Kit Nuzum, in the late 1980s or early 1990s.

Girl in barrio sweeping in front of her house, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

Sweeping the front yard and your half of the street is the Alamos way.

Young or old clean the streets in front of their homes. Contrast the style of clothes, and brooms, between this young girl in pink sweater and red pants and the woman above in her paisley summer dress. No matter their differences, culturally or spiritually, as they sweep they share a common timeless experience. For as long as one is in Alamos there is sweeping, and as long as there is sweeping there are these Alamos streets, loved and passed on to the children.

Cleaning the Church's candlesticks, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

How many people have cleaned these candlesticks over the years?

The gentlemen smiling as he works could be a cousin of Noli Ernaldo Garcia. Noli was a long time Pember and Elizabeth Nuzum employee. He was their driver and took care of household maintenance and repairs. At the time of this photo Noli had retired because of illness. The doctors’ prognosis didn’t look look good. The woman helping clean candlesticks looks like she is the same person seen in a preceding photo sweeping the street in front of the Convent on the Plaza: similar dress, shoes, and hairstyle. Working together these two are closer to God, each in their own way and each on the universal path of cleaning that is life unto death.

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