On Tuesday, while driving into southeast Arizona, I decided to hop into Mexico real quick for dinner. Before I go any further let me attest that I sit here writing this, so we can all be quite sure that I made it out alive.
|Mexico City in winter|
When I was younger, without anyone informing me otherwise, I assumed my dark-haired Spanish-speaking relatives were from Mexico. With such conviction did I believe this, that my Cuban friend and I wrote a song about the Cuban and the Mexican (me). In my early 20’s I made the innocent mistake of bringing up our Mexican heritage at a Montoya family gathering, and nearly managed to get myself stripped of a last name. Montoyas, I was harshly informed, are from Spain.
As an accidental victim of identity crises, my loyalties remain with Mexico. It’s a great country, rich in history and the landscape in many areas is still wild and pure. The people (not the gun carrying drug runners) are some of the kindest I have ever come across, and- of course- the food is unbeatable. So with such high esteem running through my mind, I waited with patience in Douglas, AZ to cross into Aguas Prietas, Mexico.
|Horseback rising in Morcillo, MX.|
The experience was odd and certainly not worthwhile in the least. Before getting to the border I was stopped and questioned by that colossal misappropriation of government funding that is the U.S. Border Patrol. “What is the purpose of your visit/ Where are you coming from/ Where are you going/ What do you do in Las Cruces…” Even with my innocent responses I was told to pull over so they could search my car. Since I was heading out for a multi-day camping trip I had a lot of stuff packed, and in a very specific order, so his offer was quite unappealing. While heading over to the holding area, the BP agent asked if “there’s anything else you’d like to tell me before I search your car?” Oh Please. I didn’t even give him a response; what I did instead was roll my eyes and walk right on by. While I waited another agent came over and talked to me for a while. I asked him if there are any good restaurants on the other side that he could recommend. He quickly replied that he wouldn’t go over there, and didn’t think I should either.
Once my car was thoroughly jumbled and disorganized, I was free to go. Almost immediately I found myself disoriented with the roads and nearly got into a car accident. After finding the right driving groove it was simply a matter of finding a place to eat, then leaving. It took close to 20 minutes before I found a restaurant, and it can be called that only out of generosity. The whole time I was in there waiting for my food (to go) I was very nervous about someone crashing into or robbing my car. It took less than 10 minutes, but they were a stressful 10 minutes. When I paid with U.S. dollars I received $19 in pesos, which I am still carrying around because I don’t know what else to do with them.
The food was gross. Dripping with oil. At that point I just wanted to get out of the country, and that is exactly what I set out to do. When I got to the border crossing the agent proceeded to quiz me again! This agent had been there 30 minutes earlier when I was waiting for my car and he remembered me, but his behavior was totally bizarre. He opened my passport and asked me about my reasons for having been in other countries. That has absolutely never happened before, and I remain confused as to his purpose. He wasn’t making conversation, he was looking for an explanation. Given the amount of traffic he was holding up with his sleuthing, he must have really thought I was up to no good.
Eventually I was let back into my homeland, with nothing but soiled memories of a ghetto border town. Since January I’ve been to Mexico three times, and not once have they bothered to stamp my passport. But after this most recent trip I feel that my need to experience Mexico has been fulfilled. For one, it’s clear that border towns do not have reliable or good food sources (I had to throw out my drink because when I turned the cap I realized it hadn’t been sealed). Also, the culture I love so much is not going to be present a mile past the border. So, for now, I will leave Mexico out of my future travel plans, and when I do revisit that country it will be with Joe (because he’s big and strong, and most importantly, practical) and we’ll stick to the pretty parts of the country. But Mexico, for what it’s worth, I still love you.
|Rancho Alamar, Baja|