Mexico, for as long as I could remember, held such a pull that I could not explain, in many ways she spoke to me in deeper ways than my native land could ever reach. I began making trips to the border when I was young, it was there that I was really first romanced by the honest love and openness of the Mexican people. People with so very little in terms of this world’s economics, but yet rich in things that could never be stolen. I loved Mexico from the very first time my feet touched her ground.
It’s been many years since I first tasted a true taco and found that real Mexicans didn’t actually have ground beef in their tacos. I have been fortunate to travel much of Mexico, really seeing more of her than my own native land. The land I first encountered was not the enchanted beaches and waterfalls of the resorts or the busy, modern mega cities of Mexico, Monterrey and Guardalajarra. No, it was the frontier; where the land is flat and arid and ever so often a clump of earth breaks forth to interrupt an otherwise completely flat and cactus dotted expanse of desolation. Not until you cross frontier of Mexico and venture deeper within her reaches do you discover her gems; the Sierra Madres, Tulum, Hidalgo, Guanajuato, San Miguel. Tucked within the folds of the Sierra Madres you find Monterrey, one Mexico’s largest cities. This is Mexico’s third largest accumulation of inhabitants, it’s the largest concentration of what they call Nortenos...people of the north; the Mexican Cowboys. I’ve spent time across the north and seen their culture. Their speech is abrupt and their attitude is straight forward. They bolster a Mexican cowboy culture with a flare all their own in dress and style of music. These people are meat eaters. Their diets are rich in beef and goat. They absorb fried food, tostados, chilies rellnos, gorditas. It was here that I learned what Mexico was, and fell in love. How could one not? The people were beautiful with their brown skin and dark hair. Their wrinkles splashed across their faces from so many days spent in the sun and wind. They longed to smile and to laugh, any chance given and grins would break forth, some with teeth others without...they feel no shame. If something is funny, it’s something to be enjoyed. And they laugh! They are not easily offended b/c one should notice their own defects and come to the understanding we all have them. They call each other; chubby, whitey, blacky, shorty, baldy. They find the humor in all life’s idiosyncrasies. It’s a place where you don’t need to assimilate. They understand that we are not all created equal and that grace must be given to all. It is here that I began to understand who I was. I was able to take a real look at all of my sides; the good, the bad and the ugly. It was here that I fell in love with Mexico because she let me know that I could be me.
I have been to the south of Mexico. The last reaches of the country that drifts into Guatemala; thick jungle and mountains, so thick that the lines between the countries become blurred in this region. Here the Spanish is softer. They aren’t quite so direct, in speech or action. They tend to stay with those they know. Their stature as a people is generally slighter and shorter. Their roots are based much more in the indigenous of the area. They’re unlike the people of the north who have high European blends; no here the ethnos is less diverse. The indigenous men are given to laziness. The tourist culture has produced a market place for women and small children to sell their wares and trinkets. It’s something the men feel has fallen below their level. They are men, hunters and farmers. They are not trinket and fabric sellers. Some work in the fields surrounding the towns and villages, however most are content to let the women pluck green backs from gringos. Dotted amongst this background you find the odd professional or business man. They’ll own restaurants and electronic or furniture shops. The people have their own rhythm. Years upon years of living together has given birth to a dependence upon your own family. It’s only your own that you can trust and give aid. They aren’t accustom to opening their homes as freely as those in the North, however they still are Mexican and foreigners are always treated well. Our time here fostered some great friendships. The people whom we met, our neighbors and other church members showed incredible love and hospitality. Here the bonds of family were precious. You could and would be able to always depend on family. No matter what else happened, family was one place you always had. Of course they had their fights and disagreements, but the bond was always there.
These last years we’ve traveled more to the center of Mexico. We’ve been spending time close to the anomaly that is Mexico City. I’ve driven in some of the bigger cities in Mexico and have seen a variety of things, but nothing prepares you for the encounter with Chilangos (Mexico City Residents). They are a breed apart. It’s really here that you find the best expression of Mexico, its best and its worst. There are people here that will be the truest friends you’ll ever be lucky to have and in the same street you find your worst experience of human interaction that you may be cursed to know. I can’t even call them enemies, these that crawl along the streets of Mexico seeking to curse, abuse and generally take advantage of anyone who appears unaware or naive. An enemy at least you may be able to understand, some time respect, but these that crawl in the shadows...all that surfaces is a flash of disgust and then pity; they make up the other side of a true ying and yang culture in Mexico. On one side one group is so pleasant, loveable; they are those that come with honesty and appreciation of fellow humans. They look to find another kind soul that has no other interest than to share life and all that they’ve been fortunate enough to receive. It’s these that come with all that they could possibly have to offer that make Mexico City exquisite. And it’s the others that make you doubt if returning here would ever be possible.