I drove here from Tampa area in my mini-van with 2 small kids and pregnant... it took 3 days to get to the border with 2 hotel stops so we could sleep. It was nice because we cut down into New Orleans which I was there years prior, “for lunch in the French Quarter”, but to see that the devastation from Katrina was still evident in the missing windows and such. I met Ricardo at Matamoros, Mexico, a border city along the Gulf. After 3 days of driving pregnant, my exhausted emotions were out of control and the confusion in the street of the culture slap across my face, with my eyes flipping through the faces and none of them being Ricardo’s, broke me.
Directly passed the border entry, a middle aged heavy woman went walking by in the heavily populated street with a pole across her shoulders, selling the upside-down whole chickens that were tied to it, and it was strange to me, dramatic, like time travel. A scruffy man walked up to my van at the stop sign and sprayed water out of a plastic pop bottle to squeegee clean my windshield. My concentration was on Ricardo’s frustrated Spanish on the cell because we could not find each other. I rolled up the window real fast and the man started flipping out, waving his arms around for money, so I shot two quarters out a little crack at the top and sped off…. That is when I made the U-Turn and headed back to the border parking lot in somewhat of a panicked shock.
I felt pretty good about myself before that. The effort that was put into getting there took a considerable amount of determination, all while raising the children, maintaining my health and job… Our passports were in hand, all expedited, everything I owned was sold off in the front yard, I left my great job on good terms and the kids finished their school-year – all of which I did while missing Ricardo and anticipating what living in Mexico would entail with our nightly phone calls via the press 100 different numbers first calling card. The drive alone to get to the border started with peeling away from my parents that stood in my rented home’s driveway crying that it was the last time they would see us alive… To be so brave as to go driving off to the land of the no return with nothing but an adventuresome soul… yep… I was feeling pretty damn confident at that point.
I guess that I pictured just a continuation of the highway that took us through Texas…
Mexico is not just separated from the Estados Unidos by a line on a geography map, or a place for exotic beach vacations, or don’t drink the water jokes, or men with huge sombreros sleeping under a cactus with his pet donkey parked close by…
Mexico is a personality.
I say that with discomfort as not to judge this part of me that is foreign to my childhood, but is my children’s short lived knowledge of the world and life.
My beloved Mexico with your deep sense of survival and ability to simply look at a person and realize if that person deserves that extra coin, or guiltless denial, according to the standards of simplicity of life. Coming in from the giant presumed money tree USA, I am permanently tattooed as I am not only here by marriage as opposed to blood, which holds weight, but my heritage awards me a status of responsibility to give, whether I have it or not in realistic terms.
Because I grew up with HBO and Jordache Jeans, rode in cars with boys without a care in the world and finished my free high school education with every hope of making my life as big as I dreamed… because I was ignorant to the fact that my life was economically coveted by most of the world… it suddenly did not matter that we were only able to afford beans for meals… simply because... Who I was and what experience in my life surmounted at the same knowledge level as those who surrounded our town, family, and friends that were of economic upper class – that alone made our financial issues MY problem and so was my responsibility to help others if we wanted to make it work here.
Sure… I could have secluded our little poor family. I could have smiled nice at the neighbors and kept to myself with polite giggles and waves and shifted around at the local tienda with my broken Spanish. I could have had an island inside my mind with my family living in paradise in the land that I claimed as my own with virtually no problems only because that is how protected we chose to live…
But I did not do that.
This is how it is – the land of survival… the people here seem to realize your intentions in a way that revolves around their own survival. I cannot fool myself into thinking that I will bring my American heritage here and make dreams for my children to soar above it all. That way of thinking is taught in the dubbed American sitcoms and frankly why so many choose to venture to American soil through days of desert commuting. It is simple really.
If we are to live in Mexico in our lifetime as a couple, as a family, in any event, will have to involve my American heritage. It is not because I am spoiled in need for myself, or that I want my children to be spoiled, but it is because I am spoiled within the society that I claim to want to be a part of. It is a responsibility.
One day when I grow up I want to scrape enough money together to buy a cart to push up and down the street and sell seafood on ice, or fancy bread under a table cloth, or pillows that I sewed together…
What words are there to explain how that is not for me or the children that I will raise?
It is not about self-glory or conceit, imperialism of my country or poking fun at another. It is not for me. It is a responsibility.
Then again, it is on me.
And THAT is not something that can be passed off with a polite smile. This is who we are in our separate family kingdom’s hierarchy placement and in this country that holds importance. There will be no settling for less than struggling strives “just because” we want to choose to settle for content, relaxing, happiness instead. There will be no American attitude of “money is not important, love is” because that is not the reality here. It is not about love in that sense of individuality as a part of the Mexican society. It is a responsibility that is placed to do more than to simply keep our heads above water… it is to swim hard.
... and enjoy while doing so.
... and enjoy while doing so.