A few hundred miles and a grand river separate us now, but memories and a promise to return connect us deeply. In a hopeful way, I imagine that Mexico misses me as much as I miss it. The parks, the music and the food must be waiting for me to share an experience with them again.
Over the bridge that connects Texas to Nuevo Laredo, when I was 8 years old, my relationship began with an enchanting world of color, flavor and language. On that first day that I visited Mexico, a group of little children gathered around my family and I with their hands in the air and big smiles on their faces. My dad exchanged a coin for a packet of gum and the kids were ecstatic. I was fascinated with that moment when their eagerness met their satisfaction over a meager exchange. I watched the kids run through the streets, kicking rocks and giggling. It looked like a marvelous game that I would love to play.
While my parents visited our relatives, my sisters and I drank a bottle of Coke that tasted sweeter than any Coke I’d ever drank before. I drank from that bottle and thought about kicking rocks down the street. As we crossed the border to come home, I turned around and watched the bridge lined with cars and the streets filled with lively children get farther and farther away. It was a magical place that I knew I’d come back to one day.
And when I was 18 years old, I went back as quick as I could. I boarded a plane with my friends and 20 other students of the Texas Tech Spanish class. The plane ride was more exciting than any other I’d ever taken. I was on my way to Mexico with confidence, blissful happiness and excitement. I followed my sense of adventure to the place where I felt passionate about it’s culture.
I started my journey off the plane in San Luis Posoti. I integrated with my host family, while we watched Mexican game shows and dipped our bananas in sweetened condensed milk. Before we went to sleep at night we drank hot chocolate sprinkled with cinnamon. For two weeks, I woke up each morning and walked to Spanish class with my friends. In class we learned Mexican history, how to call home and how to catch a taxi. I sat in the classroom with stark white walls and no air conditioning dreaming about my next cajeta cookie. On the way home from class, we’d stop at the street stalls to buy esquites, and I’d devour the cheese covered corn.
I considered how I could get a suitcase full of calla lilies back home? I planned my future house to have talavera tiles on the wall, talavera sinks and saltillo tile floors to keep the memory alive.
My affection for Mexico grew stronger as I visited Mexico City. I experienced the depths of it’s culture and quickly realized that I prefer the Ballet Folkloric over Bull Fighting. After the haste of the major city, I traveled to the exquisite San Miguel de Allende. I walked on the streets made of cobble stones towards La Parroquia, the castle like church that towers over all the city. As I ate my tacos on the balcony for dinner, I watched the people passing time in the park, El Jardin. Some were dancing, some were watching, some were kissing. It was a scene of a deeply rich life.
On our way to the beach, we took a small bus to Guanajuato where Mexico displays it’s most beautiful architecture. The hillsides are lined with vibrant colors in every imaginable hue. I saw the Callejon del Beso, and I wanted to sit down and listen to the walls of that alley tell it’s stories of lovers kissing. Next time, Callejon….I’ll sit with you for hours and absorb your history.
I spent days on the beach watching the turquoise water come to the shore and leave again in Puerto Vallarta. Then with reluctance, I said good bye once again to the beloved place of Mexico, as I flew out of Monterrey.
Twenty years passed by, since those days when I immersed myself in the elegance of Mexico. Yet the memories are as vivid as if it was yesterday. I wonder if it’s my insatiable appetite for street food that draws me to Mexico or if it’s my attraction to the architecture so rich in detail. Is it my attraction to the language and passion that leaves me unappeasable?
I believe it’s the harmony of the culture and people that reaches to my soul and makes a connection. Mexico, te adoro!