I love Mexico. I’ve been there so many times I’ve lost count. I was born in Brownsville, Texas, just blocks from the border, so I feel as authentic a Mexican-American as anyone. So many trips, so many places, and each one completely different from the others. A man once told me you could spend seven lifetimes traveling throughout Mexico, and still not see it all, and I believe it.
The first trip that I can remember was when I was around seven years old. My family and my Uncle’s family traveled together along the Gulf (Eastern) coast, all the way down to Tuxpan, Jalisco. Tuxpan is a balmy, laid-back port town with beautiful palm trees, and the smell of fish. The only thing remarkable I remember was the lunch I had—“Pulpo en su Tinto,” a huge plate of octopus swimming in a dark purple sauce, with a portion of rice. I liked it, but it was a bit much for a kid my size. I seem to recall Tampico as being a bit more upscale, and that’s where we did some shopping. Our parents taught us Spanish phrases for asking the cost of things and for haggling the price, but not the word for bathroom (bano.) Hence the amusing memory of my six-year-old cousin miming his defecatory needs, complete with sound effects. I guess we were detached from the adults at the time, but hey, it was 1969, nobody even wore seatbelts in those days. We were perfectly safe.
We visited some pyramids—Teotihuacan and El Tajin, I believe, just tall structures for kids to climb. My Uncle Leon bought a variety of fruits and a bottle of rum to make a huge fruit salad. We eagerly watched him prepare it, then finally asked what the rum was for. “That’s for the cook,” he replied. My favorite memory is of a rest stop high in the mountains, deep in the jungle, cloudy and cool. There was no village, just a couple of solitary wooden shacks. We sat on benches beside crude wooden tables and sipped hot chocolate. It wasn’t very sweet, but it was delicious. The only thing to watch was a mangy dog limping around, but it was nice, peaceful. What more could you want?