Paving the road to nowhere, one word at a time.

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Location: Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico

American born, living in Mexico since 1992.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Destiny's Rainbow

Mexicans are nomadic, regardless of what some books on the subject might point out, and they travel often and mostly whimsically as if there were spirits or muses that guided them to go somewhere else. A few weeks ago Rocio’s mother decided that she needed or wanted to go to Guerrero, a State in southern Mexico. A week ago she left on a bus, on a three-day trip to whatever pot of gold lies at the end of destiny’s rainbow. What she took with her: A small suitcase, a thousand pesos, and a return ticket. Apparently, she travels light.

There is no itinerary regarding her return, it is estimated to be a month but I reckon that she’ll return when she gets tired of Guerrero. Two weeks ago she had no money for this journey but I was told after she left that she had saved for the excursion. I know better than that. Rocio and her other daughter Elizabeth paid for it. That bus pulled up in Iguala three days later. She called because the nearest phone to where she is staying is apparently very far away. She hasn’t called since.

We’ll be seeing more of Rocio’s father in the next few weeks. He was here the night after his wife left on her journey south, watching soccer and whatever else came on television. I cooked five pounds of fresh fish and a pound of shrimp in a garlic and butter and olive oil base, along with broccoli and cheese and a layered baked potato casserole and some fried rice. He took a lot of it home with him, it all microwaves quite well. I’m glad to be of service.

Apparently, the other end of destiny’s rainbow is right here, in my kitchen.

* * * *

Racism seems to be on everyone’s menu lately, the dish of the moment. On Sunday morning, I came out of my office and Rocio was on the telephone with some aunt, a distant and bitter memory for her, from Guerrero. Rocio has very beautiful brown skin, which is sometimes frowned upon in certain circles here. All you have to do is to look at the Mexican soap operas or even the music videos here – nearly everyone is light-skinned. It’s a surprising and frightening reality, even in Mexico.

But really, I don’t imagine that it’s any different here than in the United States of America. Many people would love to deny it, but unfortunately it’s true. My son, Juan, has very dark skin. Several years ago he was handcuffed and taken back by an officer of the Homeland Security Department of the United States of America while attempting to cross the border. He presented his military identification, which was a requirement at the time, and was forced to present his orders. I went nuts! I was with him that morning and they had to restrain me before escorting me outside to wait.

As many years ago that it occurred, I’m still not over it.

Juan came home last night. After two tours in Iraq, he brought some of the medals and ribbons home with him. They are shiny and wonderful. The least that the armed forces of the United States of America could do for my Mexican son, after serving two tours in Iraq and watching people die, is to give him some shiny and wonderful memories.

“How many medals did they award you over there?” I asked him last night.

"Honestly, dad, I don’t know. I’ll have to look it up at some point," he said.

I can tell you that he received three commendation medals, four overseas service medals, and two medals for combating terrorism. There are lots more. Whenever he wears his dress uniform, he’ll probably need five racks at least for the ribbons alone. And, he refused promotions.

"I told them to give it to someone else, someone that was staying in," he said.

And so, Juan’s grandmother has meanwhile gone to Guerrero to visit some relatives that tend to judge people based on the color of their skin. They don’t know I’m a gringo – at least they didn’t, but they certainly do now. I’m sure that Rocio’s mother told them all about me. This lady’s dark-skinned niece, who was treated unfairly when she was made to stay with her aunt after her grandmother passed away, married a gringo. Imagine that.

* * * *

Chiles rellenos are probably my favorite Mexican dish, especially when served with rice and beans. Incredibly enough, with all of the authentic Mexican food I have learned how to cook here, I’ve never tried to tackle chiles rellenos. Today is the day. Traditionally, when Juan has come home on leave he gets to call the first large meal. Rocio has been arguing with me all day about how I’m going to cook them. This is what happens.

About Rocio’s mother, Juan’s grandmother, I can only hope that Descartes was right when he said, "Travelling is almost like talking with those of other centuries." I am hoping that the attitudes of that portion of the extended family are as outdated as an entire century. Last night, we opened up old family albums and wondered what we were like so long ago. Maybe we thought the color of our skin or the color of anyone else’s skin mattered somehow. I believe that we have lost that archaic and irrelevant attitude, even if we never felt that way at all.

I hope it is true, because all of Juan’s medals depend on it.

In those old photographs is a damaged black and white of Rocio and me on our first date. It was a nightclub, open-air and terraced smartly with a Latin jazz band serenading us while we sipped margaritas. The breeze was so good that night, and the band laced a perfect evening, my first night in Tijuana. We barely spoke to each other. We didn’t have to. We held hands that evening, and the next time we dated, and on the third date we finally kissed.

It never occurred to me then to look up, to search for destiny’s rainbow. Maybe we don’t really see it, perhaps it only presents itself when we’ve found the end of it, whichever end. If Descartes were here right now, he would probably point out that anywhere one starts or stops isn’t nearly as important as the path taken. I will point this out similarly to Rocio tonight, assuming that the chiles rellenos turn out good, in that it isn’t how I cook them, it’s how they taste when they’re served.

Life probably has much less to do with destination than with flavor. Mine tastes pretty damned good today.


Blogger Wallace said...

I'm a gringo that met you in the back of a green and white taxicab to Clinica 27. You know, bad accent when speaking Spanish!

El "Guero Tijuanero" from "El Nuevo Perico Bar"

I remembre you telling me many years ago that story at the boarder crossing and your son being detained. Wow, Big man now! I'm sure your proud. And the Chile Rellenos turned out great I'm sure!

But who can forget the famous "Gringo Tacos"?

Here is my email: I'm glad I found you since I've looked for some time now. Refried Gringo, Of course-Duh!! But I knew it as soon as i saw it. Please let me know that you got this. I just started a Messenger account on "Mac MSN" but don't yet know how to use it yet. I don't live in Tijuana anymore!

1:48 PM, August 12, 2009  

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