travel

Home is Where the Corazon Is

heart on iceOnce, a long time and many boyfriends ago, I sat in the audience listening to an AA speaker who was well known for his ability to inspire people into sobriety. As his story unfolded, a bloodcurdling narrative of living in cardboard boxes by the river and drug dealers setting him on fire in his hospital bed while he lay helplessly sweating from heroin withdrawal, the friend I had come with glanced over at me. Noting the look in my eye, she gave me a jab in the ribs with a sharp elbow. “Don’t even think about it,” she hissed at me. As you can probably guess, however, that train had already left the station. I waited for him after the meeting like a starstruck groupie and we carried on for the better part of a year, to the confusion of all, particularly the speaker himself. That relationship ran its course, but I was nuts for the guy while it lasted.

Who knows what makes us fall in love with people? And is it the same thing that makes us fall in love with places? Because Mexico makes my heart melt, and that’s all there is to it.

One of the popular conversations down here–in the top three at least, along with who’s having an affair with whom and whether real estate prices are going to go up or down–is what a vast improvement over wherever we came from Mexico is, and how smart we are for making the move. This is not one hundred percent true. First of all, this conversational model insists that The United States of America is not breathtakingly beautiful, that it doesn’t have goods, unbelievably excellent and abundant miles of merchandise for pretty cheap, that those tax dollars don’t buy smooth clean highways, that all the people are fat hillbillies. Well, where we visited, all the people were fabulous looking with shiny hair and had snow white teeth and BMWs. Conversely, Mexico is actually kind of a mess, sometimes. Sometimes it’s ugly, hot, or wet, or trashy. Sometimes the people, far from being sunny faced gentle folk who live for the opportunity to chase you down the street in order to return the ten pesos you overpaid, are violent shitheads. Or drunk, or rude, or given to talking in regular voices in the movie theatre. My friends up North, reading my blog, could be forgiven for thinking that our streets boast clean happy dogs who are mixed breed, but of a mix so cute that it trumps all purebred dogs, that our plants droop with blossoms and fruit at the same time . This is not always the case, and sometimes the street dogs will be so ridden with mange and lice and various eczematic conditions that it’s hard to even recognize what species you’re looking at and the corn on the cob here tastes like styrofoam, even when slathered with mayonnaise and chile pepper, a popular way to serve it.

But I have to tell you, the moment, which occurred at one in the morning after travelling for 12 hours, that we turned onto our cobblestone street from the highway that leads to the villages from Guadalajara airport, Bruno and I both felt as though we had dropped a load of wet blankets from our shoulders, weak with contentment and gladness to be back in ouFay Wrayr weird world. It’s not that someplace else is bad. It’s not even that Mexico is good.

It’s just Mexico, and I love it like the Belle loves the Bete, like Fay Wray loved that big dumb ape, like I loved the guy who got set on fire by drug dealers. And by the way, when it’s beautiful, it’s ferocious. When they smile, you are illuminated. Sometimes a bite of fruit will be so sweet and delicious I’ll have to look at it to make sure I recognize it as a peach or a melon or whatever it is, and just when it seems like the bus is never going to get there, a guitar player will get on and start singing. It’s just freaking…Mexico. And I pray to all the Gods who love me that I will never have to live anywhere else.

Elliott Joachim pulled the plug on life in Metro D.C. and headed South of the Border. In her blog, Lifestyle Refugee (honey, what the hell are we doing in Mexico?), she regales you with how a middle range baby boomer builds a new life in Ajijic.

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