Posted on January 6, 2017
From Texas to Mexico: Crossing the Border
After being in the States for a few weeks and taking care of the needs of my family, helping out wherever they needed me through driving, moving, or babysitting, I had the overwhelming need to do something for myself. As you know, there is nothing I like to do more than explore somewhere new. We were all sitting around the table for lunch at a Mexican food restaurant last week, when my dad began talking about his recent trip into Mexico. He didn’t tell anyone he was going, he just made the arrangements and he went. He has some medical issues and is always seeking a creative solution instead of just eating correctly. I was sitting there listening to him talk when it hit me “I am going to Mexico.”
Right away, I asked my mom if she wanted to spend a few days in Mexico with Bean and I because she is still off from school. She said she would need to think about it. I told my dad and my other relatives I was sorry they couldn’t come because they had to work, and I started to plan. Actually, I wasn’t really planning. I was just getting directions so I didn’t waste time driving when I only had a short time to visit. Immediately, as expected, many friends and relatives began to ask “Is it safe to travel to Mexico?” I replied that I haven’t heard anything in the news recently, but there are many border crossings from Texas to Mexico and I would go in by the best ones I could find. I wanted to spend three days in three different cities exploring whatever they had to offer. I was determined that I would not let someone else’s fears, negative attitude or concern for safety keep me from having, what I knew would be, an amazing trip.
Surprisingly, as I searched for information on crossing the border into Mexico from Texas, I could not find any current news. There was practically nothing out there from the last two years or so. There wasn’t any news on recent border violence, immigration issues, where to go or what to do. Everything that I found was old. I decided that I would just make my own itinerary, entering Mexico from the city that was the closest in driving distance to my parents home. Because of the difficulty of finding information, my route was not perfect, but it all worked out. My mom decided that she would be brave enough to go with us and we left very early one morning to begin our adventure.
Eagle Pass, Texas to Piedras Negras, Mexico
As we drove into Eagle Pass and started to drive toward the International Bridge, my excitement mounted. Right there on the horizon, just across the border was the largest flag I have ever seen. Flying proudly in the air, on the other side of the border was a gigantic Mexican flag. It flew high in the sky, visible for miles and miles. It was as if Mexico was telling the U.S.A. “Build your wall, we are proud to be Mexican”. Inside, I applauded the person who wanted to raise this HUGE flag.
Before looking for a place to park the car and walk across the bridge, we decided to stop and have a picnic lunch on the banks of the Rio Grande. We sat and ate our sandwiches, listened to the children playing across the border and watched as the border patrol went up the river in their boat. The day was perfectly beautiful. The temperature was warm, the sky blue and cloudless with a slight breeze; I could not have asked for a better day. There was a market on the American side of the border and even with all the cars on the road, we still found a parking space not far from the bridge. We paid our toll of fifty cents and started walking.
In the middle of the bridge, we stopped and took our pictures of the beginning of Mexico and the end of the United States. There were a few other people walking across with us, but I was amazed that I didn’t need to do anything to leave. We didn’t show I.D., we didn’t need to speak with an official, we didn’t need to have a passport, nothing. To leave, all you need to have is fifty cents. We showed up in Mexico with no idea of what to do or see and began our adventure.
Just like when I cross borders in Europe, I am always amazed at how a border, whether you see it or not, instantly puts you somewhere completely different from you were before. I expect that because someone lives in a border town, they will be more aware of their neighbors language, culture and habits. It simply is not so. I didn’t want to be one of those Americans who demand that everyone speak English because I do, so I did my best to remember the Spanish I learned for our trip to Costa Rica. To my amazement, in a very short time, it began to come back. Don’t get me wrong, my Spanish is very, very basic…very, very, bad, but it was enough. Everyone with whom I spoke did their best to help me with whatever I needed.
We stopped by an office and asked where was the Oficina de Turismo. The man answered me and pointed in a direction and told me about a Plaza. We started to walk in the direction he told us. After going a few blocks and realizing that maybe I could get a clearer understanding if I asked a policewoman, we did just that. She said there wasn’t an office. Hmmm, so what do we do now?
My mom wanted to take a break, and Bean wanted to go into all the stores, so I changed our plans a little. There were so many little stores, but many were closed since it was New Year’s Day. We stopped for a minute at a café and then Bean wondered in and out of many stores which makes her very happy. As we walked along the streets, we were getting a bit of attention. I didn’t think too much about it because I felt that these Mexican people were not used to seeing people of our color. No big deal, that is definitely not the first time that has happened. But it wasn’t our skin, it was our hair! When we went into the clothing store, a family was walking close behind us and I heard them mentioning our hair, then they reached out and touched it. It was surprising and funny. We are used to seeing each other and being with each other, so to us, we are normal. But to other people, seeing my mom’s white hair and Bean’s locs is rather unusual. Bean takes being touched by strangers well, especially since she is always touching people, so we had no issues.
In order to see the city better and not stay in Centro all day, we decided to ride the city bus. You know, that is what I do, take public transportation. We crossed the street and immediately, a bus came along. I was standing there trying to figure out how to say “Can I use dollars?” in Spanish, and feeling very bad that I hadn’t taken the time to change money or even figure out the exchange rate when the bus driver said, “What do you need?” What a relief. We explained to him we just wanted to ride the bus. He told us to come on and he would take us around. Our trip would take about two hours and he would accept our three dollars. He explained that it was not a tourist bus and we let him know that we understood. We didn’t want a tourist bus, we just wanted to ride and see what Piedras Negras, Mexico was really like. To be honest, I wanted to see these things. My mother is not as adventurous as I am, at times, I could feel her tense up during the ride, thinking about the stories that she had heard about people being kidnapped in Mexico. I ignored it and gently made her get out of her comfort zone.
Our driver told us to come and sit behind him and he would tell us what he knew about the town of Piedras Negras/ Black Rock. He had only been living there a little over five years and didn’t know much of the city because he was always working. He would start driving at 5 a.m. and drive into the night, going home around 11 p.m. He said that he was able to take home fifty percent of whatever fare he collected for the day. He only made $5 some days, but he enjoyed his job. He turned up his 80’s American music, and we took off. We drove through the rough area of town where the houses were little more than cardboard and sticks. “Even people living in Piedras Negras didn’t like coming through here when things were bad,” he said. He showed us better areas of town out by the airport, hospital and commercial center. There were some people who got off and when they got back on, we were still on the bus. They looked at us, puzzled, but didn’t say anything. The ride was good for me.I learned a few new words to let the driver know I wanted to get off of the bus. I was able to feel as if I was truly in another country. I was renewed interacting with kind strangers.
We asked where could we go to eat and received a recommendation. Unfortunately, after getting off of the bus and going back into the town center, we were not able to find the store. We walked through the market and asked another gentleman where to eat. It seemed that all the restaurants were closed for the day. We were starving, and so we decided to go back to our car and find something to eat on the other side. We walked across the International Bridge again and this time, on the American side, we were asked for our passports. I was hoping to get a stamp to show myself that my spontaneous idea to go to Mexico turned out to be a good one and that I should continue to follow my heart in the coming year. Alas, all the guard did was swipe our passports. So I don’t have anything on my passport to show me that I should keep going and doing what I feel, but I do have me.
This year, I plan to follow my dreams and live my life to the best of MY ability. I am very aware of people all around me who are just living one day at a time and hate their lives. They try to rain on my parade (you know them because they are in your life too). They continue to go through the motions of their lives because they are working to please someone or because someone told them they shouldn’t do something. They listen to the news, they listen to each other, but they don’t listen to themselves. They have forgotten what truly makes them happy. I choose to be different!
This year, I am tuning in to MY desires and I will have more great stories to tell…beginning with more about Mexico! I want to hear from you about when you listened to your heart and followed your intuition to do something you knew would be good for you, despite what others may have said. Your stories encourage me as much as I hope mine encourage you.