Welcome to Mexico!
By Victoria Schmidt
The Real World
As I sit at a stoplight, I am dreading my upcoming trip to the United States. I see a man cross the street carrying a block of ice on his shoulder. And I think, “Now there’s something you never see in the USA at an intersection.” Next I saw a young boy carrying vegetables in a pail balanced on his head. Then a woman with a baby strapped to her chest carried in her arms a basket of fabric. The light turns green, and I make my left turn onto the carretera. In front of me is a time-worn pickup truck, with a rather large bull in it. No cage, no rails, just a swaying bull. I try to imagine how they got that big bull in that small pick up. As traffic stops and starts I see a burro on the side of the road with a man leading him. Straw baskets balance on either side of the burro filled with wares for sale.
A Mexican Indian woman crosses in front of me near the intersection near Super Lake. It is early in the morning, and not many cars are in the parking lot. The other woman, also Mexican Indian, is sweeping the parking lot with a straw broom. I am surprised they help keep the lot clean. These two are widows who spend their day asking for money in exchange for a prayer.
I think of the United States, and the intersections I can remember. Most of them were in the suburbs and rarely had pedestrians at all. I remember cars. Lots of cars. And squealing tires, and squeaking brakes. Here we have trucks hawking junk, or fresh strawberries, cheese or corn. On almost any corner you can find a stand that will sell vegetables, or fruit cut to order. In one spot there is a coffee truck with coffee ground to order. Another spot displays hammocks, and hats, and works of art. In the United States, we see shopping mall, after shopping mall, followed by yet another shopping center. Oh, we see them here at Lakeside, but perhaps a block or so, instead of mile after mile of nothing but stores.
And then there are the ubiquitous car washers with the paint buckets and rags. They usher you into and out of parking areas. They greet you as you struggle out of your car. “Wash?” “Limpio hoy?” Their pails are full of water. Yet used to stand on when they wash the top of the car, and reach across the windshield. And when traffic slows down, the dirty water is disposed of, and the paint bucket are upended to provide a stool to sit and wait for the next customer. And paint buckets also make for great parking spot savers, along with broken Corona, Coke or Pepsi chairs.
I see many ingenious parking spot savers. One family on our block has two flower pots filled with cement holding a pole in each one, and covered with yellow and black striped tape. My husband’s favorite is an upended box with a chunk of firewood. Our pails sometimes disappeared, but so far the boxes are working well. Chairs, tables, large cement blocks and milk crates all seem to communicate “No parking” better than the sign painted on the door, or the yellow paint painted on the curb.
But the one thing I see here in Mexico that always makes me smile, are the children. Kids that hold hands, sing, and play with toys. Wooden horses, and worn soccer balls, hoops, balloons, rope, and of course, paint buckets.
This is home to me. This world is real.