Tomas in Chicavasco, 2017

Street vendor at Real del Monte
Street vendor at Real del Monte

So there I was, two days into a four-day vacation visiting my uncle and cousins who I’d not seen in forty years. I was looking at a menu and realizing that although I’ve become much prouder and more atune with my Mexican heritage, that I was still, in many ways, “pocho.”

Tuesday

My last visit to the family house in Chicavasco, Hidalgo, Mexico was about forty years ago. I was a freshman (I think) in high school and I accompanied my father to visit his little brother (Cecilio) who lived in Mexico City (el D.F.) and also my oldest uncle (Justo) who still lived in the family house in what could at best be described as “the country.” In that time, I’d grown up, raised a family, worked too hard, as had my uncles and my cousins in Mexico. We’d re-connected over Facebook, and over some visits by Cecilio and his wife (Ester) to the US over the years. Cecilio visited us here more often than we’d visited him! At some point, I decided that I was going to take advantage of the benefits my current gig provides and use some vacation time. I managed to wrangle an invitation from my cousin (Rigo), Cecilio’s son, who was a graphic arts instructor at the local college. He’d mentioned having vacation time in the summer, so I elbowed myself into his vacation and joined him for a short four-day trip.

I arrived in the middle of the worst rain storm seen in D.F. in years. My cousin found me at the airport, but then told me that he was going to wait a bit to head out, since all the roads out of D.F. were, basically, little more than parking lots due to widespread flooding. We left the airport after grabbing a quick bite to eat and proceeded on what was to be the first of a couple of unintended aventuras.

All the major arteries heading out D.F. were flooded. Rigo, who grew up in D.F., managed to take a circuitous route out of town through some streets with about 18 inches of standing water in places. We passed more than one unlucky motorist who was left stranded in some large puddles / small lakes. We bottomed out the Ford Explorer in at least one pothole that must have been 10 inches deep and 12 inches underwater. But he persisted, and we managed to find our way out of town. We paid a toll, and we were on highway 89 to the old homestead.

Highway 89 was probably like US highways used to be just prior to the interstate system taking over the task of moving people and goods across the USA. The highway was two lanes in each direction, but along the side of the road were small businesses (mostly restaurants), PEMEX stations along with the new (to me), ubiquitous OXXO stores, and some homes that seemed a little too close to the road.

(Remember it was raining) I couldn’t see much of the countryside, through the darkness, but I was able to make out the silhouette of the hills in the semi-arid region and things started to look familiar. One quick “pit stop” and soon we were turing down a small one lane road through a town I’d heard of many times, but had never been to: El Arenal, Hidalgo. A few turns, a few more tienda de abarrotes alongside the one lane (paved!) road and soon we came to a “tee” with a road sign with the name “Chicavasco” on it. Left turn and we started down the final stretch of road before the family house.

In the old days, the Vera family house was one of the first houses you’d see on the road as you reached Chicavasco. This time, we drove almost a mile from the first house before we saw the family house. It was all closed up. It’s mostly used on the weekends now, and the cousin who lives there daily had already gone to bed (it was approaching 11 PM by this time).

Image of my hosts
Esther, Cecilio and Rigo Vera. My hosts on this wonderful trip.

Cecilio’s house was directly across the road from the family house. We parked the Explorer and I entered to the warm abrazo of my aunt. A few seconds later Cecilio came out and gave me an abrazo as well. Right after the chorus of “sientate, sientate” came the food. Since it was late, I was offered some pan and some instant coffee.

On previous visits, in the old house, my dear departed aunt Timo, would have boiled some whole milk over an open fire and added a spoonful of Nescafe and a spoonful of sugar. But tonight, it was boiled water (on the gas stove, I noticed) and instant Folgers. The taste of the coffee was different: it had a touch of spices (still not sure which…. Something cinnamony) and not the same as the instant coffee Folgers sells here. But the bread dunked just as easily as before. Some excited conversation for about an hour and then off to bed.

Wednesday

In the desert, water is life. When we were kids visiting Chicavasco, most days included a trip down to the pozo with the donkey and two five-gallon tin cans to fetch water. On my last visit, a large well had been sunk in the valley floor (Chicavasco is on the hillside above the plain where the well was located). Then, a few times a week, the large diesel engine would kick on in the evening and water would be pumped up the hill to the houses that had paid for a connection to the water line. It was never announced (or scheduled) when the pump would be pumping. The town simply listened for the sound of the mighty diesel kicking in and they new to fill the container into to which poured the water we no longer had to carry. We still had to light a fire under the tank that was the “water heater”, but at least we didn’t have to walk the donkey down the hill to fetch water.

The next morning, I awoke and took a shower in an actual shower. No donkey, no fire under the “water heater.” I would come to find out later that the water heater was solar powered. Progress, indeed.

I walked into the kitchen where my aunt was already working hard. Some cut up papaya and cantaloupe with yogurt and nuts. Some more pan from the night before and soon, Cecilio walked in. He ate his breakfast. We chatted, and chatted. The next thing I know, it was 11 AM. Rigo, had not shown up yet. So my uncle decided to give me the town tour himself. Normally, that wouldn’t be unusual. But in this case, I need to point out that Cecilio is losing his eyesight to diabetes.

My father did as well. By the time he passed on, my father could make out light / shadow but little else. It was painful seeing him at the end trying to make out his writing that he insisted on making himself, insisting to the end, that he could see what he was doing.

But there was Cecilio, firing up the same Ford Explorer that had gotten us out of Mexico City, insisting that he could take me on the tour of the little town without any problem. He did admit that he wouldn’t dare drive on the highway. But, he said, he was more than capable of taking me around the town. Esther didn’t even try to stop him. But then again, he’d walked these streets for the better part of his eighty-odd years. Off we went.

Aunt and uncle at a cemetery
The cemetery where my relatives are buried.

First stop: el panteon (the cemetery). I wanted to know where my grandmother, my uncle Justo, and my aunt Timo had been laid to rest. We left the house, turned left, then right. Past the school, past the church, around the city hall (where you paid for your water and families with children came for their fresh whole milk from the dairy that Justo helped found). Two more turns and there was the cemetery.

Here in the US, we’re used to the vast, expansive cemeteries that look like a beautiful park, where our loved ones can spend the rest of eternity among the rows and columns of neighbors waiting for us to come visit. That’s not how things are in Chicavasco.

The cemetery in Chicavasco, is a plot of land with graves. There is no real order or logic to where people lay their loved ones to rest. One simply locates a bare piece of land, big enough to hold the coffin about to be interred, and starts digging. The Veras have staked out a small area, put up a fence around it and now have room for one, or two more graves. That’s about the extent of any order. But I did see what I came to see. I now know where my grand mother, aunt and uncle are resting. Waiting patiently for me to come back to visit. Right after I stop by and say “hi” to my own mother and father.

Image of desert scene
Typical landscape in El Valle del Mezquital. My father spent his childhood here.

We hopped back in the Explorer and continued through town,where Cecilio took us on the “panoramic” route. Except, that when we got the place where the “gran vista” was supposed to be, you could only see a bunch of trees. Remember how the town now has water? Well, it seems that people are watering their trees. Where in the past, the pirul and mesquite would be no more than two meters tall and the leaves sparse at best, they were now three meters tall and lush. A few more turns and we were on the main drag, back to the house.

Rigo showed up soon (noon-ish) and had some breakfast. The rest of us had second-breakfast and chatted some more.

A few months ago, I had managed to convince another cousin, Justo and Timo’s youngest daughter Rosy to gather all the other cousins (her siblings) for a one-night fete to re-introduce myself. Most of them lived in Pachuca, about forty minute’s drive away, and the capital of the state of Hidalgo (more on this later). But they were willing to take some time away from work and be at the family house to meet me for dinner. The party was due to start at 3 PM.

However, it was only 1 PM and Cecilio, Ester, Rigo and I had one quick trip to make. We cleaned up from second-breakfast and drove down the road to the town of Actopan, the closest town with a stop-light. Esther made a quick detour to the Wednesday market to buy a chicken and some other items for dinner while Cecilio and I walked past the school where he boarded to finish fifth and sixth grade and we eventually made it to the front of the church and convent.

Actopan was founded in 1546 when a representative from the Holy Mother Church dropped a corner stone (literally, a stone in the dust) and proceeded to bring Christ to the region. Over the years, the church built a truly magnificent convent and we were going to take the tour. If you’ve ever seen the California missions, you know what I’m talking about. A large building built from native stone, mud and cement. The walls on the bottom floor are two meters thick. The convent is in the shape of a square with a cistern in the center of the courtyard. Every stray drop of water that happens to fall in this desert will find its way into the cistern for use in the wonderful gardens on the grounds. Ninety minutes later, we’re closing on 3 PM and we need to go. But not before I got some fantastic pictures and video!

Back to Cecilio’s house and I cross the street to the old house with Rigo. We walk into the area where Timo cooked us all that great food (it’s just an open space now, the historically-significant building has since been torn down) and I met my cousin Hortencia, aka Guera. She’d stayed with my family for a year or so when she was a high school freshman. I walked up to her, we looked at each other and it’s like we’d never been apart. We walked into what used to be the porch of the old house (it’s since been enclosed), and then into the new kitchen. There, were many people, some whom I did not really know, but there in the back was my cousin, two months my junior with whom I’d managed to get in a lot of fun and trouble with, so many years ago. I walked up to Justo (named after his dad; looks a lot like him too) and gave him a handshake and an abrazo. My other cousins were there as well. More handshakes, abrazos and me asking (the spouses) about names. Lots of younger kids showed up as well. My cousins and I had lived complete lives since I last saw them. We gathered around the double-long-table, sat down and proceeded to talk. Me, in my hesitating Spanish. They, patient with my hesitating Spanish.

A few minutes later, someone brought in two great big boxes from OXXO (remember them?). One contained a new regional food named Ximbo and one jammed full of a regional dish named pastes. I was not familiar with either, although the region is now synonymous with both.

Actopan, is known for its barbacoa. Traditionally, it’s sheep, steamed inside agave planks in a pit in the ground. It’s gotten so famous, that I recall seeing a “Barbacoa de Actopan” stand in D.F. when we were fleeing the floods. My son, whose Salvadoran girlfriend works in a Mexican market has heard of it, because so many people ask for it. The traditional barbacoa has reputation.

Ximbo, is derived thereof. We still have food steamed in an agave plank, but it’s just one plank’s worth. Instead of lamb, it’s lamb, chicken, and pork combined in one tasty bundle. I don’t think it’s pit steamed, either. Since it came from OXXO, I suspect that it was simply baked in a modern commercial convection oven.

Pastes are bread stuffed with various items: meat, mole, caramel, chicken, etc. Anything you can put in a bread crust, you can make into a paste. I don’t recall them as a kid, put apparently, they’re a traditional dish (more on this later).

So everyone got a plate, got some Ximbo and some pastes, a few tortillas (sold by the Kilo!), sat down and proceeded to chow down. Cecilio and Rigo showed up after a short while. We started chatting, I answered as many questions about me, the US and the current political situation as I had about their lives. I explained how we don’t have a single-payer medical system, even though Mexico does. After a detailed explanation on how the electoral college works, I was told that I was very “fluid,” just like my dad. He could talk for hours, uninterrupted. I guess I can too!

As the afternoon turned into evening, the conversation turned to witches, ghosts, and elves. In that part of Mexico, the belief in spiritual things runs strong and deep. Everyone had a story to tell. Some were hilarious, some were scary, but all were entertaining, and everyone had at least one.

Just as suddenly, as I got there, it was 9 PM and people needed to get back home. After all, tomorrow was a work day. One more abrazo, and we were all off. I went back across the road to Ceclio’s house. There Esther greeted us with a loaded “are you hungry?” I, actually, was pretty worn out. I excused myself and got ready for bed. Rigo, however, faced with a bowl of his mom’s home-made soup couldn’t say no. Who could?

Thursday

Image of clock tower in Pachuca, Hidalgo
The clock tower in Pachuca, Hidalgo. Each side has a statue depicting an important date in Mexican history.

The next morning, we woke up and Esther was ready, with some papaya, melon, yogurt, some chicken quesadillas, and some “country” things: squash blossoms, verdolagas (purslane), and tunas (cactus pears). After a long breakfast, Cecilio, Rigo and I took off for Pachuca for a wonderful day of playing Tourist.

We arrived at the central square where the Clock Tower is located. The clock tower is interesting in that on each side, there is a statue that depicts significant dates in Mexican history: independence, adoption of the constitution, etc. There, we hopped aboard a tourist bus which took us through some of the highlights of downtown, some sights of the older buildings in town, and then we took off to the towering status of Chirst that overlooks the city. Along the way, we passed by some neighborhoods built on the steep sides of the hills circling Pachuca. The steepness of the hills gave the impression that the houses were just hanging off the mountainside. On the road to see the Christ statue, we passed two ruins, one Spanish the other English. This was the first time I realized that the English had worked the silver mines in Mexico, much like they’d worked the silver mines in Argentina. Then as we were driving along in the tourist bus, I made the connection: the local pastes food was likely derived from the pastys that the English miners brought from Cornwall.

Statue El Cristo Rey in Pachuca Hidalgo
Statue El Cristo Rey in Pachuca Hidalgo

We finished the tour and started on the second half of our tourist-day. We proceeded to a town called Mineral-del-Monte AKA Real-del-Monte. This is a town where most of the silver mining actually took place back in the day. On this day, however, we lucked out and there was a silver festival going on. We walked through the maze of street vendors. Bought some bread (made with pulque), and ended up in front of a nice-looking restaurant. We went in, sat down, looked at the menu, and I proceeded to have a shattering moment.

My mom and dad worked in a variety of jobs over the scope of their lives. Between the two of them, they had five or six years of formal education. But what they had a lot of was intuition and a love of people. This allowed them to eventually survive as small business owners (for a while, at least) long enough to put me through Sonoma State University. The last business was a restaurant in Santa Rosa, California named “Mi Ultimo Refugio.” It wasn’t anything fancy, just your basic tacos, enchiladas, tostadas and rellenos. There were two things that my mom’s kitchen was known for: light-as-a-feather chile rellenos and the sauce used on the enchiladas (I still get emails asking me for the recipe). But sitting down in the restaurant in Real-Del-Monte, dropped a reality-bomb on me that left me troubled, to say the least.

As I looked over the items on the ten-page (or so) menu, I realized that what I’d come to know as “Mexican Food” was just a microcosm of the Mexican food spectrum. There, staring up at me were words like “arrachera”, “caldo tlalpeño”, “sopas”, “caldos” and a myriad of other words that I’ve never seen, let alone associated with food. So much for my expertise in “Mexican food.” It’s pretty clear that I will need to spend many, many hours tasting and sampling food from all parts of the country (all the countries) to get to know what all those things taste like!

I ordered something that I’d seen Rigo order previously, Caldo Tlalpeño, a home style soup with a drumstick, some veggies, and potato (?). Served with a side of handmade tortillas and some lime, it really hit the spot. As I ate, I looked over the to the young lady who was making the tortillas. Her station was by the front doors, located such that people walking by the restaurant would see her griddle loaded with tortillas and seduce them in by their taste buds.

In my parents’ restaurant, we had a fully automated tortilla machine, into which we fed masa, and which in turn churned out dozens of tortillas per minute. My father tweaked that machine such that the tortillas coming out of that monster’s mouth were VERY good. High quality and perfectly cooked. He’d also perfected cooking the corn, and milling it, so that the masa that was fed into the machine was the proper coarseness and moisture. He was an artist in the art of making a LOT of tortillas.

This was the opposite. The owners know that what people want is to recreate the experience of eating tortillas like the ones they ate when they were kids. Pay no mind to the fact that most of the people did not eat home-made tortillas either. They likely had tortillas prepared by someone like the young lady in the restaurant, or even prepared by someone like my father. Nonetheless, the people dining in the restaurant think they want the tortillas being created by the young lady standing by the griddle by the front door. The restaurant owner knows this and doesn’t disappoint.

So there she stands, reaching into her bucket of masa, grabbing just the right amount of masa, rolling it in her hands until it has the proper consistency and in the shape of a ball. She then places her ball of masa into the center of her tortilla press. Closes the lid with one hand, reaches across the press, grabs the handle with both hands and presses down with the perfect amount of force to create a tortilla of the perfect thickness and diameter. Release the handle, open the press and then separate the tortilla from the plastic sheet used to line the press, and then carefully, with a move practiced thousands of times, places the tortilla on the griddle to begin the transition from raw dough to finished food. Wait a number of seconds, reach down touch the edge and flip the tortilla to the other side. Repeat until the tortilla is the proper color, and the proper amount of cooking has occurred. Examine it quickly. It needs a little more. Down it goes again for a second or two longer. Then, at just the exact moment, the tortilla is plucked from the griddle and tossed into the basket of finished tortillas, where a server will prepare a handful of them into an order to be given to the smitten American staring at the tortilla-lady.

But before we could finish our wonderful lunch, we were interrupted by a trio of musicians who stopped by our table and proceeded to sing a huapango song. The sang with a great deal of commitment and the restaurant guests rewarded them for their efforts. Their music reminded me that many music styles are still in vogue throughout Mexico despite the fact that those styles have been played for more than sixty years. Compare that to the US where you’ll never hear a big-band piece on pop radio today.

We finished up and then we headed on out, back onto the street where the various vendors had one last opportunity to get us to buy something. They failed, and we made it back to our car just as the raindrops were beginning to fall. As we drove out the narrow streets, a police officer directed us down a road we were not expecting to travel. A couple of very tight turns later we came face-to-face with a truck delivering potable water to one of the hotels in town. The road was too narrow for us to squeeze by, so we waited. And we waited. Then the water delivery was complete and the workers loaded their hoses back onto their truck along with a ladder and some tools. They climbed in the cab of their truck and then…. nothing. Their truck didn’t start. We could hear the engine trying to turn over but failing time and again. Rigo and I looked at each other. We looked in the rear-view mirrors looking at the other cars that had followed us down this circuitous route and we realized we were in for an exciting afternoon, or so we thought.

The men in the truck scurried around the truck, one man looking inside the engine compartment, another crawling under the vehicle, a third calling out for a large screwdriver. After a few minutes of them trying option 1, then option 2, option 3 and finally option 4, they all moved to the back of the truck and proceeded to push the truck. At first, they tried pushing the truck up the hill as they were facing. Then they pushed the car down the hill for a few feet to a local nadir and just a little beyond. Finally they got behind the truck and proceeded to push the truck back in the original direction but this time, the truck had enough momentum that the driver was able to release the clutch and the engine caught life and fire up. They moved out of the way and we proceeded on our way.

After a few questionable turns, and some help from a local person, we managed to find our way back to the main highway we had used to find our way into town. We turned right, and proceeded to find our way back to Pachuca. It was about 4 PM and so rush hour was under way and the previously quiet streets were brimming with traffic. We made our way through various neighborhoods, at one point Rigo pointed out some neighborhoods where my cousins now lived and after a while we got back to highway 89 back to Actopan.

We hit the tail end of some traffic congestion caused by road repairs we’d seen on the way into Pachuca. More start-stop traffic. We crawled our way to a gas station where we pulled off for a bathroom break and to get something to drink. Back on the road, some more congestion, and then full-speed travel. We pulled into Cecilios house at 7 PM.

There was a soccer (futbol) game scheduled between the national teams of Mexico and Jamaica. My uncle had been waiting for this. But the games wasn’t for a few hours, so he decided to nap. In the interim, Esther began preparing us something to eat. The highlight this evening was hot dogs, Mexican style. Nothing too unusual, just hot dogs with pico-de-gallo as a condiment. It was very tasty when mixed with some mustard.

One of the goals that I’d set for myself on this trip was to taste pulque. Pulque is a regional alcoholic drink made from fermenting the secretions from the local agave plant. It’s a thick, white, opaque drink that has, in addition to the common alcohol-fueled effects, some psychedelic effects (according to some afficionados). Pulque is the ultimate “locally grown” product because it can not be packaged for transport. It’s a drink similar to sourdough starter in that you continuously feed it and it continues to “live” for several days. Bottling it, or canning it, will kill the fermentation the pulque will die. The process has self-expiration date, as the whole perpetual-fermentation will end on its own after some days. I’d heard my father mention it. I’d heard stories and seen pictures of the “old days” and pulquerias. On my trip out of D.F., I’d seen some pulquerias along the streets. So it’s no longer a country-cousin to the finished tequilas and mezcals. It’s caught on, much as beer is making a comeback after in more genteel circles here in the good ole USA.

Image of a glass of pulque
Pulque. It’s a unique, local drink. It needs its own blog post….

My aunt asked if we stopped to have some pulque on our trip. I mentioned that we had not. She said that the recent rains had likely hampered the local production because the rain, dilutes the aguamiel that is collected as the “food” for the fermentation process. Still, she said she’d run out and get some. She grabbed a jar, and went out to a neighbor’s place. A few short minutes later, she was back and poured me a glass.

The taste reminded me of hoppy beer, in that there is a slight bitterness. But beyond that, it’s difficult to describe, other than to say that its effects were felt rather quickly. The next time you’re down in Mexico, seek it out!

The game finally came on. We watched, drank some Nescafe, ate some pan dulce, and eventually the game ended in a tie. At this point in the World Cup tournament, the games do not go into overtime, so the tie stood. Jerseys were exchanged, and we went to bed.

Friday

Friday morning, came in with bright sunshine and the promise of an exciting day. I woke, chit-chatted with my aunt, drank some fresh-squeezed orange juice, and waited for my uncle to come down to breakfast. While we waited, my aunt began the stream of deliciousness that my mornings had become. Quesadillas (with tortillas fresh from the tortilleria), scrambled eggs, pan dulce, and more. So much for my diet!

My uncle came in shortly after Rigo had arrived. We had a nice chat about my rough Spanish. Over the years, I’ve forgotten much. Coupled with things I never leaned in the first place, there are lots of places where my “rough” would be a kind description of my mastery of Spanish. Not to say that I speak poorly. I am able to carry conversation fairly easily. But I do notice, that when I’m tired, I have to “work” to carry on. Similar to my visit to the restaurant previously, this is realization that while I am truly proud of my heritage, I am more American than not.

The agave that grows in this region are wider than the planks from the blue agave used for tequila / mezcal. So in the past, people would drive some large branches into the ground, attach some more branches as cross beams to frame their houses. Then agave planks are attached to the frame and the roof. The roof was made from more planks or woven palm fronds.

I remember a photo that my father had. It showed his uncle and aunts (my grandmother’s siblings). My uncle from Tecajique dressed in his charro clothes. But my aunts were sitting in front of one of those agave plank homes. Bare feet and long hair braided on either side. This was my first trip that I did not see someone walking barefoot.

After breakfast, Rigo and I went out for a ride in his truck. I’d hoped to come across an agave-plank home on this trip to take a photo and my aunt said that there might be one or two left on the other side of the valley formed by the next hill and ours. So we drove down by the presa which had served as the soccer field for many days. It has since been planted in grass, so the games are no longer hidden by clouds of fine dust. As we drove by other other hillside, we were greeted by a herd of sheep, but no agave plank homes. We made it back to the main road and proceeded over the hill to the next town of Tecajique.

Tecajique is the town where my grandfather was from. Whereas Chicavasaco is steeped in a history of growing crops, Tecajique is known for its charros. I remember seeing pictures of my father’s uncle, my grandfather’s brother. He was always dressed in chaps, rising boots, a large hat and often a sidearm or bandolier of ammunition.

Image of basketball court
Basketball court where the Vera dynasty was founded.

As Rigo and I came in to town, we saw a few houses with horses tied up to the house. As we drove in to the town center, we saw a large stone ring with high walls which was used for charreadas (rodeos). Next to the ring was a field with some bulls in it. This was clearly a charro town. I took some photos and we saw the basketball court where my father and uncles established the Vera basketball dynasty that exists to this day.

Back in the truck, we drove on and saw the next town, San Juan Solis. These towns were established when people transited by walking. So what used to be a half day’s walk was now a twenty minute drive. A few more photos and we started back. But, as we pulled back through Tecajique, Rigo spotted a friend. A few minutes of conversation, and the question was posed: Where can we get some really good pulque? It seems that Rigo was intrigued by my curiosity about pulque. His curiosity was piqued as well. Time for an adventure!

We got some rough directions, and off we went. Down some small dusty roads and then… nothing. The engine died. Yep, an adventure it has become!

The truck died next to a small storefront very much like the store that my grandmother ran for many, many years in Chicavasco. Neither Rigo nor I are mechanically inclined beyond the basics of auto maintenance. So we decided to wait a few minutes to see if the engine was somehow flooded. So I walked over to the store and paid my $7 pesos for a Red Cola. It tasted surprisingly like an actual Coca Cola and it was half the price. I chatted with the proprietress and she let me take a photo or two. A few more minutes passed. We tried to start the truck again with no luck. Now, our adventure, has become a mis-adventure.

Images of store in Tecajique, Hidalgo.
Images of the store where we stopped. It is similar to the store run by my grandmother, so many years ago.

Forty years ago, this truly would have been the start of a challenging day. There we were, located in a neighboring town. Our fathers had probably walked the road to Chicavasco from Tecajique. But that would have been a half-day walk. For this old, fat man, it would have been the last walk I took, I’m sure! But in the day of the cell-phone, it’s not quite the adventure it might have been. Rigo called our mutual cousin Tavo, who worked in Chicavasco. Rigo described where we were and a short 15 minutes later, Tavo drives up, ready to save the adventure.

We poked at the engine a bit, and then decide someone else will need to look at the truck. In the meantime, Tavo asks, “so.. where did you say the pulque was at?”

We continued down the road to our original destination. As we drove down the road, we came to a place where the cousins (and our parents) come often. It’s a geologically beautiful piece of land where two (or more) rock types meet and have over the centuries carved out an example of how beautiful our planet truly is.

Image of flowering cactus
Flowering cactus which is edible (if you know how to harvest it).

There Tavo showed me a cactus which can be eaten, when harvested and prepped in a specific way. I took some more photos (I was in full-on tourist mode) and then we left back to Chicavasco. Tavo dropped us off (we were getting close to the time I needed to leave to make it to the airport on time). At Cecilios house, Esther greeted me with an offer of lunch. I was going to excuse myself (I was still kind of full from lunch), but decided to have one last quesadilla. Ok, four quesadillas. I finished my lunch, and helped Rigo prep our ride back to the airport. The same trusty vehicle that had brought me back to Chicavasco, was now going to take me to the airport.

One last abrazo, one last goodbye, and off we went.

2 comments

  1. Wow, THANKS my ollld friend! Loved finding your blog and reading of your returning to see your family.

    You’re right it’s been a lifetime, for us since Fresno & all those “lost” brain cells.

    I remember you guys inviting me to dinner with you dad…he was an amazing and kind man. I mean, really! He had to put up with your behind. 🍻. Seriously, I know what it’s like to watch a parent’s body fail from diabetes. I know you well enough still to know you never let him see that sadness in your eyes. I know how I struggled with it.

    Drop me a note email and I’ll send my contact info.

    Be well…oh FB is my first initial and whole last name.

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