Saturday, December 17, 2016

Thank You Tehuacán

Tehuacán. When I first read about you I did not know what to think. You are a working town known more for egg production than travel highlights. You were in the middle of the desert which meant hot days and possible cold nights. Plus you were in Mexico where my preconceived thoughts about the country itself dominated my thoughts. I just jumped on a bus, crossed the border and hoped for the best.

Well here it is 8 months later. We started slowly but now I find myself a bit overwhelmed with emotion to leave. I have documented most of my exceptional experiences in Tehuacán and my final 3 weeks piled on. 

There was one final hike to the cross at Cerro Colorado. This time I lead the hike with Lucy and Dan plus a local woman, Miriam who is also my Reiki therapist. She has lived in Tehuacán her entire life and had not climbed to the cross. She was unbelievably excited to complete the hike  and got very drunk on 1 cold beer from the local shop after the hike. 

Then there was the 10 location pub crawl that began at 1:00 in the afternoon and surprising lasted until almost midnight.
We added a poker run with a card at each location and "Simpson's Trivia" that Lucy put together at "Moe's Bar which sadly was closed so we had it at the bar downstairs.
Ending at Cerezos, our home bar, for the last beer of the night was the logical choice. As we grogged our way in we were met with knowing smiles. Oh, and I won the 240 pesos of the poker run!

One final highlight was being invited to a very formal family wedding. Keane's host family, whose daughter Lily was my student, took great pride in having us be a part of the celebration...that lasted until 5am. The Mariachis did not even start until 2am. I believe their main goal was to get us drunk and watch us act out. It was a "whiskey only" affair with random shots of tequila being administered by a wandering minstrel. Although quite formal the four of us did begin the night by wandering down to the local shop where we bought large cans of beer and drank them on the street corner, well as you would expect us to do.

Aside from fellow teachers, students, administration and families there were many more people that became a part of my daily weekly routine. From the butcher, laundry, fruit and vegetable family, market prepared food family, local restaurant, coffee shop, dentist, bakery, corner taco stand, beer vendors, corner shop, the bottle collectors, gas delivery men and everyone that said "good morning, good afternoon and good evening with big smiles" as I made my way around town. The longer I stayed the harder it was to leave. 

No, this is not a tourist town and thankfully so. This is a town of real people who thrive to live happy lives. Who are quick to share what they have with a genuine kindness that seems to be fading in the world. A compliment is genuine and magnanimity is a way of life. I have always said that when the time comes I would move full time to Nicaragua. Well it is a no brainer now, Mexico is my future home. It is a large country with so much to offer and it should be a major player on the world stage. Fate, history and proximity to the United States has stunted that but those days are fading. This generation is educated and opinionated and Mexico is ripe for change. It is not to say it is without problems and that change will be easy.

Take for example the kidnapping and murder of 43 students in September of 2013. They were ordered killed by a government official when he learned they were going to "peacefully protest" corruption within the government. The story came out that they were mistaken for a "newly formed drug cartel" and were killed by an existing gang. Drug cartels and government officials work together here and the effects are felt everywhere. From the simplest of street vendors to most businesses they have to pay some sort of "protection money" to either gangs or government officials, and that is just the start. Every country in the world has corrupt political leaders, even lovely Canada. In Mexico it is just blatant.

That aside the people of Mexico have endured and even thrived. No, not all Mexicans want to go to the United States. Most are disgusted by the country regardless of the possible opportunities that await. Many are more afraid of being in the USA than they are of their own country, one that is considered dangerous but yet is visited by millions of tourists each year. 

The word is getting out. Mexico is fantastic. I am not talking about the "10 day all inclusive never leave the resort Mexico" that is filled with people from your own country. I am talking about getting on the bus and traveling around Mexico. Visit towns that are not on your radar. Visit sites that are not on the cruise ship agenda. Eat at roadside stands and grab a beer at a place that challenges your comfort zone for you will be amazed at the world that opens up to you and clears your mind of clutter.

No, Mexico is not perfect but then again neither am I. Given the chance I think there is a possibility we will be perfect together but only Father Time knows best. Thank you Tehuacán, thank you Mexico. Stay proud, stay generous, stay kind. 

Here are just a few of the friendly faces I had the opportunity to consistently interact with.

Market cheese vendors

Greeted every day by Sid the happy street dog. Food helps
Nastiest roof dog in Tehucan.
Beer shop girls
Ever drink beer with your butcher? I sure did. Phil will be missed
The friendliest Hello Mr Ken greeting every time
Weekly Prepared Rice, Beans and other goodies
Always greeted with a smile at her families market stall

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