Memories of days gone by

Town of Erongaricuaro.

NINETEEN YEARS ago, I received the first and last visit from family members above the Rio Bravo. My mother and sister. I picked them up one evening at the Guadalajara airport and, as we drove to a downtown hotel, my sister asked:

Are most of the people who live here Mexican?

She was 59 at the time and had never been to a foreign country. It was her first and last trip outside the United States. She’s 78 now and, I imagine, will never leave her homeland again. She prefers the craziness of California.

After one night in the Guadalajara hotel, we took a bus to the neighboring state’s capital where I was renting a house. A couple of days later, we boarded another bus to the mountaintop town where I live now and stayed in a hotel for four nights.

We were tourists.

And during that time on the mountaintop — before I moved here, mind you — we took a taxi to a small town on the edge of our large lake, a town with the mouthful of a name Erongaricuaro, also known simply as Eronga because it’s easier to say.

We walked around a bit, but it began to rain, so we returned to the main plaza to catch another cab, but no cab was to be found. We sat on a bench and waited … and waited … and waited. No cab appeared. It was about to get dark.

A chicken bus pulled up, one of those ancient, smoke-belching, retired school buses that were common in these parts back then. They have since disappeared, replaced by smaller, nicer, more modern forms of local transportation.

We climbed aboard the chicken bus and returned to our hotel on the mountaintop.

Two days later, we went back to the state capital for another night, and then we bused to Guadalajara again for their flight back to Atlanta. Neither ever returned, but they did come that once. My daughter has yet to visit.

Yesterday afternoon, we drove to Eronga, parked the Honda on the small plaza, bought ice cream and sat on a plaza bench, the same steel bench on which I sat with my sister and mother 19 years ago. Facing across the street, I snapped the above photo.

I think about the visit of my mother and sister every time I sit on the plaza of Erongaricuaro, which I do now and then because it’s not that far from the Hacienda. But on that late, rainy afternoon 19 years ago, it seemed to the three of us that we were in the middle of nowhere. And then there was that ride on the chicken bus.

My mother is long dead. My sister lives, I think, in Arcata, California, and my daughter lives in Athens, Georgia. I have no other Gringo relatives.

But I’ll always have Eronga.

37 thoughts on “Memories of days gone by

  1. It’s amazing the extent to which your basic, untraveled Gringo thinks the rest of the world is just like the USA, or only some minor variant. I have a friend in Redding who was astonished that there mostly weren’t good foreign restaurants in Mexico because virtually everyone in Mexico is Mexican. He just couldn’t seem to get his mind around the idea that the country wasn’t swarmed with immigrants like in the USA. He also seemed to have a hard time with the idea that there really wasn’t much “diversity,” with almost everyone being both Mexican and Catholic.


    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Which does both have plenty of foreigners and loads of good foreign restaurants.


    1. Kim: When my sister made that remark on exiting the airport, my head reeled. She is no uneducated dolt by a long shot but, as mentioned, she’d never set foot outside the U.S. And during her time here, she endlessly spoke to waiters, hotel employees, whomever, in English as if she hadn’t left Atlanta.

      I’ve brought up her remark on leaving the airport to her a number of times, and she always denies saying it. But she surely did.

      And no, we have very little diversity here, and even less interest in having it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, on the diversity thing, I’d beg to differ, if only in a minor way. Gringos seem to be quite welcome. I’m always amazed at how well I’m treated SOB, usually better than I’m treated NOB.


        1. Kim: What I meant is that Mexico is very homogeneous. We’re almost totally brown-skinned, Spanish-speaking Catholics. And we do not try to change that. Yes, Gringos are welcome here for the most part.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a melancholy post, to say the least. Would you like to see your daughter and sister again? I would if I were you, but this comes from someone who has no children or siblings. Just wondering, though I’ll understand if you don’t want to reply.



    1. Señor Lanier: My daughter, sure. My sister, I don’t think so. She’s very difficult. Actually, my daughter is difficult too, but in a different way. My sister is ill-tempered and explosive. Were she not so old, I could see her being in Antifa and on the streets, kicking ass or tossing cement “milk shakes.” Really.

      My daughter and I were getting along fine when I moved south, and then something happened. I’m not sure exactly what. She got peeved about something early on. Like her mother, she is colossally thin-skinned. I have not communicated with my sister in seven years. My choice. I’ve invited my daughter to visit a number of times, but she always prefers traveling elsewhere. She’s even visited other parts of Mexico since I moved south. We have not communicated in a while now. It just kind of petered out. I don’t like it at all.

      Dr. Laura, who had a radio talk show in the U.S. for a long time and whom I enjoyed listening to, once said that problems between nations are caused by men but problems in families are caused by women. This is very true. My sister and my daughter are also on the outs with each other.

      Count your blessings on not having siblings. Perhaps on not having children either. It’s a crap shoot.


        1. Señor Lanier: My daughter was only 5 when her mother and I split. My doing. We kept in touch — all living in south Louisiana — till she was 8. At that point, mama, her new hippie boyfriend and my daughter fled to Canada, bail-jumping because the hippie boyfriend had been arrested for peddling pot. My ex kept their whereabouts from me for almost four years. The Mounties caught the boyfriend at last, and he (and they all) were returned to the United States and finally to New Orleans again. Hippie boyfriend just got a legal slap on the wrist at that time. But I did not see my daughter for those years and she later told me that she thought I was dead. She was 11 or 12 when I saw her again. Things were never the same.

          She’s 53 now, married to her second husband, a very successful patent lawyer. They travel all over the place often. But not to my mountaintop.

          My ex and her hippie boyfriend later got married, got graduate degrees and are contributing members of society.


          1. If Dr. Laura’s comment is true, and it might well be even if its a pretty broad generalization, it could be because men are interested in relations between nations and women are interested in relations within the family.

            These days, I seem to be mostly interested in economics. I’m not sure what kind of trouble that might cause.


            1. Creigh: Dr. Laura’s observation is quite true, I think, and the reasons you state make sense to me. What you say, in effect, is that men and women are different. I hope this does not get back to your political headquarters where such thoughts are now verboten. Mum’s the word.


  3. I hope you keep communicating and inviting your daughter down for a visit. One day she may accept your offer.


  4. My only sister died. She was a toxic personality and wanted me in her toxic circle, but I shagged out of that, feeling no obligation to do otherwise. Then she did me a favor. She died. My kids are very much in my camp and visit often, if not in person, then electronically.


    1. Carole: You’re funny. Your sister did you a favor by dying. Actually, this is an example of something I’m fond of saying. Just because someone is a relative does not mean he or she is a good person. Even the most horrible people normally have relatives. It means squat.

      I am delighted that your kids are among the good ones. You are a lucky woman for that. I envy you.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I have a half-brother, who once was bright, quirky, witty, and talented. Well, up until he completed the first 40% of his life. And then he became the kind of person who only takes fully escorted tours and cruises, the kind where you never have to touch foreign money, never order from a menu or make a decision, and always share meals and experiences with like-minded folks. He will never visit my mountaintop in the capital city, and it’s probably just as well.

    The longest stretch of time I’ve spent with him since we were of voting age was a few years back on a family trip to Spain. He was astonished that I’d made all of the arrangements without the assistance of a tour company, he was afraid to use an ATM or credit card there, he was constantly afraid of getting sick, he asked how long 25 Eu would last him, and he tried to hail a taxi by beckoning it with a curled index finger. He could not understand why Spanish did not eat lunch at noon and dinner at 6 p.m., remarking that the country would have a lot more tourism if it changed its eating hours to his style. At El Corte Ingles, he remarked that people in Spain would be so much better off if they just took a cheap flight to New Jersey to buy clothing at outlet malls.

    And did I mention that he is a professional with post-doctoral degrees and patents to his name?
    And yes, he would be stunned to learn that Mexicans eat pizza, shop at Costco, order from Amazon, and have Netflix.

    But then maybe he’s not as bad as a friend’s teenage daughter, a recent graduate of a very tony prep school in the U.S., who exclaimed loudly at Patzcuaro’s El Patio restaurant “We’re the only white people in this place,” never mind that everyone else there seemed to have shared the same racial classification as she.


    1. My in-laws, my husband’s brother and his wife, also are terrified of traveling. Stew’s brother is a devoted gun fanatic who doesn’t leave the house without a gun strapped to his leg. He’s never been to New York (why would I go there?) and came down to Mexico twice, his wife once. Neither one of them has ever clarified what is the phobia about Mexico, though I suspect it might be too many dark people cooped up in one country, speaking a foreign language. Both of them are devout conservatives and Fox News watchers. Other than that, they’re really nice people; we visited them for two days recently at their winter condo in Florida and actually had a good time, I think because we abstained from talking politics.



      1. Señor Lanier: Having a gun in full view is, I think, a good idea in today’s America, especially in places like Chicago, Detroit, D.C., Baltimore, well, I could go on, so I cannot fault him about that. All cities run by Democrats, of course. Appears they just do not like travel. My father loathed travel all his life. All places are the same, he opined. I, on the other hand, am quite fond of travel, which is odd since my father and I were virtual clones. But not in that detail. I do find that as I age, I find travel less appealing. Could have something to do with my long legs that don’t fit well into airline seats any longer.

        And neither can I fault your kin for being good conservatives and/or Fox News watchers. Are you aware that Fox News has been shifting to the left? Nothing drastic, of course, but it changed ownership some while back. While the opinion shows still are staunchly conservative — thank God! — for the most part, the news department is quite mainline, which is more than one can say for CNN and its ilk.

        In these troubling times, it’s wise to abstain from political talk if you know you’re in the presence of wrong-thinking people. Best to stick to other topics.


      2. My father and stepmother, who enjoy traveling, and who love all things European, won’t go to Mexico. Though they haven’t said so exactly, I think they’re afraid they’ll be gunned down at Mexico City’s airport by cartel gunmen before they can even pick up their checked luggage. Yet I know that if I could only get them into CDMX that they’d love it. Frankly, it’s rather sad.


        1. Kim: We do have a questionable rep, especially the state in which I live. Yet here I am, almost 20 years into it, and I have not been shot dead or even winged one time. From what I read in the news, I am convinced one is safer here than in much of the U.S., especially cities run by Democrats.


    2. Ms. Shoes: You’ve mentioned your half-brother’s failings to me before but never in such grisly detail. Lucky you, but I’ll trade my sister for your half-brother and I’ll throw in 200 pesos to boot. ¿No?

      As for your friend’s daughter, are you quite sure that the other restaurant patrons shared her/your racial genes? The Mexican population, according to what I have read, is only 10 percent white. The other part is 60 percent Mestizo and 30 percent pure indigenous. Más o menos.

      But, no matter. I get your point. The kid is a dunce.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Being the only Anglo in a restaurant is a familiar situation here in Phoenix. The Chinese buffets are filled with Latinos and Native Americans. At the burger shops, you have to ask for moostasa. They don’t understand mustard. It is just part of life in the big city.


    1. Señor Gill: Good Lord, you can be depressing at times. Having not been in the United States for over a decade, this type of first-hand news is distressing. Part of life in the big city? Of course, your big city is in a southwestern border state. One wonders if it’s equally grim in Ohio or Alabama. And some people wonder what got Trump elected and will get him re-elected by an even larger margin. It’s crystal clear.

      Moostasa indeed.


  7. All-in-all, that’s a good memory.

    In my experience, all families are dysfunctional because people are dysfunctional. It’s our nature. Some families hide it better than others, but it’s there.

    Won’t hurt a thing to keep trying with your daughter. It may be for naught, but it won’t be on you.


    1. Ray: People are dysfunctional, some more so than others. My family was a marginal basket case. There are worse, and there sure are better. I would have preferred better.


  8. Interesting essay. Interesting comments.

    I have been genuinely blessed to have a great, if somewhat eccentric, family. I would not trade one of them for anyone else. If I tried, they would just have me committed.

    I can understand people who are not thrilled with travel. I am simply not one of them. If I did not have homeowner and fatherly obligations, I would be on the road more often.


  9. Señor Felipe, see what happens when you open up all these personal family details. Folks are truly interested and pretty much on your side.



  10. But, isn’t mestizo a mixture of white and indigenous – Spaniard and native? Once, I offended my Mexican neighbor by mistaking her maid’s children for her own grandchildren. She was furious, told me that none of her family was Indio! I did not know that there was so much class consciousness in Mexico. I learned that day.


    1. Bonnie: Yes, mestizo is a mix of Spanish and indigenous. At this point, I’m not sure how this would be measured, a couple of hundred years after it started. As for color consciousness in Mexico, hoo-boy! The browner a baby is, the sadder is the family. The whiter, the happier is the family, and no bones are made about it either. No one pretends otherwise.

      By the way, I had nothing to do with your comment being moderated. Don’t know why that happened.


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