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For the Love of Mexico

White Chedda


Chapter 11

Crocodiles in the River

I truly believed that Day 2 was going

to be my most difficult walk.


I was wrong.

It was Day 4.

This day.

Gerardo had told me about

La Piedra de Cabro

The Billygoat Rock.

I had already seen it from 2 days out but that's

because it was so way up there.




He had said that you come to a place where you are about 400 meters below it. Staring it in the face.

I couldn't believe it. I chose not to believe it.

Then I lived it.

I started my day in the most fantastic way.

With Maria in the kitchen. Watching her work.

She was the true matriarch of the household.

The boss. The cornerstone of all that

was old and all that was new.

Being alone with her in the stone-walled kitchen with poke holes filtering in the early morning light was a very holistic experience for me. Smoke billowed from an earthen-formed stove with a long log burning in its belly.

The space was not well ventilated. You are one

with the smoke. And you just deal with it.


You're in the kitchen, bitch!

Don't like it? Wait outside till the work is done.


I had recently written a poem about a powerful woman. Mujer. It is one of the most beautiful pieces I will ever write. And here, in front of me, was that woman.

Strength. Consistency. And Dedication to her family.


Imagery of tortillas being made from scratch, flour strewn about, transformed from fiction to real as I watched

Maria muscle. Grinding the corn into masa.

Maria has a quietness to her but she's a great conversationalist. She has children living in the United States, in Atlanta. I found that to be true with many of the people I had met. Some part of their family lives in the US.

She had gone to visit recently. And she admitted that

she was a fish out of water. There are a lot of differences between ranch life in Aguacate and the bustle of Atlanta.

She had been glad to see her kids

but we know where she would rather be.

Maria had a catch phrase.

Or really a catch word.

Her go to.




And I did. There was something so awesome and humbling about knowing her. Watching her.

Perhaps the purest representation of what

I wanted to share in these words.

A woman the world does not know.

But one we know that it needs.

She let me read her Mujer. Which was a privilege for me.

It takes like 7 or 8 minutes and she stayed with me, very attentive, the whole way through. I was reading it to

the woman it was written about.

She smiled.

I imagined it was the first time someone had

read her poetry in her kitchen.


I smiled too.

After a hearty breakfast it was time to go.

I said my goodbyes to the rest of the family just waking up and moving about. We hugged. And I expressed

my gratitude for their hospitality.

Omar and I departed with an unspoken understanding that we would see one another again. And I cannot wait to hear the stories he will tell. I knew my presence had been an inspiration. And his ambition for his life had inspired me in turn. I want to live like Omar. Youngly.

With an always anticipation of great things.

I felt no pain from the labor of the day before, which

was a blessing. My feet were still in bad condition but

resting longer was not an option.

I was on my way to Mosco.

A long walk.

There was no warmup. The climb began immediately.

At some point I could look back and see that little heaven of a ranch from up high. And I paused.

How much better am I of a person for

having lived that day with that lovely family?

There really was no civilization to be found

between me and Mosco.

I was alone.

And tested.


I will spare you the attempt to empathize with the anguish in my legs. Or the mental perseverance

required to not turn back. 

It took about 4 hours to arrive at the top of the world. In retrospect, the tallest peak of the journey. I was in the shadow of the piedra. And hawks soared below me.

There were two rewards gifted to me from that mountaintop place. The first was the view.

Someone had told me that I would be able to see Vallarta from that place. Ever so faintly. They were right.

Holy Shit.

There she was.

My home city was so far away.


But to lay eyes on it was a treasure

beyond imagination. The lands I had

crossed to earn this bliss.

I shouted to my babies!

But not too loud.

If there was a wildcat around, I was at my most vulnerable. I imagined that this is where they would

want to live. Far from the reach of man.

I was far from the reach of man.

The second reward was a natural cistern of water pooled beneath mini stalagmites dripping slow. My friends had told me about this place as well. Somewhere to refresh.


I was not certain this was the water I was looking for and certainly did not want to take the risk of drinking something that could make me sick.


But then, my grandmother visited me.

In the form of a hummingbird.


She showed me I was on the right path

and in the right place.


She fluttered back and forth between the drips. Taking in the freshness of God's natural abundance.

If it was good enough for Grandma,

it was good enough for me.


I had heard a rumor that hummingbirds never stop fluttering. That the constant movement was necessary

to their survival. But this particular ancestral creature paused in one moment so I could see her in her full glory.


What a blessing!

I filled up my backup water pouch, said goodbye and gave a parting glance back at Vallarta. Imagining that

this would be the last time I would see her for a while. Everything else from there seemed

like it would trend Mascota.

I came to a fork in the road that nobody had really prepared me for. Both viable options for the title of Main Road. That had me a bit frightened. The wrong choice here could be really wrong. The path to the left went down. Edging even closer to the piedra.

The path to the right curved up a touch. And just based off angles, seemed to be the right road to follow.

Though I would have preferred to start

falling than continue climbing.

I wasn't sure I had made the right choice until about an hour later, while declining, when I heard a beautiful hum. 

A motorcycle coming from a distance, weaving

and curving towards me.

I cannot remember if I waved my hand for the two young men to stop or if they just did it because of how wild it was to find someone walking in that place.

Could have been both.

Pedro and Alvaro.

They saved me from becoming an animal.

And guided me with the assurance that

I had chosen the right path.


They estimated 4 hours walking to Mosco.

My feet screetched and howled in response.

Alvaro knew who I was.

There were videos circulating the internet about the white boy walking in that area. Videos that had been shared by Nico and Gerardo, Alvaro's uncle.


How cool!

Family on the road.

It was a short interaction but gave me strength.

They fired up that two-wheeled horse anew and took back to their course. And I to mine.

I will never forget when Mosco peered up at me from her valley by the river. Exposing her brightness in the fading afternoon light. This was a town! A real town!

I probably should have just kept walking down to find my rest in the embrace of the new friends I had yet to meet but something compelled me to stop. To take that minute from above to cherish my earned right to the comforts that might await me below.

In both my walk across America and on this particular walk, that is a theme. Sometimes you wait a whole day to find the why. To remember the point.

Give yourself, in faith, to a day of labor.

Work with a goal in mind. Accomplish that goal.

And find peace in the simplicity of that next dusk.

The natural model of humanity.

Upon descending into Mosco, I was greeted by

a rustle in the brush. An Armadillo.

He was minding his own business and let me do a nice, up-close inspection of all that docility wrapped

up in armor. Fascinating creatures.

When I came into the town, it was as a stumbler.

I really didn't have any kilometers left in me.

I was looking for one of two people.

Jesus or Ramona.

A few people told me that Jesus was out of town but pointed me to Ramona's house. I knocked and she opened the door asking jovially, 'What took you so long?'

She had been given word about my arrival from Gerardo and was waiting for me. What a wonderful sensation!

I practically fell into the door, trying to walk on the sides of my feet to avoid the pain. Ramona got right to work as so many of my hosts have in making a meal!

How about that as a kneejerk reaction?

Stranger in the doorway, get that man some eggs!

Ramona is a lovely woman. A presence.

I have the feeling she is always the most vocal in the room. She made me feel right at home and I felt bad because I drank almost all of the agua fresca de guayaba that she had prepared.

It is interesting when you reach another human after a grueling test of a day in the sun. You lean on them.

Go took a rest in the corner.

Ramona was a widowed mother of one epic child.

Irene, was now 19 years old and already a certified kindergarten teacher working locally and living with her mama. Ramona has health issues so this team is inseparable. They need one another.

This was the first time I had encountered a family quite so small. It wasn't always that way but a few of

Ramona's children had passed away from

a genetic thyroid condition.

Ramona's tiny back patio was full of life. Chickens, ducks, a big fluffy black dog and tons of flora.

A blossoming garden.

We sat back there for hours chatting.

Ramona gave me the lowdown.

At some point we had a little rancher drama

A chicken on the lot ate an arracran. A little yellow scorpion. At first nothing happened. But Ramona knew.

Act fast or watch a chicken die. It wasn't the first time.

I watched as she went into the kitchen to grab a few things and came back out to grab the chicken. It takes a confidence to pick up a squawking bird but I think this particular poultry knew that it needed mama's love.

Ramona held it in her arms like a child and forced its mouth open while she fed it three cloves of garlic. Then she tilted its neck back and poured a good solid amount of olive oil down there to wash it all down. I thought, if we just had fresh baked breadsticks, this chicken might think it was at an Olive Garden. Ramona put the egg-maker

in the kitchen in solitude to have it in a comfortable

yet confined space. I was keeping my eye on it

to see what, if anything, might happen.

Ramona was optimistic but realistic.

She would likely die.

At some point, after the sun had fallen below the

horizon, I asked if I could take a shower. I could see

the bathroom was a concrete unit outside so I had a certain expectation of what type of shower

might be coming. Cold buckets.

My expectation was destroyed when she told me that the left nozzle on the shower was for hot. And it

flowed that way. Not warm. Hot.


I was at the Four Seasons.

I had also anticipated, from what I had seen of their

home, that it was going to be a cold night

of concrete floor sleep.

Wrong again.

There was a separate bedroom.

With a plush, inviting queen size mattress strewn with blankets that cowboys dream of. Wow. This was the most relaxing accommodation I could have hoped for!

The chicken was struggling. The scorpion venom was starting to fuck it up. It was jumping and falling and squirming and screaming. Writhing in pain.

It could have been humane to kill it

but Ramona kept the faith.

Erroring on the side of life.


Before retiring to my sleep chariot, I asked both Ramona and Irene if I chat with them about some themes related to the book. Questions about their country and mine.

I had decided to be more direct so that each person on my journey would have a chance to speak their piece

and help me understand the relationship between the Mexican people and the Gringos from the

perspective of a Mexican.

I had made a bucket of hot water and dunked my feet to soak while embarking on this inquiry.

I asked,

'What's the difference between the Mexicans and the Estadounidenses (United Statesers)'

Irene thought about it for a minute and she gave me the best answer I could hope to hear.

In relation to toughness she said,

'In Mexico, when you ride a bull, you hit the ground.

In the United States, you hit the cushion'.

A reference to real bull-riding versus

mechanical bull-riding.

What a beautiful allegory.

I think she's right.

In the US we pretend to be tough.

But overall, we are mostly soft.

Spoiled and comfortable.

In Mexico, the bull is real.

The struggle is real.

And the ground is hard.

I love that she compared the two that way.

She was proud of the grit and durability of her people.

I asked what they thought we thought of them.

'How do Americans think of Mexicans'

The response was sad.

They hated being represented by the narcos.

Loathed the idea that the select few could

represent the whole so poorly.

Ramona told me something that I won't soon forget.

She said, 'I think its awful that they put

crocodiles in the river'.

I wasn't sure my spanish was serving me well so I followed up. 'Crocodiles? In what river?'

'The Rio Grande.

The Americans put crocodiles in the river so

that it might prevent us from crossing'.

I shuttered.

Never heard that.

While I don't actually think that is true, it

saddened me that she believed it.


To think about what it might represent. That we are so avidly against the presence of the Mexican people in our country that we would put their lives at risk to prevent them from coming in. To destine them to a horrific death. Blood in the water.

This was telling.

We don't want that type of thinking to be the way

that we are perceived, right?

If that is the default understanding of how Americans

feel about Mexicans, then a great change is needed.

We must be pro-active in reversing that mentality.

Not apathetic. Intentional.

How can we show the Mexican people that we value them? That we understand the importance of their presence in our country and our presence in theirs?

How can we achieve harmony.

It makes me proud to be the founder of riQueZo.

It made me proud to be there. Face to Face representing my people in an entirely different way. Seeking connection. And bridging the gaps.

In that moment, I hoped that they saw me as a different type of example. Someone totally chill with their people. Trying to speak their language with a curiosity about their life and customs. A celebration of diversity.

It was time for bed.

We shared a buenas noches and I gingerly worked my way to the bedroom, falling helplessly into the pillowyness of my private mattress.

As I laid there, I had a chance to reflect on a truly wild day. The perfect mix of challenge and treasure. What theme tied it all together? I found it.

Strength in Suffering.

A seemingly limitless climb.

Overcoming despair.

Absorbing venom.

Loved ones lost.

Fighting back.

Riding bulls.


Braving crocodiles.

Braving death.

My day was a microcosm of all the elements that make life so real. Extreme ups. Inevitable declines.

Sweat, blood, blisters, smiles, stories.

Being alive is such a privilege.

We already are winning right from breath one.

But that doesn't make it a fairytale.

Everyone struggles. Everyone cries.

We need eachother.

Or we cannot make it.

I drifted off thinking of Yesy & Sochill.

How wonderful is their chance?

Their dad building the bridges that they would someday cross to fight hard for the harmony of humanity.

Their brightness.

Their aura.

The last things I saw as my eyelids succumbed to

the heaviness brought by another

full and victorious day.


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