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For the Love of Mexico

White Chedda

 

Chapter 6

Seco & The Butcher

Let me start by saying that words cannot

truly capture the physical intensity of this trek.

Right out the gate. Day one. Riding the bull.

For 3 years in Vallarta I was blessed to live in the rooftop unit of a home in the hills with an incredible view of the mountains behind our gem of a city. I would

think to myself 'how wild!' and imagine

all that was back there.

I would watch the sunset over the Pacific,

then turn to watch the moonrise over the

mountains with babies in my arms and

a wife, equally in awe of our blessings.

Today, I will live the wild.

 

I decided not to bring a tent.

You could say, that was a bold decision

rooted in faith. I don't want to camp. I want to connect.

The weight of the gear is really important.

You have to ask, 'What do I need?' that's the adding.

And 'What do I want but don't need?' that's

the subtracting. Water is the heaviest and

most necessary resource. My bottle, at 5 Liters, represented more than

half the weight of everything.

I want a sleeping bag.

I want a tent.

But more than those things, I want to be light on my feet and to see if God would let me do this walk without them.

 

I really hate setting up and breaking down a tent.

I think most do. Floppy sticks that break and fray.

Windy battles with tarp type sheets and starting

each day with that chore. Things I learned to

loath on my walk across America.

I want to look special.

I want the attention.

This is not a walk for walking sake.

It's a walk with a powerful mission.

It does not serve my purpose to

look like a common backpacker.

So I added a little pop!

I bought a big Mexican flag to wave in the wind

behind me, strapped to the pack.

And I made a sign to carry.

El Camino de Buenas Ondas

(The Path of Good Vibes)

to let the Mexican people know, that this alien

comes in peace and to add a conversation piece.

How cool! We used peace and piece

in the same sentence.

'Maybe his journey has significance'

The thought I hoped to inspire.

The first person I talked to was Alma.

She was out walking her dogs along the Rio Cuale.

I just wanted to practice. So I told her excitedly that I was leaving Vallarta on foot to walk to Tampico on the Gulf.

People want to be helpful.

They want to leave you better than they found you.

That is in our nature. In our soul. We care.

So I asked Alma for $500 Pesos

to help me along my journey.

...

Just kidding.

What I really asked her, even though I was quite

sure, was if I was on the right path to Mascota?

 

Asking directions is an age-old way for us to connect. Something visceral and raw. We volunteer what we know because we have all been in that circumstance and can empathize. We openly guide one another. How beautiful.

The only thing I don't like about asking directions is when someone tries to give you information when they are not certain about it. That is the worst. If you don't know, please say, I don't know. It is better for us to be

unaware than believe a truth unfounded.

And I tell people that.

If you don't know, please don't try.

This information is critical to me.

To my well-being and clarity of mind.

To following the right path, not the wrong one.

I cannot afford to be at the mercy of misdirection.

I told Alma about the book and the why for my walk.

She said something interesting.

When I told her I was trying to help Americans understand that Mexico is not dangerous but beautiful and the the people are truly amazing, she referenced her own personal experience in Honduras.

Apparently when she had visited there and told people that she was Mexican, they shuttered at the thought.

Her dialogues immediately shifted to the dangers of

the Narcotraficantes in her home country.

The drug traffickers.

She found this to be painful and ironic. Painful because it was the knee jerk reaction to describing her nationality and ironic because the Hondurans would not come out

of their houses at night for fear of the violence there.

The pot calling the kettle black.

This happens to me all the time with Chicago. Chicago is one of the most awesome cities in our country. But when I tell people I am from there, they say 'what a dangerous place'. As humans we need to stop doing this, Generalizing people as bad or places as dangerous.

Just like, find something else to talk about.

I say Mexico

You say Tacos.

You say Chicago

I say Pizza.

I say Israel

You say hummus.

You say Palestine

I say Shawarma.

There we solved all the world's problems with Tacos, Pizza, Hummus and Shawarma

 

This is critical to our theme.

 

Not all Muslims are terrorists

Not all Mexicans sell drugs.

Not all rappers are black.

 

Obvious.

 

But for some reason we cannot help ourselves.

We are stereotypers. And I'm not sure why.

We cling to the small fractions of what we see

and fear-based media fuels that fire

all around the world.

Our true ascendance lies

in giving the benefit of the doubt.

Assuming that all things are good.

This is one of the things about the Bible that

I don't agree with. I don't believe we are born

as sinners. Requiring salvation.

 

How much more refreshing to assume that we all carry a brightness. Light inherently dominating our nature. This perspective brings us our chill. It raises our vibration.

I said goodbye to Alma and looked

forward to the mountains. The road,

though still in Vallarta, was inclining.

The most wonderful and magical thing that could possibly happen to me, happened some 5 minutes later.

 

The miracle and the sign I needed.

As we say in spanish, 'La Crema y La Nata'

 

I came upon a carnicería, a butcher shop, in Paso Ancho along the path of the river. I told you earlier in the text that I would make it a point to smile at all and say hello. No music in the ears. Head up. Living the present.

 

On a walk with so many wide open spaces, you want to cherish the social experiences when you can. And that is especially true for someone like me. I'm not sure if there is a word to define this characteristic, but I thrive off of interacting with others. I absorb their

energy and it drives me.

 

So there I was, smilin' and puppin'.

I looked to my left and the carnicería, a small space,

was filled with 6 or 7 people looking back at me.

 

I smiled big and said, ´Buenos Días´. Now at this point, with the backpack, the sign, the flag, it is clear I am not on a normal journey and that had caught their interest. They were curious. And I told them it was Day One walking

from Vallarta to the Gulf of Mexico.

The glory question came!

Why?!

I am writing a book about Mexico and the

kindness of the people here.

They waved me in and our space was full.

Enrique, behind the counter, immediately felt compelled to give something. I will always say yes.

It was two bags of pulverized coffee and a package of Canelitas, a popular Mexican cookie.

And there it was. The most important thing

to happen to me on the walk.

...

Kidding.

Again.

Sorry.

Feeling silly.

What Enrique said next was something that neither of us could have imagined to be so important.

Cuando llegas a San Pedro, busca un señor que

se llama, ´Seco´ y dile que te mandé.

When you get to San Pedro, look for a man

nicknamed ´Seco´and tell him that I sent you.

At the time, I didn't know to grasp the gravity. I didn't even know where San Pedro was. I didn't do a lot of planning for this trip. But he told me it might be a good place to

find a friend and stay the night.

What a ray of hope!

A positive thought to carry with me into the nothing.

I shook hands, asked names, and we took a picture. I performed a poem for them in spanish about our unity and made sure they knew to look for El Rapero Huero on Facebook. The White Boy Rapper.

We said our goodbyes and I swung my pack over my shoulders to carry on. Seco. San Pedro. Seco. San Pedro.

I suppose the theme of the next several hours was learning to walk again. Cross country walk. It had been a while. 7 years. And never like this. There was no

respite from the up. It was all up.

I had a few reminders of how little I had accomplished as my everything began to sweat and the water level lowered. Two priorities to remember. Care for your feet. And don't let your butt crack chafe. Once those things start to happen, things go from hard to 'oh shit' real fast.

 

Bicyclists tortured me.

Strong-thighed assholes.

A few stopped and respect was shared. I couldn't believe they were biking this path and they couldn't believe I was walking it. Different wirings of mental endurance and physical work. Neither easy.

I was looking for signs that I had made the right decision. The Jaguar was on my mind. There were long stretches of isolation and I felt totally unprepared for that encounter.

But instead, God drifted floating white cotton cousins and brightly painted butterflies into my bright and dusty path to make things feel right and heavenly.

I had my mind on the fullness of the journey. The day onedness of it all. What do I want? What types of thoughts should occupy my mind? Being conscious of my own mental activity and trying to hone it. Give

it correction. Eliminate worry. Stay present. Appreciate the beauty. Celebrate the accomplishment.

And my kids.

Yesy & Sochill

Dad loves you.

Inevitably the hardest element of any part of this entire journey will be being away from them. Missing moments.

I did not leave a Cinderella fairytale behind me.

Just two actual real life fairies.

There's healing to be done. For me. For my family.

But that deep dive into my personal life is destined for later pages. In this first leg, I was just training myself to drown out fear, doubt and ugly and replace it with

hope, faith and purpose.

No towns came.

4 hours in.

But I did reach a monument to the Virgin Mary at the precipice of a peak. I am not formerly religious but I found religion in the  shade and a wooden bench, while the mother of Jesus cast blessings out

across the valleys below. 

It was the heat of the day so I decided to attempt a nap.

I wanted to try and make that a custom in the 1-3pm hours if at all possible. Today it was.

I can't say I slept long, or well. I was checking for big

cats with frequency. But I cherished the rest, found new motivation and lit one of the candles

on the alter before I left.

Down the path, the sun started to fall to the west. And a sense of urgency began to rise. At what point will the next turn reveal civilization? A constant and pulsing obsession. It wasn't happening.

I suppose my fear took over at that point. There were still many hours of daylight left but the sky had that glow of pre-dusk. A golden. Not a yellow.

There was nothing to do but keep forward.

And just then, the cows and horses came.

Things owned. Maybe the owners were not too far.

And then, there it was!

San Pedro.

 

Or what I thought might be San Pedro.

Through the valley and up a hill.

Saved.

By pillars and roofs.

I climbed the last jaunt and found it to be the smallest of places. Town is not the word. But a very modern sign indicated that this was a trading post. A restaurant. A tienda de abarrotes. A general store.

It was a big space with fences of natural, light wood and a flower garden around the periphery. And hanging out in the shade were three women people.

I entered the space, dis-shoulderd my pack and approached them with a 'Buenas Tardes'. I explained

that I had walked from Vallarta and what I was doing.

We talked for about 5 minutes before I told them that someone in a butcher shop in Vallarta had told me to

look for a man named ´Seco´. The lights went on!

'Es su esposa'

That's her husband,

said Guti, the most social of the three.

And pointed across the table to an angel.

Rosalba

Upon reference to her marido, Rosalba arose, without hesitation and told me she was going to make me something to eat. 20 minutes later, I had a plate of huevos rancheros, a bowl of hot frijoles, a refreshing glass of agua de jamaica and the most wonderful homemade tortillas I could possibly imagine, laid out in front of me.

 

Boom!

There it was.

 

Before I left Vallarta I had just learned a new word in Spanish, amabilidad. Kindness. I knew it would be on my tongue and in my text but only because I would live it.

 

I am not trying to prove to myself that Mexican people are kind. I already know that. I am trying to show it through real stories. A lollipop of faith with that sweet center.

 

And here she was. My sign.

God incarnate in the form of graciousness and humility.

 

Seco arrived a few hours later after I had a chance to smell each flower in the garden and pen my emotions.

 

He was a rancher. A cowboy.

With silver teeth where it counts.

 

I told him that the Butcher had sent me and he told me to stay the night. We talked for hours. In the dusk and darkness to follow, Rosalba made us yet another

meal and we shared a cup of coffee.

 

Rosalba & Seco, whose real name is Adan, have 8 children and some of them live in the United States. The family worked together to build the restaurant, each dedicating their strengths to that unified goal.

I wish I came from a family like that.

I wish I had a family like that.

 

Rosalba was quite. And diligent.

Only once did she sit.

The rest of the time she served.

 

I truly enjoyed meeting them both and, though they see many travelers from Vallarta, they made me feel at home.

 

At one point I walked to the bathroom. In Mexico, they use an interesting indicator sometimes to show where one might go to do that private business. Water Closet. An English term in a Spanish world. But never spelled out. Always abbreviated.

Right there, meticulously and decoratively placed in stone, were the giant letters. W.C.

I don't want to tell you why that means something to me, I just want you to guess why it was another sign that I

was exactly where I needed to be. Think cheese.

At the close of the night, wrought with yawns from a day of dust and destiny, it was time to sleep. Rosalba brought out two thick cowboy style blankets and the family had a long, reclining wooden lawnchair. I laid down grinning. Outside but under a roof of comfort.

In the embrace and proximity

of new friends.

I would have accepted a waxing moon over the mountains of Jalisco, an indication of full and bright things to come. But God decided to go for the full monty. It was a pearly and perfect orb missing no corners.

Not that circles have corners.

 

The air was the exact right brisk, the crickets sang and as I laid there, I thought of all the ways that this is right.

And all the ways I was shown so.

One isn't always sure.

Day one is important. It won't always be the most intriguing or challenging or epic. But it will always be remembered. The beginning of a great and

legacy-laiden adventure.

 

As I closed my eyes, a tear formed.

A strike to the soul from the bigness of it all.

This is it.

Talk is cheap.

This is my walk.

My walk across Mexico.

X

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