Around 80 years ago, my grandmother Tomasa Cruz traveled from Mexico to the United States, and never returned to her home country again. Her eleven children were raised in the small towns of Kennedy and Melrose, Minnesota, representing the small amount of Mexican Americans in the area. The youngest of the eleven became my mother, Traci, who kept the heart of her late mother Tomasa alive through her stories and cultural practices.
Since I was a little girl, I have grown more and more eager to explore the country where my grandma came from. I felt drawn to Mexico; I wanted to speak the language, meet the people, and appreciate the beauty underneath its mixed reputation.
Once I turned old enough to work, I submitted my application to a Mexican restaurant in my hometown of Winona, Minnesota. I worked alongside immigrants with such vibrant stories, contagious laughter, and a strong work ethic. In 2018 I started working at a different restaurant, El Patron Mexican Grill and Cantina, and that is where I found a forever family.
Fast forward to today, and I still make the effort to visit my favorite restaurant, welcomed with open arms and the scent of delicious margaritas and fajitas. My best friends and I received invites to our old manager’s wedding this year, on 11/11. We were ecstatic, and planned the trip without hesitation. It would be my first time visiting Mexico, and leaving this country in general. I posed for my passport picture with a grin ear-to-ear, ready to embark the city of Puerto Vallarta.
My friends, wearing matching t-shirts designed by yours truly, zoomed through TSA. Myself, on the other hand, had to wait for my full-body pat down. Once confirmed innocent, we drank a few margaritas and hopped on our flight. Once we arrived and got through customs, we were on our way to our luxurious hotel for the fiesta to begin.
As I watched through the window of our Uber driver’s car, I saw a sea of colorful buildings, lights, sculptures, and many different faces. I saw skinny street dogs, people standing on top of cars, loads of construction, and some of the most motorcycles I’ve ever seen – and I went to Daytona Beach, Florida during Bike Week.
Once we got dropped off at our hotels, our faces matched that of a sad street puppy as we were stuck, lost with matching tourist shirts and my hot pink luggage trailing behind me. A friendly man helped us confused gringas to our hotel, and we made it to our room, huffing and puffing with our heavy luggages to the third floor. Not an elevator in sight.
Our room had three different rooms, and all four of us had a bed to ourselves. The following morning, we indulged in the hotel breakfast. I ordered the chilaquiles, fried corn tortillas in salsa verde with chorizo eggs. They seemed to be a fan favorite the rest of the trip, and their coffee was one of the best cups I’ve ever had. We went straight to the ocean and swam like mermaids in the warm water. It was perfect – until our friend Libby got stung by a jellyfish. Turns out, peeing on a jellyfish sting is only a myth. Libby’s ankle, though wounded, felt better after a nice soak in the hotel pool. We didn’t attempt to go back into the ocean after that experience.
The hotel pool had a swim up bar, and we got to soak up the sun while soaking in margaritas. Not to mention, the bride and groom were a perfect pair and everyone’s families were having a blast by the water. We had a sweet rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding, and the next day topped the trip by far.
My friends and I made it to the ceremony, and it was as perfect as a movie scene. It was right by the ocean, seagulls were flying by and it captured the essence of peace. There was a slight rainbow in the distance, and soothing music starring a talented cello player to bring us all to tears. The bride looked stunning, and our groom shed a few tears just from the sight of her. Even without understanding any words, the emotions became our translator, and all four of us were filled to the brim with love and teary snot.
Following the I-do’s, a mariachi band led us all into the dinner portion. We sipped from giant coconuts and drank bottomless mojitos. Then, we indulged in a three-course meal, with a fancy waiting staff and numerous kinds of forks. I even flirted with our server and got him to salsa with me later on.
I nearly broke my toes from how much I danced all night, cumbias, salsas, and the cha-cha. Even the children were dancing until one in the morning, which is even past my bedtime. It was a perfect day, and I didn’t want to say goodbye to this amazing place.
The next day, we recovered with a delicious breakfast and made the hike back toward Colorado, and then Minnesota with a bit of shopping along the way, of course. Now, as I’m plopped in a chair in Minnesota, facing reality, I wish I could turn back the clock and sit at the beach with a tequila sunrise in hand. However, I am confident that I’ll revisit this country again, and make more of an effort to explore more of all the unique areas. I will never forget my perfect trip to Mexico, and wish the beautiful couple a lifetime of love, happiness, and a lot of dancing.
Write to Mercedes Kauphusman at firstname.lastname@example.org
Header Photo: Outside of the hotel in Puerto Vallarta was a perfect view of the Pacific Ocean. The pictured beach above was also where the wedding ceremony and reception took place. (Mercedes Kauphusman/The Reporter)