My visit across the border

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 mercedes.kauphusman@mnsu.edu

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)

One thought on “My visit across the border

  • danielsebold

    Did I ever tell you about the time I entered Mexico illegally back in the eighties by swimming across the Rio Grande down in Mission, Texas? I hopped around on the other side in the matorrales, then swam back into Texas. I drove into Mexico that year in my FOD, my inherited-from-grandma, broken down 67 Oldsmobile with the letters F-O-D written on my green Iowa “A Place To Grow” plates. I was listening to my Mussorsky tapes, and just as The Great Gates Of Kiev opened and the melody rose to a sublime crescendo, my muffler fell off and landed on I 35 just north of Laredo. It looked like some bison skull lying on the Interstate. But I made it across the border and through Immigration with my snorting engine.
    As my engine roared across the desert south of Nuevo Laredo, the strange contorting, silhouetted peaks of the Sierra Madre Orientales loomed ahead above the distant desert city of Monterey. Then steam started pouring out of my hood and I had to pull up lame next to the highway. There I was sitting in the desert in my broken down old FOD. Tourists would ask me if I needed help, and I stupidly said “”No,”” and they would drive on until the Green Angels, the Mexican tourist police pulled up in a strangely green and white pick-up truck and offered to help by installing a water hose for free.
    I thanked them as they refused my tip, and I was off, having to stop every twenty miles to put water in my leaky radiator. I made it up into the mountains finally to Saltillo where back in the seventies they had made the final scenes of the movie, the Wild Bunch. I slept there in my car next to the highway in the mountains. Some Mexicans pulled up by the side of the road, so I got out to greet them, but they became frightened of the strange gringo and drove off. then the next morning went on and crossed the Tropic of Cancer and rolled on down towards Zacatecas.
    I was on the road to Guadalajara and suddenly found myself driving through verdant karstic mountains with tall red grass growing along the highway. I eventually drove all the way across the country and down through the jungles of Chiapas and into Guatemala. I had my favorite novel with me: Hombres De Maiz by the Nobel Prize winning novelist, Miguel Angel Asturias, who, like his soul mate, also a Nobel prize winner, Gabrielle Garcia Marquez from Colombia–both of these men wrote about the exact same theme: the infamous United Fruit Company and their enslavement of the native population, and their onion peeling machine gun executions of collapsing crowds of laborers rebelling against slavery.
    Well, I don’t wish to preach. Perhaps the American, John Steinbeck wrote the finest novel about the history of Mexican slave labor, the novel Viva Zapata and a subsequent movie. In Spanish the novels of Carlos Fuentes and Octavio Paz’s The Labyrinth Of Solitude come to mind, and the seventeenth century Roman Catholic nun and feminist poet and scientist, Sor Juana Inez De La Cruz: Hombres Necios.
    Did you know that back ten years ago I traveled all the way across Mexico to the Guatemalan border and came to the sudden realization as I approached the border that I had forgotten to stamp into the country? I had reached the Usumacinta River on the Mexico/Guatemala border and I said to the Immigration police: “Disculpame por favor, yo olvidae” (Excuse me, I forgot to punch in), and there was no problem. They let me into the boat and I crossed into Guatemala.
    Daniel Sebold, English/Spanish alumnus living in rural Cambodia


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