Travel for me is often on a lark. That is to say, I plan for quite some time to go, but I rarely plan where or with whom. It’s typically a need for me, to travel. I am nomadic in nature. I thrive in movement. That said, like most, if I’m paying rent, and working, and living life, I can’t often afford to live and travel. I think a lot of people find themselves this way. That said, when I travel I tend to uproot. That means months of planning. Why am I traveling? What is the need? What do I do with my stuff? How much money do I reasonably need to save? It’s typically a 6 months process and by the time I go I’ve generally sorted out my purpose.
Having a purpose in travel is key. I didn’t realize this until I was 27, and walking the Camino de Santiago through Spain. We had something to do, a goal to accomplish. Travel for the sake of vacation is nice, annnnd ultimately boring, and usually expensive as you are often paying for distractions (attractions?). Considering I believe that travel for less than 3 weeks is somewhat pointless (in truly decompressing and understanding the place you are in for itself) ya do tend to find there’s only so much time to safely do nothing before it feels… uncomfortable.
When it came together that I was going to Mexico for a month I had a rush of mixed feelings. Nothing to do with being in a Central American country for a month. No, Central America is great. My hands down favorite thing about Mexico is the complete lack of body shaming. It’s just not a conversation. Adds don’t exist on how to be better. Women and men are all sizes, and shapes, and it’s just normal. People like to eat. So what? In a month I was cat called once. I certainly received compliments, but they weren’t uncomfortable, or sleazy, or made me feel in danger because of what I was wearing. They were the sounds a person makes when they see something exotic. A tall, white, tattooed, mohawked woman is still exotic to Mexicans… and most people. No. Body. Shaming.
Central America, Mexico, is great. People are nice, shit is mostly safe (outside of the cartels), cops don’t really care about you unless you are making a ruckus, and everything is cheap, delicious, and beautiful. Mexico is hot and so time moves differently there. Everything is 30 minutes, to 2 hours slower, depending. It’s not that anyone is lazy, it is just that there is no pressure to rush. What can’t be done today can be done tomorrow. Time is a social construct after all. Whose in a hurry?
Americans have an incredibly hard time with this. We are slaves to capitalism, and we forget that. We look at other cultures and say they are lazy. They look at us and think we are mad for being so busy. Honestly, I think they are right. We try too hard, too much, all the time, and don’t enjoy the present enough. But I digress…
When I realized I was going to spend a month in Mexico what bothered me was the fear of seeing The Caravan, of seeing poverty, of seeing detention centers. I was afraid of seeing children in cages. This, this is media at work. This is news.
Of course, where I was staying was too south for that sort of thing. The reality is that yes, there is some poverty, but less than in California, and most of that is injured, too old, or mothers. There’s a solid hustle of selling stuff to tourists, wherever they are. People are resourceful. It’s also not expensive. It’s also great weather. It’s also a community. What poverty I saw was purposefully on display in tourist areas for the day light hours. At night everyone was safely tucked in bed. Clean places. From Puerto Vallarta to Mazatlan, clean places.
But so, The Caravan, I ask the locals. Thoughts?
Politics are a strange thing. As it turns out, The Caravan is a conversation piece largely between Nicaragua and Guatemala. It has a great deal to do with drug trafficking, and the cartels. It’s people fleeing for their lives, because the local governments have tried to build a siphon on drugs coming into their countries, and the cartels aren’t responding well. That’s the basic flavor of the issue. That, and Nicaragua is in the middle of a war… sort of. It’s all a lot of cartels versus corrupt government. It’s all about drugs. Ain’t it always?
But so, all those countries, the places themselves are mostly fine. It’s just there’s no work, no tourism, exports, and land creating exports, have been seized, and people have been displaced. Where do you go? Sure, America has literally thousands of kilometers of empty land, and so does Mexico. Sure, LA is already packed, and so is Mexico city. There aren’t a ton of options. You don’t want to overwhelm a small town. You’ve also just lost all your savings. You need to go make money. America. Land of opportunity. It’s a logical choice. If you can get out of LA, and move north, there might be work. That wont be true in Guadalajara, or Mexico City. It’s that, or go south and starve at the Panama Canal. Try maybe to get to Columbia, where the drug issue is worse, but there’s more employment. That’s a young mans game. Not a family choice, really.
There we are driving North. Puerto Vallarta to Mazatlan (6 hours). Mazatlan to Guaymas (8 hours). Guaymas to Mexicali (8 hours). No where do I see this Caravan. In fact, all I do see is protesting at the toll roads. Ya gotta take the toll roads. They are much better maintained, meaning maintained at all. Ya also get a little insurance receipt when you pay the toll for that road. Protestors are complaining that it’s unconstitutional to charge a fee for cross country transit, when there are no other options available. That is to say, the government isn’t using taxes to pay to repair public roads. The only roads to take are tolls, and the prices are, to locals, exorbitant. Honestly, for the translation of what things cost, it’s true. From Puerto Vallarta to Mexicali, 21 hour drive, we probably paid $100 USD in tolls. When you make less than $20 USD a day as a Mexican worker that is an impediment.
The second thing I noticed was the Federali. We crossed many states. Did you know Mexico has 41 states? At every state crossing we had to meet the military, have them search our car, and ask where we were coming from and going to. I’ve never had to do that outside an international boarder. These are state boarders. The military is being used in a local cops fashion. Exerting their presence. It’s honestly puts the American Police State to shame. They claim it’s for the safety of people, to stop drug trafficking. Maybe it is. More likely it’s a nice way to detain people.
This brings us to detainment. I never saw detainment stations. Not like the news shows. Not in Mexicali, which as a city has it’s own serious problems. Not anywhere. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t see people being detained. At these state boarder crossings there were shaded holding pins with dozens of people, especially north bound. Buses and trucks were being checked constantly. And so here it is. It’s not just the American Government detaining people. It’s the Mexican Government too.
Of course I didn’t see detention centers. I’m not supposed too. I’m a tourist on a toll road. But there’s this idea that America and Mexico are against each other because of this whole Wall business. That, is a great piece of misdirection. American has one of the greatest drug problems in the world. Mexico has one of the the most lax policies on drugs in the world. Scheduled drugs in American are over the counter drugs in Mexico. It’s been that way forever. Anyone paying attention to drug films knows that the CIA has been in cahoots in different methods with Central and South Americas drug rings forever. Of course Americans wants to visit Mexico. Of course it helps the American Police State to allow drugs into the country from Central and South America. Of course no one is going to build a wall or shut down that border over ‘unregistered’ workers; not when the drug racket is covering high government officials paychecks, and giving them police power.
The thing is, Americans are easily manipulated, and Americans don’t care. That Fox New piece about the 3 Mexican Countries? That’s painfully accurate. Americans are exactly like this. It’s unimaginable to Americans that Mexico and America could be in cahoots. It’s unimaginable that anything south of the boarder isn’t Mexico.
So there we are, diving through Guaymas, and there’s this statute of this native man with a head dress with antlers, and maracas, and it’s huge, and in the middle of no where, and I’m all, what is THAT!?
One of the ingenious tribes of the area are called The Yaqui. They settled largely in a territory by the Yaqui River in the state of Sonora. As far as tribes go, pretty chill. When the Spanish came into Mexico looking for gold in the 1600’s the Yaqui were one of the last tribes be harassed because their land didn’t hold any precious stone or ore. For that reason, they did a particularly good job of fighting for independence. Like most tribes in North America their story is full of gorilla warfare, imposed slavery, and genocide. The big kicker that makes them great today is that they received land grants in restitution, and still today work to remain independent of government rule as much as possible. My kind of people.
What really got me about them was their concept of their world; their world view. See, they believe that there are nine planes, or worlds, or places, called aniam which overlap. A flower world (yo ania), an enchanted world (tenku ania), a dream world (tuka ania), a night world (huya ania), a wilderness world (nao ania), an upside-down – aka corncob world (kawi ania), mountain world (vawe ania), under water world (teeka ania), and world from the sky up through the universe. The figure of the man with antlers is a deer deity, often related in tying three of them together, that combination on which we mostly live on: wilderness, flowers and sea.
I love this concept because it is so incredibly accurate to my world view. What, and how I perceive reality, what I often call The Veils, is very much the same thing. Finding ancient cultures I’ve never heard of who see the way I see… that level of coincidence and connectivity; this is how I know that the people of the world are One People.
Every time we put up walls, judge others, believe rumors, we pretend like we aren’t One People. That’s just not true. This world view is very consistent with the pace of life in Mexico. Yes, it is a Catholic country, but under that this view, this mana, this feeling, exists throughout Mexico. It is a belief in the world, in people, and in nature. It is an ease in knowing that underneath the bullshit of bureaucracy and politics, that there is something more. It keeps the people moving. It keeps them trying.
The city of Mexicali is like if you took a strip mall, a construction area, and an industrial zone, and put them through a transporter, and it failed. It’s a polluted place, and houses sit across the street from the wall. The wall is their view. One of my brothers once asked me why I would live in Oakland, why I would subject myself to that kind of stress and violence? Honestly, Oakland is paradise compared to Mexicali. Watching school children cross the boarder for school in the morning because they have American Citizenship, and their parents don’t… that is stress and violence. That’s injustice served from two sides.
The bottom line is that my fears were not unjustified, but they were ultimately incorrect. I did not understand the nature of The Wall or the governments or the people. I saw the crashing headlines, and I let fear creep in. This is not surprising, but when driving through the desert land where the Mexican American War was fought, and seeing the roofless pueblos, and little shrines to the fallen dead of yesteryear, you come to realize that politically things have been blood soaked and painful since 1520. It began with Spain, and blood and gold, and it hasn’t much changed. It’s just loud and public now. It’s just fear mongering a greater population.
I’m not saying the news is lying about detention centers and family separation. This shit is horrible. I’m saying this has been happening for a long long time, and you are only becoming aware of it now, thanks to media. What you are becoming aware of is one case scenario of a million, which you’ve been purposefully shown to make you shy away, to make you not want look deeper. There are still a million other pieces to this complicated puzzle, and most of them aren’t bad, or aren’t what you think, or are even really good. Because you’ve been shown the worse case scenario you simply assume you know what’s going on and tune out, because it hurts too bad think about. The reality isn’t like that. It doesn’t hurt, not in the way the news makes you think. It’s call misdirection; sensationalism. It’s being done to make you bury your head in the sand.
If you have the chance to travel to Mexico, really travel, do so. It’s beautiful, and calm, and safe. It’s not scary or dirty. It will not hurt you. Your children will be fine, and happy, and safe. It will inspire you to the beauty of a people. It will make you question why people would want to leave Mexico. It will make you question if you should trade places with them. The grass is always greener on the other side.
I would take no body shaming, relaxed schedule, no violence, and taco’s, over get thin quick diets, constant work stress, helicopters, and fast food any day.