The Greatest Gift of All

Growing up, I don’t recall ever going on a “vacation.” My parent’s didn’t even drive for the longest time. They had to wait on my uncle, who owned a car, to come take us into town to purchase the necessary food and items for the work week.

I don’t even ever recall going out to eat, until I was maybe 8 or 9 years old. Apa and I would walk across town to the Sonic Drive-In to purchase hamburgers and take them back home. That was our eating out back then. We’d get home with cold food but it still tasted so good.

We didn’t do much during the year, but my parents most always made time to take us to Mexico for 2 or 3 weeks every couple of years. It would take us 24 hours on bus to get to our rancho in the Zacatecas sierra. It’s hard to believe but I never slept on the bus. I just didn’t want to miss anything. I know it was psychological but as soon as we crossed into Ciudad Juarez, I felt like I was with my people.

My Rancho
It’s a typical Mexican rancho with dirt roads, a catholic church, a couple of tienditas and nice people everywhere. As soon as we arrived, I’d jump out of the bus and run to my grandma’s house. I felt free. I felt liberated. I was home. It’s a weird feeling that a place we only visit for weeks at a time can feel like home in an instant.

The weeks that ensued can only be described as a whirlwind of adventures from the time I’d wake up to the time I’d go to bed. This was a kids dream come true. My parents would let me go out play outside all day long. I thought I was flying solo but now realize in a small rancho the entire community serves as a watchful eye and relays everything back to the parents. I mean, they already knew where I’d been and what I’d done before I even got back home.

Fun with Friends
It’s a different world in el Rancho. We had a lot of fun. We played with Hondillas(slingshots) that we made from mesquite trees, old leather shoes, and old tire tubes. We played canicas, trompos, bujillas and ran up and down the campo as we raced up the mountain.

My fondest memories are when we’d all sit around on the banqueta(cement sidewalk) by a tiendita and just joke and make fun of each other as we drank a botella de Coca Cola and ate pan blanco con Salsa Valentina. I’d look around and just think, this is the way a kid should grow up.

The Inevitable
Always in the back of my mind, however, was the gnawing truth that I’m not from here. I’m just a visitor that will go back home in a couple of weeks(sigh) back to a better life. So inevitably, we’d board the bus once again and wave goodbye to my grandmother who was always trying to hide the tears running down her cheeks. I’d try to sit by myself because I knew that when it got dark outside I’d always start to cry and didn’t want anyone to see me. Later on, when we’d go in our own truck, I’d always find an excuse to go in the truck bed(it had a camper) and I’d just cry for hours. I didn’t know why. I still don’t know. It was deeper than just missing my friends, family and freedom. I believe I wasn’t crying because I was leaving, I was crying because of where I was going.

The Greatest Gift of All
I’ve been traveling to Mexico off and on for as long as I can remember. As I got older, I began appreciating the true beauty of the people and the land. I began to appreciate my trips at a much deeper level and always come back feeling more energized and rejuvenated. I always feel that my mind is more open and I see the world with more clarity. And now that I’m a parent, I realize that my parents had given me the greatest gift of all – The Gift of Travel – a gift that I am now passing on to my kids. Que viva la tierra del Sol!

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(Pictured are my son and his friends eating lunch outside his school in 2015. He only attended for a couple of weeks.)

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Fidel is obsessed with Mexico, the enrichment of life through travel and living with no regrets.

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