Mexican Grace is new regular feature column inspired by the September 15th 2019 Open Circle. El Ojo is looking for anecdotes that relate the many encounters, whether initiated by expats or locals, that exemplify the special manifestations of mutual giving and receiving that define the Mexican Grace that brought us to this unique paradise and that keep us here.
By David Bryen
The context for this moment of Mexican Grace occurred shortly after we arrived to live in Ajijic in 2010. My new neighbor asked; “Do want to ride to Copper Canyon with another motorcyclist friend of mine and I?” Visions of camping on the edge of the splendid canyon at sunset overcame my sensibility and I agreed immediately to the trip. Bad mistake!
However, by the third day following an errant hand drawn map, riding on the desolate, cliff hanging dirt back roads, through horrible conditions, rain, mud, many times crashing on what were barely roads, we were lost, tired and scared to death. I crashed my motorcycle on a particularly steep and rutted boulder strewn section. Pinned under my broken motorcycle I realized I had broken my ribs.
My resources to continue exhausted. I was hoping to hitch a ride and after waiting an hour, we heard a truck struggling up the steep, rutted and boulder strewn incline. A young man, with seven Mexicans jammed into the twin cab of his Ford Lobo jumped out of his truck and asked us if we needed help. He agreed to haul me and my wounded bike to Morales, many hours away. We loaded my motorcycle into the pickup bed, I said good bye to my two motorcyclist friends and I crammed my body onto the center console of the pickup.
After driving an hour or more, we descended another steep downhill, crossed another washout, and bounced his 4 x 4 pickup back up the other side. Enrique stopped his truck and shutoff the engine. A surge of panic shot through me when he demanded that I step out of the truck.
Defenseless and with my jack-hammering heart pounding in fear, I slowly extricated myself as the searing hot icicles of pain shot from my side. The hackles on the back of my neck jumped to attention as he walked me over to the edge of the cliff!
Was this the place where they would push me off the cliff, steal my bike, and leave me to die? He pointed to a demolished truck 750 feet below that had rolled off the road. He lifted his eyebrows: “Muy peligroso.” This was the second truck I’d seen today that had plunged off the edge of these cliff hanging roads. “Comprendo,” I nodded. Of course I understood the danger. In my imagination I’d tumbled down one of these steep cliffs a hundred times.
He then turned to his right, looked out over the view, and spread out his arms in a grand gesture of worship. Stretched before us was a particularly beautiful valley. We all stood rapt in silence, basking in the splendor of this view filled with verdant green V-shaped canyons and ridges that seemed symmetrically stacked as far as we could see. Reverently, with tears in his eyes, he said: “Es muy bonita, muy, muy bonita.”
I was stunned! Their wonder in the face of nature’s beauty was identical to mine and they swelled in pride that this dirty, mud-caked, wounded white guy swooned with them at the beauty below. We belonged to the same misty-eyed tribe!
After returning to the cab, I thought what a waste fear is! When I imagined that they were going to push me over the cliff, my body immediately went into adrenalin-shrieking trauma. However, Enrique simply wanted to share the beauty of his land with me!
I wanted relief from the searing pain that ripped through my body every time the truck rolled from side to side. I had a crick in my neck from being crammed sideways against the roof of the truck and I was falling deeper into shock. All I wanted to do was sleep.
Enrique stopped at a small farm an hour later. A well-kept house with a modest yard was up to my right, and a barn with some horses, goats, and chickens to the left. I was struck by the cleanliness of this place—no trash, an actual gate, and no auto carcasses rotting on the property. Several eager-eyed children ran up to the truck to see who had stopped by. Enrique got out and talked briefly with the farmer who went to the barn and returned with a 20-foot section of rope.
The motorcycle had worked loose and they needed another rope to secure it. One of the guys crawled under the truck to find a better place to tie it off. They rearranged the stuff in the bed and adjusted all the straps and ropes. The care for my bike inspired me to reach into my tank bag and offer my last Snickers bar to the children riding in the back seat.
The bike was now secure to travel again. Just before we pulled away, the matron of the house, wearing a long skirt and immaculate white blouse, her hair pulled back with a colorful barrette, walked towards us. She looked softly into my eyes, wrapped her warm brown hands around mine, and offered two pills that she had taken out of their wrapping. The glass of water she offered was crystal clear and she indicated that these pills would help with the pain.
I remembered the mantra drilled into us ever since we came to Mexico, DON’T DRINK THE WATER! I imagined the horror stories of Montezuma’s Revenge, dysentery, and the dreaded parasites and wondered how could I manage the pain in my ribs if I began to violently vomit.
Caught again between an inner voice that said you will suffer if you drink this and the genuineness of this Señora’s hospitality, the kindness of her eyes won out and I guzzled the entire glass of water, savoring its mountain-spring freshness like a parched man in the desert. She tucked six extra pills into my pocket. In just a few minutes the pain tablets kicked in, and for the first time in hours I began to feel relief. I don’t know when I’d ever experienced such grace.