Down Mexico Way

... if one must be sick, it might as well be in Mexico

by Marie Salamanca

As Aeromexico flight 442 lifted off at Logan, there was snow two feet deep in Boston, but passengers were removing jackets, sweaters, and socks as we were flying south. Landing in Acapulco we were enveloped in palm breezes and sunshine as we were hustled (and that's the word for it) $25 later into a taxi which dropped us at a tropical paradise.  

The pool was a city-block long with wooden bridges crossing it and palms surrounding. Beyond the palms was the beach and the Pacific. Never having seen the Pacific before, I had to dive in. Ignoring the red warning flags I tried to swim in the undertow. The waves were way, way over my head, and it was impossible to keep head up and feet down, but I was happy, I tried the Pacific.

Next day we headed for Old Acapulco to watch the famous cliff divers who leap into the smallest area of water from 100 feet. On the top of the cliff was a small shrine where they prayed and I held my breath and prayed as they dove down and away from this cliff into the bluest water imagineable. After this they stand with a young boy, who I was hoping was not learning this craft, while he collected the pesos and dollars the tourists were putting into his hands.  

As we enjoyed the Mexican fiesta and dinner that evening, I suddenly felt chilly. Next morning, using my limited Spanish, I dragged myself to the medico who informed me I had bronchitis, an ear infection, a throat infection, and a sinus infection, and a temp of 29 degrees celsius (whatever that meant.) Two thousand pesos worth of treatment and medication later, I began to feel better.  

On Friday, which was my birthday, we flew to Mexico City. At 10,000 feet above sea level, this is not the place to be when one has bronchitis, but I loved it. It is a fascinating city. It is poor, old, not very clean, smoggy, overcrowded, and interesting. There is a mixture of European and modern architecture and construction everywhere. Sidewalks are often broken, and uneven curbs to say the least. I kept thinking of my State engineer husband and how he would be saying that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts would be sued, but I ignored it.  

The people are poor. Many, many are street vendors who sell everything from bags and hats, tamales and roasted corn, CD's and cameras while their children play among the stands. The children seem so happy. I never saw a baby in a carriage or a backpack. Both mothers and fathers carry babies everywhere. I never heard a baby or child cry. At a special ceremony during mass on Sunday, called the Presentation of El Nino, a little boy of about three ran around the altar while the priest went on with the mass and the mariachi band played the livliest church music I have ever heard.  

The names, the religion, and the language of the Mexicans is Spanish, but they are Native Americans. They have very black hair, dark skin and eyes, and they are generally short with round faces. They are far more Western Hemisphere looking than are Europeans. Their history is depicted so beautifully in the lifesize murals created by Diego Rivera which adorn the walls of the Presidential Palace in the Zocalo. The artifacts in the beautiful Museum of Archaeology tell of an ancient and proud civilization. We visited the pyramids to the sun gods of east and west. They are smaller than those in Egypt, but have steps and carvings.  

The inspiring Cathedral at Guadalupe with the tilde of Juan Diego behind bullet proof glass was the highlight of the trip. There the Virgin left her picture and it cannot be explained. It is as bright as the day it was given to convince the Bishop in the 16th century, and the Mexican people are so proud of their new Saint Juan Diego. Unfortunately, we were unable to spend as much time there as we would have liked.

On the last day we went to the place I had read about in Spanish class in the early 50's and always wanted to see. The floating gardens of Xochimilco. Although it was not the season for flowers, the colorful boats were there and even a mariachi band playing on another boat.  

Next day, back to Boston and snow and more snow. I lost my voice for a few days, but was feeling better. I really wanted to talk about Mexico and the fascinating land "South of the Border, Down Mexico way."

May 6, 2005

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