I spend most of my time in Mexico in towns no one ever goes to much less ever heard of. No beaches, no groovy bars serving sugary margaritas, no tourists. Mostly farming communities full of the grandest folks. Not much different than some small town in the US midwest farming belt.
I’m in Huatabampo now. Where? A few kilometers south of Navojoa. Where? 50 kms south of Obregon. Where? a few hours south of Hermosillo, not that that’s going to ring a bell either.
It’s all part of the huge farming belt that is a sloping plains area on the west side of the Sierra Madres, draining out to the Sea of Cortez. Before irrigation, the Sonoran Desert stopped the movement of agriculture from northern Mexico into the US southwest for 1000s of years. The same rough desert that now kills the poor Mexicans as they walk north for days hoping for work stopped the cultivation of beans and corn from moving north for millennia. Read Guns, Germs, and Steel . This desert stopped human cultural development in it’s tracks and now it is a huge cornucopia full of the produce most of us eat everyday.
I’m certainly the only white guy in town, not that that means anything at all to the local folks. The town is full of smiles and surrounded by field after field of everything from the Earthbound lettuce you buy at your local grocer to the beans that Mexico thrive on. I’m just another guy here, although one who speaks lousy Spanish and makes up for it by bringing the cultivation of a grain back to this area that was eradicated by vicious ignorance 500 years ago. Folks are happy to see me and understand the mission I’m on better than I do.
I spend my days meeting with salt of the earth farmers and touring lush organic fields and my evenings strolling the streets and eating great carne asada tacos from barbecue stands set under huge jacaranda trees. The street food in these small towns is wonderful. A town like Huatabampo doesn’t have any real sort of dinner restaurant that an anglo would recognize, but there is certainly great stuff to eat.
Chia seems to help in that respect. The different stuff in the water effects our guts just like our water in the US effects the guts of travelers there. We want to believe that water in countries like Mexico is bad, but it’s not, just different than ours. I add chia to my diet all the time and certainly add extra when I travel. It helps. When a gracious farmer offers me a glass of ice water after roaming in a hot field all morning, it would be an insult to refuse it. So I drink with him and thank chia for helping my stomach recover quickly.
I use “anglo” because gringo has a certain negative vibe. Gringos tend to be dumb and clumsy about moving in the latin american world. They want what they’re familiar with and aren’t too flexible. They tend to be demanding and judgmental about not getting their check quickly. It’s someone else’s fault that they can’t make themselves understood. An anglo is hopefully someone who is ready to flex and learn something new about the food, the people, and the culture he find himself in. Maybe a little more gracious about life in general. The US culture seems to be dumbing down by the minute. A bit of humility would do us well. Plus gringo seems to be specific to US travelers and anglo accepts that it ain’t all about us.
I admit though that I link up to a VPN network that makes the internet world think I’m in Los Angeles and allows me to watch Netflix movies on my laptop at night. It feels like forbidden fruit. I devour HBO series like an addiction and I play music through Pandora as I shave in the morning. I do steer clear of the news though. It’s never good and never useful. Never has been. Morning Edition on NPR is an addiction I’m happy to live without. I wish I had the strength to turn it off in the US, but here news is easy to avoid and it makes life oh so much simpler to understand.
Mexico is so full of wonderful people it’s a shame that so much of what others know is nothing but the bad stuff. Yes, there are gruesome things happening at times, but that’s not much different than the horrors that happen north of the border. In a way the violence in Mexico is not so random as ours and so not so scary.
There is certainly no violence here in Huatabampo. I doubt there has been a murder here in decades. If there ever was one, my bet is that it was due to love, not the crazy randomness of a culture that seems to have lost it’s way.
That said, I’ll be off to Culiacan soon, the hometown of the Sinaloa Cartel and also the home of two brothers with a big organic farm and a desire to bring chia back into the Mexican way of life. Well worth the trip for me.
Be well and enjoy it.