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Border Town

For the past few days, I’ve been incredibly… disappointed. Frustrated. At times, even downright angry. My anxiety is on super high alert. I started off a livestream tonight physically shaking with nerves. I am crushed that something I thought was going to be good turned out not so good. That things I said were chopped up, or made more dramatic.

But I’m trying to breathe. Trying to breathe so that I can talk to others. Trying to breathe because this is not the first time my words have been used in a way that I didn’t intend, and I’m sure it won’t be the last, and that frightensfrustrates me.

So instead of ranting here, I’ll go another route for the evening. (Or early morning. It’s 6:30am and I can’t sleep.) I’ll tell you all a real life story from when I was 13.

I always wanted to go to Mexico. When I was much younger, I thought it would be beautiful, with amazing food and lively people. After all, I was a Tex-Mex girl and when we got together with my extended family, the Spanish flew easily from their mouths, the Tejano music was loud, and the food was incredible.

When my parents suggested that we take a little side trip to Mexico when I was 13, I was elated! Finally I would get to see how the “real Mexicans” did things. Maybe I would even meet someone who would become a pen pal! (This was the late 80s, we didn’t have email yet. I was also fairly naive because I didn’t speak a word of Spanish so I’m not sure how I expected to get a pen pal.)

Imagine my surprise when we ended up in Piedras Negras, a border town on the other side of Eagle Pass, Texas. It not at all the fun, lively place that I had imagined all of Mexico to be. The music was different. The kids were begging in the streets or trying to sell gum. My mom wouldn’t let me drink any water other than bottled by the time we had gotten even near the border. The Spanish was different, not the Tex-Mex Spanglish I was used to. It felt wrong, and a bit dirty. That day, I also learned the chasm between being a Tex-Mex girl who was brought up in a white suburban world and being one of those border town, gum selling Mexican girls was incredibly wide.

But the thing is, we didn’t spend a lot of time there. We simply wandered around some shops, my parents bought me a doll and some Mexican candy, and we left after a couple of hours. I didn’t get to see much of anything or talk to the girls who were in fluffy dresses and trying to sell me some gum. We didn’t eat anything because my mom was afraid I might get sick. I didn’t get to really know anything about Mexico or its people. I just saw what I saw and let that be my lasting impression of the place I had always wanted to go.

And you know what? That’s fine. Sometimes you don’t really get a place. You don’t understand the inner workings of it because you don’t live there and aren’t immersed in it. It’s not your home and that’s just how it is. You end up thinking of it however you want.

But I haven’t been back to Mexico since. Once in a while, people ask me if I have been and to tell them what I think about it when I tell them that I have been. And I tell them that I don’t feel qualified to tell them anything, because I really didn’t experience it very well.

Maybe one day I’ll visit again. I’ll explore, I’ll immerse myself in its culture, I’ll discover both the good and bad parts of wherever it is I go.

Maybe then I’ll feel like I have the right to actually talk about it.