I had intended on going to the Jose Vasconselos Library in Buenavista today, about a 45-minute trip from where I live via bus and commuter train. The library, a big one but not a very old one, is one place I can go to experience some of the intellectual scene like I was part of during college. But when I got there, the doors were closed and a note taped to the outside stated that due to the holidays, it would be closed until January 4th.
Not wanting to have let my hour and a half round-trip go to waste, I decided to spend some time in the mall next door which is in the same building as the train station. Not normally my thing to go shopping, I stopped at a few stores to check out the price of some items (peanut butter which I have not had since having left the States costs about $4 USD at the grocery store for the smallest one) and to find a place to stop and read the book I had brought with me. I had also planned on getting coffee since drip coffee here is rare on account of Nescafe being much cheaper.
So I found myself in the food court, walking around and looking at the different restaurants. As I walked around, I came across TacoInn, a place where they sell – you’re never going to believe this – tacos. It reminded me of my first day, and in fact my first hour in Mexico when we ate lunch in the airport at about 3 in the afternoon and I had tacos from TacoInn. In a way, it also reminded me of just how long I have been here now. When I first got here, I had a terrible time ordering and understanding the Spanish when I got that very first plate of tacos. Now, I can order with ease and even explain that, no, I don’t have 50 cents to round off the total and yes, I am sorry but you will have to make change for me. (I’ve never understood Mexicans’ aversion to counting change, but that’s not important right now).
What’s important is how much I’ve grown accustomed to the culture here. How many foods I’ve learned to like. How many things I don’t even think about being different anymore. All this because I walked past a TacoInn.
On my way home as I sat on the bus, a man got on who was selling candy. This is quite common here and often the peddlers will actually put the item they are selling in your lap in hopes that you’ll take it. But this man was different. Right away I could tell he wasn’t from around here because of his accent and as it turned out, he explained that he was from El Salvador trying to make his way to the U.S. He had been on the Bestia, the “Beast” which is a freight train that traverses Mexico from south to north and had stopped mid-way because he was in need of more money for the rest of his journey.
When I asked him how much the candy was, his response came as “lo que sea” – literally, ‘that which be.’ He didn’t care how much I gave him for the candy and it occurred to me that he was in his own time of getting used to life here, just as I had done at first. He will make the transition again if and when he enters the U.S., albeit illegally.
And so, for a short time, I could relate to this person on the bus. Though we come from vastly different places, we have shared part of the same experience. I think that’s part of how life works on this planet – we all have part of a shared experience and we all want the same things. It sounds cliché, but it’s true nonetheless. Whether you grew up eating tacos or peanut butter sandwiches, everyone deserves an equal chance.