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Rites of Passage on the Road

NAVOJOA – The foothills hang on our left forming a striped silhouette of red, to orange, to yellow, blue, darker blue of entering dusk and impending night. We’re in the desert and as we drive into the night headed north to Hermosillo we all settle into our cruise control, passing tractor trailers, and hanging in the right lane where random birds fly out from the brush and cacti. Hundreds of small bugs have lost their lives on our windshield. This has been the day of long stretches between small coastal and then desert cities: Mazatlan, Los Mochis, Navojoa, all the cities of the states of Sinola and Sonora that are often mentioned in the news.

A heavy layer of heat enters our car when we stop to get gas and there’s no letting up until now that we’ve entered the desert’s night where federales, Mexican federal police, pierce the blanket of black sky with their red lights to stop speeders or set up random checkpoints. Brad got lucky with one of them back when he was speeding around Toluca and the federales stopped him and told him that he was going well past the speed limit. “I was listening to music and spacing out,” Brad admitted and he was given a stern warning, but no ticket.

It reminded us both of an era that once was in the U.S. when the Highway Patrol would stop you and actually issue you warnings. Things have changed. I took a picture of a donkey standing by the tree where we got pulled over and just relaxed into it all. It’s easier to relax into this journey because we know what we’re up against, we get how the landscape will change underneath us and somehow that makes us feel more grounded in the way we interact with everyone along the way.

As we enter night, I text mi mama and mi abuela to tell where we are and reassure them things are OK. They are worried about our night driving because this journey they both did under such different conditions in their lives and when the autopistas didn’t exist in Mexico. In part they are right, it’s never safe to drive at night, but it’s safer to do it on Mexico’s autopistas than on Guatemala’s roads, any day. Mostly I want to tell about the white butterflies that fluttered over Highway 15 outside Mazatlan as Brad slept next to me. Hundreds of them fluttered together forming a wave with the wafts of heat coming off the land, carefree, and unbearably light compared to all of us headed wherever we were headed then and now. I saw large bats swooping in to eat their prey by the lamp posts at the tollbooths that are becoming less and less now. I wondered if they had seen similar things on their trips, omens, signs, nature’s sacred moments as we sped by toward our destination.

Every time I take this journey from Guatemala to Mexico I think of passages, beginnings and endings in our lives. When I was a child immigrating illegally to the U.S. it was the end of my life then in Guatemala and the beginning of a new life in the U.S.. All through my life I’ve made this trip and now I make it with my husband. Last year around this time we made it, beginning a new chapter in our lives that would either strengthen or weaken our relationship based on how we worked together in journey, arrival and living out our life in Guatemala.

Now we’re returning for three months to prepare for another three years in Central America. I would never have done this journey alone, nor would I have done it with just anyone. It takes trust, love and daring.

“I’m glad we’re both equally crazy,” I tell him somewhere outside Toluca. He laughs, but it’s true, these journeys some people do because they have to, not because they choose to. We have chosen it and perhaps that arises from the fact that it chose me when I was younger and it was ingrained in me as some mythos or metaphor for my life.

I stare out the window at the small towns passing by and then the dark. In the desert the stars are so bright that the darkness appears to be there just to make them shine brighter, to fall into them like an ocean of expanse.

2 thoughts on “Rites of Passage on the Road

  1. kwallek says:

    In our lifetime: we will be able to make road trips in Latin America without feeling like we are risk takers, just not yet. The unrest in Mexico will end, just as the roads have improved over time. When I was your age, no one would have dared to vacation in Guatemala, today it is becoming popular with the risk takers. Enjoy your road trip, I’m enjoying your posts.

  2. braaad says:

    My exact words to the federale: “Yo estoy escuchando a mi radio entonces yo tengo mucho distracto, senor.”

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