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MARTIN
 
Adventures in Mexico
 

I listen to the news. I am aware of the drug wars that ravage towns along the Texas/Mexico border. And, to be totally honest, there was a little bit of fear and trepidation as I crossed the Rio Grande River. My Mexican friends are the first to tell me that it is not safe in Juarez and Matamoros. The problem is real. However, I was headed for Piedras Negras and soon found myself caught up in the most gracious and wonderful Mexican experience.

Getting into Mexico was easier than I imagined. The line wasn't very long and they didn't even ask to see my passport! (Return into the United States was a totally different matter. It took about an hour and a half to cross that river. And, yes, they did ask for my passport.) Almost as soon as luggage was dropped off at the hotel, the group of gringos I was with headed out to meet our hosts. And, when you meet up with friends in Mexico, there is always so much food involved.

Now, I never knew that it was possible to have too much Mexican food. Of course, I never grew tired of it. But, there is a possibility that I ate too much Mexican food. I was in Piedras Negras to paint a mural. I spent long hours doing just that. However, I might have spent an equal amount of time eating tortillas hot off the grill, fajitas, tamales, guacamole, salsa picante, and cactus. You get the idea.

On the first day of the mural, the project began when the orphans were still in school. It was the calm before the storm. Of course, I didn't realize it at the time. But, during that time I met Alfredo. He was in a wheel chair, and I knew he wouldn't have easy access to the mural once the kids arrived. So, we painted parts of the mural in peace and were able to communicate. I wish we could have communicated even more, but my Spanish isn't so great. And, I was right. Once thirty eager kids showed up, Alfredo didn't get to paint any more.

Alfredo had other things on his mind, however, and he communicated just fine. He lured people into an innocent game of chess. It wasn't until victim after victim fell in the slaughter that we realized we were in the presence of a chess master. Chess master, yes. Poker player, no. Alfredo couldn't keep a poker face. When he figured out the right moves on the chess game, an evil smile spread across his face. Then, you heard the giggle. It was time to prepare yourself for the end. No, you didn't need English or Spanish to communicate with Alfredo. Everyone knew when they were going to lose.

I stayed busy with the mural and avoided the massacre for as long as possible. But, when painting ended for day one, it was quickly invited to the slaughter. I hadn't played in at least a decade and never remembered winning very much. In the beginning, the merciful Alfredo showed me a couple of tips to explain the game. That all stopped when I captured his queen. By some miracle, and I still don't know how, I went on to win the game. I was the only non-slaughtered opponent the entire time in Mexico. Of course, I never let Alfredo forget that. And, I never played him again because I was determined to go out a winner.

In a much less competitive game of dominoes, everyone eventually had a turn at winning and losing. At one point, I asked, "¿Cómo se dice 'loser' en español?" (How do you say "loser" in Spanish?" Much to everyone's surprise (and delight), Alfredo understood that question. He plopped an "L" on his forehead.

So, there was plenty of paint, friendship, fun and food in Mexico. And yes, I now think it is possible to have too much Mexican food. I know when I crossed the border back into the United States, this gringo was heavier than he was upon arrival in Mexico.

 
 
How do you say "loser" in Spanish? Scroll over.
MARTIN
Copyright 2011 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.