My father is a journalist for the Houston Chronicle. We lived in the valley because my father was the head of the Valley Bureau of the Houston Chronicle, which meant he was in charge of writing stories about the border and immigration and gang violence, etc. This also meant that he dealt with Mexico and its citizens a lot. This included interviews in poor villages in Chihuahua, trips to see whalewatchers, etc. One of his trips was to a secluded village on top of a mountain in Mexico, and he brought the whole family along and made it a vacation.
My memories aren’t all intact from that period of time, but some things are extremely vivid. I remember the 5 of us driving around in our Ford minivan through the Mexican jungle, and seeing some of the most beautiful scenery I’d ever witnessed. Harlingen and the Rio Grande Valley are relatively flat, but when you’re on a mountain road you can see for miles, through rainforests and rivers and valleys covered in mist. I remember my mother teaching me for the first time what a mother-in-law’s-tongue was, and then explaining to me why the idea of mother-in-law’s being evil was a culturally accepted norm. I also remember just how much wildlife there was, everywhere I looked. Monkeys and other furry animals and brightly colored birds like nothing I’d ever seen.
After a while of travelling I remember that we stayed in a fairly nice hotel in the mountains. The roof was made of tin and the windows were very large. The trees were all full of juicy mangos and papayas. The restaurant was amazing, but I can’t remember why. That night, there was a thunderstorm and the extreme winds were blowing all the papayas and mangos off the trees and onto the tin roof of our cottage. Every single fruit sounded like a gunshot on our roof, and I remember staying up very late either terrified or annoyed. My sisters and I jokingly named it “The Night of the Falling Mangos.” In the morning, the streets of the mountain town were littered with broken open fruits and there were monkeys everywhere eating them up. By the end of the day, the fruits had rotted and the whole town stunk to high heaven.
We ended our trip in the mountain village, and the only image that remains in my head is of the first seconds when we saw the place appear. It was just a little farming village, but it looked absolutely beautiful. The greenest grass, simple wooden structures, cows and llamas and goats. The rest of the trip is all a haze to me, besides my memories of the altitude making my throat hurt, and the brakes on the car almost dying because we had to go so far downhill so slowly and carefully. All in all it was an amazing trip, and it was the first time I ever fell in love with mountains. It’s too bad that Mexico is currently too dangerous to safely travel through, because there is some gorgeous scenery and some amazing places to see.