Mexico

First night in Guatemala and way way to go (Drive Day 40 minus 14 years)

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We pick a mountain crossing into Guatemala because the guide books call it more laid back than the search-and-frisk frenzy of more coastal border stops. It is so laid back I can’t tell where the immigration officers are and Wipeout and I set out on foot to find someone to officially stamp our passports and carnet while Gary waits for our house on wheels to be fumigated. In a small building stacked with chicken crates waiting to cross into Mexico (run chickens, run!) the guard points to Wipeout. I open the file with her visa, filled in with today’s date, and hand it to him. Which he reads, upside down.

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Zaculeu ruins, Guatemalan highlands: photo by Gary Geboy

We won’t make Huehuetenango by nightfall so we boondock at the Zaculeu ruins, once the capitol of the Mam Mayan people. Who, according to legend, had to eat each other to survive a siege by Spanish conquistadores. To spite the victorious Spanish, we heat up a delicious dinner of leftovers from the San Cristobal markets: avocado and tomato salad for starters, then a one-pot masterpiece of rice, shrimp and squash – so there.

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Map by Gary Geboy

Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom of the landing page on my teresabrucebooks.com website or here or here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa.

 

Mountain mermaids (Drive Day 39 minus 14 years)

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San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico

It is our last day in Chiapas. I’ve now witnessed candled egg massages and chicken blessings, encountered angry machete mobs and listened to drum circle dredheads under exploding fireworks but somehow this 16th century carving throws me. As readers of my first memoir know, I’m secretly a mermaid. I love finding a sister in stone, but why did the Spaniards create her so high in the mountains, literally a fish(ish) out of water? They must have felt as out of place among the native cultures as I do.

Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom of the landing page on my teresabrucebooks.com website or here or here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa.

Rosa of Zinacantán (Drive Day 38 minus 14 days)

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San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico: photo by Gary Geboy

Rosa speaks Tzotzil to the giggling girlfriend sitting next to her in the outdoor market but Spanish to tourists, like me. And she drives a hard bargain for the shawls she weaves after school, adding 10% to the total for Gary to take photos. She’s not shy and obviously smart but when I ask her what she wants to be when she grows up the question baffles her. “All I want is for people to buy my things,” she says.

Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom of the landing page on my teresabrucebooks.com website or here or here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa.

Not your typical Sunday service (Drive Day 37 minus 14 years)

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photo by Gary Geboy

No cameras are allowed so I concentrate on my other four senses to commit this place to memory. The smell of pine straw hits first, when my eyes adjust to the darkness inside the San Juan de Chamula church. Then I get a whiff of wax, which makes sense when worshippers drip it onto the tiled floor to serve as a molten base for rings of candles. Women fan out what look like black fur skirts and gracefully sit in the center of the flickering rings. It’s the perfect position for grabbing live chickens by their scrawny necks and dangling beaks inches from the heads of sleeping infants. Others pass whole eggs through the candle flames and give themselves gentle massages with the warmed shells. Men in thick wool vests strum guitars and burn torches of incense, streamers fluttering from their black hats.  It’s all watched over by traditional Catholic saints in glassed-off window alcoves, and suddenly, a busload of European tourists.

Their presence feels invasive so we slip out the back entrance. Our campground is about two hours away by foot. The Central American Handbook strongly advises against hiking through Zapatista-held villages, but the only roadblock we encounter is this group of kids demanding to be photographed: for cash.

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San Juan de Chamula, Mexico: photo by Gary Geboy

Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom of the landing page on my teresabrucebooks.com website or here or here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa.

 

Standoff in the Chiapas jungle (Drive Day 36 minus 14 years)

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After days of drum circles and poetry I almost forget about the ominous clippings I saved from my Library of Congress research. Until we hit a roadblock in the jungle village of Ocosingo. We’re in a tour van headed for Palenque and completely at the mercy of the mob outside. You’ll have to read Chapter 11 in the book for the whole story. Here’s a hint: it’s called Shoot-Outs. I think of Nancy in Arizona and her warning and I’m glad my gun is still hidden in the Avion back at the San Cristobal campground.

Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom of the landing page on my teresabrucebooks.com website or here or here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa.

El Che was, no, is still here (Drive Day 35 minus 14 years)

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Each night the zocolo fills with Rastafarians and trustafarians alike, trance dancing under a sky filled with fireworks.

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I’ve never seen so much Che merch – but it’s alongside indigenous women selling stalks of fresh Swiss chard, bundles of fragrant fat lighter and bunches of cilantro and strawberries. This is a farm-to-fighter movement and we devour its intensity.

 

 

 

 

 

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photo by Gary Geboy

Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom of the landing page on my teresabrucebooks.com website or here or here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa.

 

Rebels and poets (Drive Day 34 minus 14 years)

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photo by Gary Geboy 

This is mountain rebel Mexico where dogs growl at outsiders from rooftops. Street kids sell homemade rag dolls of the Zapatista leader Marcos and his warrior companion Ramona. But after a few shots of mezcal in a corner bar we make friends with some locals – poets who run a used bookstore. She introduces herself as Tanya de Fonz. He calls himself Marco Fonz de Tanya. We discuss art and the relative talents of Frida and Diego. They insist there are only three brilliant muralists in Mexico and they are all Orozco. We’re in never-be-a-licker country.

Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom of the landing page on my teresabrucebooks.com website or here or here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa.