month I started off on a road trip with my sister Lee and her two kids,
Nora and Harry, down the length of the Baja California peninsula.
It was a journey of great adventures but surprisingly easy and
trouble-free, contrary to some stories we'd been told about the hazards
of driving in that part of Mexico. We ascribe most of our good
fortune to the Ghost (my trusty Lincoln Navigator) and to the kind
ministrations of Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe.
The Ghost is not a car for the 21st Century, due to its high
consumption of fossil fuel, but it is in all other respects one of the
most perfect machines for land travel ever created. It transports
four people and assorted luggage in extreme comfort and is as reliable
as a burro, though far less truculent.
Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe is a lady for all ages. The essence
of Mexico's own peculiar understanding of Christianity, she also
embodies the spirit of the nation. There are improvised shrines
to her everywhere — the one above is just outside the public market in
La Paz. She is sometimes called La Reina de Mexico, the Queen of Mexico, and sometimes just La Morenita, the Little Darling.
Mexico has a deeply humane culture, made up of many grave and gracious
courtesies between people. Just recognizing, however crudely,
that this system of courtesies exists is enough to open the heart of
almost any Mexican to a stranger, even a gringo.
rarely work the way they're supposed to
work in Mexico, but they work, by a complex system of improvisation
and accommodation that can't be reasoned out, only intuited.
Traffic signs, for example, are never taken as anything more than
suggestions. But when you stop at a crosswalk, for example, to
let someone cross the street, as the regulations require, the
pedestrian will almost always pause and nod and salute you for your
consideration, as though to acknowledge that you have not obeyed a law
of man but of God, who asks people to treat each other with dignity and
of apparent logic
in the organization of things could easily drive a Yankee
batty, but that's because he or she would have failed to realize that
Our Lady of Guadalupe travels with them at all times in Mexico, ready
at any impasse to lean in and whisper, “There is a way.”
And there always is.
[Photos © 2007 Harry Rossi]