I was reminded of two things over the last two weeks, as Patricio and I road-tripped through three American states and six Mexican ones. We went to buy a car for me: a very gently used Toyota Matrix at an even more generous father-to-daughter discount. After a year and a half of internal struggle where environmental ethics battled with a need for personal freedom and safer mobility, Patricio and I took a flight up north to drive back with a car that would call the Mexican roads its new playground.
I remembered all the times driving south on Interstate 25, after shopping trips to Colorado with mom and dad when we'd pass caravans of used cars--some hitched one behind the other--destined for El Paso and the country across the border. Legalizing American cars in Mexico, until recently, was much more inexpensive than buying the same thing within Mexico itself. I wondered at the hoops these traveling car dealers must have had to jump through to make the process work. And wondered even more if it was really worth it.
Now I understand that it was, and often still is. There is a widespread fascination in Mexico with owning American cars, not only for the caché that might come with it, but a more pressing delight in getting a set of wheels for a price more commensurate with the low salaries most people have to settle for. Exactly why we drove south ourselves.
And as we drove, passing through the long, dry, menacingly beautiful state of San Luís Potosí, I remembered the trips my family would take to Kansas, visiting my grandparents on their farm. With wheat fields flanking the road on either side, both growing toward harvest or fallow with wild grass, the stalks and leaves always seemed to bow and wave toward the car. I let myself anthropomorphise, imagining that the wheat was welcoming us there, to a place that wasn't home, but still a place where we belonged.
as humanish beings, like desert Ents who, if one was patient enough to watch, might begin to move around wherever they pleased. As if frozen in some sort of exultant dance, their outstretched arms seemed to welcome us back. The Joshua tree had become the new wheat. Though highway-side plants contain levels of lead that only the constant traffic could contribute, I still stifled the chiding voice of "yet another car destined for a city with far too many." I reminded myself that freedom can be a welcome thing, too.
In San Luís, it was hard not to see the Joshua Trees near the highway