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Monday, November 14, 2011


Mexico 1973
(Eddie was about 9 yrs old)
I remember waking up to a barking German shepherd and a machine gun pointing at me! What in the world was happening! Several young men in army uniforms were pointing their Ak-47's at my family and me while shouting orders to us in Spanish and motioning for us to get out of the vehicle!
Later as we slowly drove away from the military checkpoint, my parents explained what had happened. My dad (Rio) was wide eyed and clearly wide awake now as he told us what not to do and say at a Mexican roadside checkpoint.
Since before I was born my maternal grandparents lived in Tepic, Nayarit, Mexico, which is some 1,500 miles south of the border. We would travel back and forth to visit them on a regular basis. We came to love the Mexican people because of their warmth and hospitality. Many of our friends warned us not to go to Mexico because it was “too dangerous”, especially for Caucasians. About the worst thing that ever happened to us was that most of the time that we would go in a rural store to get groceries, or what not, and Indian children would touch our hair. They probably never saw blonde hair before. (I guess we had never seen American Indians before either.) At times some would stroke our hair and one time several children surrounded my sister and were touching her skin and stroking her hair when the “mommy” came over and joined in. My sister just stood there crying! Poor thing.
So where was I? Oh yeah. So while we were asleep in the back of the Volkswagen bus we pulled up to a checkpoint. It was the middle of the night and my mom (Kitty) had been riding shotgun and was trying to stay up with my dad so he didn't fall asleep. The truth is that, though we would take turns staying up with my dad, he didn't need us to do so. He would literally drive all day and night, stop to take a one or two hour nap before sunrise and wake up and do it all over again, day after day after day... He would always say the same thing, “I gotta pull over by butt is getting square”. We wouldn’t stop for anything until that point. We would even pee in a jar. But that's another story.
We pulled up to the checkpoint and my mom answered their questions without really listening. She said, “Yes, yes, right here!”, and opened the glove box and reached in when all you know what broke loose! Several soldiers came running over and shouting commands to each other after the soldier talking to my mom stepped back and lifted his rifle to his shoulder! They completely surrounded our van.
What my mom thought he said in her half-asleep stupor was, “¿Puedo ver su pasaportes and visas?” (May I see your passports and visas?) What the young soldier actually said was, “¿Tiene armas de fuego?”(Do you have guns?) When my mom reach deep into the glove compartment the heavily armed kid must have assumed she was reaching for a gun to blow his brains out! I woke up as the van door slid open and I heard several guns being cocked and a dog just outside the door barking and pulling at his leash. We all laid still motionless as a well-decorated officer came running out of the building yelling while eating a taco, “Alto! Es un familia!” He angrily yelled at the soldiers as he motioned for everyone to back away from our van and point the guns down. He next turned to my pretty mom with an awkward smile on his face and said in English, “ Now just what were you saying to my soldiers?” We spent the next several minutes explaining what happened. They let us go and wished us a safe journey. I thought I saw the General shaking his head as we drove away.
We all stayed up for the rest of the night, wide awake.

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