Growing Up - My Family Travels

The date is January 10, 2009. I am in Ciudad Chihuahua, Mexico.  I stayed with a family that I barely knew for three days, but by the end of those days I was a part of the family. They took care of me and I took care of them. This one night I changed from a girl to a woman.  The night was mild and the food was wonderful.  The adults were all drinking and joking.  Everyone was kind enough to talk to me, slowly because the conversation was entirely in Spanish.

Just a little background for anyone who has never visited Mexico  The men love to flirt.  Every time girls go out in Mexico, we get chatted up on every street corner, honked at, and shouted at. It is just a difference of culture, a different mentality. 

Anyway, at the party, a cousin named Jesus was flirting with me. He was extremely drunk but a nice guy, just teasing the Gringa.  It was still one of the funniest conversations I have ever had; a combination of Spanish, English swearwords, and words he was making up because I could not understand.  We all left at about 10:30. I offered to drive Jesus’ truck because he and Tavo were both extremely drunk, but Jesus decided to drive instead. He was actually driving very well.

We were driving through the city when Jesus passed us. He was weaving in and out of lanes much too fast, with a black Jeep and a grey Jetta right on his tail. When we caught up with them Jesus’ truck was wrecked up on the curb, the back window shot out.  Tavo was out in the street holding his arm, something dark running down it.  Jesus was on the floor, bleeding

At the house we could only wait.  I have never felt so vulnerable in my life.  The phone rang and Adriana sank to the floor sobbing, “Jesus esta muerte.”  I made a cup of te de manzanilla for Jesus’ sister, wobbling on high heels, make up running. We rubbed Vaporub onto little Adrian’s chest because he was sick.  At about 2:30 Tavo came in. He was covered in blood and white as a sheet. The bullet was still lodged in his arm, but he wanted to get his family out of Mexico. We snuck the kids out of the house wrapped in blankets because we were afraid that some one was watching the house.  I cleaned the kitchen, every dish, nook, and cranny.

That was the moment in my life that I most needed some one to hang on to and cry with.  The moment of total terror and loneliness and there was no one there to take care of me.  I held my head high and helped to take care of the family when all I really wanted to do was curl up and cry.

It was strange to return to the U.S.  I felt completely dislocated, different from everyone around me.  Jesus Jurando Lopez was twenty-six years old. He will never laugh again, never flirt. The picture we took is the last ever taken of him.  The nightmares continue, of streetlights and blood.

I still love Mexico. It is a very dangerous place right now, but it is a part of my life.  I will remember forever that moment of growing up and the family who absorbed me, accepted me despite the cultural differences.  Mexico is a crazy place, where life is lived a different pace, but it is home.

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