Tía Mago Stopped to Think
San Luis Potosí, Mexico 2008
Mom and Tío Lito were up ahead of us when Tía Mago stopped to think. My cousin, Ivancito, turned around to wait for his grandmother, his small arms full of flowers. When I remember this moment, I remember it in Spanish…con sus bracitos llenos de flores. Ivan’s father, my cousin Ricardo, had driven us all to the cemetery in the industrial center of San Luis Potosí to visit my mom’s favorite older brother, Arutro, in his grave.
We’d gotten pulled over by the police on the way. I was riding in the back of the truck with my cousins and Uncle Lito when two police officers on motorcycles drove past. They saw me looking oh, so white next to my Mexican cousins, and wondered what in God’s name was going on in the back of that truck. My mom was up in the cab with Ricardo and Tía, and had to explain in great detail to the police officers about how the family had been split in two when she, the younger half of her siblings, and her parents had immigrated to El Otro Lado when she was twelve, just a girl. And she hadn’t been back since. In the meantime, her favorite older brother, Arturo, had been killed in a terrible car accident. And she didn’t even get to go to his funeral because she was stuck out on a hillside in rural Iowa (Do you know where Iowa is? It’s near Chicago.) taking care of three little kids and her gringo poet husband who walked around the forest all day reciting the poems in his head.
The police called for back up. A few squad cars quickly arrived. Mom motioned to me, so I got out of the back of the truck and explained in my best gringita Spanish that I had brought my Mamacita Querida to see my Tía and Tío, her older brother and sister, so that they could take her to visit her favorite older brother, Arturo, in his grave. And that I was born in El Norte because my father is a gringo who sweet-talked my beautiful mother into marrying him and having three kids. But she never got a chance to come back to Mexico to visit, so here she is, after forty-two years away, and we are so very close to getting to the gravesite. So, if they could, please, let us go, that would be fabulous.
Fabuloso! I said, giving them my best American smile, flashing my gorgeous, straight pearly whites.
They let us go. Also, we paid them a bunch of money.
By the time we finally got from the truck to the flower stall and inside the cemetery gates, we were all a bit rattled. Plus, it felt to me that I could cook huevos rancheros on a rock in the shade it was so hot, although no one else seemed to think so.
“You’re so funny, Prima,” Ivan told me, giggling. “Huevos rancheros!”
Fun or funny? It could be either. I’m not sure which. I may have gotten that wrong in translation. This is when Tía Mago led us around for quite awhile before stopping to think aloud, “Okay, now. Let’s see. Where, exactly, is that grave, anyway?”
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