I was fortunate enough to be born in the 1960s in “Alta California”*. In spite of growing up in Los Angeles, I was a sheltered, Anglo kid of the suburbs. I knew surprisingly little about México beyond clicheed stereotypes. I had no Mexican friends, nor had I ever set foot on Mexican soil. I knew there was more, a mystery, and thus began my dreams. This story is about my re-education, with the “real world” as my teacher. Armed with basic Spanish language skills, my backpack, and a sense of great openness and determination, I set out on the path of adventure.
Getting off the beaten path in Mexico
I seek out the far-flung places, far off the beaten path of mass tourism. These places require extra effort to reach–hitched rides on produce trucks or long hikes into the backcountry. The rewards are finding the authentic México experience, where the warmth and friendliness of the local people are matched by their generosity. Such remote villages are often located in beautiful surroundings, usually in the mountains. For the self-reliant pioneers of the Sierra, not changed has much since the Spanish introduced the axe and the plow in the 17th Century, so my journeys have felt like going back in time, as well.
Between 1985 and 1995, I made 12 trips to the mountains of México, forging friendships while wearing out many pairs of walking shoes. This book recounts those adventures, as reconstructed from journals, letters, photos, and memories.
Interwoven in the narrative arc of Sierra Madre Adventures is the unfolding of Eduardo, my Latino personage who “appears” just as we cross over the border: the outgoing, bilingual adventurer who ably straddles the cultural divide, spontaneously adapting to circumstance. Eduardo’s warmth and ease mirrors the Spanish-speaking people he gracefully meets. And in a joyful way, he brings people together with music, belting out a Mexican folk song while accompanying himself on the guitar.
Over the years, Eduardo has brought back the experience of México, absorbed into his pores and soul. Paramount among the many gifts that traveling offers is the opportunity to build intercultural bridges of friendship (amistad) between “todos los Americanos”, North and South.
* Upper California (part of the U.S. since 1849) and distinguished from Baja (lower) California, México.