I cannot believe that I have landed less than 6 blocks from the only RV park in Oaxaca! Talk about continuing luck!
I walk up the street this morning, looking for it, in case Bridget and I wants to spend the night there. She is coming in tonite at about 8:30pm – if everything works out for her!
The 4 lane street I am walking up searching for the park, with a medium of grass, palm and other trees, kind of suddenly diminishes into a narrow, cement path between rows of colorful little joined houses. I continue walking and find myself in some kind of small, charming neighborhood.
I climb the stairs and stroll down the sidewalk, greeting the people “hola, buenos dias”. At the end of the sidewalk, another large street appears perpendicular with several vendors open or opening their stalls. I can’t wait to come back and explore with Bridget!
I return to the avenue where the park is supposed to be and ask a womon standing on the corner where the street begins. She tells me, yes, yes, 2 blocks, on the left.
I walked right by it! This time I clearly see it is the RV park and not just a wall with a parking lot, as I thought earlier. An old man is sitting there with some bags of garbage. He tells me to return when the owner comes back, in an hour.
That task accomplished, I walk and walk for my next tasks, discovering several banks and the best advertised exchange rate – for Monday as the banks won’t exchange money on the weekend. I learn this after standing in line at one of these banks for about 20 minutes.
I scout out several other potential parking spaces, walking down side streets, main streets, and alleys. And I decide where I’m already parked at is perfect.
The scrumptious-looking corner taco restaurant, a block from where I am parked, opens at 7am. Their bathroom is clean and tolerable, their seats crammed with people. I will bring Bridget back here in the morning to splurge with me!
I decide to take a nap before heading to explore “centro”, the part of town I almost got a ticket in yesterday: NO TRUCKS ALLOWED!
I take my shoes off and strip down to my undershirt in the day that is getting hotter and hotter, lay down on top of the sleeping bag, and blog a little. I leave my door open, with the screen shut, so I can get a breeze and greet the few people walking by who look inside.
I get ready to shut down the computer so I can take a quick nap when I hear an authoritative “Hola Senora” and a loud rapping on my door.
I get up, forgetting I only have on my undershirt, socks and shorts, and greet the two men, one very tall, on very short, in dark blue uniforms, dark reflective sunglasses, and shiney badges.
Hola, I return their greeting as I open the door and step down. They ask for my papers. Hmmm. I ask what papers would they like to see?
The heavy metal door painted shiny enamel brown, where Mari disappeared inside of last nite, now opens and a man comes rushing out holding a camera in front of him. He stands between the two police officers and boldly records everything.
The officers tell me they want my immigration papers – they are immigration officers. In other words, my passport and my visa.
Fortunately, I have both, although locating my visa, which I got the first day I entered México and have never been asked for it, is a little challenge. Also fortunately, I just cleaned out my truck and casa so things are somewhat organized.
They both examine my papers carefully, passing them back and forth when one finishes examining my passport, he passes it on to the other, who trades my visa for it. And back again.
This goes on for several moments accentuated by several rapid Spanish exchanges, that my ‘friend’, I think, busily and faithfully records.
They begin asking the typical questions: where do I live, am I traveling sola, when did I arrive in Oaxaca, and of course when am I leaving.
Then they ask me what kind of work I do in the u.s. I should have told them I am a writer along with an anti-war activist but I forgot the writer part – for next time.
Why am I here, they want to know. I make it clear I am a viajera traveler, a turista and I am on my way to South America.
They are very suspicious and I am trying to put them at ease and maintain my integrity. The tall one suddenly points to the painting on the truck “Justicia, Tierra, Libertad: Si Se Puede!” He cannot contain his disapproval.
The short one steps between me and him, as I read the message. I ask if they know of Cesar Chavez? The tall one nods, the short one says no. I say he’s a farm workers’ hero is the u.s. “Si Se Puede”.
The tall one goes around to the other side of the truck with me following. I talk about womyn rising and begin to talk about the evil corporation Monsanto and our need to grow organically. The short one tells me I have to remove these words from the side of my truck.
I try not to laugh hard and I think he expects me to bow and wave the magic disappearing wand. I ask him what does he mean? What is wrong with these words? He stutters a little and says I am not allowed to paint my truck in México.
I do let my astonishment show now. I think, if it comes down to it, I’ll ask for this directive in writing but first, I tell him how interesting this notion of his is.
I have been driving around México for almost three months, I’ve been stopped, hung around with, and visited (similar to these two) by police, federales, marines, soldiers, you name it.
Some have searched my truck, some have looked behind my seat, some have shared coffee and popcorn with me.
All have asked me about my paintings. About Monsanto, Si Se Puede, Arriba Mujeras.
He looks at me in disbelief and asks me and what did they say?
I said, across the board (i.e. todos) they LOVED it. What they DIDN’T say is what’s important here. Not one officer told me I couldn’t have this painted on my truck.
He looks stunned. I continue and tell him that a very famous artist in San Francisco painted this mural and message for me, and it cost lots of money! It’s a work of art.
His friend returns and I try to recall in addition all the cities I have traveled through these past three months in case they think my exposure has been limited. I’m stuck on Hermosillo, Culiacan, Plaza Azul, Yardis, Los Mochis, etc. Finally I give up, telling them I’m 60 years old, I forget.
But I assure them I’ve traveled probably over 2000 miles in México – from the border to the coast to the mountains to the lakes – I’ve been there. And so have the military and every police department – except immigration, I don’t add.
The short one back peddles and tells me he is finding out from his superiors if my truck painting is okay.
They want to know if I am married? I ask them why? They ask about my esposo. I consider telling them I’m a lesbian but decide to pass on that at this point. I tell them esposos are not necessary. I don’t want one.
They laugh. They ask me again about where I intend to go after this. The tall one says Chiapas and says something about indigenous people.
I say I am going to Chiapas and they move a step closer, more interested. And I add Yucatan, Belize, Guatemala, todos Central America and South America too, if my truck and my money hold out.
They want to know if I’m working in México. Of course not. They want to know how much money I make. Right, like I am going to tell them.
I am retired, they declare. Pension. I do not answer how much money I make, like it is their business, grrrr.
Instead, I tell them I live on about $300 u.s. dollars a month – first they nod satisfied, then they look at me in astonishment. This is very small.
I tell them anti-war activist don’t make a lot of money – but the men who profit from war, make a lot of money.
They nod knowingly.
They ask me if I’ve always been an activist, didn’t I have another job? I say of course, I’m a mother, a single mother.
The young short one tells me I cannot be an activist in México. I laugh inside thinking what have I been doing for the past 45 minutes but activist work!
I assure them México is not at war against Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc., so there is no need for me to be an anti-war activist here.
They assure me I am not doing anything wrong, to continue with my journey – and my paintings – but not to park on this street – it is private. GRRRRR