We heard singing in the canyon!
In April 2011, my husband, Don and I had our first visit to Big Bend National Park.
Maybe it was the 100 degree heat that made the hike down to Boquillas Canyon almost dreamlike.
Or maybe it was the voice we heard echoing up from the Rio Grande that added an eerie quality to our walk.
We had been warned!
Earlier, we saw signs telling us it was illegal to purchase goods from "Mexican Nationals". That gave us a little more to think about as we hiked. After all, the drought left little water in the Rio Grande, so it was easy for our Mexican neighbors to wade across with crafts to sell. If you stopped to look at the walking sticks and tiny animals made from beads, you could sometimes see the craftsmen across the river, watching to see if you placed money in the jar.
We heard him before we saw him.
We heard the voice singing Cielito Lindo, the "Ay... ay,ay,ay..." song, that takes me back to the "Frito Bandito" commercial I remember from childhood.
As we came around the bend, we could see him on our side of the Rio, standing on a mound. In front of him was a metal can with a note. "Donations for Singing Jesus".
"Prohibito." Don tried to warn him when he asked if we had any song requests.
His words didn't match his look.
He looked a bit threatening with his serious expression and hands on his hips. His large mustache, cowboy hat and the way he squinted up towards the hill with his binoculars, (looking out for border patrol) made him look a bit intimidating.
But when he pointed to his canoe and told us how he paddled 5 miles from his village everyday, he suddenly became a person. He reminded us that he wasn't selling anything...you can't sell a song. The can was just for donations. We didn't make a request. But we had enjoyed the way his voice had echoed in the canyon while we hiked. We ended up accidently dropping a dollar in the can as we walked away.
I think of you often when I read news about securing the borders and concerns of illegal "aliens". It's been over a year since we met, but you've opened my thinking towards these arguments. You were no alien. You were just a man feeding your family.
I don't have the answers, but I'm reading more and asking more questions. I'm trying to educate myself better to understand the concerns on both sides of the border!
To celebrate my birthday in April 2012, I decided to reflect on the past with a different kind of list. I've met a lot of people in my 55 years, but I'm going to stop and remind myself about the strangers I've met. These are people I met by accident, not through friends or work. For some reason, these strangers dropped into my life. Even though we may have only spent a few minutes together, these people have never been forgotten.
Each week, I'll spotlight someone I met in the past, who in some small way, made me stop and think.
Remember 55 Strangers