The road off the highway became a dirt road until eventually we were driving around a maze of rough dirt roads, weaving their way between humble homes. Camelia's large and jolly mum constantly quaking with a bout of laughter, gave us all a hug on arrival and wanted to give her son – one of nine – a duck. After a proud tour of their beautiful pig – “More handsome than Camelia himself,” teased Jesus …
Camelia had to show us the local canteen. A door-less, window-less concrete building painted in the red-white-yellow of the Veracruz 'Superior' beer. A saddled horse was tied up on a tree next to the entrance, its owner drinking a beer with two prostitutes on plastic chairs outside.
Parked the car near the horse and walked into the cantina slash brothel to order a round of beer. Whilst none of the women made my temperature rise, the heat indoors made us move outside with some chairs and a table. Whilst Camelia disappeared with a girl, Jesus and I chatted with the people sitting outside. Another of the many wiry, elderly ex-alcoholics in a white shirt and straw hat around these parts began asking me questions about Australia. We talked about agricultural prices and migration. As with many families here, his son had been in the US six years without returning. “Every day I pray he will come back. He offers to send me money but what should I do with it?”. When and if these sons return with full pockets they often have trouble understanding their elders with these sorts of attitudes.
I got up to return some beer to nature, which all the men seemed to be doing on the other side of the building. The minute I got up and left, two guys stepped out of a green VW Beetle. I heard their voices from the other side: “What's with the blondey here? The bloody gringo? What's he want? We'll teach him a lesson*”
By the time I got back to the table, they had left indoors somewhere and didn't dare bother us again. “Did you hear those dickheads who just pulled up?,” said Jesus, “told 'em you're my friend, told 'em not to mess with us. Anyway, you're Australian.” I got the car keys off Jesus and went to turn up a tape we had been listening to earlier in the day:
Don't call me foreign
we carry the same the same call
the same old weariness that has been with us from
the first man
before borders existed
before they came
those who divide and kill
those who rob
those who lie
those who sell our dreams
those who invented this word
don't call me foreign
look at me and fill my eyes
way beyond the hate of egoism of fear
look at me, I'm a man
I can't be foreign
don't call me foreign.
Moses Iten is a Tasmanian-Swiss writer and producer. He recently joined SBS Radio as international music contributor and co-producer of the Monday Alchemy show, after returning with a tonne of stories from a year in Mexico, including this one.