By Alejandro Grattan-Dominguez
Que le vaya bien!
So what’s the main reason so many foreigners come and later stay here? Some cite the weather, lower cost of living, moderate climate, others mention the fascinating culture or the spectacular vistas…but everyone agrees that the best thing about Mexico is its people. We all have at least one experience that epitomizes this. I have dozens, but a single story will suffice.
Many years ago, deciding to finally relocate in the homeland of my mother, I drove some three thousand miles through Mexico, in search of the perfect place to settle. Toward the end of that trip, I was returning one Sunday morning from the coast, driving toward Guadalajara.
Going through a village, however, I hit a tope (surely one of the worst things about Mexico) going way too fast. Something snapped in the undercarriage of my car; suddenly it was listing like a sailboat in a storm.
My car was of a foreign make not sold or serviced in Mexico. Parts would be difficult if not impossible to find. And it was a Sunday, in the middle of an out-of-the-way village. I was stewing in my dilemma when along came an old man and a boy on a bicycle. I hailed them and explained the situation, though of course it was obvious to anyone but a blind person.
Getting a mechanic was the first priority. But on a Sunday, his shop was probably closed. No problema, the old man said, as he dispatched the boy to the local church. The mechanic would be attending Mass. Sure enough, fifteen minutes later, here he came to inspect the damage. A linch pin in the car’s rear aft shock had sheared off. Did the mechanic know where to get a new one?
No, but possibly any pin of approximate size might do. However, the hardware store was closed. Then the boy piped up that he knew where the owner usually drank beer on Sunday mornings—and off he pedaled in the direction of the cantina.
Within half an hour, the owner had reviewed the situation and was back with exactly the right size pin. By now a crowd had gathered, and as several of the men hoisted my machine up, the mechanic crawled underneath and slipped the pin into the right place. My car was immediately back up on all four of its legs. Seeing that, the crowd applauded.
Never having been especially adroit when confronted with any problem involving a car, I was awash with relief but conscious enough to know the debt I owned these people. Yet when I tried to pass some pesos around, the offer was politely rejected by the old man, the boy, as well as the mechanic and the owner of the hardware store.
Turning to the old man, I asked if there wasn’t something I could do to show my appreciation? Flashing a toothless smile, he simply shook his head. Then the boy stepped forward to shyly suggest that I might want to buy everyone a soft drink. Was he kidding!? If I had possessed the money, I would have gladly bought them all a few shares of stock in the Coca Cola company!
The years have misted over the memory of that Sunday morning, but I do remember that what seemed more than three dozen people, all with soft drinks in their hands, were waving goodbye as I pulled away, calling out Que le vaya bien!