Trip Across the Border

For someone who grew up in the borderlands, a fifteen minute drive from the frontera, it is so strange to reflect on my connection to el otro la’o. I still live in the same region, but dislocated from what was once a home-away-from-home.

Just a few weeks ago, what was shocking to me at first to realize, my teen nephews experienced Mexico for the first time. To them, it’s a new country and new territory and they had only heard what they’ve read about in the news. War-infested news and the violence that I have never witnessed.

How is this possible? 15 years in la frontera and never crossing that puente? How has fear created this wall for us?

It might be Mexico, but I’d hardly refer to Las Flores as a true experience of el otro la’o. It’s too much of a “touristy” town, everything in the stores and restaurants marked in U.S. dollars. Most vendors speaking English and dentists accepting American insurances.

Fabian drinking sweet tea.
Browsing the vendor stands.
Selfie with Cheeto.

My sobrinos had lots of questions. It started right after walking towards the bridge, listening to the shouts from the migrant camps below the puente. Why were they living there? How long would they be there? How could they handle the heat? How far had they travelled? Did they speak English?

My 12-year-old nephew, Fabiano Italiano, ran to ask his mom if a little girl about 6-years-old was lost because she was selling gum by herself, and where were her parents? It was an eye-opening experience for him, for all of them, to see not every child is as privileged as they are.

When my brother told them they could each pick out $6 worth of snacks at the store, they laughed. What could they get with $6? A bag of Takis, handful of Gansitos, bags of spicy peanuts, a box of galletas surtidas, a Joya de manzana, and a few other goodies later, they were thrilled with their finds. All items we can easily find back at home, just not at that low price.

Lunch was a platica reminiscing about our relatives in Reynosa. Our almost daily trips to visit or go shopping. Reminiscing about life in our frontera in the 90’s.

Dulceria Shop Stop

Planning a sobrino’s birthday party is a family affair. Everyone pitching in to help out without being asked because, trust me, there will come a time when the favor will be returned.

Maybe it’s a Suarez thing to wait til last minute, like literally the week before, to decide to throw a fiesta. And so when my sister said she’d be throwing a piñata for my nephew the following weekend, I called shotgun to being the ‘madrina’ of candy bags and a piñata. And you know what this means, right?!

Searching for a dulceria somewhere nearby. If you grew up in El Valle, dulcerias have always been a go-to for getting Mexican candy on the cheap. Literally de todo. Tamarindo, dulce de leche, chicles, mazapan, duvalin, those payaso pops, lucas, chicharrones, salimon, pulparindo, and on and on.

I hadn’t been to a dulceria since before the pandemic and had to drive around searching for one that was still open. Luckily, I ended up finding one that promised me a couple of hours of making bad decisions. Off of Old 83 and 2nd Street in McAllen, I spotted Dulcerias Pinkis, which I almost missed when a train blocked the view.

Train on the tracks by Old 83

Even before walking into the dulceria, I knew it was a bad decision walking in there by myself. In case you don’t know me, this woman right here is the candy queen of the family. It’s one of my weaknesses. This picture below is what my view was as I got off my car.

Entrance to Dulcerias Pinkis

Doesn’t the entrance look like you’re about to enter a circus?

And oh boy, you have no idea how many trips around the store I took, grabbing candy and then returning it to where it belongs when trying to budget myself. The selection of piñatas varied with popular themes such as Pikachu, Spongebob, Power Rangers, and sirenas and were hanging all thru the store from the ceiling.

Piñatas hanging from the ceiling

With knick-knacks all around, such as Mexican embroidered blouses and Frida Kahlo inspired tote bags, focusing on shopping only for candy was quite the task! That candy selection though.

Which candies would you choose from a dulceria? Do you have a favorite candy shop in your area?

Rinconcitos off the Beaten Path

One of the random hobbies I picked up from my mom is taking road trips within El Valle in search for curious or historical or haunted or abandoned or quirky places. Whether it be a planned trip or a spur of the moment occasion, there’s something about it that makes the experience seem like an expedition in our own back yard. Discovering what’s off the beaten path.

Cemeteries have introduced us to forgotten children from ages past, wondering if time would have seen them to be grandparents. Making calculations to determine that at this moment in time there is no chance they’d be walking this world because aging would’ve made then older than a century. And how did they die? Would modern medicine have prevented their death? When was the last time anyone paid respect to their gravesite?

Often a time, we’ve jumped a the sight of remnants from rituals seemingly done to honor la Santísima Muerte. Incense and statues and broken glass littering around gravestones. Our fear was mostly because we don’t understand the practice. A heaviness following us on the road home from that dark unknown.

There is a magic in discovering what has been forgotten. Imagining the hands that built wooden homes in the outskirts of Hidalgo, Pharr, San Juan, Edinburg, Brownsville, Rio Grande City, Mission, Alamo. From one corner of South Texas to the next. Agriculture evidently being the purpose of families settling in those regions and monte growing over these isolated structural bones.

Mom taught me to be curious at the sight of Historical Markers. They tell of stories we do not learn in school. Of mi gente and the leyendas haunting our ears.

The pictures I share above were taken in the outskirts of Hidalgo. Or Alamo. Not sure what city it pertains to, lol! I had gone on a sporadic road trip with my nephews and at the sight of this home, we decided to take a walk around the monte there. We didn’t go far that time once we saw several border patrol trucks patrolling about 100 feet away. The river wasn’t too far off.

What are some of the random road trips you’ve taken in your rinconcito?

Apa, The Babysitter

Apa has become that abuelito he didn’t imagine he’d become. The babysitter. Any time I stop by for a visit, I can certainly expect to find a niece or nephew (sometimes the entire lot of them) spending time with their grandpa. And if none are there, he’s likely to be out and about visiting them. He has so much love to give.

I certainly never expected to see him changing diapers or preparing arroz con leche for his grandkids, but there he is calling his sister-in-law for recipes my mom once used to make the kids. As a chemist, he decided not to stress about preparing meals for the first time in his life. After all, isn’t it like throwing together chemicals? I guess he does have a point there.

The preschoolers: Julian, Navia, and Tori

I imagine ama full of pride at his role now that she’s gone. Not really gone though. We feel her presence in their home, our home, whenever we’re there. I don’t even know how to explain it to you. But there is sometimes this guilt of moving on without her.

Last weekend that I stopped by to see him, the preschoolers were running around the living room playing tag, and apa sat back laughing at their conversation about dinosaur raptors as he read the newspaper. It was the current edition of ‘The Monitor’ and such a familiar picture to me. I can’t remember a day when he didn’t spend the morning catching up on the news, and then informing us about what he read. We learned from him the importance of keeping up with what’s happening in our community, and the world.

What’s in the News

Apa reading ‘The Monitor’

The week had been tense after the Capitol Riots, and looking forward to Biden’s inauguration felt bittersweet. Up until the actual day of the inauguration there was a sense of caution many of us felt, not sure everything would go smoothly. But the day was something we’d been looking forward to.

In the news was a list of COVID related deaths that overflowed the paper. And scattered throughout, the articles mostly related to the pandemic. Most events featured were virtual programming.

We wondered what my mom and older brother would have thought if they had lived through these times. I’m certain ama would have been glued to CNN and my brother would have been finding ways we could be extra cautious. They certainly would have never imagined a pandemic in the short time after their passing.


What do you think about when your heart is broken? I mean, aside from the maldita razón you’re hurting. Are you like me where your thoughts jump from the deep despairs of heartbreak to an overwhelming warmth of endearment?

Like, one second I am heartbroken and will cry my eyes out and sob like a fool and think about other moments when my heart has been broken…and then think about the people who broke my heart and then randomly think about those who have always been there…and then think about the absolute happiest moments.

I don’t get myself sometimes. So when others don’t understand me, I can’t blame them. I know it’s not just a me thing.

What music do you listen to when you need a good cry? I, at the moment, have a playlist of Intocable on loop. Some of the songs are sappy, but it’s the feeling of community that makes me want to listen to it. What I mean is this music reminds me of happy moments with my family and of being whole. Of weddings and birthdays and going out to bailes with my primos. Reminiscing about the good ol’ days is what is making me cry at this instance.

Throw in there the heart break of the moment. Fueled by the bittersweet memories this playlist brings. Like I said, I don’t get myself sometimes!

Imagining I were on The Voice

I’ve caught myself imaging what choices I’d make if I were ever on The Voice. I mean, of course, it’s my imagination…so, I’d have an amazing vocal range to envy. But, so do many of the others auditioning for a spot on the show.

That means, I’d have to have some strategies on my song choices. What would be best for my amazing voice that would get me cast on the show’s season? That’s the bad thing, I listen to everything here and there, and the judges would be quick to typecast me. So my strategies have to start at the beginning.

In my ideal season, the judges would be Blake, Shakira, Adam and Pharrell. I’d go in with the intent of being on Blake’s team, a country girl at heart. Not wanting to be typecast so early in the show, I decide to audition with Alanis Morissette’s ‘Thank You’. She is an alt-rock singer, but her music is so mainstream that it can also hit a poppish audience. Only thing is that Shakira is the only one who turns her chair for me. She gets it.

And then come the Battle Rounds, she chooses for us to perform “Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera. My teammate and I battle it out, but, she beats me in this round. So there I am, eliminated and up for grabs. But does Blake pick me with his safe card? No.

Luckily, Pharrell likes what he hears and I get a second chance for Battle Rounds 2. But Pharrell, he pairs me up with a singer who has a powerful voice, and comfortable in her skin. Meanwhile, new at this singing in public stint, I’m intimidated and not ready to break out of my shell. He selects for us to sing “Unpretty” by TLC. And once again, I’m eliminated.

Shakira presses her button to save me again. But then, so does Blake! Blake! Of course, when it comes down to the decision, do I choose Shakira again or do I choose Blake, who has taken this long to consider giving me a chance?

I’m petty. I choose Shakira. Time to take out the claws and show my true colors in the upcoming Live Playoffs.

For the Top 20, I choose “Go Your Own Way” by Fleetwood Mac. Top 12 would be “Crying” by Aerosmith. Top 10, maybe “All Shook Up” by Elvis. Top 8, “Best of You” by the Foo Fighters. Top 6, “I’ll Fly With You” by Gigi D’Agostino.
For the semi-finals, it’s “Believe” by Brooks and Dunn. And boy, does Blake regret not selecting me for his team! Even in my imagination I wouldn’t make it to the finals. But at least, I walk away with a contract deal for my stellar performances.