Loreto, Baja Mexico—Sometimes it’s difficult to tell how tense you’ve become until you get out of town and do nothing for a few days. There is so much happening in our world, from Washington D.C. to Malibu, Calif., that I’ve found myself tied up in knots, never quite able to unwind and barely aware of how tense I’d become. Five days of doing nothing more significant than deciding what we should order for lunch—or if I should take a nap before lunch or after lunch—has finally worked its magic. Some people come here to our hotel, Villa del Palmar, and sign up for golf, fishing in the Sea of Cortez or driving a four-wheeler in the desert, but not me. My idea of doing nothing is just that, doing absolutely nothing. Sitting in a pool with a margarita is my definition of heaven. Karen is out on a fishing boat catching tonight’s dinner while I work up the energy to eat dinner. My advice to Malibu is get out of town for a few days. Don’t worry about your problems; they’ll still be there when you get back.
One of the things you do notice about Baja Mexico is that in the five years or so we’ve been coming down here it’s gotten more prosperous. Buildings have been repainted and holes in the sidewalks patched up; the town feels more optimistic, and in no small measure it’s tourism dollars and rising wages that have done it. Hotels have to compete to hang onto their trained English-speaking help when there are other jobs available. It’s understandable why more Mexicans are leaving the USA to return to Mexico. People generally don’t leave their home country until things get pretty bad. The refugees we’re seeing now are from Central America, primarily Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. These migrants and refugees are coming from failing states, filled with violence, poverty and gangs, and with agriculture being slowly destroyed by climate change. Desperate people are coming to try and save themselves and their children and no wall is going to be high enough to keep them out.
Culturally, Mexicans relate to each other differently than most Americans. When we pass strangers in the street, we look through them or look down. Baja Mexicans in Loreto look at strangers eye to eye, smile and say, “good morning,” in Spanish of course. I kind of think we lost something in this forced anonymity. It doesn’t have to be. I remember when Karen and I were first married, I took her back to New York City and took her for her first ride on the subway. Karen, being born in the Midwest, immediately struck up a conversation with a woman sitting next to us. I was aghast. As a born and bred New Yorker, I knew with absolute certainty that you never talk to anyone on the subway. Still, the woman was only too happy to talk and then a third rider chimed in and the ice was broken. People were smiling and talking. It was a momentary break in an anonymous city and then we all went our separate ways.
I’m going to have to cut this column short. I’m already late for my nap before lunch. Adios. See you all mañana.