The third-class Mexican bus, Toonerville Trolley and Little Engine that Barely Could-- Flecha Roja, Red Arrow, winding through the dense green of Guerrero’s mountains, en Año Domini 1963.
Fifty centavos, hombre— no pinche three pesos, twenty, that Estrella de Oro collects. Not the comfort coach of businessmen and turistas, but a smoke-belching wagon of the people, Volkswagen de los indios. The exhaust too foul to pump through a normal tailpipe, it puffs out of a vertical tin smokestack at the rear.
Wobbling on wheels incapable of speed, it meanders and weaves its way into every roadside cluster of hovels perched on steep jungle cliffs, seeking new fares, campesinos laden with cages of chickens or a baby pig on the lap.
Women with torta sandwiches wrapped in plain paper poke baskets through open windows to let the smells lure the hungry travelers. This will be a long ride. Little sandwiches of cotija cheese, sliced chiles, pounded veal chops. And gorditas--lard, sugar and corn meal cookies-- a half dozen for a gringo nickel.
The ricos and norteños make the capital in four hours; but it is dark before the dim red arrow, stopping every ten minutes, treats passengers to the valley lights of Mexico City far below.
I awaken the old farmers who doze and ignore the familiar countryside that is a wonder to these new eyes with an ill-chosen expression patched together from my basic Español.
There on a moonlit bluff alongside our road stands a Billy goat of majestic dimensions and my expression of largeness brings peals of laughter from the locals. “Mira…” I begin, pointing out the window “…al cabrón!”
At the dusty bus station we step down and the smiles on the golden faces remind me I’m an amateur…
No horns on me, but wearing a fool’s cap nevertheless. I gather my stuff and turn quickly: “Taxi!”
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