Tuesday, September 16, 2008

¡Viva México!

What better way to spend Mexican Independence Day than crammed into the back of a Nissan with your belly full of Japanese sushi?

There is no better way, at least in my opinion. That's exactly how I passed last night, the eve of Mexican Independence Day. Today, September 16, is the anniversary of Mexico's break from Spainish rule. It's kind of like the Fourth of July back in the good ol' USA.

Normally, celebrating independence goes down something like this: Folks gather in the streets and in bars on September 15 to partake in what is called the Grito de Dolores. The Mexican President leads the entire nation in yelling "¡Viva México!" at 11 p.m. The grito (shout) is followed by lots and lots of fireworks and mariachi music. Then, on September 16, families get together to barbecue outside and eat lots of food.

But it is raining today. And last night, as mentioned, I ate sushi and rode in the back of a Nissan.

Maricruz and I had planned to end our Copper Canyon adventures by celebrating the Grito with some of her friends in a town called Los Mochis last night. But, true to Mexican Time, the Chepe train was running behind schedule. So we ended up disembarking a bit early and snagging a ride with a family from Culiacán that we'd met aboard. A guy from Mexico City also joined the fun -- he needed to get back to Sinaloa to catch his flight home. So there were seven of us crammed into Señora Cucqui's tiny Nissan. I shared the front passenger seat with her 13-year-old daughter, while Maricruz squeezed into the back with her two sons and the guy from Mexico City.

The trip from Chihuahua back to Culiacán was supposed to take about three hours -- quite a long time to spend shoehorned into a car, arms and legs falling asleep because they're pinned in strange positions. But then it started to rain (read: pour, Noah's Arc style), which slowed us down even more. We opted to break up the trip by stopping for dinner. And being the eve of the most patriotic of Mexican holidays, Señora Cucqui's kids opted for the most Mexican of all cuisines: Sushi.

Cucqui's family admired my chopstick skills as we chowed on sushi a la mexicana. Red, green and white banners adorned the Japanese-themed restaurant, and a large sombrero provided by our waiter made for an interesting photo opportunity. Turns out Cucqui had visited Japan a couple of years ago to participate in a business conference, so we compared notes on Tokyo and all of the weird things that we'd eaten. Her kids practiced their English with me. We sucked down pitchers of Mexican-style green tea.

We may have missed El Grito, but we had a great time anyway.

Ever the generous hostess, Cucqui not only bought dinner for Maricruz and me, but also refused to take the gas money we offered her when she finally dropped us off at my front door at 1 a.m. I was absolutely humbled by her kindness. ¡Qué viva México!

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