A trip to Mexico with my mother

February 11, 2024

Spending any amount of time with my mother was always a close call. Her temper was usually short where I was concerned. But no one is without good points; hers was generosity, and ours was a transactional relationship.

It was a Christmas vacation from my then job of school teaching, so she invited me to take a trip with her to Mexico as my holiday gift. I trepidatiously remembered my Grand Tour of Europe Coming-of-Age Trip for Adolescent Girls that she had horned in on at the last minute, not wanting to be outdone. I was stuck with my mother (the only mother who went) as a roommate and her map of the suitcase plan.

I had managed not to get into a fight that whole six weeks. But alone in Mexico with her?! This was actually pretty brave of her, two women alone in Mexico City! But I don't know if she knew what it was like. Anyhow, we drove to Philadelphia and boarded an AeroMexico plane to Mexico City. "Those Mexican pilots are really handsome," she said. She was always into looks, and liked the tall, dark and handsome type. She even had crushes on several Third World dictators, not surprisingly.

We landed successfully in Mexico City, and took a Tijuana-like taxi to the Hotel Del Prado, which sported a big, impressive Diego Rivera mural. We sat in front of it enjoying margheritas (her name was Marguerite, by the way). A mariachi band with velvet-clad players in huge sombreros strummed guitars. Once again she opined, "Those big bucks are really good-looking!" Such sensuality revealed in one's parent was rather disconcerting, never having shown itself before.

That evening we were to take a tour of the nightlife in Mexico City. A long black limousine with windows bullet-hole starred like spider webs pulled up carrying assorted passengers from all countries and dialects and ages. I danced in a disco that night with a 72-year-old man from Sweden!

The next afternoon, we floated on a flower-laden boat in the gardens of Xochimilco with Chapultepec Castle rising in the background. That night we ventured out to the Palacio de las Bellas Artes to see the Ballet Folklorico. There is a beautiful glass mosaic curtain, and more murals by Diego Rivera. I didn't realize it at that time, but Frida Kahlo, a heroine of mine, once lived in Mexico City, and I honor her now in my Frida Kahlo-themed kitchen.

On the way, I fell into a hole in the sidewalk, but survived without a scratch. Then a pickpocket placed a newspaper over my mother's evening bag, but didn't get away with it. Two erudite men saved us and accompanied us to the ballet. I needed a drink after all of this when we returned to our room, and there was a small refrigerator in there. Naively, I thought the contents were free, but my mother warned me that I would pay for any of those drinks myself. I was also warned, don't open your mouth and drink water from the shower, or you could get Montezuma's Revenge! Already unnerved, we were prepared for bed when a person with muddy boots came knocking at our door. It turned out to be a maid with towels.

The next day we ventured to the beautiful Taxco, the Silver City. On the way, we saw people living in cardboard-box houses showcasing iguanas. My mother had procured a local tour guide driving her own ramshackle car, which seemed to be a custom there. We rode around mountains, and her driving was erratic. She and I were animatedly discussing horoscopes, which she seemed to like. My mother was backseat driving, as usual, and our guide threatened to put her out along the road. "I like you better," she said to me.

We drove past the snow-capped volcano Popocatépetl, which seemed to mirror the temperaments in the car, and we were dropped off to view a bullfight. "Blood and Sand," as Hemingway might have said, but I rooted for the unlucky bull, who was stuck with lances by the picadores, like I had often felt at times. I'll never forget our afternoon at the Plaza, a feature in every Mexican town.

Leering wisemen lined the circle with sleighs driven by reindeer to sit in for an opportunity to take photos for a price. They seem to be a feature of the Mexican Christmas, much like our Santa Claus holding children on their laps. The fountain was laden with corncobs on sticks tossed into the water. A van pulled up and a man was forced inside, with the doors closing mysteriously behind him. We then toured the Avenue and the Hotel Reforma.

We finally returned safely back to a snowy Philadelphia Airport motel parking lot, where my mother successfully started her car and said with relief, "Oh good, it started; you never know after a trip in the winter like this if it will." Yet another close call braved successfully.

  • Pam Bounds is a well-known artist living in Milton who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in fine art. She will be sharing humorous and thoughtful observations about life in Sussex County and beyond.

Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter