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Comin’ south early on: Startling experiences in a brand new place

Allyn Hunt, a former editor and owner of this newspaper and South of North columnist for more than 45 years, has retired from writing his weekly column. The Reporter will occasionally publish previously run columns of his in this space. This column was first published in May, 1988.

The first time I came to Mexico in a serious way, I planned to get the train that started just outside Mexicali, in Baja California. That trip began auspiciously. A plainclothes man stopped me on the main street of Calexico, on the U.S. side, to ask a lot of questions. But he gave up when he saw my identification. I was tall and he took me for an older man. He called me “kid,” clapped me on the back and sent me on into the hot Calexico morning.

Across the border, a wiry, short man with a wheelbarrow insisted on taking my duffle bag out to the dusty plain where the train stood not far from the station. He charged me 50 cents.

When it was time to get on, all the women went into the passenger cars first. Then their husbands or sons shoved their baggage through the train windows to the womenfolk.

I stood in the blowing dust wondering what to do when a plump lady with black braids big as rope motioned me to hand my stuff through the train window. I did, then wondering if I would ever find her once I got inside.

Isabela “Chabela” Rodriguez Garcia and a teenaged nephew, Ignacio Hernandez, had been working in the fields north of the border. Now they were going back to their “tierra,” El Jaluco, Michoacan, to care for a relative who was down with pneumonia.

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