A Baja Girlhood
by Carol Coffee Reposa

In the Fifties
Our Saturday ritual:
Three miles to Tecate
In a battered jeep,
Hairpin turns on unbanked blacktops
With the occasional wildcat
Lounging in an oak,
The Sierras encircling us
In their hazy blue parabolas.

At the border the customs inspector
Waves us through while his wife sings
"La Paloma" in their cottage, her voice
Floating in the thin mountain air.
We take in stands of eucalyptus
Dusty streets, brick sidewalks
Lined with children
Selling chicle,
Two cafes, a bar, four stores.

Our day unfolds
In a sleepy blur. At lunch, the owner
Won't let us pay, walks us
Through his kitchen to show off
His new stove. Next we shop:
Silver earrings
And embroidered linens,
Carved boxes pungent
With the scent of mysterious wood.

Finally the brewery: three cases
In the back, a blanket
Casually thrown over so the inspector
Can save face and we cross over,
Pass the checkpoint
Back to the ranch
And its rattling cattle-guards
Back to long nights of Pacific stars,
Mom at her piano.

Small lapses and excesses,
Venial sins. No passports required,
No three-hour waits, body searches
Or drug-sniffing dogs, no heads dangling
From telephone poles or severed hands
Scattered along roadsides,
No maquiladoras or mass graves.
Just a junket
Free lunch and contraband beer.


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