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When I was in middle school my parents would send me and my siblings to Mexico for the summer.  My two younger brothers, sister and I would spend our summer vacations with our maternal grandfather in Rioverde, San Luis Potosí.  My grandma frequently traveled between Rioverde and Houston, but when we were over there she’d make an effort to stay longer periods of time to be with us.

I had the blessing to make beautiful memories with my grandparents and really get to know them better.  Before our summers there, I used to think my grandmother didn’t like me.  She would be really strict with me and lecture me about how I treated my mother.  However, during these summer vacations we had the chance to talk, wash dishes and cook together, tidy up the house and visit her clientela together.  I realized that the reason she was tough on me wasn’t because she didn’t like me, but because she wanted to help my mom.

Spending summers over there also made me more independent, confident and social.  I made several friends in Rioverde.  We would go to the plaza, go rollerskating, play basketball, hang out at night chatting, etc.  I was also the oldest so I took care of my siblings.  I would cook for them, wash their clothes, and make sure they were okay.  One time we also got stuck in a pueblo at night and there were no buses or taxis, and I had to keep my siblings calm and find a solution to our problem.  I also learned to trust in God and know that he was looking out for us.

For all these reasons I treasure any opportunity I have to visit my mom’s hometown. Unfortunately, due to all the crime and violence that Mexico has been riddled with as of late, it has been a while since I’ve had the chance to go back and visit (at least by land).

Now some people might tell you that the violence is just all hyped up by media, but I’ve heard way too many stories from reliable sources and well, it’s just too close for comfort for me.  When I married my husband nine years ago, I basically adopted Monterrey, Nuevo León (ajúa) as my second – probably first now – must-go-to destination in Mexico.  This was also one of the main reasons we purchased a Suburban for our family.  We wanted to have something comfortable and spacious for our frequent visits to Monterrey.  That, and apparently I was having more than three kids.  Um, no.  We purchased the suburban about four years ago.  And then we started hearing all these stories about the cartels stopping people during their travels, kidnappings, ransoms, etc.

It made us reconsider our travel plans very quickly.

On both sides of our families, we’ve heard of relatives or friends who have been stopped en la carretera and had their cars stolen right in front of their eyes.  In one case, a family even had their child held captive until they could return with the nicer car they owned to exchange it.  A family friend’s relative was also kidnapped.  They had to come up with tens of thousands of dollars for a ransom, and even after paying they never heard from their loved one.  My husband’s family in Monterrey have also called us here in Houston just to make sure we are okay and that he has not been kidnapped as the anonymous people calling them have claimed.  They have told them to pick up my husband at the airport and to bring money.

So what was once a fun road trip to Rioverde or Monterrey, is now little more than a distant memory for us.  All we can think about now when  we talk about going to Mexico are the what ifs.  Maybe if my parents, or my late grandparents, still lived in Rioverde, or my husband’s immediate family was still in Monterrey, we would have more of a reason to travel there and we wouldn’t be so hesitant.  But they don’t, and we do have to think twice about taking a road trip down to our querido México.

For now, we just hope and pray that things will get better.  My kids are still young and I would love for them to know and see Mexico first hand, soon.  I want them to have the connection to my family’s native land that I was blessed to have because of those trips to Mexico growing up.  Until then, I live vicariously through the pictures family members bring back and share on Facebook of their recent trips.

Soon, México, lindo y querido… soon I will visit and I hope you will treat me as well as you always have.