Sunday, October 14, 2007

Good Morning America!

After an uninspiring final night in Mexico, we left early and crossed into the U.S.A. to start soaking in the United States-style American-ness for a month. I admit it, I was just about ready to start sending campaign donations to Hugo Chavez, so it's a good thing we arrived for home leave when we did.

We crossed at a border outside of Laredo, Texas, which was advertised on highway billboards as the fastest way for Monterrey residents to get to an American mall. It was, actually, remarkably painless, and before long, we were enjoying the landscape of the Rio Grande valley. Although driving a car with Guatemalan plates, we didn't seem to get any more attention than average from the Border Patrol checkpoints in the valley: the one guy who gave us a serious grilling seemed like he probably just enjoyed playing to type as a gruff South-Texan law enforcement officer.

Trying to make sure that we re-Americanized ourselves as quickly as possible, within hours of entering the country, we ate a super-sized fast-food meal and stopped at Wal-Mart. This was a cultural exploration of its own, your correspondent would argue, as there are some interesting characters at the Wal-Marts in the Rio Grande valley. Somehow the cultural exploration seems less worthy of report: as if noting the differences between myself and the average Guatemalan is standard travel writing, but pointing out the differences between myself and the average Sanderson, Texas Wal-Mart customer would be cruel. Maybe that's borne of some ingrained desire to pretend that America is free of class distinctions. Or maybe it's because one of the most obvious differences between me and many of the people we saw in Wal-Mart was about 100 pounds apiece. It's kind of cliche to point out that Americans are fat, but, uh, Americans are fat. I guess I will have to confess to the State Department that there are certain parts of re-Americanizing that I intend to avoid.

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