I'd been in the country for a little over a week, from Tijuana to La Paz, to Mazatlan to San Blas. Then I'd left San Blas on a bus on a weekend to head home. It was a crowded bus and I had no place to sit for the first day or so, then I had a stool to sit on in the aisle, then I'd finally gotten a seat as the bus crawled north towards the border with Arizona. I'd made a small cadre of friends on the long bus ride, particularly this old man and this young kid. The old man sat next to me and he'd worked in the States and spoke a little English, but I mainly spoke my lousy Spanish with him. The kid--maybe eighteen or less--spoke mainly Spanish and he sat in front of me on the bus. They both knew I was headed for Nogales and then into the U.S. and back to Montana.
Anyway, I was exhausted the whole ride. Had left early early in the morn in the little Pacific seaside town of San Blas and so by the time I got a seat I mainly slept. And when we got to Nogales the old man woke me up, nudging me, saying the name of the town.
"Es Nogales?" I asked in my broken Espanol.
"Si, si," they told me.
I opened my eyes and stretched my neck to look out the window. We were in the main part of town. I could tell it was a border town as there were many shops and that tourist-bustle along the sidewalks. There were a lot of U.S Americans. The boy and the man watched me look out the window.
"Hay (aye)," I said, "muchos Gringos!"
The old man cackled. The boy, turned around in the seat in front of me, looking at me, gave me the most quizzical face, as in, how could I refer to my own countrymen as gringos? This made the old man laugh even more and I just smiled at the boy. Yes, U.S. Americans had a sense of humor and irony, I guess.
It was but a funny moment, a last moment. Because it wasn't long after that that I crossed back into the U.S of A. and took a bus to Tucson and then all the way back to Missoula. That little happening was my farewell to my Mexican trip.
I've been back to Mexico since then--in the 2000's--but only along the border. In fact, it was in Nogales. I wandered the streets with a friend, very much the Gringo.