The last time I was in a Mexican prison was 25 or so years ago. I returned as a day-tripper, having come to learn how to make wrapper bags, which I hoped would be one of the main items for a new development endeavor I was about to embark upon. I could learn how to make them and women in Turkey (where I have lived for 20 years) would make them even better.
Mexico, the place that influenced so much of who I am today, is where I turned to for training in the next steps of my life. It was in Mexico, many years ago, that I saw the impact multi-national corporations could have on the average person, the challenges of living in a developing country, how so much that I had learned to take for granted was so very far out of reach of so many, and all the while, how rich culture, history and fresh produce could be. It was in Mexico that I first fell in love yet realized, with a naïveté of youth, that certain principles would not be compromised.
Mis amigos in the prison sat me down and got me started. There was a workshop next door and the familiar voice of Jim Morison was singing out ‘G-L-O-R-I-A.’ Mis amigos asked me everything that came to mind: were the young girls in Turkey beautiful, would I bring some of them with me next time, asked me how to say various expletives, and shook their heads in wonder when I said that I really lived in a country where there was no Dia de los Muertos. They praised me when I folded correctly, helped me out when I got stuck. I was a diversion to them, and they were filling me with humility, gratitude and getting my thoughts going on overdrive about decisions we make and stupid things we do.
After a few hours, I smelled the divine aroma of fresh corn tortillas. Sometimes we don’t realize how much we have missed something until it is, once again, right in front of us. But I knew I could not take food out of the mouths of prisoners. They left for lunch, I went to talk with some of the people who oversaw the local production.
Mis amigos returned and we all got back to work. Another unmistakable aroma came through the walls.
I called out to some of the men who were showing me the ropes and asked them to come over.
I sniffed the air and said, ‘that smells like pot.’
They sniffed the air and said, ‘si, si, es marijuana.’
The road to becoming a garbage lady was definitely one of those less taken. I did not know then that I would be exposed to at least as many new experiences as would the ladies who would join our endeavor.