It was a perfect day…the end justified the means, or I might borrow a quote, “All's Well
That Ends Well.”
I was up before 7 a.m. After a breakfast of huevos rancheros, coffee and fresh squeezed
orange juice, I took a walk around Old Town, commonly referred to as Chinesca, which is
Mexicali for Chinatown. Signs were written in Chinese and Spanish. Restaurant Mexicali
Rose served Comida China (Chinese Food). There were Chinese pharmacies, restaurants,
shops and herbal medicines. A China Association was founded in 1919.
I asked a man on the street, standing in front of a pharmacy, if he could tell me about the
local history and the Chinese connection. He said, “Poor Cantonese immigrants sought land
and opportunity in Mexico. The first Chinese came as canal builders for the Colorado River
Land Company.” I told the man that railroads brought Chinese laborers to California and it
was interesting to hear Mexicali's parallel history.
Then with a smile he asked, “Have you heard The Legend of the Caves? It's claimed,” he
said, “that there were so many Chinese that they lived in underground caves and had to dig
even larger caves to keep up with population growth. One day they broke their way out to
the surface and appeared in Mexicali.” The story sounded like the reverse of the tale told
to American kids, “If you dig straight down, you'll dig a hole to China.”
Then at 8:30 a.m. I turned a one-hour ride into a two-hour trip.
On my walk, I had passed the ABC Bus Company downtown. So instead of taking a taxi
back to the Central Terminal, I went to ABC. That's where conversation became confused.
The counter clerk was telling me they didn't have service to the Central Terminal, and I'd
have to walk a few blocks to catch a city bus. At least that's what I thought. But just as I
was about to follow his directions, a woman spoke up. “I'll show you where the Central is.
It's only a few blocks from my stop.” She told me to buy the ticket, and when she got off
she would point me in the right direction. I felt confused, but this was an adventure, and I
had an escort.
I bought a ticket to San Luís Río Colorado, which I thought was the name of a neighborhood
on the outer limits of Mexicali. But when the price was $3 instead of under a dollar, I should
have asked more questions.