The Eye of the Dragon | Cuernavaca an Excerpt

by Rio Guzman

The afternoon sun was beginning to cast the giant shadow of evening upon the dusty downtown streets of Cuernavaca. I walked downhill toward the center of town, leaving behind the crowded bus station filled with bawling infants and angry blaring horns. I walked in earnest with the anticipation of the newcomer, welcoming the new sights and smells, the mouth-watering smells emanating from the “carne asada” and onions frying on ambulatory food stands by the street corners.

Without delay I set up residence in an inexpensive downtown hotel. I remember it was about four o’clock. I remember because the moment I entered my room, I dropped my backpack, grabbed my recently made jewelry and rushed out to find a place to sell my wares before the sun set. In a period of about two hours, standing on a street corner, close to the main plaza, I sold every single piece I had. As a result, I had a good dinner that night, the first of many to come.

Not for nothing is Cuernavaca known as the city of eternal spring. The aromas of the season and the songs of birds and mariachis are constantly in the air; the bougainvilleas seem to be always blooming and the average temperature throughout the years is 80* Fahrenheit. Cuernavaca is one of the most beautiful and historical centers of Mexico, boasting myriad schools to learn the Spanish language. In addition to that, it is only about an hour away from the traffic and pollution of Mexico City.

Surrounded by rolling hills and cut by narrow, cobbled streets, Cuernavaca is a quaint colonial remnant. For these reasons it is a city that foreigners and nationals alike find to be a fitting place to vacation and relax; it is also a favorite of celebrities. During my year stay, the plaza and the surrounding restaurants and shops were always teeming with visitors, especially on the weekends. Therefore, business was good in Cuernavaca and I was able to relax. And after I got rid of some parasites I had been hosting for a while, I recovered the weight I had lost on the road.

Cuernavaca’s historical past, striking scenery, vibrant life and climate makes it a place suitable for romance; in Cuernavaca I met Bonnie. I remember she had just finished dinner early one night in one of the spacious restaurants I visited while selling my string-art jewelry. She was relaxing after dinner with her folks, and she bought one of my pendants. Thus, we met!

We made an odd couple, I am sure we did; she wearing nice dresses and styled hair, while I wore boots and jeans with Guatemalan hand woven shirts and my leather hat.

Bonnie was an adventurous young lady, and for a while, we were planning to travel by land all the way to Brazil. Bonnie had character. Not only she was a polished, sophisticated young woman (she could have been a cover girl), but she had a lot of spirit and a down-to-earth attitude with a sense of humor to match; she had a well-defined personality. I still remember her utterly hilarious comments made with an impassive countenance, and her mother’s bewildered questions from the kitchen as we were splitting our sides laughing in the living room about something Bonnie said. Her memory always brings a smile to my face; a beautiful young woman in so many ways.

And if it is true that she dumped me after her visit to grandma in Texas, it is also true that she was too young to make a serious commitment yet. Besides, vagabonds are not favorites of their mothers-in-law (or grandmas-in-law for that matter) even if they have a good sense of humor, for they can take their daughters to distant lands. . . perhaps forever.

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After about six months of living in Cuernavaca, I returned briefly to Guatemala. It is (or was) the law in Mexico that a tourist visa lasts a maximum of six months. When your visa expires you have to leave the country at least for a few days. During that visit to Guatemala, around 1979, I noticed that the soldiers at the military checkpoints were under stress, and soon after I returned to Cuernavaca a savage revolution erupted in the country, making that my last visit to Panajachel.

Nevertheless, for years I led quite a nomadic life, traveling between Mexico, Central America (Belize) and the U.S. while selling my crafts. My new lifestyle was so different from what I had been used to that I was definitely developing a new way of perceiving. My routines were disrupted frequently and my life was practically always on the line; so I had to take responsibility for every act, and the imminence of death and the impermanence of things and situations were obvious. Traveling fosters non-attachment, and travelers are a living symbol of impermanence.

About Kelly Nowicki