Hey Mama, I Think The Gringos Are Hungry
“Hola Mama, Creo que los gringos tienen hambre”
By Kim Morrison
When I was a teenager many years ago, my family decided that we would get out of the cold weather of upstate New York and travel to Florida in the winter and comeback in the spring. My father sold everything and bought a travel trailer. At that time, we had started to do flea markets along the way to finance our trips back and forth and it seemed to be working, but the thirty-one-foot Rolls International travel trailer proved costly to move down the road and not very convenient for the purpose of setting up and selling at flea markets, so my father sold the travel trailer. We liked traveling down to Florida in the winter, but we wanted to see more of the country and since one of my uncles and his family moved to Arizona we thought we would get something that might possibly make a trip or two across the country. Unfortunately, my family never had much money, so my father, a man of many ideas, who liked to drive and could drive anything got the idea of getting a bus and converting into a camper. The first bus of two my father and I converted into a camper was an old 1960’s model blue Ford school bus. It ran like a champ after our mechanic did some repairs and modifications on it, and it wound up working out well for us because we made several trips down to Florida, out to Arizona, and that old bus even got us out to San Diego, California once.
I reflect on those times now and can say that they were exciting and fun in many ways and quite honestly a learning experience like no other that very few will ever know or understand. However, the trips were not always easy, sometimes we did not make much money at the flea markets we stopped at, so we had to augment our plans a bit and make stops at flea markets we had never been to before. On one trip to Arizona, we left Pensacola, Florida without much money because the flea markets there were awful money wise. However, we had a lot of stuff to sell and quite a few cypress clocks that we were not sure would sell in other parts of the country, but we figured we could at least get to Texas with what we had and hopefully make some money there to continue our journey to Tucson, Arizona. Unfortunately, we had issues with the bus along the way that cost us a little of the money we made, and the weather was not working in our favor, but despite it all we did manage to make it to San Antonio, Texas. When we got there, we had just enough to pay the flea market space rent, so for all intents and purposes we were flat broke, had very little to eat the night before, and had to make money at this little rundown indoor market to not only continue our trip, but to be able to eat the next day. It would be a gross understatement to say that we were nervous about what the next day would bring. We were in a strange place, at a flea market we had never worked before knowing that we never did as well when we setup at indoor markets, a little hungry and knew we would be even more hungry the next day if we did not make any money, but we did have a package of Top Tobacco which always came with rolling papers that we rolled into cigarettes. I am not sure whether rolling them or smoking them eased our tension more, but in either event it seemed to help.
The next morning, we carried our stuff into the flea market and began setting up our tables with the hope of having a good sale day. Everybody in the place seem to be able speak Spanish, but us which was not unusual when you consider where we were. The people setup next to us with mostly used items were a very friendly Mexican family that could speak no English at all. We did not know whether they were legal or illegal immigrants and quite frankly it did not matter to us because we were all there for the same reason and that was to make some money. Our Mexican neighbors were cooking something on an electric hot plate that smelled so good that it was making me hungrier than I already was, but the best we could relay to them through gesture is that what they were cooking smelled good. After we got all our stuff setup and already begun our day, one of the children of our Mexican neighbors again through gesture held out and offered us a few breakfast tacos they had made. We assumed they were breakfast tacos because it was still breakfast time. We gladly accepted because by that time we were hungry and still had not sold anything. We thanked them numerous times and wondered if they did not somehow know or could tell that we were hungry because we did hear the word gringos a few times. However, this kind gesture from folks that could not understand us any better than we could understand them came as shock. These simple tacos were made of refried beans with bits of fried egg and bacon wrapped in a soft tortilla shell, but still to this day they were the best damn tacos I have ever had because they were the result of a pure act of kindness from strangers who could not speak our language, but somehow knew that we were hungry.
We did not make much money that day, but we were not hungry anymore and in better spirits thanks to an overt act of kindness shown to us by strangers who spoke a different language from us. We did make enough to eat later and the next day the cypress clocks we brought from Florida that we thought might not sell anywhere else took off and we wound up selling most of them right there the next day and made enough money to continue our trip to Arizona where we wound up selling the rest of them. We never returned to San Antonio, Texas, but my family and I never forgot that a single act of kindness by strangers, a gesture that transcended both cultural and language barriers, an act of goodwill that clearly illustrates that good people do come in all colors, shapes, sizes, ethnicities, and faiths. Yes, mama the gringos were hungry that day and sometimes a simple breakfast taco is far, far more than just what is under the tortilla shell.