Sierra San Luis
With the nights still cold, the last dry leaves shivered on the cottonwood trees, and the naked branches tested the warm afternoon with small, sticky, sap-coated, amber-tipped buds. I came across the word spray-painted black on the wall of a small side canyon: Perdido. The sign, for I took the word Perdido as a sign, was three miles from Carretera Federal 2, the eight hundred miles of two-lane blacktop road running west from El Porvenir to Tijuana. Another five miles north as the raven flies, you hit the US border. Ravens have it easy in this country; they laugh at you, steal your food, and wait for things to die. If you get lost, it is a long walk.
Perdido—there was poetry in the word, and so I tried it out. Perdido . . . está perdido . . . yo soy perdido. My Spanish is not good.The first sentence I learned when I traveled alone in the Mexican borderlands was “¿Está peligroso por un gringo aquí?” I got that word, peligroso, off the highway signs they put up along the narrow roads on sharp curves in the foothills of the Sierra Madres. People who never traveled here or who raced through with their windows rolled up and their doors locked kept telling me it was dangerous, so I thought, “I’ll just learn how to ask the locals.” And when I did, I got nothing but smiles.