My Friend Marce | Mexico | Living in Mexico

My Friend Marce

This Plymouth Valiant is what we, as California teenagers, uncharitably called a taco sled.


From the above perspective, it looks better than it really is. Most of the sheet metal has been straightened at some time in the past. The Bondo has fallen off the left headlight rim. The Plymouth escutcheon is missing, removed no doubt to allow passage of the chain and lock securing the hood. The chain is what you call a battery saver. It saves your battery from being stolen.

In the photo below, we see the Valiant in its usual state—with the hood up. It's over thirty years old and it's been driven on Mexican roads most of its life, so it's a wonder it runs at all. The three guys looking under the hood (the owner is the one in the middle) are praying—for a miracle. They're saying, "Oh Heal, Valiant..."


On another day, I came across the Valiant's owner renewing the plastic sheeting and duct tape serving as the right front window. Looks to me like he did a very neat job. He keeps the passenger side door locked, because opening it would... you know.


The car is often parked across the street from my house. It lacks a muffler, so when it starts up, the whole neighborhood knows it. Moreover, it stalls unless the engine is raced for ten minutes or so to warm it up. Sounds like Sears Point on an NHRA weekend.

At one time, our bedroom overlooked the street, so if the owner fired it up in the early morning, we would be jolted into wakefulness. The roar of the unmuffled engine was accompanied by the odor of unburned gasoline fumes wafting through our open window.

All this was happening back when my attitude was, "Why don't Mexicans do things right?" "Why can't that idiot spend a couple of bucks and fix that heap!" I grumbled to Jean about how I was going to put sugar in the gas tank because I heard it would ruin the engine. I bitched about how inconsiderate the driver was.

One day, I stepped outside my front door and encountered him peering under the hood (as usual). I walked up to him, trying to remember the Spanish words for rude, inconsiderate, annoying. He turned to me, broke into a brilliant (if somewhat metallic) smile, stuck out his hand and said, "Buenos días. Mi nombre es Marce."

But but but but but...

I at once found myself helping my new friend Marce diagnose his engine problem.


Marce is a bachelor. He lives up the street from me in a large, junky house. It's lovely. It's worth more than a million dollars. It's run down.

His kitchen is classical Mexican, and is one of the most comfortable spaces I have ever been in. His is the home of a contented, warm person.


But he's land poor. He can barely afford to keep his car running.

He could sell his house to a rich gringo who would gut it and remodel it to Norteamericano standards. Then he could live comfortably on the proceeds for the rest of his life. He could afford a new car, one that would start the first time and wouldn't need new duct tape on the windows every six months. Life could be so much easier.

But the house has belonged to his family for generations. You don't just up and sell your patrimony. Anyway, then he would have to move. His dog would have to move. His well-ordered life would be disturbed.


Marce is a good guy. Anybody who overfeeds his dog and dresses it in a dainty red collar has got to be a good guy.

Moreover, I don't hate his car anymore. Every time I hear the startup roar, I get a warm feeling inside. Because I know my friend is nearby. Go figure.

Marce taught me a lesson: Contempt prior to investigation closes doors. The stranger I'm dissing today may turn out to be a friend I'll meet tomorrow.