The Kindness of Strangers

This is Ernesto.

Ernesto and I had a delicious lunch of tacos barbacoas at a pop-up mercado on a Sunday afternoon in Mexico City. How we got there is the story. Here it is.

Ernesto is an Uber driver in CDMX. He’s also a husband, a father, and a sibling.

He’s also my new friend.

He picked me up in the early afternoon outside the BnB where I was staying to take me to a Tacos Barbacoas and Pulque Festival in a Mexico City neighborhood. I’d seen the festival in an article in Mexico News Daily and it sounded interesting.

Better still, it was fairly close to the BnB, per Google Maps.

I put the street address in Uber and out came Ernesto to take me there.

He spoke very little English and I am still working on Spanish, yet we managed to chat a little and enjoy the trip. I told me about the festival and we talked a little about pulque, the slightly alcoholic beverage made from cactus milk.

However, when we arrived at the destination, it didn’t look anything like a festival. And it wasn’t. It was a wedding.

Ernesto checked the address. It was correct. But it was the wrong neighborhood.

Rather than letting me out to fend for myself, Ernesto told me he’d get me to the right place.

Off we went.

We drove for quite a while and then drove into a neighborhood with lots of traffic stuffed into narrow streets. We crawled along.

In the meanwhile, Ernesto called his son, who spoke English to confirm the address and the neighborhood and the name of the festival. Yes, we were headed in the right direction. However, the neighborhood didn’t look all that promising.

Ernesto’s son told me that his dad would take me to the festival and then stay with me to make sure I was safe–if that’s what I wanted. Or, Ernesto would take me anywhere else I wanted to go.

On we forged.

Finally, we arrived. Ernesto parked the car and we went off in search of pulque and tacos.

The streets were teeming with people. But all we found was (very) loud music and lots of pulque and no tacos. Ernesto got me a sample of pulque and after two sips, I knew it was not for me. We poked around a little more and then agreed that we would leave. I paid Ernesto for the trip thus far. It seemed quite inexpensive for all the time and effort he had put in.

I asked him to take me to where I could get some good tacos.

After a short ride, we arrived at the pop-up mercado and were served scrumptious tacos on which we feasted.

By this point, we were both using spanglish and we seemed to be communicating just fine.

Ernesto told me about his family. His sister lived nearby.

After I took his picture, he took mine and a selfie of the two of us. I noticed the photo on his phone which he told me was his daughter and he told me a little about her. Turned out too that his son is an opera singer which I enthused about.

Finishing lunch, I saw Ernesto reaching for his wallet. I insisted that the cuenta (bill) be given to me, that lunch was my treat. He was effulgent with thanks.

Before we left however, Ernesto stopped by the to see the cook and get a take out order. For his mother, he said.

Mexicans take care of their families.

Then Ernesto and I headed back for my BnB. I moved from the back seat to the front and we rolled on. When we arrived, Ernesto pulled over and played me videos of his son performing opera. A very talented young man.

I tried to pay for the ride back, but Ernesto would not hear of it.

He told me that anytime I visited Mexico City to let me know and if he was available, he’d take me where I needed to go.

A stranger at first, and then a friend.

This is Mexico.