Two fer one--My friend Jose

Baja Bernie - 7-6-2007 at 06:04 PM

From Mi Baja No Hurry No Worry

Jose the Gardener

Up until 1984 all water consumed in the camp had to be hauled in by water truck. Cayo was the man for our camp and he made a very good living for his family by hauling water to various camps in the area. Soon a water system was developed that imported water from a well over near the mesa. This allowed water to be piped directly into our pillas. When this water became available most people in camp stopped buying water from Cayo. A few of the old timers refused to go on “the City Water” because we didn’t want to hurt Cayo by reducing the money he made to support his family.

One day Jose stopped by my casita and asked why I continued to take water ‘that way’ pointing to the water truck. I explained that Cayo was mi amigo. I thought Jose would drop his question, but no, he continued to pursue my thinking in using that ‘old way.’

“You know, how you say, progress it is a good thing. When I was a boy the tractors came, they could do the work of twenty—no a hundred men. You know people were afraid that they would lose work. But, you know, that didn’t happen. They made more jobs. Yes! Progress is good.” Leaning on his hoe he c-cked his head and looked at me for a response.

“True,” I said, “but you know Cayo is mi amigo, mi comparde. You know that I can’t stop taking water from him because it would be like taking food out of his kids mouths.”
“Ok! Sometimes progress comes too fast, but it is still good, Muy Bueno.”

“Poco-poco” (slow-slow).

“Sure, OK! You know I went to the States in 1958. I worked for Pep Boys and made good money. You know I was in Tennessee and Alabama, all over. You know they didn’t care if I was a Mexican, only if I was a good worker. I made good money. You know the United Way—I gave! I saw a lot of poor people in Tennessee. “I gave them money.”

“Por Que? Why!”

“Because you know, they needed it.”


“I came back to my village in Mexico.” They have a saying—Elephantes come home to die. They told me, “Jose you are an elephant!”

“Before I left you could go into the orange groves and pick oranges for nada.”

“In los Estados Unidos?”

“No, no in my village. But, you know, now the farmers have helicopters and voices out of the sky say ‘Don’t take my oranges’. Is that progress?”

I laughed and Jose said he had to go to work. He started to leave but turned and said, “It’s crazy us Mexicans go to the States to work hard and make money. You gringo’s come to Mexico to slow down and relax. But, you know, in the end all elephants return home.”

“Si! I said, “It’s a shame we can’t take the Mexican heart and the gringo head and make people who truly think with both.”

He looked at me, c-cked his head and laughed.

“Si! That would be true progress. But, now I gotta go back to work!”

From "Bouncing Around Baja"

Jose the Guard

Yes! The same Jose who was my friend for many years and a guy who I really enjoyed talking with.

You will remember that I introduced you to Jose the Gardner in my last book, “Mi Baja No Hurry No Worry.” Well he got a pretty good promotion since then. He is now our daytime camp guard. And a very good one. You will recall that he had lectured me on the benefits of progress. Well this time my lecture began, very forcefully! I had made the comment that you Mexicans treated the Indians just as badly as we did. Jose got peeed in a nano second, he was right in my face—and we were off to the races. “Burnie, you are so wrong! Yes, we both, Mexico and the U.S., treated them the same way.” Wow! He was really on a roll. His normally low-keyed speech moved up several octaves and his gestures became more than brisk, almost threatening. “They didn’t make anything, they just wandered around killing all of the buffalo. You know, when they killed everything in one place, you know, they just moved on. It’s a good thing that the English guys came to Plymouth Rock and we came to Mexico.”


“No, wait. You know, you know they needed someone to take care of them, they don’t plant food—all they want to do is hunt and eat—and you know. They are like children.”


“Cabron” (bastard) Jose turned his back on me and stalked away in a huff. Taking a deep-deep breath and shoving his hands deeply into his pockets, he turned. “You know, you just don’t understand. We have to take care of them or they will all die.”

With that Jose ended our very one sided discussion with, “progress is good.”

Cooling off and sitting down he began to tell me about his youth in his native state of Sinola. “You know, Señor, when I was twelve I started reading detective stories. I read Sherlock Holmes a hundred times. It became my dream to become a super cop. The guy who could solve all of the problems. When I was fourteen my dad sent away for a book. How do you say it? Si, correspondence school in Mexico City. I studied hard and learned how to fingerprint AND everything.”

“You really did that all by yourself?” I asked.

“Si, and when I got old enough I got on the State Police. (In Mexico all state cops are plain-clothes detectives who investigate all state crimes. Uniformed guys are local and they basically write tickets and preserve the peace. Don’t confuse the local guys with the Mexican Highway Patrol officers who are all commissioned officers in the Mexican Army. As a retired Police Captain I can tell you that they are highly educated men who are of the highest professional standards.) It was really my dream job but pretty soon I quit.”


“Cause I found out, you know, my partners were all Mafia. Just like those guys who work for the Arellano brothers. You know, those guys who run the drug gangs in Tijuana.”

Jose is a wonderful man who has led a very interesting life. He is always surprising me with things like—Oh, you know my friend in Massachusetts. When he reads my disbelief he pulls out his wallet and produces the guy’s business card.


If you spent a little time and watched how Jose carries himself, so straight and proud, it would not be too difficult for you to guess that he had been in the Mexican Army. He became a Sergeant after serving his country for six years.

Most of the people who know Jose take him for granted. They just see him as a blind in one eye old man and they question his ability to do his job. That is really sad because there are a whole lot of “Jose’s” in Mexico who speak better English than we speak Spanish and in many cases they are more knowledgeable about both the U.S. and Mexico than Norte Americano’s are.

Spend some time listening and watching and you just might learn a whole lot.

I have!

Sadly, my good friend Jose Navarez, age 57, unexpectedly passed away on October 5, 2003. I wrote about him as Jose the Gardner because he had traveled all over the United States and was proud that he had given to the United Way. In Tennessee he took money out of his pocket to help the poor. When I asked him why he replied, “Well, you know they needed it.” He was that kind of a guy. We would talk for hours about his country that he loved so much—he realized that it still had a great many problems facing it.

When I told him that I had sold my home in La Salina he asked if I would visit him—and now I can’t! Tears well up in my eyes as I think of my friend. You should hope to meet one who is so proud and kind. Dead at 57 with so much knowledge about both countries—gone.

Resto en la paz, mi Amigo.
(Rest in Peace, my Friend.)

P.S. Almost four years have passed and the tears still hang at the corners of my eyes as I think of my friend. I guess they always will...................Because that was the kind of man he was.

Bedman - 7-6-2007 at 06:58 PM

Bernie, my friend,

As usual, you allow me to eavesdrop on your inner thoughts. And as always, I walk away with more than I brought.

Thanks again for the insight.


Cypress - 7-6-2007 at 07:28 PM

Thanks Bernie.:D:D

Bajafun777 - 7-6-2007 at 09:14 PM

Bernie, your friend Jose reminds me of a worker my dad had driving tractor for him named Domingo. He had blue eyes as his dad was from Spain and his mother was from Mexico and he too was very proud. Domingo loved preparing the land like my dad did for planting and harvesting. He enjoyed talking about the old ways. I watched him and my dad check the plants and as the harvest approached they both liked to "walk the fields" and guess how good or how bad the harvest would be. Domingo worked the farm until his health like my father's would not let him continue. Even though he was able to draw social security he had continued to work the farm until his health issues just got too big. He enjoyed little kids and I never ever saw him angry. Just writing about him I remember his and my father's laughter when they had ended a hard day of work and joked about how things went that day. Both are gone now :(but both enjoyed life in the old ways which in many cases are the best ways:). Later==============bajafun777


Baja Bernie - 7-7-2007 at 08:55 AM

Thank you! I have found that if I pay attention to people and what they really are then I almost always walk away with so much more than what I brought to the encounter.

I find this particulary true of the booksigning event at Keri's every year............I walk away a 'younger' and happier camper because I feed off all of the wonderful folks who stop by to chat.

You would not be wrong if you said that I do the same thing right here on Nomad.

Glad you enjoy multiplying the meaning of life.

Really like your avatar!

Bajafun777...............with those numbers you must be in Seventh Heaven on this day, 7-7-07........

And, yes people are just that people the world over...........and so much fun to meet.


Bedman - 7-9-2007 at 12:23 AM

There was an old saying... wish I remembered the quote exactly. Anyway, it went something like this.

You have two ears, two eyes and one mouth.... use them proportionately


P.S. The Avatar is a picture of the back of my motorhome. You'll know me when you see me, driving away.

mohobck copy.jpg - 34kB


Baja Bernie - 7-9-2007 at 02:26 PM

With a rig painted like that you sure should have a copy of...."Pirates of New Spain 1575-1742" by Peter Gerhard on your coffee table.

Lot of interesting stuff on Baja and Sonora.

That paint job had to set you back a few pesos.