Distilled Spirits 10 Years Strong

"After all, 10 years is a drop in the bucket when you're South of the border"
Central Mexico
Between the Deserts and the Coast

Story & Media: Ben Rubin

In 2006, after spending several years in Southern California, I decided to take the 3 day train ride back to New York with high hopes of returning to a life with seasons.  After just a few months, my spirits were waning when I found myself facing the sobering reality of another Upstate winter.  With limited funds, I did what any disenchanted broke American does - I threw together an overstuffed backpack full of desperation and blind optimism and took a one-way flight to Central Mexico.  

In San Miguel de Allende, I was able to rent a shed on the roof of a local painter's home for 70 dollars a month, share an artist's studio with a Finnish couple in the center of town, and eventually make my way down to the Western coast to explore the sleepy indigenous beach villages of Michoacán.  

All these years later, Mexico feels the same - after all, 10 years is a drop in the bucket when you're South of the border.  You can still hear José Alfredo Jiménez ballads floating over swinging doors from all the familiar cantinas, the same dust-covered pickup trucks chug their way up cobbled streets, and fossilized hippies from North America continue to make their pilgrimage down here to drink from the margarita fountain of youth.

Wandering the streets my second night in town I even bumped into Juan, the local painter who shared his home with me - he still sells paintings in the park on the weekends and can still put up with my shaky Spanish - although a few beers always help.  

I dug through the archives and found some egg tempera sketches and a few photos of that era.  From the haircuts and balloons to the sunsets and the crickets, today's Mexico tastes the same as the one I bottled up - distilled spirits 10 years strong.

For more from my decade-old adventure South of the border, check out one of my earliest posts on my sketchbook blog: Wire in Maruata