On Grit, Hearts, and Stolen Phones in Mexico.

Weird stuff goes down for me in Mexico.

I went to Mexico the first time in 2000, right after my mom died. I borrowed ten thousand dollars on a private student loan and willed myself down there. Since then I’ve had so many student loan forgiveness calls, trying to offer me relief from my financial burdens, but I know they’re just a scam so I’ve simply learnt to ignore them.

By the time I got there, my father had shaved his head, bought a Harley Davidson and had remarried in a blackout drunk in Las Vegas. Meanwhile, my Mexican-American boyfriend at the time was in an unacknowledged grief spiral from losing his own mother to AIDS-related illness three years prior. He spent most of his time working on the 1970 Volkswagen Fastback that we drove there from Vermont, and I left for Oaxaca to study Spanish language and art.

I was really unhappy for most of my time there, my heart all papel picado and blowing in whatever breeze the man in my life blew around me.

We went back to Mexico on vacation and I broke my ankle on the first day running into the sea in Veracruz. Did you know La Bamba was a traditional Veracruzian song? Played on friggin’ harps?! I cried and cried, so sad my vacation was ruined, so upset I’d have to start a teaching job on crutches. My boyfriend said my crying “was making his family uncomfortable.”

Again, the misery of circumstance.

(The cast they put on in the Mexican Navy hospital would have probably permanently disfigured me if I hadn’t cut it off early myself with a Leatherman.)

That was like, ten years ago.

I just got back from a new adventure in San Miguel de Allende where I helped Flora Bowley run an intuitive and transformational painting retreat. A couple nights in, my fancy new 32MB iPhone was stolen with all my not-iCloud-backed-up photos on it. I did all the find-your-phone things; it was gone.


Once, I lost everything I had ever gotten there in a bizarre fire that was no accident. Someday I will find the time and courage to tell that story as well.

I decided that this time, it would be different.

It helped that I brought along by “backup” iPhone 4. I had almost sold it on Buyback Boss to get me some extra cash, despite the crack down the middle of it, but I guess its lucky that I didn’t. Maybe when I get my new iPhone I will. It helped that I immediately made a fundraiser on my Etsy store and had hundreds of dollars of donations roll in from friends who saw my Facebook post, who know how much that phone supports my creative livelihood and personal expression. It also helped that the day I was walking along being all sad about it and boo-hooing that my old phone didn’t hold a charge and all the retreat photos were lost and how would I afford a brand new $750 one without the upgrade and what if I can’t get my unlimited data plan back that I had to literally step over a woman and nursing baby begging for pesos. They weren’t even well-off enough to be selling the pepitas the other ladies with nursing babies on the street were selling. For god’s sake, Rachael. Shredded perspective taco with a side of privilege, to go please.

It helped that I had been through much harder stuff. It helped that I have some grit.

And while I can’t always control my compulsive thoughts, I can control which ones I choose to focus on. And I chose to focus on the sunlight and the ochre walls and the textiles and the milagros, all the tiny hands and feet and little corn cobs and things that bring luck to their bearers. On all the souls who were painting in the courtyard, fighting for their own worthiness. On the tin hearts, with wings and fire. Because my heart might be fragile like thin metal and easily pierced, but it burns with will. And my grit is the wings.

the Parish Church at sunset

photo of me in the market by Anahata Katkin.

our hood

our hood

beautiful painted door

San Miguel de Allende view


With Flora Bowley, Anahata Katkin, and me out for rooftop drinks and guac

With Flora Bowley, Anahata Katkin, and me out for rooftop drinks and guac