By Sergio Morales
Fresh, arid air engulfed me as I exited the noisy bus terminal for the harsh sunlight of my home city. Papagayo Park’s flourishing greenery loomed in the distance, drowned out only by voluminous crowds of tourists flanked by an unceasing flow of traffic. Upon entering a taxi, my parents and I zipped down Acapulco’s coastal avenue and the turquoise waters of the city’s humongous bay came into focus, topped by ornate yachts and surrounded by powdery sand dotted with energetic beach-goers. Overlooking the beaches, metal stalagmites masqueraded as tropical resorts entwined between the luxurious shopping centers and expensive restaurants, all combining to provide endless outlets for prosperous visitors. Surrounded by all of this glamour, I felt delighted to be born in this city. Yet as our taxi climbed off the coastal avenue and entered a lengthy tunnel, hungry mountains swallowed up overflowing roads and stereotypical Acapulco quickly faded into nature’s madness.
As we exited the tunnel on an increasingly unkempt road, the graffiti teased us and we traveled back in time. Hiding in the greenery of the emerging foothills, diminutive concrete buildings with withered aluminum roofs tried their best to stand tall. Ramshackle trucks replaced extravagant vehicles. Neglected, littered sidewalks and streets substituted freshly paved avenues. dilapidated family businesses conquered vibrant shopping centers. The single dialect of Spanish overcame the buzzing different languages heard on the beaches. Surrounded by squalor, embarrassment took over my once fascinated face. I took one last glance at the shabby boulevard, its inhabitants surprisingly roistering around the untended streets and shops.
I knew the journey was over when I recognized the massive, octopus-shaped hill that oversaw my entire hometown. After exiting the taxi, my parents and I set out to reach my grandmother’s house located on the upper side of the hill. As I was walking up the hill, I couldn’t help but frown at all of my surroundings: trash littered all over the streets, houses struggling to stand up, and numerous feral animals roaming around. I felt more ashamed of growing up here.
However, the sound of laughter and conversation cheered me up, my grandmother and grandfather gleefully chatting as we arrive. I finally spotted my grandparents’ house, where my younger cousins were having a great time playing tag and my grandmother was gleefully tending clothes into the clothesline. Besides my grandmother’s house was my aunt’s one-room convenience store, where my aunt expressed a huge smile once she saw us in the distance. The enthusiasm from my family made me get lost in a dream of good memories that I experienced here: my first time backpacking to a nearby uninhabited hill with my uncle, playing hide and seek in an abandoned house with my cousins, the annual festival that arrives every winter, and going on an exciting journey across the hills with my aunt to pick up my cousins every day from school. Because of this, I started to view my hometown in an appreciative way despite its repugnant exterior. Despite having a touristic wonderland a few miles away, I felt freer and more comfortable to be walking around the area that shaped me. Letting out a cheerful grin, I was proud to consider this poverty-stricken barrio as home.