Love in Mexico

Navigating family and place


Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico
December 31
This blog documents the encounters and events that taught me about Mexico, and about the culture of family, Mexico's and my own. .............................................… Find more of my work at ........................................... Thanks for reading.


JANUARY 29, 2011 4:07PM

Dashboard Crucifix: A Seatbelt Lover in Mexico

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 My son may not be safe in all the ways that he could be. He might not be safe at all. But I want more for him than his bodily safety and my peace of mind. I also want him to grow up flexible and free and unafraid...



This little essay on one of the ethical dilemmas of living with children abroad appears in its entirety on National Geographic's (see the link below). 


As I lurch towards the windshield, I watch the pickup driver’s face.

“What that noise?” my toddler asks.

I pull his thirty-pound body back to my chest and tighten my grip. I don’t look behind to see the sources of the screeching tires sliding towards my taxi’s bumper. I’m just watching the man, hoping he feels my fury. But his face remains serene. He’s just making a left turn across four fast-moving lanes the way one does in Mexico.

“When cars stop fast, the tires make that sound,” I say to my son as the pickup man finishes his turn and our taxi resumes breakneck speed.

My little scholar of all things automotive begins to rehearse this new addition to his repertoire.


Which is why we wear seatbelts, mutters the American-mother voice in my head. But this lesson is mine alone: a Christ on his cross dangles from every Mexican taxi’s rearview mirror, but there are no seatbelts.

My current home in Mexico is the most recent in a series notorious for wild roads. In India, the end of every bus ride came with the elation of survival. In Ecuador, most human modes of transport also ferried livestock. And in El Salvador, the history of corpses on the roads is as long and dark as the rules are loose. But I wasn’t a mother when I lived in those places, and, while I had a healthy respect for the dangers I assumed traveling those roads, I loved watching the blur of the road through rust holes between my feet...

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Mothers are always scared for their young. I was. I would be without seatbelts. When I rode in a car in Beirut, I about peed in my pants. There are no lines on the street, everyone just free wheels. OMG, thank goodness I didn't have my son with me. He was grown. Take care.
We have become more Americanized in the island as time has gone by. When I was little we didn't wear seatbelts and my brother and I shared the window seat as we could, neither willing to give up the space. Nowadays, no one gets on my car if they're not willing to use the seatbelt.
I read this then the whole article. I really enjoyed the perspective - makes me think of the La Fontaine fable of the dog and the wolf. We can choose to be safe and comforted all our lives, but never free - or we can be free to roam and learn and live as we want, but safety and comfort may be compromised. There is no right answer - especially when, as you point out, living somewhere that has different dangers and safety standards, can also benefit a child immensely in terms of what he can learn about language, life, and other cultures. Whatever the case, your love as a mother shines through and I wish you and your family safety on those roads.
July 4th, 1999. I was in a taxicab in Mexico City, going to one of the museums there. On the dashboard was an engraved plaque reading "SOLO DIOS SABE SU DESTINO," which translates to both "Only God knows your destiny" and "Only God knows your destination." While both are true, neither is an extremely comforting thought to have brought home in a Mexico City taxi.
Enjoying your series here. Thank you.
Aha! A mother with the right idea.