The first time I smoked Mexican ditch weed in Mexico itself was in Puebla, Mexico. It was probably the ugliest thing I saw in Puebla other than this toilet.
Pretty much everything else I saw in Puebla was stunningly gorgeous.
My host is a mountaineer at heart, and a romantic. He describes the Tlaxcaltecan legend behind the shapes of the volcanoes Popocatépetl and Iztaccihuatl who grace the Puebla skyline.
She lies down while he kneels over her. For eternity.
I learn of the wars between the Tlaxcaltecas and the Aztecs and also the eventual alliance of the Tlaxcaltecas with the Spaniards. There is so much I do not know about Mexico.
I learn that the second war against the French started with Mexico defeating France in the Battle of Puebla, which led to their “victory” for only about a year. And then somehow ended up in what now USAmericans celebrate with sombreros and tequila as Cinco De Mayo, which oddly was first celebrated by Californian Mexican Americans as part of their heritage and now is a commercial holiday like Mardi Gras or St. Patrick’s Day. Booze and icons.
I learn of the revolution, and Carmen Serdan, who gave her life to save the revolutionaries, and see the bullet holes in the family home from the first shots fired in the wars that led to freedom. It may have been folkloricized and altered, but the story is beautiful and that they celebrate a heroine of their history in it makes me happy.
Anyway, Puebla is pretty. Mostly don’t care about their history, just want to look at it the way it is now.
I sleep in my host’s daughter’s room. Filled with toys and Disney. She must be five or so, judging from what’s there. I hear that he doesn’t see her as much as he’d like.
I’m driving through Mexico in a rented car, which I park in his yard. Perhaps not the smartest idea, but nothing happens to me. I am careful with my destinations and Puebla is lovely. My host helps me do some laundry and hang it above the vehicle.
I explore the city myself. I drink a lot of mezcal and even some pulque. It’s a buzzing, artsy, touristy, fun city center and due to the Volkswagen and other automotive plants nearby the city is doing okay. People have some money to spend.
It’s my first experience of learning that pretty much every town and city in Mexico is its own, different thing, and also they are almost all absolutely fascinating and lovely.
I’ve been to a few other Mexican cities by now, yet seen nothing like the bright colors and well kept, clean streets of the colonial city center of Puebla.
The Centro histórico de Puebla is a UNESCO world heritage site and I think it deserves it. Noticed that most of the tourists are from other parts of Mexico. It’s a shame that USAmericans still view Mexico as unsafe. Sure, some parts are, but so are some parts of the US.
There’s color everywhere in Puebla. The painted buildings, the lights at night, the sunsets pink and red and orange yellow over the blue mountains darkening into purple. It’s a beautiful city.
Puebla also has spectacular street art.
Mural art in general is unbelievable in Mexico, the best in the world. Here in Puebla it is scattered everywhere, and then intentionally covers a low income neighborhood that used offers to street artists to change the face of the barrio to kick off an urban renewal for that neighborhood. It’s a lovely use of street art.
My host meets up with me here, not that it is still that dangerous but because he would love to see how it has developed. We then go out drinking together with another Argentinian friend. Somehow myself and the Argentine end up lightly teasing our Mexican host all night in a loving way. It’s a sweet dynamic. We all had a very good time.
I finally get to ride one of the public buses with the spinning rims that I have seen tooling around town. The bus is full and we stand in the aisle holding on to the straps above while our host points things out as we pass. Poor woman’s night bus tour of Puebla ends up a richer experience than I could ever hope for.
We ride the teleferico and I see the whole city from above at night, lights twinkling and the shadows of the mountains. Young people on dates taking selfies and kissing. It’s beautiful.
I am drinking mezcal and they mostly beer though of course my host joins me in a few rounds.
Then out comes the story of why he doesn’t see his daughter as much as he would love. His wife left with his daughter for the best reason – he told her he was in love with another woman. He was and is. The other woman was much younger, and has now left him.
The other woman’s name is Susanna.
It’s a tragic tale and he tells it sadly. He has never felt for another woman the way he felt for her. He didn’t know what love was until she came into his life. And now, he has lost access to his child. She comes up again over the night.
He both scorns her and desires her at the same time.
It’s not until we are walking home and some of the street salesmen try to sell me some weed that my host realizes he should get some weed for myself and our Argentinian friend who also uses, and of course, grows.
He warns me not to get it from the guys on the block. I am kind of taken with them and they me, and can’t believe that they’d rip me off, but he insists.
“Zoe no don’t do it, they will sell you oregano. I can get you something, hold on.”
He makes phone calls and eventually his sister comes over and delivers. I get excited, but then when I look at it I let out a laugh.
“OMG it’s Mexican ditch weed in Mexico!” I say, before being able to stop myself. It’s compressed, oily, and full of stems and seeds.
It’s exactly the same as the crappy Mexican ditch weed that I was introduced to in Los Angeles by a guy named Shaggy (see chapter 2 of my book Down and Out in California for more), and have seen many times since in many places, but mostly in California.
During the peak of the drug war the Mexican cartels figured out how to supply the lowest end product in bulk. They took low quality, outdoor grown, untended marijuana and compressed it into bricks, which they then would transport into the US in various ways.
If, like me, your use left you broke – you ended up smoking Mexican Ditch Weed. But never for long, because it’s awful, and hurts the lungs without really getting you all that high.
We smoke it anyway. It really isn’t good. It’s Mexican ditch weed. In Mexico.
My host does magic card tricks and then begins moaning over Susanna again.
I launch into a round of “O Susanna” to tease him.
He looks at me blankly. It dawns on me that this is a USAmerican classic that probably hasn’t made it too far out, or at least not to Puebla, Mexico.
I realize this is a unique and precious chance for cultural sharing and pull it up on YouTube. His eyes well with tears and he plays it on repeat. By the end of the night he is drunkenly belting it out, thankfully minus the N-word.
We laugh and hang out until the wee hours and hug before going to bed. I find it funny that the Argentinian and I relate more closely, and also that the Argentinian is the least dramatic of us. He shakes his head at my host’s singing of “O Susanna”.
“He has the heart of a Mexican.” he says, shrugging.
“Lucky him.” I say, and we smile.
The next day over breakfast I pour a bunch of salsa on my huevos and tortillas, some of each kind available because it is all delicious and fresh and wonderful. My host widens his eyes at my spice tolerance tells me I have the soul of a Mexican. I smile.
If I had the soul of a Mexican I’d maybe be less disappointed by Mexican ditch weed.
Got any funny stories about Mexican ditch weed? Let me know in the comments!
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