For anyone who might not know, MacGyver definitely is not my husband's real name, but the TV character inspired name given to him by one of my brothers for his ability to fix anything and build something out of nothing...
"How did you and your husband meet?"
This is the question I have been asked more than any other for the past 15 years, not because we are all that interesting, but because we are from two different countries that lie an ocean apart from one another, and people are always curious. So here's the story...
In 1992 I was traveling in Mexico with one of my best friends. We crossed the border in Ciudad Juárez and caught the train that travels the length of the Copper Canyon. Copper Canyon is a magical and wild part of Mexico, populated by Indians known as the Tarahumara and cowboys on horseback.
Tarahumara mother and daughter
We were traveling in the winter, and if I'm not mistaken it was the first time in my life that I hadn't returned home to family for Christmas. I was living a happy-as-a-clam-life in New Mexico, and my friend and I were definitely on one of those girls only kind of trips. Romance was the last last thing on my list of things to do and see. In fact, I didn't have any list at all.
The train through Copper Canyon is notoriously slow, or at least it was back then, and in the late afternoon you stop and sleep in the small towns along the way. Our second night's stop was in a town called Creel. We clamoured off the train and followed a little Mexican boy to La Casa de Huespedes Margarita, a guest house that catered to people stopping overnight as they awaited the train on the following day. I just took a look on the Internet, and it looks as if Margarita has had a huge success with her guest house business, and things are much snazzier than they were all those years ago.The second floor and emerging third floor weren't there when I stayed, and there was a huge pile of firewood on the front porch. The rickety addition on the left was where my friend and I slept that night. There was only one "private" room in the place, which Margarita promptly gave to the two blond gringas. The rest was a ramshackle collection of bunk beds and fold out couches, with one eternally stopped up shower and toilet. It was heavenly.
As I wrote earlier, it was winter, Christmas day in fact, and cold. The only heat in the place was generated through several woodburning stoves. Our room had a little pot bellied stove, and wood neatly piled in the corner. There was only one problem... how the hell did you light a stove?
That's when I saw MacGyver. He was sitting on the couch which he had staked out as his own for the night, and, as usual, staring out the window playing some kind of symphony in his head that only he could hear. Aside from the overall Latin adorable look, I noticed his burly hands, and decided to go for it and ask him for help with the fuego... hace frio!! Little did I know then that he was a bonafide Jeremiah Johnson, and for him lighting a fire was like popping open a can of Diet Coke to this americana.
In truth my memories about the rest of that evening are fuzzy at best, but I do remember how sorry I was that we were both leaving the next morning; I was going south and he was going east. I don't think we even exchanged addresses.
Four days later I was in La Paz, on the tip of the Baja Peninsula, trying to convince my friend to call in sick to her boss so that we could extend our trip. I had just awoken from this dream, you see, and I was having one of those HELL YES moments. I had dreamt of MacGyver. He was telling me to quit my job (I was working in a natural foods co-op back then), and as I haggled on the telephone with my fellow comrades (no bosses at the Co-op), he told me to just hang up and go with him. It was so real, and I was so happy in the dream. I was laughing. But my friend wouldn't budge, so I just kept my little personal high to myself and we headed back to the north.
We arrived at Margarita's on New Year's Eve. It was snowing and there were preparations for the wild pistol shooting, dog barking party that would take place in the center of town that evening. Margarita hustled us into the same room. I remember her calling us chicas locas or some such thing... There was the stove, and the wood, and after a moment the knock on the door as MacGyver asked if I needed help lighting it! As fate would have it, his friend had sprained an ankle, and they were forced to return to Creel.
I can't quite describe the feeling I had when I saw him again. I definitely wasn't having images of marriage or moving to Italy or children. I was thinking about the dream, and I told my dumbstruck friend that if she wasn't quitting her job, I sure as hell was quitting mine. We celebrated the New Year in the town plaza in front of the church, amidst gun packing cowboys and howling dogs.
Our first kiss happened on those steps to the right of the church.
The rest is history.