H. Allen Smith

SEVERAL DAYS AGO I wrote to Carlos, suggesting that if he were not playing dominoes tonight, he might drive out and meet us at the airport. It was around midnight when we landed and I didn't expect him to be there, but when we arrived at the immigration-customs barrier and looked through the big plate-glass window, there he was, white teeth flashing in a big smile of welcome.

During our previous visit to Mexico we spent about a month with Carlos, traveling around the country. Ever since then I have been getting occasional letters from him, all in the same vein. Here is one of the most recent:

Senor Gobernador:

I write with my deepest regrets as I have to report that things are worst than ever before. Nothing seems to be the same since you left. Do you remember good old Carta Blanca? Well, she became ill because your mellodious voice ceased to calling her. Her constant cry is, "Allen, Allen, where are you? Have you so soon forgotten the good times you spent in my company specially in the night?" But I promise her your quick return and she does not believe me so you will have to do something about this real quick.

I have another bit of bad news for you. Taxco is an awful town now. I can't go there anymore. The people there discovered that a crazy Gringo several months ago protected a puerco that was being kicked and stabbed in one of the town's barber shops while he was getting a hair cut and at the same time drinking a beer. Well, the people of Taxco have elected a committee to raise some funds to erect a monument to the memory of there beloved Gringo. It is to have the inscription: "To Allen, the Gringo husband of Nelle, Great Benefactor of the Puercos."

This idea was so great and naturally you know how human beings are so jealousy crep into the minds and hearts of ranchers, farmers, peasants, and specially Bar-tenders. The farmers stated that the magueys along the highway from Querétaro to Mexico City were generously watered by that extraordinary Gringo H. Allen Smith, but since he went away no one else has watered them ever since. But the Bar-tenders say if it was not for them and their cerveza the magnificent Gringo would never have watered the magueys so much and the farmers say they don't care what caused it, just so long as it happened.

In San Miguel the people all say, where is the Gobernador, who was the great movie actor in our town? My poor half-starve family will thank heaven for your coming. They have not seen a chili bean in ages. All except my dog Queenie, who will try to take a bite of one of your hairless spaguetti legs. Salud, mi amigo, cabrón!


People who travel in foreign lands almost always boast about the guides they hire; usually they insist that they had the best and most wonderful guide in the whole history of tourism. I know one couple who engaged a guide in Paris to drive them around the southern part of France for ten days. At the end of that time they had fallen so thoroughly in love with the man that they invited him to go with them, as their guest, on a month's expedition into Africa.

Carlos Campo is easily the most wonderful guide in the whole history of tourism. After I had known him for two days I handed him all my money, without counting it, and told him to take care of all expenditures, and at the end of the month to give me back whatever was left. He always traveled with us as a companion rather than a hired hand, eating with us, going along when we called on important people; and all over Mexico people were constantly asking us, "Where on earth did you ever get hold of Carlos?" This was Nelle's achievement, and she always told about it in the same efflorescent detail that is used in the story of Juan Diego's first meeting with the Virgin of Guadalupe. She was sitting in the American Express office in Mexico City when a young Spanish woman sat down beside her. They fell into conversation and Nelle asked her if she knew a good Mexican guide. The Spanish girl said indeed she did, that she knew a marvelous man named Carlos Campo who had been most helpful to her American husband, and she gave Nelle the phone number of this Carlos Campo.

Carlos is a stocky, powerfully built man in his forties. He was once a soccer player in a land where soccer is almost the national sport. Later he was a coach of a championship team and became quite famous. Traveling with him is somewhat the same as it would be to travel around the United States with Red Grange.

The two really important qualities possessed by Carlos are his efficiency and his sense of humor. His jokes, which he calls yokes, are told in halting English with little speech mannerisms that give them character, and his spontaneous humor and wit sometimes border on the classic style of japery. I remember once when we were in a store in Cuernavaca where he was buying a new pair of sunglasses. He tried on a pair and then turned to me and said, "Look, Allen, how smart is God, to put the ears in just exactly the right place to hold on the glasses." On another occasion I read to him, from a news magazine, an account of a soccer game in El Salvado. In this game the two capitanos appeared on the field wearing pistols. Midway in the contest there was a disputed decision, out came the pistols, the crowd swept onto the field swinging machetes, and in the end six were dead and many gravely wounded. When I had finished reading the item, Carlos gave me a solemn glance and then commented: "The Salvadoreans, they play soft." And once when I was making some harsh remarks about Mexican political dishonesty, he said, "You better shut your big mouth, or I will Alamo you."

In our earlier ramblings around Mexico there were periods in which we would reverse positions; I would be the guide and Carlos would be the Gringo tourist. We took hold of history by the neck and shook it to pieces, and we made up our own as we went along. Carlos, impersonating a Gringo, was always fun. "Bonus Notches, Seeeenore," he would say in a high, whiny voice, "and what is the altitude in this place, Seeeenore?"

And so during the long ride in from the airport we reminisced and laughed and reminisced some more. "Remember that day in San Miguel, when we made the movie?" I would say: "Sí Gobernador, sí! And the day on the beach at Acapulco when you tried to pet the puerco!"

*Reprinted from The Best of H. Allen Smith Copyright © 1972 by H. Allen Smith

Back to page top

This page has been viewed times since July 14, 2020.

Version 1.1 W.A. Haugen
Last Modified: July 14, 2020.
Origination date of page July 14, 2020.
Back To H. Allen Smith
If you have comments or suggestions, please email me at whaugen@flash.net