Monday, November 5, 2007

Day 1: Oaxaca to Tehuacan

The morning that the race kicked off was a fury of chaos and confusion. I'd like to say that it got less so as the days progressed. Looking back, I think that the chaos created at atmosphere of excitement and "go-go-go!", so it wasn't so bad actually.

Green Flag

I was sad to say good-bye to Oaxaca, but excited for the day. The sections went well, a few cars crashed but none from our class. The first few kilometers of the first race section were the same as in qualifying, so we were at least prepared for that. We had also been told about how people line the route, waving and cheering. Families drove their trucks from their farms to the main road to get a glimpse of the race cars whizzing by. It was very cool! When we were in the transit sections, we'd wave back and they'd cheer all the more.

We were not prepared for the reception we'd receive in Zacatecas.

Band at Arch (Day 1 - Tehuacan)

Crowd at Arrival (Day 1 - Tehuacan)

After an exhausting day of driving, we pulled into town and were met by streets lined with spectators. They were all waving, cheering, clapping, waving flags, and taking pictures. Near the arrival arch, they had poured into the street. We had only our car's width of space to drive through the arch. I stuck my hand out to wave and people grabbed it to shake my hand, gave me high-fives, wish us luck, welcome us to their town. Little kids just wanted to touch my hand, even if was for a second. I was really touched by this. The excitement was so genuine and unabashed. We may be in this extraordinary race, driving an extraordinary car - but we are really ordinary people. I didn't feel worthy of such a welcome - but this event, The Mexican Road Race is HUGE to the people of Mexico. It's a uniting event for these towns and the country. In a strange way, all this fuss made me feel very humble. The event is much more exciting than I am - but to the fans, we are one and the same.

The La Carrera arrival in Tehuacan is an annual reason for the town to party. There was a band, beer tents, vendors, food, dancing, and tons of people. A man asked me to talk to his English students - a group of young women who were anxious to converse in English with actual Americans. I asked if any of them had their driver's license - hoping to initiate a conversation about the opportunities for women in racing. None of them had one. None of them wanted one. Everyone takes the bus or rides a bike. So much for me being inspirational. :) I did tell them about the donkey in the race section - which made them furrow their brow but laugh politely. Then I remembered that 1 of the 4 Spanish words I know is "burro" and that made the story much funnier to them.

Outside of our Driver's Meeting  (Day 1 - Tehuacan)

Our driver's meeting/awards ceremony was in the Historic Section of Tehuacan. There was a big party of some kind going on outside with a band and dancers. There was a band for our ceremony too, a very formal and well drummed flag ceremony, some local beauty queen, and the mayor. Every time the winners of a particular class were announced, the band played a few bars of some congratulatory song that sounded a lot like "The bear came over the mountain." After 5 or 6 groups of winners were announced, the song had permanently embedded itself into our brains, and Emil and I hummed it for the rest of the night.

Band at Driver's Meeting (Day 1 - Tehuacan)

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