Travel with me to Oaxaca, Mexico as I write

Travel with me to Oaxaca, Mexico as I write

It was seven years ago this week that I went to the mountains of Oaxaca to write “TOÑO LIVES.” Last June I shared a blog from a series of posts I wrote there while holed up at my residency. I get quite overcome with emotion when I read these posts all these years later. It’s as if I’ve climbed a mountain. Today I share the second blog post from that series:

“One week completed.

The house I live in high up in the San Pablo, Etla terrain looks out over the city, like a blanket spread out and sprinkled with glitter. The lights twinkle as I connect them like so many dots on a familiar landscape, at least as familiar as one week can acquaint you. I have eaten calabaza, nopales in soup, agua de melon and a plate of chicken enchiladas with salsa verde so fine I may never make them again in protest of not having these exact ones. Making them just like I ate them will be a challenge.

I am adjusted, I feel at home and I am writing.

Today marked a milestone for me as I completed nearly 22,000 words in the seven days I’ve been writing here. Each morning I awaken, always very early, and contemplate my day. I feel no stress and no urgency to get going, to move. When I finally arise, I sit at my computer that looks out an open window to the city below, and I type. For all the years I’ve tried, and all the times I’ve procrastinated, it seems the story has been waiting to emerge here, in the place where George’s blood and tears flowed. Coming here was the right choice. It was intended for me to know its name and claim my spot here.

I write him, and I feel each emotion as I connect it from my mind to the screen. Somehow, when I look up, it is hours later and many, many words have been written. The book is taking shape and finding purchase. If I can complete this many words per week before I head home, I will be very close to done. Although, as with any book, I don’t know how many words it will need, and I’ll write until it’s done. I’ve learned that with writing, it’s best to get into a routine of every day, even if it’s just several inches of lines that add to the story.

This city is so unique and so special. On two different occasions I’ve had the opportunity to meander through the zocalo, explore the markets and eat food from the bounty of vendors that line the streets. I’ve stood in front of the church where George found refuge and gave back, as well as the market where he slept under the tables for so many nights. I’ve felt goosebumps many times, as though an invisible finger reached out to touch me and let me step through a curtain of time, to see what I must envision.

I have several more places I want to visit in connection to the story, as well as some artist markets and shoppes some of the friends I’ve made here at the residency have told me about. The old train station is a main place I need to go as that’s where he first arrived, stepped off and didn’t quite know where he was. I want to go and stand in his steps and see, at least partially, what he may have seen. I know he is waiting for me back in Ohio, yet I can feel him here. I can sense his little frame running through the streets, lost and not knowing which way to turn. I stand in his small footprints and reach out to hold a little hand that’s not there yet is trapped in time and awaiting the full story to come into the light.

This I will do, for him and for me. When it’s all done, he needs to come back to this place to feel it and find peace. Even though he is a happy man, always the life of any party and especially my heart, he needs to come full circle and stand in the zocalo where he ran hungry and tired, and finally let go of that little boy that he was.

Mexico is a country full of ancient wonder and beautiful people. They are welcoming and warm, full of life and vigor. I entreat you to see beyond what you hear in the news and find the real Mexico. It is a lushly wonderful place full of inspiration if you look for it.

And I write on.”

Melissa Herrera is a columnist, published author and drinker of too many coffees based in Holmes County. You can find her book, “TOÑO LIVES,” at or buy one from her in person (because all authors have boxes of their own novel). For inquiries or to purchase, email her at

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