Sitting in a café just south of the US-Mexico line, listening to what sounds like Spanish jazz, it’s 7:45 a.m., the morning is cold, the clouds are low, and familiar faces stand in line for their morning brews. A new year is here. Everything feels the same.
I can hear what sounds like familiar conversations. A man named Pancho sits directly in front of me in the only seat at the end of the front counter. He is here every morning, at the same time, wearing what feels like the same outfit. I know he rides his bike to the café because I see him pedaling his way here from the gym. He’s one of those early-morning people in a town that comes to life at night.
The police officers gather at the front door at about 8:00 a.m. each morning. They need their coffee too. It’s the same group of men dressed like American police, a gun at their side and cargo pants to hold other tools. The cop cars are left running in the parking lot, and they seem happy to be in a warm building. Just like in some parts of America, people think they’re all corrupt here, but they greet me each morning with friendly “bien dia” and other things that friends say to each other.
I come to the café because they know what I want to drink and the seat I always sit in is always there for me to sit in it. The big windows face a two-story house across the street, and the seemingly endless supply of street dogs run up and down the neighborhood. They always have somewhere to go.
A new year is here, but everything feels the same. I could have coffee at home or at the historic hotel café just a few blocks from my apartment. Still, I get up early, cross the international border and head down to my favorite spot. I see the same thing every morning, but so does everyone else in the place. I like it that way.
Most of us do, even if we don’t admit it. We get a feeling, a sense of heartfelt connection with those who are mostly nameless to us but who we think we know on a meaningful level. We don’t know them, but we think we do, and that’s enough.