Why you should care

Because sometimes it’s OK to talk to strangers.

In this occasional series, OZY takes to streets and neighborhoods across the globe to ask a simple question: “How was your day?”

Cesar Huichan Vazquez
Huamantla, Tlaxcala, Mexico

I left Huamantla at 5 in the morning because a bunch of oranges needed to get to Veracruz. While everyone else is sleeping, I’m trying to make sure they can have something nice and fresh on their table when they wake up. I bring that to them. And I love my job for that reason.

I first drove to the cargo place to load up, which takes a while, and then I drove about eight or nine hours to Veracruz. I got there at midnight and met the clients. Every day, my day ends in a different city. I’ll bring lettuce to Sinaloa or jalapeño chilies — you know, the nice big fat ones — to Jalisco. I’ll go to Mexico City with broccoli. And then Puebla with cilantro. For four or five days, I’ll be away from home.

But it’s not very surprising to my wife, Celia. She knew what she was getting into when she met me. She had a little snack shop on the road, and all the truckers would stop by. I met her there and had a snack. Now we have two boys, a 13-year-old and a 6-year-old.

My dad’s in this business too. At first, when I was young, I didn’t really want to do this work. I tried to sneak into the U.S. I took a flight from Mexico City to Tijuana. Then a group of 15 of us, with three guides — coyotes — walked for hours to the freeway that runs between Yuma and San Diego. Someone was supposed to pick us up there, but they never showed up. It was freezing, and the people who were supposed to bring water and food didn’t. It was really a rough situation. When the Border Patrol caught us, I was ready to go home.

There’s a lot of pressure in this business because the produce has to get there fresh. No one wants wilted lettuce.

I first started trucking live chickens, taking them around the country. I did that for seven years and saved up the money to get my own truck. Then I switched to fruits and vegetables. Broccoli, lettuce, cilantro, papayas, all of them.

There’s a lot of pressure in this business because the produce has to get there fresh. No one wants wilted lettuce. So I can’t oversleep. When it’s mango season in Chiapas, that’s when it’s really crazy, since mangoes go bad quickly. From Chiapas to Guadalajara is like 32 hours. Pretty much two nights not really sleeping, because I have to get the mangoes there.

But I guess the truth is, I like to travel. I wouldn’t want to be closed up someplace. I mean, one day I’m in one place, and the next day I’m in another. It’s total freedom. I’ve seen so many beautiful places. I’ve seen so many ugly places. I know so many cuisines; I’ve eaten things you can’t imagine. And I’ve met people from all over the country. I really love that. Now when I go on vacation with my family, I know someone everywhere we go, and that makes me feel proud in front of my wife. When I show up someplace and everyone is like, “Hey, Huichan! Hey, man, how’s it going?!”

Some trips just enchant me. The 1,800-mile trip to Tijuana is my favorite; I’ve done it three times. You load up, drive the rest of the day and sleep at night. And wake up and do it again. And then again! And it’s so amazing to finally see Tijuana, driving into it, after all that time. Even if I don’t stay for long, even if it’s just to deliver some vegetables. For me, I guess it’s more about the trip there than the arrival. If I sit for a couple days, I start itching to get back out there, back on the road.

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Good stories from around the globe. Essays and immersion, into the harrowing, the sweet, the surprising -- the human.