We met Karen when we stopped at a small railroad / Pancho Villa / local history museum in Columbus, New Mexico. Karen has made a semi-permanent home in the small town, crossing the border to Mexico often for dental work, medical exams, and all around cheaper care and medication.
The relationship between the town of Columbus and Puerto Palomas, Mexico is symbiotic - while the retiree population of Columbus relies on affordable medical care, expecting families in the town of Palomas travel across the border to give birth, legally, in Demming, New Mexico. These young American citizens often choose to travel to Columbus for schooling.
As Karen put it, “they take care of our elderly, and we take care of their youth.” This reciprocal relationship is one we’ve found throughout our time in El Paso and the Southwest. It’s also an idea that is at the cornerstone of Karen’s philosophy.
Many years ago, Karen was traveling through a remote area of Mexico with a group of foreign academics. When it came time for Christmas dinner, Karen received directions to the only restaurant in town. She approached the restaurant and asked if they’d be able to serve a Christmas dinner for her group - the restaurant replied “of course!” and simply asked for a small sum of money to help cover the cost of purchasing the food.
On Christmas they feasted, sitting around the large table with members of the restaurant’s staff.
It was only days later that she learned they weren’t at a restaurant at all, but at a private home. That amount of hospitality - the willingness and kindness to welcome a group of strangers into your home for Christmas - is something Karen hopes we can all offer to travelers, outsiders, and to those within our own community.
Pictured here is Jordyn and Justin with Karen - she was open to having her portrait made, but only if we’d join in. For a story about community and friendship, a photo of our vagabond team of wanderers seemed appropriate - so we grabbed a tripod, set the timer, and smiled.
Columbus, New Mexico. April 2018.