We left the hotel this morning in our van for the ride to work and stopped at Starbucks (sheen bah kuh in the local pronunciation). I remained in the car while my pals went in for hot drinks.

I was sitting there in a bit of a daze – five hours of restless sleep after yesterday’s travel – and not really paying any attention to much in general when the driver’s choice of music finally broke through. Horns, an accordian, yelping singers, it was Norteña, Linda Rondstadt’s “Canciones de mi Padre” in particular. She was belting out “Yo keeeeeeyerrrrroh” and I was instantly transported back 10 days to sitting at the border for 3 hours trying to get back into the US surrounded by vendors hawking cotton candy, foam map jigsaw puzzles, bobbing head horses and pink frosted cupcakes.

I asked Liu (pronounced “Leo”) where he came by that music and it had been given to him by one of his previous clients.

How great is that? Sitting in a Toyota van in a Manchurian seaport listening to the rural music of northern Mexico. I rattled off a bit of Español for Liu and threatened to sing along, to his polite smiles.

After that, the drive out to the development zone was indelibly altered. All of us had at one time or another spent time among the maquiladores of Mexico and it was observed that the drive was now just like the cruise into Monterrey, complete with anonymous factories and scrubby hills off in the distance. Not unlike Nogales too.

A thousand years ago, cultures melded through caravans and sailing ships. Now, they merge via MP3s and expat drivers. And much faster to boot. Is it a bad thing?