Cabo San Lucas, Mexico is situated at the southernmost point of the Baja peninsula at a place where the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez meet. It is a breathtakingly beautiful, oceanside oasis on the edge of a vast and unforgiving desert. It is, in many ways, the polar opposite of mid-Missouri, but thanks to a generous invitation from Bethany’s sister Charla and her family, it was the home of the Naughton and Hecker clans last week.

Travis Naughton

Despite being located along the Tropic of Cancer, the temperature at our resort averaged an ideal 75 degrees with virtually zero humidity, unlike in Missouri where my glasses fogged up as soon as we walked out of Kansas City International Airport late Saturday night. The ocean breeze at Grand Solmar Resort was so cool and unexpected that I regretted not packing a jacket or long sleeves to wear during our weeklong stay in paradise.

While lounging beside the resort’s infinity pools overlooking the ocean and while sipping coffee from the comfort of our room’s beachfront balcony, I saw sea lions, bat rays, and albatross as they casually passed by. From December through April, Grand Solmar is one of the best places on Earth for watching humpback and gray whales as they pass through the area as well. (Yes, I plan on coming back for that someday.)

We did make several excursions away from the resort, having rented a pair of matching Kia Fortes to haul the ten of us around all week. We visited two public beaches where the six kids in our group enjoyed snorkeling and swimming with colorful and exotic fish. We rented a water taxi and got an up-close view of amazing rock formations including the famous Arch of Cabo San Lucas and the spot known as Land’s End. In nearby San Jose del Cabo, we went on an art walk and bought a few souvenirs in the charming city-center.

Some of the members of our group went rock climbing, ziplining, and repelling. Others enjoyed a spa day. Everyone spent time swimming in the resort’s many pools and eating delicious and authentic local food. Whether we were on the go or relaxing by the water, we enjoyed every single day we were there.

For Bethany and I, this was our third vacation in Mexico. Both of the previous two visits were to the Riviera Maya region on the east coast of the country, south of Cancun, on the edge of the rain forest. Despite the differences in temperature and humidity, both regions had something wonderful in common: the people.

The people of Mexico are warm, fun-loving, and kind. They are friendly and outgoing. They try very hard to make visitors feel welcome in their country. At one particular souvenir stand, a small boy no more than three or four years old hugged every customer who walked in the door, including me. While his parents waited on Bethany and the kids inside the shop, the boy and I played a game of peek-a-boo outside. He would sneak up behind me, tug on the tail of my shirt, and I would pretend not to see him. Then, as he giggled, I would quickly spin around and yell, “There you are!” to his great delight. It may have been the most fun I had all week, and I was sorry to have to say “adios” to my new little friend.

Friend. That is the word that comes to mind when I think of Mexico. Each time I’ve visited the country, I’ve met people I would be honored to call my friends. Smart people. Funny people. Hard-working people. As my lifelong American friend John Briscoe always says, “There are good people everywhere you go.” Mexico is no exception.

At several gift shops in Cabo, I saw for sale t-shirts that read: “Keep calm and carry on. You’re on the fun side of Trump’s wall.” It’s a great illustration of the attitude of the Mexican people. While so many in the United States vilify our neighbors to the south regarding illegal immigration, it is worth noting that the vast majority of Mexicans are good, law-abiding people who love their country and have no desire to leave it.

Drug wars in parts of Mexico and Central America have forced people to make the difficult decision to seek a better life for their families in the United States—even though, ironically, it is the American appetite for illegal drugs that fuels the crisis.

Rather than building walls to keep out our friends to the south or threatening them with economic sanctions, perhaps we should instead start thinking of ways to become better neighbors to them. I propose that our leaders in government spend a week in Baja California Sur, learning from the local people what it is to be a good neighbor—and a good human being.

In the meantime, I will be sitting in my hot and humid house here in mid-Missouri, waiting for a new air conditioner to be installed, and counting the days until I can see my friends in Mexico again.

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