By Pvt. Frank Ladner, Fort Bliss, Tex.

You hear a lot about the Army being a great leveler. Maybe that explains what happened to Pvt. Cornelius Vanderloop.

The minute I landed here—in fact I am just dumping my barracks bags on my bunk—when this guy Vanderloop starts being friendly. He is a tall, skinny jerk with horn-rimmed glasses and a studious look. He answers my questions about the camp and tells me I should see Mexico and that he is just the person to show it to me.

fort bliss mexicoBack home I have seen many movies about Mexico with Cesar Romero and these black-haired dolls, and bullfights and dance joints with conga bands. I am very anxious to see all these things, so me and Vanderloop go over the border the next Sunday afternoon.

As soon as we hit the Mexican side there is a dozen cabbies there smiling and saying: “Taxi? See the girls, my fran?”

I am beginning to think this Mexico may have possibilities.

We go into a restaurant and there is a little pick-up band playing Mexican songs on violins and bass fiddles and a thing like a banjo. There are bright tablecloths and pictures and I am thinking how much it all is like the movies I have seen, when two dolls sit down at the next table. They have black, shiny hair and big brown eyes, and are wearing tight black dresses. The waiter brings them drinks and they talk to each other in Mexican, meanwhile giving us the eye. But Vanderloop don’t even look at them. Instead he is talking about the history of Mexico and the Spanish influence, and some guy named Pancho Villa.

My pal orders us a Mexican dinner. I look at the liquor list and I do not believe what I read:


Pvt. Vanderloop is sorry I don’t like the dinner, but he says he has something interesting planned for the afternoon. We are going to take a taxi and go somewhere.

We ride out into the country. It is all flat and sandy there and the people live in clay houses. We stop at an old church with walls that have bullet holes in them.

“I want you to see these priceless old bells,” Vanderloop says. “They were made in 1569 and the Spaniards brought them all the way here by mule pack. And there’s some of the most wonderful mahogany work in the ceiling beams and the altar.”

I look at Pvt. Vanderloop and I don’t see him. I just see red. I think of the drinks I am missing, the dolls in the shapes and most of all the red-hot dinner. I drag Cornelius back into the back and tell the driver we want to get back to town.

That was three months ago, and me and Corny have been going over to Mexico regular ever since. He says he hadn’t realized the other side of Mexican life could be so interesting.

For More Reading on Mexico Check Out:

The General and the Jaguar: Pershing’s Hunt for Pancho Villa: A True Story of Revolution and Revenge

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