My husband Kelly and I live much of the time nowadays in Mexico. In 2002, we were living year-round in Colorado when I got a bee in my bonnet that I had to get back to Mexico to celebrate 50 years since my first trip there with my father. That trip led to several others, and now here we are, mostly.

Here are some memories of that 1952 trip:

We flew from Washington’s National Airport to Miami one summer night, and I remember that we had a little sleeping compartment on the plane, much like a train. Then we flew to the Yucatan and later on to Mexico City. I was nine, my sister five.

I don’t imagine too many people have had a tour guide like Paul M. A. Linebarger. With his encyclopedic knowledge and his skill as a raconteur, he brought Mexican history alive to us, complete with young virgins about my age being ceremonially sacrificed in the cenotes of Chichen Itza to the bloody sagas of the Spanish conquest. I didn’t realize at the time that I was also absorbing his worldview of human history, the endless suffering, the glories, and the stunning beauties. He was a very attentive father, only occasionally leaving us kids with our stepmother Genevieve while he and Howard Hunt (later of Watergate fame) did a few things for the CIA.

One of my father’s graduate students had driven our old Lincoln (named “Silverfish”) down from D.C., and we took it from the capital to Taxco and Acapulco. I remember a bit of conversation on the drive down, as Daddy and Genevieve were explaining the Cold War to me. “If the Russians came, I would pretend to go along with them so they wouldn’t kill me,” I said to Genevieve as she put me to bed that night. “Paul wouldn’t,” she said emphatically. “He would do everything he could to fight them.” (Only years later did I realize that doing everything he could might well include pretending to go along.)

In Acapulco we had bathing suits made to order from stunning hand-painted fabric and stayed indoors all one boring day when there was an election and people were shooting off their guns. Another evening, Genevieve became delirious, and my father left her in my care for hours while he went searching for suitable medical care. She nearly died from amoebic dysentery and typhoid, one right after the other but I forget in what order. She was flown to a hospital in Mexico City, and my father drove (to use a favorite expression of his) “like a bat out of hell” through the winding mountain roads to join her. Outside of Taxco, it was raining so hard that we could hardly see the road, but there was a local car going fast ahead of us and my father kept it in view, sometimes delegating me to stick my head out the window and report if we got too near the road’s edge. We got pretty near. I am still very nervous on winding Mexican roads in the rain.

After Genevieve was a little better, she flew back to the US alone, leaving my father to do a very long drive back with two fidgety little girls. The poverty of rural Mexico ground into me, and I remember not being satisfied with my father’s world-weary explanations . “But it isn’t fair,” I remember insisting. He explained that fairness was not a guiding principle of history. I was not consoled (and I still am not).