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When "Collage Acustico" arrived in the mail my heart raced with excitement and memories of a magical Mexican adventure. I was only on one of the cuts of this CD, but here was the evidence that Roberto Cerda and I had really come together in a mystical musical union.
When I pulled the CD out of the surrounding packaging, I smiled wistfully at the cover art -- river reed swaying in the breeze and images of Roberto's Spanish guitar floating on his beloved Lake Chapala. Many years ago Roberto had fled the life of performing in the five star hotels of Puerto Vallarta for the quiet, peaceful obscurity of the sleepy village of Ajijic.
When I was surfing the Internet six months prior, I did not know Roberto and I had never been to Mexico. But when I stumbled on a web site and saw the name Ajijic, my breath caught in my chest and my finger clicked the mouse almost involuntarily.
I found myself reading about this little Mexican Village founded by Indians and now a favorite retirement place of expatriates from the United States and Canada.
I had never done any traveling outside the country and was startled to find myself planning a trip. Something in Ajijic was calling me. But the thought of driving from our home in Arizona, 1200 miles into the interior of Mexico, terrified my wife, and her panic attack persuaded me that my obsession with Ajijic would be short-lived.
Months later friends invited my wife Barbara, and me to join them on a Puerto Vallarta getaway. We flew in and spent three days enjoying the coast. One evening I was thumbing through a complimentary travel guide provided by the hotel, when the word "Ajijic" practically jumped off the page at me.
It was only a five hour bus ride away! My feverish obsession was back stronger than ever and Barbara knew there was no turning back.
It was the off season and Ajijic was practically deserted. We walked the cobblestone streets of the village the first day. In the evening my wife braved her question. "Why are we here? Why are you so obsessed with this place."
"I don't know why we are here," I replied almost apologetically. "But I'm going to find out."
It was almost dark when I left the room to take a walk along the lake. Lake Chapala glistened at sunset and river reed swayed in the gentle evening breeze. I walked aimlessly, clutching my Native American style cedar flute in one hand, confused by my compulsion to be in this place but being pulled inexorably forward by invisible strings.
And suddenly the strings were audible instead of invisible, and the majestic sound of Spanish guitar floated to me across the lake, beckoning me.
I followed the sound to a narrow boardwalk that led to an open air cabana bar perched on stilt-like beams above the lake. The place was deserted except for Roberto who was plugged in and playing to an invisible audience, strains of Satie's "Gymnopedia".
I stood dumbfounded before this beautiful barefoot Mexican man, tears welling up in my eyes, his sound filling me with joy. He sat at his stool and continued playing. It was as if he had been waiting for me all these many months, all these many miles away, calling to me and to my cedar flute.
He smiled and nodded at the vacant stool next to him. I sat down and joined in with the haunting sound of Native American style flute. Our instruments spoke to one another as if they were old friends. Our hearts spoke to one another through our instruments. And then Roberto began intoning a poem:
"Yo declaro el estado de felicidad permunente ( "I declare the state of happiness permanent")
Roberto invited me to return again the following night. He wanted a friend to hear our music. The friend, Minister of Culture of the state of Jalisco, smiled approvingly.
My wife and I joined Roberto the following day in the recording studio where he was scheduled for his last session that would complete his first CD, "Collage Acustico."
He had waited twenty years to make his first recording.
Together we captured "Yo Declaro" for the world, Native American style flute wedded to Spanish guitar, American and Mexican united in the embrace of the universal language of music and love.