I'm a sucker for Werner Herzog stories, and I thought I would share one of his silly stories from Herzog on Herzog that involves his time in McAllen, Reynosa, and Mexico:
Interviewer - And that's where you learned Spanish?
Werner Herzog - And where I also developed this real fascination and love I have for Latin America. Of course, while I was there I had to make a living and discovered that there was a weak spot on the border between the twin cities of Reynosa in Mexico and McAllen in Texas. There was a lot of daily commuting between these towns, Mexicans working in McAllen during the day and returning at night. Tens of thousands each morning who all had special stickers on their windshields that would allow them to pass virtually free through the border. I stole one of those stickers and bought some television sets for people who wanted them down in Mexico where they were very expensive. One time a rich ranchero asked me to buy him a silver colt pistol which he was not able to find in Mexico, so I bought one and took it down there for him. I made fairly good money on all these things. From this came the legend that I was a gun runner.
Then I spent a couple of weekends as a rodeo rider in charreiadas. The way it worked was that they would have three cowboys or charros in the ring who would catch the bulls, usually very fast animals. They would use lassos to bring the bull to the ground and then tie a rope around its chest. You have to squat on the animal and grab the rope while he is on the ground. They release him and immediately he explodes in rage. I have seen bulls jumping clear over a six-foot wall. Every single week I was injured and one time had to fix up my bad ankle one time with two rulers I got from some school kids. I could not even ride a horse, something that soon became patently clear to the spectators, so I appeared under the name El Alamein, which after Stalingrad was the biggest defeat of the German forces in the Second World War. They all just loved to cheer the idiot on!
One time I was in the ring with a bull who got on his feet and just stood there staring at me. I scream, 'Burro! You donkey!' I can still hear the cheers of the young women in the crowd. Of course, it was pretty angry at me and tried to pin me to the stone wall. I caught my leg between the animal and the wall, and sustained an injury that was so bad I quit the job there and then. Today it all sounds quite funny and I do see it with a certain humour, but my time down there was quite banal and partially miserable too. It was 'pura vida' as the Mexicans say, 'pure life'. But I thank God on my knees that after America I did not go straight back to Germany.