February 1973. I was 24 years old.
The hairdo requires a little explanation. I was on my way from the USA to South America when I got the passport. It’s the oldest passport of mine that I can find, and the only one where the passport photo was a disguise.
I was planning to travel from California via Mexico to Guatemala and on to Columbia. A couple of posts ago I wrote about Silvia, Columbia – this was the start of my South American adventure, a few weeks before I reached Silvia.
I was told by a few people before I left the states that Guatemala didn’t like hippies and they were turning back any long-haired males at the border. I didn’t want to have a border problem so before I got my passport picture I found a place that sold cheap wigs. I think it cost $15 dollars. I stuck my hair under the wig and what you see above was the result.
I’ve been examining the map of Guatemala and I can’t work out where I was when I crossed the border, but it was probably a town called Ciudad Hidalgo. Whereever it was I arrived at night and stayed in a pension without crossing the border. At the pension I met another traveller, a guy with longish blond hair. He was trying to sort out what to do. He was travelling south and had just been turned back at the border for having long hair. The border guards hadn’t been friendly and he felt intimidated by the experience. After a while he decided that he needed to get rid of his hair. I pulled out my trusty buck knife, almost brand new and very sharp, and slashed off his hair. At the end he looked worse than my passport photo, but his hair was short.
The next morning we both headed to the border. My memory is hazy but I think he was in front of me, got called into the office with the border guards and I never saw him again. I followed close behind. I had dressed neatly and was wearing my cheap wig. I was nervous – no one could really be fooled by a disguise like that could they?. But I was treated like a tourist. I was treated like a tourist who could very well have had money. It was disconcerting, but it got me into Guatemala in 1973.
I’m not certain when the photo below was taken, I think it was a couple of years before but could have been just a few weeks. It’s more indicative of how I looked in those days. A look that wasn’t always an advantage.
While I look stoned, and often was, I think I was just blinking. But you never know.