One of Many

[Archives Home] [Zihuatanejo Ixtapa Home] [Zihuatanejo Ixtapa Troncones Message Board]

Escrito por ZihuaRob desde ( el día viernes, 23 de julio, 2004 a las 10:18:47 horas :

En respuesta a: A Mexican Experience escrito por stew desde ( el día jueves, 22 de julio, 2004 a las 11:55:15 horas :

Many years ago when a local politician and long-time friend was campaigning, my wife and I along with the owners of a local hotel and some other friends decided to accompany him on a visit up into the villages of the sierra. Needless to say I was the only gringo in the group.

We visited first a tiny forgotten town of maybe a few dozen families called El Calabazal. To get there from the Zihuatanejo-Altamirano road we had to drive a dirt track that was barely a road, and it crossed twice through (not over) the same river, which fortunately was not swollen at the time, though it was tricky for the passenger cars, and I was glad I was driving a large van. The people were enthusiastic though obviously somewhat wary of all these strangers showing up in their town. The visible town consisted of a government store, a basketball court, and a half dozen or so small homes where the road for all intents and purposes ended, though it was obvious that various paths from the end of the road led off to other houses and farmers' fields. There was a new transformer on a new light post, but it wasn't yet working. Dozens of people appeared out of nowhere once all the commotion and hubbub began, and they made it plain that they wanted a teacher, a doctor, electricity, water, and a paved road. They were thankful for the new transformer, but rightly anxious to see it provide them with light. Gifts of basketball nets and basketballs were passed out, speeches were made, pledges were made, music was played, and hands were shaken. Then, quick as it all began we backtracked on the muddy dirt road back to another small village, a little larger and more developed, called El Calabazalito. It was obviously a bit older than the village we had left, and there were probably 100 or so families visible. There we found a couple of dozen brightly painted houses surrounding a large, traditional plaza. The speeches were made while several of us decided to park ourselves in the small store, actually someone's home, and drink a few lukewarm beers. I think we may have cleaned them out. Again, we were warmly received by the campesino families with whom we passed the time chatting. The smell of wood-smoke and fresh corn filled the air, and cultivated fields could be seen here and there through the jungle along the hills and ravines behind the houses. This reunion was a bit more lively, but again, similar petitions were made: they wanted electricity, a doctor, assistance for their one-teacher school, and they wanted the road paved so that they could get to the main highway during the rainy season. It was obvious that during periods of heavy rains the road was impassable. In both of these little towns, though we were received with obvious suspicion, we were definitely warmly received and invited to join the families for the daily meal, though we had to decline since we were behind schedule at this point.

The trip back to the Zihuatanejo-Altamirano highway was tricky since it had rained recently and after the traffic to get there the road was fairly well rutted. Many vehicles became stuck at one point and we waited while they were pushed through the mud. When it came our turn I showed the cars behind me how to get through the muddy ruts. Instead of simply following bumper to bumper like the vehicles before me had done, I waited until they had cleared the stuck cars and moved quite a distance ahead... then I floored it! Of course we bounced hard over some rocks, but the momentum propelled us right through the worst of the mud, and the cars behind me saw the light and followed suit. The tricky part was maintaining enough control while sliding not to fall into the rocky ravine along one side where the river flowed. Back through the river a couple of times and we were once again climbing into the mountains along the Zihuatanejo-Altamirano highway. Along one side was a deep gorge where a river flowed, and here and there we could see waterfalls and white water below us.

We continued higher into the sierra alongside the gorge that more or less paralleled the road until we got to a large field alongside the road just before the town of Vallecitos. In some rancher's field under some large shade trees we set up camp with food and music, and from out of the hills hundreds of campesinos and their families appeared out of nowhere. Some bringing their own food to contribute to the fiesta. Just across the street from where we were there was a lovely rather large waterfall that ran down the face of step-like terraced rocks and eventually under the road and into the gorge below. My family and I spent some time climbing around on the rocks and taking pictures until a rumor spread among the crowd that there had been a shooting in the next town. So we all decided to get back to our group and stick close together in case some madman with a gun appeared out of the jungle.

We ate and danced and met many local people, all of whom were warm and friendly and enjoying the festive occasion. The politician gave his speech and everyone seemed to really enjoy our visit, as we also enjoyed being so warmly welcomed. I managed to pretty much blend right in after all and not much notice was paid to me. It probably helped that I wore a cowboy hat and boots and looked just like another rancher. But you know me... of course I couldn't keep my mouth shut, yet it didn't seem to bother anyone that I was there since I was with my Mexican family.

In that one day we experienced more of the true warmth and wealth of Guerrero than most people who live here for years ever experience.

The sad part is knowing that the promised roads (by successive politicians) have still never been built to this day (over 10 years later), and that region is still considered unsafe and lawless. The Zihuatanejo-Altamirano highway is so poorly maintained that the army advises people not to drive it, and it is not uncommon to hear of holdups and shootings on that road to this day.

Follow Ups: