March 30, 2010 evening
Today has been interesting. I woke up early to climb the mountain but there was a miscommunication and no one came to take me. I finally walked over to my uncle’s house where he was reading a newspaper in hammock. I asked him when we were leaving and he said he thought I had asked to climb Thursday. No matter. We’ve made a plan to climb on Thursday and today had enough adventure without mountains and ticks.
Instead of taking me to the mountain my two uncles took me and a few others to their mango fields. Pretty stunning. I heard a story I hadn’t heard before. My biological (dead) grandfather started a war forty years ago to fight for the land my uncles and other locals now own. At the turn of the last century a German man arrived and put up fences and claimed all the lands around here as his. He wouldn’t let anyone farm the land unless they paid him rent. Oh colonialism. My grandfather headed the effort to get the land back for the people and it was finally resolved in 2006, five years after his death. Now my relatives and other people who have lived here for hundreds of years have their land back. My uncles have beautiful mango groves, I would love to see them in early summer when the fruit is ripe.
From the mango orchards we drove down a dirt rode to the river, past fields of chile and the plant they makes brooms from. We stopped to pick some chiles and talk to a few people who turned out to be more relatives. My family has certainly been fruitful. At the river bank we got out of the truck and went to the water, it was cool and running low. We had to walk about 100 yards until we got to the water from where we parked. Ducks few overhead and in the water little fish swam in the current.
When we walked back to the truck my great-uncle Ramón, my dead grandfather’s brother, pointed out a few stones and a concrete well. “This is where your father was born” he told me and it really hit me. I looked around, nothing for miles but fields of chiles and river. There is a family legend about the spirit of the river trying to steal my father when he was an infant. I found out my great-great paternal grandmother was full indian who didn’t speak a word of English. Not so far back. I imagined my father as a baby at that spot and I was hit by far he has come. I had an emotional moment. I’m happy that I can see where he was born and how little things have changed here, how different his life would have been had he stayed. He would probably grow mangos too, and I wouldn’t be here.
We went to another field and one of my uncles had me follow him up a small hill to show me a boulder. The boulder had three large holes bored into it. The boulder was where indians had ground corn for thousands of years. Wow, in the middle of nowhere. Near the boulder was a perfectly flat stone worn smooth as marble, he told that is where they ground nuts and made flour.
After going to the mango fields we went to town briefly and ate, a small meal to hold us over for lunch, which turned into the adventure of the trip so far. We came back to the village and packed my grandparents, my grandfather’s wheelchair, my great-aunt into my Uncle Omar’s Range Rover.
A word about Uncle Omar who is married to my Aunt Silvia, he is a great guy and loves his cars. BMW’s, Jaguars, and now the Range Rover for their trips to Mexico. The RR has four wheel drive, super ballsy bumpers (grills?) and those safari lights, a heavy duty machine for hunting the big five. (Omar spent a couple of hours cleaning it yesterday, polishing it and cleaning every piece of sand out of the carpets.) The rest us got into my Uncle Payín’s 1986 Nissan truck. The town we were going to have lunch in, Chametla, is about 20 minutes away but you have to drive through the river. We took a rope with us in case the little truck got stuck, we figured the Range Rover would pull it out.
We went on the dirt road towards Chametla. I was a little cranky, allergies were bothering me and I haven’t had a really good night’s sleep since I arrived. I was, of course, in the back of the truck with a few others. Our truck entered the river and crossed it, the Range Rover followed. We crested a hill and a large, long muddy puddle was in front of us. No problem, we made it. I was filming and when I turned my camera back I saw the Range Rover stuck. Full stuck. With my grandparents and great-aunt inside. We reversed back and the uncle Omar climbed out his window to the hood. He tossed him a rope and he attached it to his manly bumper. He started moving and the manly bumper fell off. I got it all on video. He retied the rope and we tugged and tugged and finally pulled him out of the mud My grandmother opened her door and muddy water poured out, the car had flooded. We had a good laugh but then the Range Rover wouldn’t start. We had to tow it into Chametla, a little blue nissan hauling a big white Range Rover with a cow rope. I lost my cranky and with all of my laughing my allergies disappeared.
We left the Range Rover to dry out and ate at a place on top of the hill with a strange nautical theme. The restaurant, called Raices, or Roots is an outdoor place, palm thatched roofs ith fishing nets hanging everywhere. From the fishing nets hand the skeletons of all kinds of sea creatures, from dolphins to sea horses. Lite jars also hang from the nets with deformed fish in them. There are two separate two-headed baby sharks, multi-limbed octopi, squid that look like they have human faces. Weirdly beautiful and creepy too. They had delicious seafood. Huge hand-made tortillas that wanted to wrap my body in. We ate shrimp ceviche, raw shrimp with chiles, boiled shrimp and a huge fish, tortillas, rice and beans, beer and the whole things came to $40. Ten people fed for $4 each.
We went to check on the Range Rover and it still wouldn’t start. All 10 us had to pile into the little Nissan. My grandfather was the only one who could fit into the cabin so the rest of us had to squeeze into the back of the truck with my grandfather’s wheelchair. To say it was an adventure would be very nice of me. It would have been an adventure if my poor grandmother and her sister weren’t riding with us. The sun was setting and the air was cool, especially driving fast. To avoid the possibility of getting stuck in the river, we took the long way home, it took us over an hour. I tried to hug my grandmother the entire time but I know she was cold and being brave. Her sister wasn’t brave and complained the entire time. People riding in the back of a truck here isn’t an uncommon sire but we were so packed in that every person we passed gaped at us which cracked me up. We crossed a line of absurdity even by typical Mexican clown car standards. One of my uncles jumped out of the truck just as we rolled into the village so no one would see him. We got home about an hour ago, every one of us drained. I’m sure this is a family story that will be told for a long time. I called my dad and he laughed his ass off.
I would love to go to bed but my bed is the sofa and my aunt and uncle are watching Fox news and there is no way I can be in the same room as that shit. I tried to sit outside but the mosquitos are in a frenzy tonight. I feel like I’ve been here a month. I am ready to go home. I want to take a bath. I want my bed, I want to be able to roll over when I sleep. I want coffee that isn’t powdered. I don’t want to smell like mosquito repellent anymore. A day and half left. I can handle that. I can’t wait to see how my plants have grown. I can’t wait to sink into my memory foam mattress. I can’t wait to hug my parents, gossip with my sisters and joke around with B and Cecil, (if Cecil is even home from Asia yet.) Home will be great.
March 31, 2010
I slept really well most of last night until 5am when some crazy ass neighbor started blaring the Mexican “Happy Birthday” at full blast. It was so loud I felt the bass line vibrating in my chest. I’ve heard about this guy, everyone has been saying that this last week he has been behaving, that usually be blasts music every morning at 5am and wakes up those not already awake. I was livid. I went out to the street and screamed “Asshole! Shut the f up!!!” but I doubt he heard me. I was very sleepy so I put in earplugs and put a pillow over my head but I still heard the music. I finally drifted off to sleep but had violent dreams about attacking the man who ruined my slumber. This is a small village, I wonder how he is permitted to continue with such rude behavior or if no one thinks of confronting him. Confronting people isn’t big here. There are things I just wouldn’t get used to.
No plans today. I’d like to maybe go to the where the river empties into the sea, I’ve heard it is a good place to find pre-Colombian beads. I haven’t put on my bathing suit since I arrived and I doubt I will. I should do a little shopping for things I want to bring home, some oilcloth.