Puebla’s Rural Roads

Mexico is cheap, and hot.   It took us a few hours to get out of Mexico City.  A combination of Mexican-speed-to-action, distractions and traffic.

We have 4.5 days to travel 1,547 kilometers to Hard Rock Hotel to broadcast the radio show.    We left Tepoztlan and continued South on 95D, which was leading us into the only state Daniela advised we avoid.   Guerrero: where those 40 protestant students went missing (kidnapped and killed) with the help of the Mexican military/government (possibly).  This is the stark reality of political corruption, struggle-for-rule and centuries of violence serving as a means of maintaining social order in the absence of respected authority.

We turned off route 95D and onto a cross-dessert county road with far too many speed bumps (topes) to keep us even remotely on pace to reach Oaxaca before dusk.

We stopped for fruit on this new road, highway 138, rural Puebla.   It was a hot dusty stretch of sun-scorched country-side, and possibly the 4th circle of hell: damnnation of the avaricious, plunged into poverty.   But, it wasn’t, because the people were good-souled and well intended.  The middle of the ocean with a leaking boat, baling. Maybe help is on its way.  Family values and a humble hope in God.  I bought oranges, pineapple and bananas, and paid her double because she wanted nearly nothing.  Roaches scattered when I lifted the toilet tank to check for water.   The sun still sizzling.  My dad rather lap up his own sweat than take in any food from these road-front kitchens.

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A big billboard with busty women offered to wash our car, “lavado auto” asking but a few pesos.  In reality they only had scrawny Mexican men with mustaches and all the time in the world to lather us down.   Without debate, we sped up, rambling on down the road until the next tope, and again, (bump!) for the rest of the afternoon.

Religion on the radio, disguised as song, we were about a full day behind with only 4 days and 1,400 KM of unpredictable Mexican madness to navigate.

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Mezcal + History + Beisbol = …

Today, Oaxaca, Oaxaca is good for gastronomia, especially protein-rich “Chapulines” which are crickets.   They toast them on clay cooking surfaces with garlic, lime juice and salt.   Sometimes they toast up grasshoppers too, with chili. To wash it down?   Mezcal, an alcohol made from the maguay plant, native to Mexico and sacred to pre-Hispanic Mexico.  Elixir of the Gods  with mythological roots, a lightening bolt firing from the sky, striking a maguay plant.  The “piña” [heart] cooked, split open and released a nectar.  Mexicans admonish it’s potency and solute “Para todo mal, Mezcal, y para todo bien, también”.   “For every ill, Mezcal, and for every good, as well.”  Most drink Mezcal straight.  The flavor is a bit smokey.    

Historic Mitla.   Somewhere between 900 BC and 600 AD. Mesoamerica was one of five ancient civilizations where writing developed independently.    And, as the Spanish so often did in their conquests, they conquered the people’s culture.   We did not think much about this at the time, we didn’t have wifi.   Or navigation.  Instead,  confusing roads and Mexican radio, dead ends, and driving circles until we arrived at a cathedral!   El sol!  It blazed unabated.  A bashful middle aged lady with brown wavy shoulder-length hair and tired eyes gave us a ticket for our car parking.  The parking lot had family restaurant, which had a wall armed with Mezcal.    The dusty, ancient, baking streets were lined with pitched tents selling crafts and souvenirs. I bought a bowl, a water and a Victoria. The Fab 4 were on the bottle caps.

Mezcal is actually a contribution of the Spanish. They brought a supply of booze over from Europe, and inevitably, it ran out.  They’d drank agave or maguey based drinks before, and took a hint.   They experimented to increase the alcohol content and came out with Mezcal. Of my favorite historic attractions: The 2,000+ year old tree, on the beautifully groomed grounds of Santa Maria del Tule.   Standing behind a 3ft high metal picket fence, and guarded by small fragile nuns is Árbol del Tule!   It so grandly hangs its big green cypress branches shading half the church property.   Children take field trips here.

Across the grass is a building with cafeteria tables segmented for 10 kitchenettes, which more or less offer the same exact food and drink.   We bought two tortillas and two drinks from four different shops.  We friended maybe 8 kitchen ladies, a range of ages, as we ate. In our return we stopped in a village for the Sunday market.  At this hour there was mostly tripe and gizzards unsold, and more than half the vendors were already packed up. Dad quiped about the department of health. I made messy avocado sandwiches for us.

Back in the car,I passed out for about 30 min. I woke up for BEISBOL!   Guerreros de Oaxaca my most favorite Mexican baseball team in the whole wide world.  Hot hot dogs with peppers and chili and Tecate cans of beer. Many locals were on call to help you out for a couple bucks. Busty young Mexican gals with thick legs and big faces wore short black mini skirts. They teased the baby bird mascot, he fought back playfully.

I convinced the hotel clerk, Juego, to be my drinking buddy.  Juego suggested we go to a boxing match.   He was excited about a fighter.  (?The son of Junior Seau, NE Patriot linebacker?) Boxing is a popular sport in Mexico, amongst Mexican-Americans too.   I thought Juego meant the fight was in Oaxaca, Oaxaca.  An authentic ancient city adventure in the valleys of the Sierra Madres!   We began up the cobblestone path through heart of the old town, Templo del Ex-Convento de Santo Domingo.

We stopped at a bar, sat on a balcony, crushed 20x XX, watched boxing in massive LCD, surfed spotty wifi, downed mas Equis, and kicked it with a few weird gals and mad laughs.    Drunk truck food. Half through the beers Juego told me he was a gang member since his days in San Diego.   A story of boyhood, juvi, and deportation. I asked how he got involved, why he joined. As he described it, for the same reasons I joined a fraternity. The camaraderie and power of community. “It was fun”. He described himself as a formerly “smart, good kid” that participated in class and prided himself on his academic success. When his cousin started getting bullied in the park, things changed and Juego wound up a high school dropout, wasting days getting drunk, causally causing ruckus, and then juvenile hall and country jail. He was a fascinating fella. Something about him I understood, we were on the same level. Between growing up with three sisters, a rebel mind, a touchy temper, all in the pursuit of a good life with good friends, we saw eye to eye. I woke up feeling like my brain was left sizzling on the taco fritter all night. I desperately pulled myself together and chugged water.

We would spend the next 5 hours in the Chevy-shit-box, winding bak up into the Sierra Madres, behind chicken trucks, along cyclists, with nature’s holiness.  This was the only road through.image. image

el primer día D.F.

We arrived in Mexico, around 10PM.  There’s one mission: get to Riviera Maya, alive, before my event kicks off, next Wednesday, April 22.  Only 1,599 KM of baking hot terrain to venture.

We woke up the rental car fella from his nap, and followed him into a shuttle vehicle.   He jumped out of the car at the first red light, unexpectedly, and have a quick goodbye.  The un-introduced fella I the front kept driving us around the airport towards what we hoped was the rental car services, and not a back alley robbery. The neighborhood seemed seedy.    The rental car services had our reservation, but no car… they had no cars available tomorrow, nor the next day…

We took a taxi to our hotel, and they too had our reservation but no accommodations for us… We walked down the street for beers, tacos, and wifi.  We booked at Casa Gonzalez for about 150 pesos.

Most the people that first night came off as hard and squaty.  Everything looks better in the morning though.

Mexico City, is commonly known as DF.  Distrito Federal, the district where the federal powers of the union sit, but not belonging to any single state (like DC) .  FD serves as the most important city in Mexico politically, culturally, educationally and financially.   Ciudad de México has 9 million people within the city limits, 21 million if considering the greater region.  It is the largest city in the Western Hemisphere.

The city was first built in 1325 by Aztecs.  They called it Tenochtitlan.  Two centuries later, Cortés and the Spaniards would intrude and cease the city.  Catholic churches replaced Aztec temples and the Viceroys claimed the imperial palaces for themselves.

A super sized city, with little worry of personal injury law suits or germs.  Round faces, business suits and bashful women, Ciudad de Mèxico vibes with the best of them.  Boutique and craft flourish on the same streets that are ladened with abandoned buildings and graffiti, like a Bushwick, but not so harrowingly far into a second city.

Walking the streets in the dry heat, I made my myself dizzy with sugar treats, a penny and a half each.  Sweet coconut, fudgey camel, sprinkle balls.  Basic addition/subtraction isn’t a strength for em vendors and my weak Spanish makes it messy.

Rested with a copy of “El Narco” in Zócalo, the main plaza, the heart of the the historic cente(Centro Histórico), along “the floating gardens”  Not very international group of people, a lot a lot of Mexicans.

We visited churches and ate tacos.  In iglesias, sit and pray, thank and praise, a new city, a weirdly interesting culture, another breath, another day.  Stout middle aged women sold Jesus faced tank tops, crucifixes, candles, rosaries and the alike.  Proceeds to a cause.

It was day two and we were already a half day behind schedule, and on the wrong road south, but on ward to Oaxaca we rode.