Time Travel 1977 Mexico-USA: Brokedown Chiapas, Giggle Bordello, Busted on Burpin’ Street…
…continued from previous
The back road from Agua Azul to San Cristobal de las Casas through Ocosingo is nothing spectacular, but a pretty enough drive. This is the area that will be ground zero for the emergence of EZLN (Zapatista Army of National Liberation) and ‘Sub-Comandante Marcos’ in a few short years, resulting in being ‘liberated’ by them on New Year’s Day 1994. But for now it’s a dusty backwater, as far into the outback as you can get in Mexico, deep in the jungle. Unfortunately our bus breaks down before reaching the city, so we all have to get off, and find alternate transportation. Fortunately it breaks down not far away, so finding something else isn’t too hard.
San Cristobal de las Casas
San Cristobal is just the opposite, and a revelation to me, high in the highlands, in that here is a part of Mexico JUST LIKE GUATEMALA–almost anyway. A slang term for Guatemalan is even ‘Chapin’, from ‘Chiapas’, or at least the same common root wood. S.C. in fact seems precisely like the westernmost outpost of a highland region that starts just west of Guatemala City and includes Quezaltenango and Huehuetenango as the other major population centers.
Like them, it too is surrounded by dozens of interesting villages, many of which specialize in a specific craft, though the city itself handles most of that. Since I didn’t buy much in Guatemala because I like to travel light, and since the Mexican peso has now devalued, I’m getting serious about the idea of trying to commercialize some of these products, so now’s the time and this is the place. There’s some Guatemalan stuff from across the border here, too, so I can still test some of that merchandise, besides the little bit that I sent by mail from Guatemala itself.
If I’m in business now- sorta’ kinda’ maybe- then Oaxaca’s next on the list, and sure enough, the new devalued prices seem much better. As long as I’m just buying a little of a lot of different things, then no one will ever know the difference for Customs purposes, right? At least the demonstrations and bus-burnings of a couple months ago are now but a memory, so Oaxaca can be enjoyed without the threat of street disturbances and the high crime that often accompanies it. It’s nice, and nearby Mitla is a source of handicrafts. I’m good.
As in many places, in Mexico all roads lead to the capital. So avoiding it becomes almost a rite of passage, even if it means detours. One way to do that is by skirting the Sierra Mazateca, and then on to Veracruz, via Tuxtepec. In those mountains to the north are two other branches of Mexico’s Indian population, the Chinantecs and Mazatecs, reputed masters of the same mushroom just encountered in Palenque–and Mississippi. Here is one of Mexico’s wetter climes, a veritable cloud forest…
…but not Veracruz. Here it’s warm, even hot. and it’s a pretty classy old colonial city, too. Of course the tourists here are all American, or Canadian, so none of the sophisticated witty banter of the Europeans. Here guys tend to talk about sex… and whores. They talk me into going to Monterrey with them.
Monterrey’s not far from the Texas border, so attracts some of that element, border-hoppers who want to see a bit of the interior. Of course Monterrey is not especially exotic, but they DO have whorehouses, so a couple of American guys talk me into checking one out, a fancy one. I stay long enough to watch the girls actually come out and make their appearance, en masse but that’s about all. This is a fancy place- $25 a pop! (“they like to make it last”), so feinting and bluffing is all part of the game. It’s almost surreal. I’m trying hard not to laugh…
These are the days of hitch-hiking, as some sort of a righteous principle, kind of like sharing a joint, but sharing a ride instead. Of course with only $24 to my name I don’t have much choice. I already spent all my money on goods. And hitch-hiking is not always fun and games either, especially in southern Texas. For one thing, it’s a different culture down here, and hitch-hiking may not be a part of it. For another, populations tend to be very spread out the farther west you go, so less possibility of a pick-up.
Anyway I get out of Laredo okay and make the connection at San Antonio no problem. But for some reason I’ve been waiting at a little town called Schulenberg for hours, and it’s starting to get old. Finally I figure I should go and at least check the bus schedule for the Hell of it. $24 won’t get me home, but it’ll get me closer than I am now. So I walk from the Interstate into town, pack fully loaded, mind you. I check the bus schedule, buy a Coke, drink it, re-adjust my pack to better distribute the weight, and then start walking back to the highway, since there’s no bus for hours.
I neglect to throw away my Coke can because I’d have to set my pack down again to do so. Big Mistake, because a cop is watching the whole sordid affair. He arrests me for littering. I sh*t you not, hauls me before a judge right then and there, in Schulenberg, TX. The judge reads me the riot act about traveling in Mexico where all kinds of mean nasty ugly things happen (but at least they don’t arrest you for littering), then finally fines me $21.
Then the cop takes me not only back to the highway, but back to the highway on the edge of town. At least it’s the other edge. Well, I guess it worked, because I got a ride this time, and never had another problem making it back home to my little cabin in the woods. It’s a good thing, too, because I got the screaming sh*ts from that burger I ate in Laredo. I traveled all over Mexico and Guatemala with no problem since one bout at the beginning, then I get diarrhea the minute I step back into the States. I guess that’s poetic justice.