Archive | February, 2023

Road Trip To Acapulco (4) 1973

23 Feb

After three weeks of studying Mexican culture at the University in Cholula, Mexico, two students and myself were ready to do some exploring on our own. The guys, one from California and the other from Connecticut had a VW van. In those days, Acapulco was the Cancun of today, made famous by movie stars and visited by the Prince of Wales. While drinking in a local bar and looking for a cheap destination, one of my companions was told to take the highway through Acapulco, turn left and travel to a roadside fruit stand and ask for Roberto.

Can you imagine heading out on a eight hour road trip with such flimsy directions? Well, without GPS or even a map, we did just that, and the funny thing is we found him! But I am getting ahead of myself.

The trip from Cholula to Acapulco today.

The van had been modified, with the passenger seats removed and a “bed” built in the back. We stored a case of beer underneath the bed and carried very little else. I remember being stretched out on the mattress passing the time when the van suddenly lurched to the side of the road. Unthinking and half asleep, I slid open the side door to see what was the issue, only to find a rifle pointed at my face. Guys in fatigues searched the vehicle and let us go. We either didn’t have what they were looking for or weren’t worth the effort. I don’t recall being particularly shaken by the experience. Such is youth and privilege. Today we might not have been so lucky.

This was the part of Acapulco that the tourists didn’t see. There was no electricity or running water.

After many hours of driving, we crested a hill and the ocean filled the horizon in front of us. I had never seen the Pacific before and was quite in awe of the lovely sight of crystal blue water. It was quite a contrast to the poverty we later found further north.

Women getting water from a pipe jutting out of the hillside.

My companions were hell bent on buying some marijuana to take with us on our vacation. I was not much of a pot smoker but mostly along for the ride so what the heck. Our search took us from a parking lot along the ocean to the slums overlooking Acapulco, and later to a field with tiny cannabis plants growing around my feet.

None of us had ever seen such poverty. The guys left me to watch the van while they tried to score some dope.

To find out how we got ripped off and eventually found our way to Roberto, check back next week for the continuing saga. I couldn’t have made this up, believe me.

While waiting in the van, this man stopped to ask if I wanted to buy marijuana. I snapped his picture as he walked away with his child in tow.


Palapas – Thatched Huts Of Mexico

19 Feb

When planning our escape from the United States in 2013, I spent hours researching house construction for tropical living. When all else fails, look to the indigenous population for a cooling, inexpensive, and sustainable construction. Palapas, i.e. thatched huts can be found in the fanciest hotels in Cancun or the simplest villages deep in the interior jungle. They are beautiful, functional, traditional and synonyms with the Mexican Caribbean and Pacific.

Rancho Encantado Bacalar

We have used palapas as overhangs to keep rain and sun out. Our dock is covered with a palapa to provide shade while viewing the laguna or reading in the hammock.

The front of our house.

Only this week did I have the opportunity to view up close and personal the construction of a palapa porch for our new guest room. They really are a work of art and their builder a true artisan.

Grass fronds delivered.
A porch to provide shade,
Original laundry room transformed.

There are many details that only the artist knows. The angles must be specific, the grasses woven correctly and the netting applied to keep the whole thing from flying away. Of course a tropical storm or hurricane can do the job, but we’ve been lucky.

Inside is a welcoming space.
Our dock.


It’s A Small Small World

12 Feb

This week I made an unplanned trip to Texas to say my goodbyes to an elderly family member who passed. I was at a local eatery today when I got a big surprise.

Into Central Market walked a friend that I haven’t seen in more than ten years. The clincher is, she lives in Mexico! Dee was in Austin to sell her car. She lives in Northern Mexico and we’ve been in touch and follow each other on social media. I knew she was in town but did not expect to run into her. Austin really is a small, big city.


Part Tres (3) Mexico 1973

3 Feb

In order to introduce a group of US students to Mexican culture, a three weeks intensive was set aside by the University of the Americas in Cholula, Puebla. I was one of those students.

Week 1) Prehispanic Mexico included trips to ancient pyramids, modern museums and studies of conquest by foreign invaders.

Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
(replica of the pyramids of Ek Balam 100 BC)
Catholic Church built on top of one of the largest pyramids in the world. Cholula, Puebla
View from the top of the Cholula pyramid 1973 and 2017. The city population has exploded.

Week 2) Colonial Mexico which included visits to cathedrals, studies of French, Spanish and US revolutions and land grabs, and the decimation of native populations.

Mexico City 1973. The main cathedral built on the Zocalo (main square).

Week 3) Modern Mexico included government function, political factions and the election process.

The Center of Three Cultures. In 1964 while preparing for the Summer Olympics, student protesters were herded into a dead end street and shot at from the high rise apartments seen in the photo. One of my teachers was a survivor of this stain on Mexican history.

I was enchanted by the good, the bad and the ugly of Mexican history. I had lived in a neighboring country and knew none of what I was studying. By comparison the United States had no culture. At least in my mind. There was so much to absorb. Today I have come to appreciate Mexican pride, food, artists, music, devotion to family, dance, literature, language and spirituality. It is a lovely country to visit and live in.


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