Jan 30, 2006

Ya Basta in Catemaco

Subcomandante Marcos finally brought his message to Catemaco a day late, but forgot his horse.
A casual observer could possibly count on 2 hands and maybe a foot the number of local residents welcoming him. But he did have an entourage of hill people, car loads of young uropean/gringo/chilango groupies and a handful of apparent indians. What I especially liked was one of his campaign vehicles with "New Mexico" car license plates.
The subcomandante did take a chatting walk around the city and some pamphlets crossed hands. One could literally smell the fear Catemaqueños exuded, for being seen with him and reported to their local party chiefs. So much for social democracy!
Happy Trails!, subcomandante.

Jan 29, 2006

Catemaco tacos

Just what Mexico needs, I thought! - Another kind of taco!
But after driving about 20 miles (1 hour) from Catemaco on some beautiful country roads beyond San Andrés Tuxtla and eating about 15 delicious tacos, I learned why those particular tacos are famous around the northern Tuxtlas.
Cheerful, smiling young ladies line up their canastas (hand woven wicker baskets) on the central plaza of Tilapan, a former hacienda village down the Volcano San Martin slopes, at the edge of Rio Tepango and await the local tourist hordes. It is a limited menu. Chicken, beef or pork served on handrolled tortillas, dripping with a somewhat spicy and greasy sauce at 2.5 pesos each. A small store nearby sells soft drinks. (Bring your own hand washing water or dip into the nearby river).
The canasta operation stems from the former Tuxtlas railroad days, when Tilapan was a major stop on the road. The habit of selling tacos has continued to now mostly one way automobile tourists.

Jan 24, 2006

Catemaco Lighthouses

Sail on!” it says: “sail on, ye stately ships! And with your floating bridge the ocean span; Be mine to guard this light from all eclipse. Be yours to bring man neared unto man.” This is an excerpt from “The Lighthouse” poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow about the soon to be abandoned structures that guided sailors through the dark.

Although lacking romance, GPS (satellite based Global Positioning Systems), are the electronic future. Los Tuxtlas are surrounded by lighthouses. Veracruz city boasts the first modern lighthouse in Mexico, built in 1795, and the surrounding seas from there to Coatzacoalcos abound with many unique structures.

Roca Partida 40 foot(13m) lighthouse sits on a magnificent volcanic bluff above a cave in which the pirate Lorencillo allegedly buried his treasure. The keeper’s quarters at present are a sheep farm and fenced against visitors. Built in 1909, it still serves the mostly primitive local fishing industry. Access by car is from the highway in front via 15 cattle gates, or a 30 minute uphill climb from Arroyo de Lisa. About 90 minutes from Catemaco.

Punta Zapotitlan 100 foot (30m) lighthouse possibly dates from the 1920´s and its premier location near Perla del Golfo makes it a magnificent focus for offshore viewing of the Sierra Santa Marta. Visits are only possible by a boat taxi from Sontecomapan (800 pesos roundtrip per boat) or a hard 8 hour drive from Catemaco.

Jan 23, 2006

Catemaco Baches

There are several agencies responsible for the maintenance of Catemaco roads. And they all do a wonderful job. But apparently they have saboteurs among themselves.

On a daily basis, unknown saboteurs create so called baches (pot holes) in most roads surrounding Catemaco. Most taxi drivers maintain maps to navigate among the larger ones.

“Mel Gibson”, it has been said, assured his filming crews’ comfortable travel by contributing to the local maintenance effort and had some of the road surface leading to his studios converted into something resembling a road. Meanwhile, some of the stretches of the road to Sontecomapan are possibly large enough to bury the local mayor´s mother in law.

As usual in Catemaco politics, users of roads are banding together to protest the conditions of their roads and plan to possibly burn down the local government or kidnap the local toilet paper distributor to be treated equitably.

Jan 22, 2006

Catemaco Pargo

Some know-it-all tried to tell me pargo is a fish. A pargo is not a fish - it is a whole fried huachinango (snapper)! OK- maybe Cuba has rubbed off on me - because that´s how the word is used there.

Nevertheless when I and my compatriots hit the beach at Costa de Oro, on the Los Tuxtlas coast, about, 30 miles from Catemaco, the lone proprietor of ” Antojitos La Carmelita” gleamed from one side of his Zapato mustache to the other when I ordered “pargos” for everyone, mouthing “huachinango”. Actually it was the only fish he had on hand.

So what else would anyone want after a 30 mile trek from Catemaco passing from verdant jungle to cow pastures to breathtaking views of the Gulf of Mexico.

I would want fresh fried whole red snapper, served over rice, with black beans, hand made tortillas, salad, three sauces, fresh lime and sea salt. AND a beer or soda, and a cup of coffee to get me going afterwards.

AND I would NOT expect to pay more than 50 pesos per person for 5 hungry people on possibly one of the most beautiful beaches in Mexico.

I´m crazy? Yeah?

Jan 19, 2006

Catemaco dogs

3 years ago I stumbled on a starving, chain entangled mutt late at night on a Catemaco side road. She turned out to be a sick, tick and worm infested 95% Siberian Husky (1 blue and 1 brown eye) and I tried for several weeks to find her owner. Noone ever came forward! So she now lives with me and allows me to feed her.
Two months ago, my partner stumbled across a hurt puppy and it was love at first sight and a close relationship with an out of town veterinarian. The SOB chewed up my sofa, my shoes , my Pinche Perra ears (that´s the name of the first dog) and my computer cables. And he was simply adorable, cuddly, loveable, responsive and feisty.
Early mornings, before sunrise, I walked the two of them on Catemaco´s malecon and marveled at the puppy´s love of taking a swim in the laguna. My truck needed repair today and Pinche Perra and I decided to take the puppy for a swim in the afternoon. And the two gamboled along the little bit of beach in front of where I live, chased each other and shorebirds, nibbled on peoples’ leftovers and pissed on every upturned lancha (fishing boat).
And then the puppy chased Pinche Perra onto the Malecon´s street traffic and the puppy left us. So we buried him on my property in a small fenced area overlooking Laguna Catemaco and planted two beautiful flowering plants on his feisty little body. One for him and one for my partner who really loved that mutt.

Jan 7, 2006

Catemaco Women

I love the women of Catemaco, Veracruz. There are short ones, tall ones, brown ones, pink ones, skinny and fat ones, etc. The category that I miss is "political women".

Women in Mexico gained the right to vote in federal elections in 1947. In 2007 civil rights for women in Mexico, although included in various federal & state legislations, are still lacking in full legislative application.
Customary women´s rights in the rural areas of Mexico are similar to the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Athough laws exist to prohibit the applications, traditionally, women cannot inherit property, and in essence become chattel of their first born sons.

Only a few years ago, Mexican law acknowledged marital rape as a crime. Physical wife abuse is still one of the primary reasons for deployment of police forces. Child sale or trade is still prevalent, especially for female babies. But, fortunately, Mexico´s extreme effort to end the spiraling population curve has produced satisfying results in the decrease of that curve.
Pre-natal and child care is barely above minimal international levels.

Many women in the Catemaco area are heavily impacted by their men´s migration to greener pastures, both within Mexico and the USA, and depend on their husband´s transmission of monies to stay alive.

It is no fun being a woman in beautiful downtown Catemaco, unless you are a saftig Popoluca and catch a rich gringo.