Feb 28, 2007

Catemaco Brujo Convention

Catemaco's major fame in English is its relationship to brujos (witches).

And possibly since ancient times, when the heavily forested Los Tuxtlas mountains in Veracruz provided a cornucopia of medicinal plants, healers from Catemaco were favored for their medicinal plant healing powers. Aborigines in the Los Tuxtlas still count more than 400 species of plants with substantive healing powers. So count various Swiss and US pharmaceutical companies who have sponsored several exploitative ventures into this area.

About 50 years ago, one of the better healers in Catemaco apparently made a pact with the devil and the equivalent of Madison Avenue advertising agencies. He attracted Mexican presidents, film stars, and other infamous public figures seeking fortune, health or a vacation in beautiful downtown Catemaco.
That witch originated a brujo convention which has been annually celebrated in Catemaco since the 1980's, and since then, the First Friday occupies a paragraph of most articles written about Catemaco.

The concept of "First Friday in March", according to a local resident bull shitting brujo stems from the the first day of the Olmec calendar year, which up to today, nobody else, except maybe Mel Gibson, has been able to count.

Locally, the population cares nothing about these witchy doings, aside from steering believers arriving from "outside" to their most favorite commission paying brujo.

Nevertheless, since the first convention produced so many touristic news items, the local government for many years has been encouraging brujo related events on the First Friday in March, which actually is one minute past Thursday.

Most times, hundreds of foreign tourists arrive a day late to miss the midnight mass on White Monkey Mountain evoking the devil. Instead, most visitors settle for a song and dance routine in the Disney forest of Nanciyaga, a local regrown jungle preserve.

Ironically, I am happily settled with a Popoluca, whose father is known as a local brujo. So I tried to find out about the colors of witchcraft which assorted English magazine articles proclaim exist here. Yes, there are white witches who specialize in "good healing" and there are black witches who provide a little extra from the dark side. But "red brujos"? Maybe I have to climb another monkey mountain to find the source for one of those.

Meanwhile, COME ON DOWN on Thursday for Friday.

More: Brujos of Catemaco

Feb 27, 2007

Catemaco Paint

Most of Mexico's provincial cities have a quaint habit of painting anything that does not move.
That includes trees, street curbs, government buildings, and probably immobile politicians. Some of the painting is politically motivated. Since each political party has its own colors, "naturally" all of the towns need to be repainted to reflect their glorious leaders political colors.

Yellow is possibly the most favored color in provincial Mexico. If there is a curb sticking above the dirt, it needs to be painted yellow. Unfortunately, the paint used is also subject to political interpretations as to quality and kickbacks and usually lasts a month or two months before the road dirt makes it appear just like it was 8 weeks ago. Usually that yellow painting effort occurs before touristic holidays or political events.

This painting nonsense came to my attention because my neighboring municipal water facility recently repainted its wall in its customary green. Today 2 workers spent a day, repainting the wall in red to reflect the colors of the current Veracruz governor.

That is just a minor item. I sincerely believe that the local municipal city hall, constructed in the mid 1950's is only being supported by the dozens of coats of different political paints applied since its construction.

I wish someone would bring one of those first world sand blasters, manned by third world personnel to Catemaco or Veracruz and reveal the exterior deterioration in the local government. (Buildings that is, ahem!)

Feb 26, 2007

DUI in Catemaco

Here in beautiful downtown Catemaco, Veracruz, WUI would probably be the more appropriate term, because the town is so small that driving is a waste of gasoline. If anyone does not know the abbreviations: (DUI means Driving Under The Influence, of usually alcohol, or drugs, WUI would be Walking Under the Influence).

In a recent conversation, after listening to the usual litany about why to live in Mexico, such as culture, beauty, customs, etc., I squawked about the benefit of the lack of drunk driving enforcement which so many gringos in Mexico enjoy.

I never had a chance to mention my perceived sentiment of official disregard of drunken driving offenses, especially for high-paying drunken gringos and so called "juniors" (sons of the rich).

Has anyone ever heard of a politician or any famous person being arrested for drunk driving in Mexico? Are there no Mel Gibsons in Mexico?

Feb 25, 2007

Return of the Catemaco brujos

Better late than never, the local government rose off its monkey mountain and announced some support for the first Friday in March annual Brujo festivities.

Probably because of political infighting, another Tuxtlas town, Santiago Tuxtla, will be stealing the glory this year, supported by the Veracruz governor, naturally from a different party than the local obstreperous mayor.

Feb 22, 2007

A Catemaco Adios

He was a bear of a man, way over 250 lbs, with a head and heart the size of an Olmeca statue.
He was one of the first “guys” I met in Catemaco during my partying days before my Popoluca captured me. We shared many a “chella” (beer) at Chellos, a barely upscale dive on the carretera running through Catemaco.

He did automotive body work for a living and relieved me of a fender bender once and again. In the last few years we drifted apart, except for an occasional bear hug.
He died 2 nights ago, cheese holed by 7 large caliber bullets. Probably involving drugs as I am now finding out.

He should have stuck to beer!

Beautiful downtown Catemaco, Veracruz does not seem very beautiful right now.

Noticiero Veracruz:

Catemaco Beaches

Ok! the sand is not glittering white, and there are no 8 foot Pacific breaking waves, but do you notice the absence of foot prints?

This is just one of the dozens of beaches within easy access of beautiful downtown Catemaco.

Feb 17, 2007

Catemaco Monkey Islands

This is for you all of you who never had the thrill of walking along Mexico's most beautiful lake while being accosted by vultures shouting "Lancha Lancha".

In 1974 an animal "research" project imported macaque monkeys from Thailand onto an island in Laguna Catemaco. Presumably this was to be a breeding facility of monkeys for vivisectionists. Nothing is mentioned about that subject anywhere, but why would anyone import foreign monkeys into an area that was already aware of the imminent extinction of its resident monkeys?
A few years later the monkey colony was abandoned and fishermen in Catemaco recognized a golden opportunity and started offering boat rides to the monkey islands to visitors from the beach of beautiful downtown, Catemaco, Veracruz, Mexico.

This monkey opportunity developed into one of the major cash earners for many local fishermen (there is an absence of fisherwomen), so that by now more than 70 small boats, seating up to 20 people in front of noisy outboard motors are authorized to transport tourists to see the monkeys and the scenery along the way.

The current transport charge is 50 pesos per person or 350 pesos for a private boat, and during the apex of the tourist season, the smog, noise and wakes of dozens of small boats compete to cast noxious spells on novice tourists on this laguna of enchantment.

During the off season, these boat rides are actually very pleasant. Unfortunately during any time, none of the boat operators speak English. The boat tour will stop at Nanciyaga, Laguna Catemaco's "famous jungle" resort, and if you like, you can exit, tour Nanciyaga, and return on a later boat.

If you ever have the chance to do so, hire either a sailboat or the pontoon boat and spend half a leisurely and unforgettable day on the lake. The cost is not much more than what some over priced local hotels charge for a room.

Feb 9, 2007

Catemaco Protest

A common political tool in Mexico is a protest march. It is so common in Mexico City, that downtown shop owners expect their streets to be blockaded a large part of the year.

Generally, and specifically in the provinces of Mexico, a protest is a political act, paid for by a political agent supported by "under classes" promised some bags of cement, a few chickens and a threat to have their welfare programs rescinded for failure to participate. Political achievement in Mexico is related to who can make the most political noise. That is why almost daily, in this beautiful country, a highway is blocked to travellers because of the perception of some outside malfeasance.

A relatively new wrinkle on this sort of protest was the recent shutting down of fresh water supplies to southern Veracruz by mostly indigenous peoples, because of perceived failures of state infrastructure projects.

Beautiful downtown Catemaco has now joined the rank of protesters, because its prince (alcalde) is allegedly lacking money to maintain his princedom (ayuntamiento) because of over spending and is now desperately seeking promised state public works, which are known to clandestinely add 10 to 20% of their cost to a local leader's portfolio.

Apparently the local prince misunderstood the state's king (gobernador) who, as customary, had promised a boat motor and four chickens for every pot in Catemaco, but whose office is also customarily known never to deliver on promises.

As an example, it took 26 years of promises to pave a local road from Catemaco to the beach.
So now, the local prince, who used who knows whose funds, has engaged various bus companies to transport people from the beautiful uptown Catemaco area for a free visit to the state capital, including free lunches and perhaps a bag of cement to keep warm in the cold temperatures of Xalapa.

The intent is to make so much noise that the possibly embarrassed king of Veracruz will throw a bone to the Catemaco prince so that he can hopefully say he was "promised" that a mile of lake front or other dirt road would be paved.

On their way, these troubadors blocked the federal highway from Veracruz to Coatzacoalcos. This created many more loyal supporters among local drivers and foreign tourists who allegedly joined in the lament of the local ayuntamiento .

Some of the local brujo (witch) population, or at least the ones aligned with the princedom, have also joined this protest and are prepared to draw spells on anyone standing in the way of this protest. (The last protest was welcomed with tear gas).

The king became upset at these happenings and sent troups of his black and white police cars to intercept the merry troubadors. Frightened by the thought of going to jail most of the party makers decided to walk home and left the prince with a handful of lackals, and 22 mostly empty buses.

So much for that supposed brujo magic!

Feb 8, 2007

Brujo Protest

Alleging that the Veracruz state government failed to deliver promised municipal improvements, the brujos (witches) of beautiful downtown Catemaco exhort 3000 of their fellow inhabitants to march on Xalapa, the Veracruz state capital, today.

The brujos intend to do a "limpia" (spiritual cleaning) of the seat of government and to illuminate the governor's spirit.

Feb 3, 2007


Ana Maria Salazar host an English radio show in Mexico City and occasionally goes off the deep end. This is cribbed from her latest blog.

SPANISH FOR GRINGOS (Para que los Gringos aprendan castellano)…There's always something to learn or to try, many times you need to say some phrase in Spanish, but you don't know how to say it, don't worry, your problems have finished, if your are a gringo and you don't know speak

We took from it some common phrases, just try and you're gonna see the difference and how easy is to speak Spanish.(Léanlo en voz alta en inglés, está genial!)

1.Boy as n r = Voy a cenar = I'm gonna have a dinner
2.N L C John = en el sillón = on the armchair
3.Be a hope and son = Viejo panzón = fat old man
4.Who and see to seek ago = Juancito se cagó = Little John is a chickenshit.
5.S toy tree stone = estoy tristón = I'm kind a sad.
6.Lost trap eat toss = los trapitos = the little rag.
7. Desk can saw = descanso = (you) rest.8. As say toon as = aceitunas = olives.
9. The head the star mall less stan dough = deje de estar molestando = stop bugging me.
10.See eye = si hay = yes we have
11. T n s free o ? = tienes frío = are you cold?
12. T N S L P P B N T S O = Tienes el pipi bien tieso = you have an erection.
13. Tell o boy ah in cruise tar = Te lo voy a incrustar = I'm going to insert it in you

Feb 2, 2007

El Azuzul

El Azuzul is a swamp at the north end of downtown Catemaco, Veracruz. Supposedly it is inhabited by fresh water shrimp, one or two of the almost extinct local turtles, maybe a tiny crocodile or two, and of course some goblins. In the "old days" the swamp was connected to Laguna Catemaco and served as a reservoir of bait shrimp for the local fishermen.

Since then, a short causeway separating the swamp from the laguna was developed which has now become Playa Espagoya, one of the Catemaco beaches that tourists are advised to use for swimming, in order to avoid getting chopped by boat propellers elsewhere.

Of course, with customary foresight, no culverts were installed. So, El Azuzul depends on sub surface percolation to keep its waters level with Laguna Catemaco. And of course when it rains a lot, the area becomes flooded.

A rich Catemaco hotel owner now occupies one corner of the swamp. He must have been reading the Noah section of the bible. His walls are 15 feet tall, topped with electric stunners. Maybe one day his whole castle will float out to the lake to form a new island.

Another hotel owner is now proposing to convert the swamp to a deification of the Olmec gods. Meanwhile the local neighbors of the swamp are praying for mosquito relief.