Wednesday, April 16, 2014

I call it My Loop Trip

As some of you may know I have family roots in the state of Chihuahua, both my parents and both my grandparents (on both sides of the family) were all born there, I am the first generation born in Canada. My mother's whole family moved to Canada when she was a young girl, so she does not have too many memories of Mexico but my father didn't come to Canada until he was a young man, and he came alone. To this day I still have aunts, uncles and many many cousins still living in the state of Chihuahua, scattered from Cuauhtemoc to Saladas.
This was my 4th visit, once as a child with my parents when I was 8, once with my daughter when she was 11, and once with my daughter and my mother, and now alone.

My loop trip

I have done it a few different ways, I've flown there from Canada and then taken the train from Chihuahua through the Copper Canyons to Los Mochis and then a bus to Mazatlan, or I have flown to Mazatlan and taken a bus to Los mochis and then the train through the canyons to Cuauhtemoc. This trip was always combined with a trip to Mazatlan. This time I took a bus from Mazatlan to Cuauhtemoc and then took the train to Los Mochis and then a bus back to Mazatlan. That has put me on planes, trains, buses, boats and cars this winter.....sounds like a movie.

The bus from Mazatlan to Cuauhtemoc is a 17 hour ride, In Chihuahua city you do a bus switch, this is where I was a dumb ass and missed my bus. Let me splain the bus system to you. When you buy your ticket there is a bus number on the ticket, then you go outside where many many bus lines pull up to drop off people and reload and hit the road (quickly), so you find your bus that has a number that matches your ticket, if your bus is not there yet you ask one of the "bus directors" that are standing around and being ever so helpful. Here is the problem with "ever so helpful". Mexican men take the whole "macho" thing to a whole new level than American men. If you ask them something that they do not know the answer to they will still give you an answer, they will make stuff up, not because they are deceitful or mean or because they get kicks out of sending you on a wild goose chase, they just want to help,'s really very sweet, they want to help you so bad that they make stuff up, they can't just say "I don't know", this is not a personnel thing it is a cultural thing. For the most part you can get around this by learning how to ask things (different story). So, I let my guard down (14 hours on a bus can do that to you) and messed up. Was told to wait "here" for my bus, when in fact my bus had already left, but I wasn't alone. Another Mexican couple asked the same guy (I overheard this) and they were told to wait "here" as well....see, not personal and confirmation that it wasn't my Spanish that had failed here......that is always a huge probability too.

So what now? Wait 3 hours for the next bus? Not in Mexico, once it was determined that we had been given false information......yes we both tattled on the guy, another bus was pulled out of the parking lot and we got a private bus trip to Cuauhtemoc. Seriously. Not sure if this would have happened if the Mexican couple had not been there as well, but I do know this would never have happened in Canada regardless of why you missed the bus.

The reason for taking the bus up was to see the new road to Durango and the world's highest suspension bridge but as it turned out we passed through in the dark, which I knew, but passing during the day met arriving too early in the morning (or too late at night) for my family to pick me up at the other end. My destination is not Cuauhtemoc but a small town called Rubio. However I did see the bridge because it is lit up nicely, I just didn't get pictures so I stole these off the internet. It is beautiful at night too, well worth the trip. It's like seeing the Eiffel tower at night, it's beautiful during the day but almost magical at night, as is this bridge. Had this been a sightseeing trip I would have made  the trip in 2 or 3 days but it wasn't, I was in a hurry to get there. I had left this trip to the very end of my stay in Mexico and was in a hurry to get back to the Island to spend my last days there. This happens to me very year, once I get settled on the Island I don't want to leave, I want to travel around and see things but I just can't leave. I've stayed too long, become too attached (different story).

The world's highest suspension bridge, It is in the Guinness Book of records

She's a beauty

My cousin picked me up at the bus station in Cuauhtemoc and drove me to Rubio giving us time to catch  up. Oh, the weather.....ugh! Cold, windy, dry dry air.....shockingly dry for me coming from a high humidity area, so dry it burns the nose, makes your skin crinkle and itch and ages you as soon as you cross the Sinaloa-Chihuahua border, your insides dry up too. If feels like everything in your intestines shrivels up and sticks to the sides and won't come get the picture. Reminded me of Philips Seymour Hoffman's line in Cold Mountain "if they open my gut up right now they would find turds stacked up like little black twigs". ... yeah, enough about that, It's dry. The wind howls and blows, luckily they all built their houses like the smart little pig....of bricks, houses made of sticks would have blown away. I think there are only two crooked tress in Chihuahua that are taller than me (but not wider) this is because the German people have a tendency to clear all the land without leaving a single tree, they work up the land right up to the back of the house, up to the side of the shops, garages, and barns, never leaving even a single row of trees. Unlike in Sinaloa, in Chihuahua they can only have one crop a year because of cold winters, during the winter months the land is worked up, all you can see for miles and miles is black dirt......and then the wind comes. I used to think it was dirty and dusty on Stone Island......not, I will never complain of dust on the Island again.

Now, Imagine a wind blowing through here.....close your eyes

Nothing to stop the wind

Apple orchids 

Land is worked up right to the house, see the mountains in the background, you can't get away from them

How lonely, how cold, how brown.......the mountains are beautiful though, never

It was so cold I wore all my clothes I had brought with me at once, a pair of fleece lined leggings saved my life, and I went out and bought some socks, I came without socks, what was I thinking? My past visits had never been in the winter. When I tell you what the temperature was my Canadian friends will snort and laugh,  but remember no heat in the homes, or in stores or in the restaurants except for little electric or propane powered portable heaters that they are all too cheap for to crank on high, there is just enough heat to keep you alive. The temperature went from a -3C overnight to 16C (that was the high) during the day and a 150mph wind (that's a "feels like" guess).....don't forget, stick dry air, and remember where I had come from, 33C with 90% humidly. You get the idea....carrying on now.

The mountains of Chihuahua have a way of romancing me, they court my heart, they make me feel like I am the star in a movie, and old old movie, it's old, but right away I know I have seen it before, I don't think it's a good movie, I think it's a sad movie, I don't think I would like to watch it never mind be in it, but for some reason I know my lines well making me feel like I am meant to be in it, I fit, I remember it like it like it was filmed yesterday........but I can just feel it, I get drawn in. I know it's not my story but it rouses me when I see the mountains. The story that belongs to my father, most of which he took with him when he passed away, but the mountains stayed behind and since they don't talk I can only wonder what the rest of the story is. ......and I ask my aunts and uncles to tell me stories of how they survived this desert like land and squeezed a decent living out of the dry rocky countryside with their hands. I dig through their old pictures and try to imagine what if.....what if I hadn't been born in Canada, what if I had been born here, am I privileged for having grown up in Canada or did I miss out on something. I feel I missed out. Those mountains always bring these questions.

They pull at me, every time I look up, there they are, pleading with me, telling me I belong here, my roots are here, part of me says I should be here, then I quickly look away, shiver from the wind, squint my eyes to keep the dust out. Never. 

Then later I forget and I am awed once again by the mountains and I imagine myself with a little square plot of land, a little brick house, a little chicken coop and some sheep or goats in a white fence, a little apple orchid, making a living selling eggs, butter, apples, apple pie and knitted mittens, scarves and wool socks, speaking German/Spanish, braiding my hair (that would become dreadlocks), snorting Vaseline up my nose, I can almost see it when I am focused on the those mountains....... thank goodness when I look away I remember it's not my story or my movie.

I cruise around in my aunts car and visit cousins after cousins, I pet calves, cows, little wee kittens, I go from fabric store to fabric store (didn't even buy any), I attend a Spanish/German church, I eat progies & sausage, noodle soup, tacos and beans, pie, and good old fashion German Hones broden. I see cowboys, little boys in overalls, cowboy boots and belt buckles of all sizes and kinds. Lots of the cowboys here wear the cowboy gear, whereas in Sinaloa the cowboys are barefoot or in flip flops (unless they are going dancing) It's more of a "wild west" like look here, the rough terrain and the dress, the vehicles, there seems to be more "attitude" as opposed to the relaxed "ahhh manana, manana" ways of Sinaloa, these people are more driven by making money, no laying in hammocks at 4:00 pm here, not sure I even saw hammocks.

 The farmers are indeed big farmers, not content to just harvest enough to feed themselves, they are after big crops, filling semi trucks after semi trucks of corn. All you see is corn, unlike Sinaloa where we have a variety of crops, everything from tomatoes, chilis, onions, lemons, mangos, papaya, etc, colorful crops. Along with the big farms here you see big farm equipment, nice shiny green farm equipment, and a John Deere dealership on every corner (across from the fabric store) unlike Sinaloa where we see tractors that are held together by twine, string, tape and Gods grace, tractors that were bought from Tio Jose's nephew carlos's wife's brother Rigo.....not from a shiny John Deere dealership. I've never even seen a new farm equipment dealership in Sinaloa. Chihuahua is real farm country,  I even saw hay bales, I have never seen hay bales in Sinaloa.

My mother's family came from Rubio  (right here) which is very very much farm country, and very straight and staunch German, my father's family came from Pedroneles, more ranch like and more Mexican, although they were German, it seemed my grandfather didn't like to go with the flow, he liked things a bit more messier than the straight, manicured, orderly German farm thus not ever really fitting in with his German neighbors so they opted to live in a more Mexican populated area, more ranch like, less orderly, where the chickens aren't penned and the goats run wild, the clothes line hangs low with the sheets brushing against the chicken poop on the ground, the cowboy rides his horse to the front door and walks into the house with his shitty boots. The ranch cowboy drinks beer on Friday night, howls at the moon and dances around a fire, his gun is a show piece, and his shirts have colorful flowers embroidered on the shoulder pieces, and his cowboy boots are pointed. He lives high on the hog when he has money  and lowly when he doesn't.

The farm cowboy has a nice little chicken coop, all animals are fenced in with nice red barns, the clothes line flies high, there is a walk way leading to the house and a porch where you leave your square toed cowboy boots, he has no time for dancing and howling at the moon is just for fools and coyotes, he hides his gun until it is time to slaughter a pig, his plain shirts are freshly ironed under his overhauls. He manages his money so he can live simply all the time. He hides his beer and drinks in secret.(haha, I made that up....maybe)

These two places exist here not far from each other but ever so different, my father came from one and my mother from the other, same...only different. Me....I'm a mix, sometimes I am tore between the 2 worlds. Sometimes I like things orderly and straight and sometimes I like them more mixed up, but, I always howl at the moon (when I'm alone), and I am not hiding a gun or beer, but I would love embroidered flowers on my shirts and I prefer flip flops over cowboys boots.....guess I am not a cowboy at all. Just don't look at the mountains of Chihuahua, turn the other way, south to Sinaloa.

My great grandmothers house, as it stands today, empty, abandoned. A new roof and one could move in. Never

Ready to seed, waiting for spring

2 different worlds can sometimes only be 1 hr and 45 minutes apart

From Cuauhtemoc  I take the train to Los Mochis, I am tired from laying in my bed shivering at nights and am still carrying my little black sticks with me, all in all not feeling overly great, I am thinking I will sleep the whole way, I have taken this same train through the same Copper Canyons 2 times before, I have seen it all, (so I think) I will sleep and when I get to Mochis I will jump on a night bus and head home. Not. Did not sleep a wink, the view from the big windows is amazing all the way. It was very noticeable when we crossed the border to Sinaloa, almost immediately it got greener and more colorful, more tropical, lush and full. Since I didn't sleep I decided against getting on a night bus and got a room in Mochis and had a good warm night's sleep and a relaxing morning with coffee and sunshine and Chilaquiles with beans for breakfast. Oh it was so warm. I never realized how much I love Sinaloa (now that the Chihuahua mountains are out of sight and can't woo me).
Copper Canyons


starting to get greener and more trees

but yet still a little too brown for me

 I left my little black sticks behind and got on a bus to go home to Mazatlan. On the 6 hour bus ride through Sinaloa I fell in love over and over and over again. I love Sinaloa. I love that the corn was standing 7 feet tall with the second crop in the next field just starting, I love the rows and rows of tomatoes plants with shiny red tomatoes, I love the chili trucks on the road, loaded to the top, I love the messy ranches, but most of all I like the trees, big bushy trees, everywhere, and the flowers and the colorful houses and the laundry hanging on the ground, the kids running around barefoot, the trees, oh the beautiful trees. Just when I thought I couldn't be more in love with sinaloa.....there it was, behind green field of tomatoes, the ocean, the ocean, the reason I don't have to snort Vaseline anymore, the reason my skin feels younger the reason for the salty taste when I lick my lips, the reason my hair goes wild and will not be tamed. 

And then BAM! Sinaloa, the corn is high


See the trees in the background

See how the land is not worked up on the right

trees, and water

Soft mountains in the back, and trees

Farmland and mountain

Mountains behind farm land on one side of the road....

The ocean behind farmland on the other side of the road....the best of all worlds

We have mountains in Sinaloa too, they just look softer and aren't so demanding on you (me) as the ones in Chihuahua, they don't try to steal you away, they are what they are, they complete the landscape. They don't have to romance me, I'm already in love with them. Sinaloa be still my heart.

Home.....where the horse run wild. Stone Island
Just to clarify, my mother's family packed up and moved to Canada when she was 8 so she didn;t really grow up in Rubio but she did grow up in a German farm community in Northern Alberta, where the wash line flies high, where there is a walk way leading to the house, a porch where you take your boots............

1 comment:

Contessa said...

Oh Maria what a compelling tale. I could see you being torn but could also see your spirits lift as you returned to Sinaloa. A perfect way to describe yourself, a mix!

I love the way you write and this is a wonderful story for your daughter and her family. Roots are everything.

But really, can anything be dustier that the Isla?