THE PASSAGE OF TIME – December 2015

The friends we made were not, of course, Pancho Villa and Emilio Zapata, the great pictured heroes of Mexican history of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. But forty five years ago, when I visited Mexico first, I recall drinking in the Cantinas with Mexicans dressed in the same customary white pants and shirt, instead of the brand named shirts and caps of today, and who wore sombreros not baseball caps.

Forty five years ago there was still the el paseo, where eligible young Mexican women, walked around El Zocalo and young men passing the other way could greet them and sit chaperoned on the side of the square and talk. The beauty and attraction of the deep eyed, dark skinned, long black haired and essentially modest young women of Mexico has not changed although with Western dress today it is even more apparent. (La Esposa says something along the same lines about Mexican males)

… Then there was no war on drugs as it exists today, and I could go with friends, made playing chess in the Zocalo, into the countryside where freshly picked psylocibe mushrooms, the root network of which can spread as many as five miles under ground, could be eaten This in a society that is probably considerably less drug oriented than the U.S. These substances are reported to have been around since the earliest times. Those varieties activated by psyilocybins are reported to have been used in every Mesoamerican civilization as a spiritual ally. The realizations in the realm of non ordinary reality they may induce today, as then, are extraordinary. Indeed, scientific studies are being published today corroborate the physical and mental benefits these substances can potentiate. Yet now in the US even more than forty five years ago, the conventional wisdom seems deaf and blind to the dimension of knowledge psilocybin experience reveals. Conversation here suggests that the proposition is more easily accepted in Mexico that that the stories associated the psylocibin experience viewed as science fiction today will be the science of tomorrow…

There is a difficulty today in keeping current with this blog, now that we have already arrived in the mountain town of Patzcuaro, Michoacan. We are above 7,000 feet over sea level here at Patzcuaro, We are again experiencing the Shangri la atmosphere of this magical place. What came before, the earlier weeks blend together. … Being here is enough. Why write?

Getting here was a worthy challenge. On the way, we were 8,000 feet above sea level, making drives which tested our intestinal fortitude.

During the day when we had threaded our way down the Mountain Route 175 from San Jose to the Pacific we had an incredible fish soup in Pachutla, the larger inland town of which Puerto Angel is a part, a large market town, active and bustling. One had to be careful to pick the small bones out.

I am told that Puerto Angel surely is not what it was twenty years ago, let alone forty five years ago, but it remains much as it was two years ago, and a place I would recommend and to which I will return.

The first night in Puerto Angel, we stayed for $400 pesos one night in Hotel Seroya in the center of town in a lovely suite overlooking the harbor of Puerto Angel, and had great meals at the two beach restaurants on Playa Pantheon which is on one side of the fishing harbor and a lovely beach. We were the only people there except one Italian student. The tourists do not arrive in mass until winter.

After a one night stay at Hotel Saroya, in Puerto Angel we confirmed our old landlord there whom we had contacted earlier of our arrival. He had led us to believe the house on the road to the lighthouse would be available. We found out it was not. So he rented us quarters for one week at Zipoleti Beach, the biggest beach and the one for which Puerto Angel is known. Our first day in our new quarters, after the night of a new moon, (when, as is their habit I gather) el scorpion looking for a mate, greeted us. We are informed that ordinarily they are scared to go outside when the moon light is strong.

Somehow during the week we remained in Puerto Angel El Scorpio’s possible reappearance interfered with our sleep, which was still scarce enough. Even at the beach for a week, the prior months and years of the protestant work ethic in which we lived left us with an unshakable subliminal apprehension that if we enjoyed an afternoon siesta, for example, the sleep police from Estados Unidos would not onlhy not save us but would arrest us because we were or might turn into something undesirable.

The tide continues to thunder in relentlessly at Zipolete, one of the many, many miles long Mexican Pacific beaches, and the sun continues to fade each evening into a horizon of blue grey clouds and a pale orange sky. Swimming at Zipoleto, especially when the surf was down, was much superior to but something like having a warm bath in a really giant outdoor jacuzzi. On the beach, a traveling vendor, having with a swift chop of the machete decapitated the head of a coconut and in my presence added rum to the juice that filled the inside of the coconut, had little difficulty getting me to purchase for far too steep a price a coco loco.

Again our beach of choice to swim at was not Zipolite but the much smaller cove of Esta Cahuite which is on a side road to the road into Puerto Angel and where, aside from some cavorting Mexican youth, a young Spanish artist on vacation and no others shared the beach with us. Today unlike during the past visit we made, the road from the highway down to Estacahuite has construction on both sides, potential new homes or hotels. I fear we have seen the best of this treasured secret.

Having unconsciously gritted my teeth and clenched my jaw during the mountain driving, consequences followed that made me bless readily available Excedrin, on which I lived thereafter for a full week.

Notable to us in Puerto Angel is the now newly completed Cell Tower near El Faro – the light house – at a house on the road to which two years ago we had stayed. Internet Service, Cell Phones and the Internet are now as common in much if not all Mexico as in the U.S. Times have changed and are changing at an exponential rate.

On the seventh day, we left Puerto Angel, and drove North along the Pacific Coast toward the busy port of Lazaro Cardinez in Michoacan province. We were planning to stay in Puerto Escondido and then Zijuatenao before making the last leg of the trip inland to Patzcuaro, but – after driving through both Pacific towns – stayed at neigherdid not. There were hotels and each was on the ocean. But one got the impression each was greatly over developed… Lots of traffic, lots of building, lots of houses… One wonders what the impact of over population, over fishing and the tourism of which we are a part may be for the fragile coast line. Inadvertantly we also drove through Acapulco, along the beach highways, lined by high rise resort hotels, at this time of year seemingly without clients. I imagine it is a lot like Miami.

After finding Zijuataneo not to our taste (which may be biased and uninformed), we thought to stay at the next coastal town, Ixtapa. We found again a long stretch of new road, remindful of Huatulco, the government national resort in Oaxaco where we spent a night two years ago, and again there were many high rise resort hotels stretching along roads to invisible beach.

We drove on. Interestingly, along the stretch in one small town, evidently devoted to oil production, there were a couple of road signs for “Neuroticos Anonymous.” We thought we would fit right in but did not have time to stop.

The coastal road from Acapulco to Puerto Angel frequently declares, in large signs featuring the Gobernor, it is being improved (meaning presently changes with no discernible rationale from two lane paved road to one lane dirt road) so probably before long, the road will be an easily driveable.

One of the two evenings we spent on the next leg of our journey, from Puerto Angel up the Coast from the Province of Oaxaco, through the Province of Guerrero, to Michoacan Province and to the Town of Patzcuaro – we stayed at one Hotel Munez in Magdelana. We had no idea where to stay but it was in town, along the route, and one that if we stayed at, we could avoid night driving. La Esposa asked the woman on the upstairs front escarpment of the hotel how much for a room. Two Hundred and Fifty Pesos the owner replied, so we drove in. Her son came out and showed me a room on the bottom floor, but with an unmade bed and obviously recently occurpied. I did not ask him the probable hourly rate but asked in halting Spanish, “Have you not even got a clean room?” The owner quickly came downstairs and showed us to the second floor, which had highly polished floors and was very clean, and a room with a king size bed, a TV, airconditioning, and good furnishings. We took the second floor room – same price.

The next evening, as we drove onward North along the Pacific, again we kept on too long and it got too dark comfortably to drive further. We did not want to drive at night and we did not want to have to stay in the big port town of Lazaro Cardinez. We opted to stop at the first town we could. Soon on the side of the highway, a sign on a large Archway announced that this was the entrance to the Town of Marqueza. Nearby was a police station, and a bus stop. Under and beyond the Arch an unpaved road stretched darkly into the night. A Truck driver who spoke some Inglese told us there were two hotels down that road where we could find the town, but who, thinking we guess that we were Acapulco types, allowed they were nothing we would want to stay in,. We said we did not care how big the hotel was. Eventually when we arrived in the town, no one seemed to know of a hotel. I think Posada is the word I needed. Eventually a gentleman walking down the street indicated in Espagnol that indeed there was a hotel some number of streets up the hill and some number or blocks to the right or was it left?

After driving up the hill and in a number of circles from one edge of town to the other, we found a tattered sign leading into the yard of the Hotel Texas, where a very friendly and enterprising young woman showed us a few rooms, one for $200 and one for $300 pesos a night, the latter of which had air conditioning. The owner’s smiling young son showed us our room, (which was cheerfully painted in colors of watermelons and of the ocean), turned on the hot water, and gave us a padlock for the door. I felt like discussing with him the Indian movie, the Very Best Marigold Hotel, but we shared not much language in common and I don’t think he quite fit the projection I was making onto him of the movie’s protagonist. We had a good night’s sleep.

Progressing from the Hotel Texas on the final leg of the trip to Patzcuaro, we reached a new Cuota, or modern toll highway just before Lazaro Cardinez, which leads inland from the Coast up to the Michoacan cities of Uruapan, Patzcuaro and Morelia. This highway is not yet clearly on the map This new autopista so called makes the trip from the coast inland to Patzcuaro, a drive through beautiful mountainous and lake country side, a trip easily done in less than a day. As we progressed, we noticed both a very large electro power plant nestled in the hills and also the beginning of pine forests out of which most of the houses in Patzcuaro are built.. After the earlier perilous mountain driving, I much appreciated the new road on this stretch, but also selfishly fear the ready availability of travel to Patzcuaro it brings.

While some of the journey to date seems to have been just hard work, long driving and tedium, it has also been amazing. For example, while to us, Zijuatenayo and Escondido, seem now to be but charming seaside places of yesterday, we also passed along the way and did not explore many new unknown hidden beaches we could have, by driving fifteen or twenty miles off on unmapped side roads to the Pacific, probably found small villages and as yet undiscovered beaches. And every day, hearing and attempting to get along in the unfamiliar Spanish tongue makes what may be hum drum interesting. As has been noted in the history of music, the nature and structure of the romance languages carries with it an emotional and romantic content very different from the Germanic and English languages to which as an American I am accustomed. …

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