Brown

7 10 2013

An age is called Dark not because the light fails to shine,

but because people refuse to see it.

James Michener

If I lived in this dreary town I’d invest in paint.

Me.

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Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico

Capital of Mexico’s second-largest state: Sonora

Eight hours south of Phoenix

June.

112 °F ~ 44°C

Summer, I’m told, has not yet arrived.

Brown.

Desert. Dust. Adobe. Dirt. Bricks. Rocks. Cobblestones. Concrete. Boulders. Heat waves. Grit. Grime. Muck. Chaff. Weeds (dead). Dreary. Desolate. Bleak. Barren. Gloomy. Wasteland. Hot. Hot. Hot. Dry. Dry. Dry.

Brown.

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I’ve been a bit reticent to walk Hermosillo’s dimly lit streets at night. This is a “city,” not a village like my home of Puerto Morelos or even Morrison, Colorado.

But Hermosillo, like cities everywhere, is constructed of “neighborhoods.”

At dusk, I reluctantly ventured out my El Centro apartment as the day cooled to approximately 110 and a dusty breeze swirled an errant plastic bag from the curb. My camera captured adobe breaking through cement and crumbling bricks. Tired, hundreds-of-years-old buildings. Ancient arches. Graffiti. Dead weeds. Cactus. Brilliant bursts of bougainvillea. Neighbors filtering into the streets. Sitting on curbs. Leaning against trucks. Chatting. Relishing the “cool” of the evening, the descending dark, the ascending nearly-full moon.

There’s something going around the corner?? A pig. On a leash. Named Chuletta.  Chuletta, translated: Pork Chop. I do love Mexico.

Chuletta - Pork Chop

Chuletta – Pork Chop

This, however, is not a tourist town – and in the night, I’m not totally comfortable as the Lone Gringa. At the upcoming corner sits a gaggle of men about my age, beers in hand — one perched on the tailgate of his pick-up-truck, picking guitar. Should I turn back? Question answered as they clown for my camera. Conversation ensues. Well — with my barely-Spanish, it kind of ensues. But I accept their offer of a cervesa –  international symbol of camaraderie — and enjoy the one song my musician is obviously pleased to know in English – Hotel California.

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This is the oldest neighborhood in Hermosillo, they proudly proclaim. Most of these guys work at the University of Sonora – an engineer, a doctor, a couple lawyers, citizens of the World. We dance. My partner, however, was born with that Latin Salsa gene of which I am sorely lacking. Laughter, however, is universal.

They ask if I like Mexico. “Mexico have good people,” the musician proclaims. “And you are good people,” he adds, touching my heart.

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Brown.

Eyes. Faces. Hands. Hair. Smiles. Laughter. Kindness. Joy. Understanding.  Delight. Friendly. Helpful. Honest. Warm. Welcoming. Bronze. Beautiful.

Brown.

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Things don’t change. You change your way of looking, that’s all.

Carlos Castaneda

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Viajera Soltera ~ Solo Traveler Álamos Adventure

28 04 2013

The traveler sees what he sees.

The tourist sees what he has come to see.
G.K. Chesterton

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For me, the ideal time to experience Mexican tourist areas is in Low Season….April and May are my favorites. Most Snow Birds have returned home, shopkeepers are elated at the possibility of a customer, and the temperature has not yet reached sizzling.

When traveling by bus in Mexico, it pays to be vieja. Well. Not that I ever plan on being “old,” but my official age does qualify, and I’m certainly not too proud to request the Old Person discount (no special card necessary, just proof of age). With it, my six-hour bus trip costs only 95 pesos.

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Buses in Mexico create their own Adventure – comfortable although frigid and usually showing American movies with Spanish voices dubbed over — gotta love Sylvester Stallone brandishing a knife and barking orders in high-pitched Spanish. Vendors hop aboard for a short stint to offer tamales, dulces, and fruits. On this particular trip, the special treat was a sweet quesadilla stuffed with pineapple.

I’m phasing into traveling Very Light, adding yet another interesting aspect to my trips – living out of a backpack in which my computer, two phones, iPod, Kindle, camera and various power necessities take the majority of space. (Note to self: Purchase larger backpack. Smaller computer. Fewer electronics? Nah.)

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Upon arriving in Álamos, Sonora – designated a Pueblo Mágico by Mexico — I spotted a vine-covered posada for $500 pesos/night —  including almost-good morning coffee on an almost-private patio overlooking The Square – thus providing a vantage point from which to witness the town awakening in the morning and, with a glass of vino tinto, observe nighttime activities.

Posada de Don Andrès is an ideal location — night-time perhaps not quite so perfect with the questionably-talented yet enthusiastic musician at the otherwise deserted Cantina across the street till nearly 2:00 and the Singing Truck announcing something obviously important at 7:00 am sharp…. Proprietor Jorge cautioned me that a farther-back room might be more tranquila/peaceful. I prefer the heart of activity.

Hence, I sip coffee, check emails, and watch the community come to life from my wrought-ironed, bougainvillea-adorned patio. On The Square, white-hat vaqueros lean on their camionetas, taco carts roll in, tenderos unlock doors and toss buckets water onto the street….

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Álamos , a beautiful specimen of Mexico’s Colonial period, is known as “La Ciudad de los Portales” (portales — roofed verandas or walkways).  After reserving my room, I walk up Callejon de Besos, (kissing alley) to the Tourist Center in the Plaza de Armas for a bit of local history and to arrange excursions.

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My touring chariot is an ancient Jeep which includes Ligo — an attractive guide about my age whose somewhat-English meshes nicely with my somewhat-MexSpanglish — as well as a creative paintjob highlighting marvels of the area. And.  !?just when I thought life couldn’t possibly get better?!  An Ooompahpah Ooompahpah horn which also bugles out animal imitations, cocks crowing, and tacky tunes.   I LOVE IT!

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Access to the once-active mine, Libertad de la Quintera, requires four-wheel drive. Dodging cacti, tumbleweeds and lizards we wend our way up. Ligo, flashlight in hand, motions for me to get out and follow. He crouches and descends into an intimidating hole. Alice in Wonderland?

I have a momentary lapse into Common Sense: Who is this guy? A deserted mineshaft?! in the wastelands of Mexico?! What the hell am I doing?!

Good judgment, however, seldom creates Interesting Experiences.

I dutifully follow into the bowels of the earth, winding through tunnels, peering into holes where lamp light disappears to nothing, dodging startled bats that circle our heads before returning to rest on inverted roosts.

I ask Ligo to turn off the lamp. Complete. Total. Black.

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We proceed to La Aduana with its sweet little church, circa 1538. Adobe homes. Abundant flowers. Friendly people. I couldn’t resist purchasing two hand-made pillows, orange marmalade, honey and seriously-hot salsas. I visualize myself: Boarding the bus juggling plastic bags and string-wrapped parcels in addition to said back-pack – a striking image as an authentic Mexicana. (Yeah. Right.)

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 Friday evening. Town Square dutifully rolls up the streets for a while – then around 9:00, the area livens up. Apparently, anyone owning a “peeck-up truck” has it equipped with an external boom box and  hopped-up amplifiers. Singing Truck circles the area blaring songs from the 50s while announcing disco (Yes. Somewhat of a disconnect.).  The public bus arrives with screaming brakes. As this cacophony dies down the local cantina gears up. Ahhhh —  fin de semana – the week-end. Eventually — around 3:00 am – silence.

Saturday morning. On the bright side: An opportunity to actually use my newly acquired Mexspanglish idioms.

!!!???Que carajos???!!!                !!!???What the hell???!!!

 I was mentally prepared for cantina activities and weekend-revelers. All part of the “Mexican Experience.” However. At 6:00 am. Sharp. What would be the one thing a sleepy traveler might least anticipate? Re-roofing the hotel. Above my bed.  ?Porque no? ?Why not?

 At least Jorge had hot coffee waiting on the patio.

Sigh.  Nothing quite like a Mexican tourist town in Low Season….

P1270922“I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.”                ~  Mary Anne Radmacher ~

Note:    Pueblo Mágico

Álamos was named a Pueblo Mágico in 2005 — a designation given by the Mexican Secretariat of Tourism to towns that offer a ‘magical’ experience by reason of their natural beauty, cultural riches and historical relevance.