A Quick Update

In 2010, we moved back to the small town in Colorado that I never stopped missing while we lived in Mexico. Now I sometimes miss Mexico, but I wouldn't travel as freely as we did when we were there, camping out in remote areas and so forth.

Mexico today is in a period of change, and in many ways it is more dangerous now. That said, I have plenty of American friends who still live there very happily, just taking a few more precautions than they did in the past.

Just to say!

Rosana

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January 2005. — Today we went to the tianguis, or weekly open-air market, in Aquismon, a town of several thousand people, largely Huastecan. The Huastecs are little known compared to the Mayans or Aztecs, but they are one of the most ancient peoples of Mexico and there are still many of them. In Ciudad Valles, a city of over 100,000, we had seen very little traditional clothing though people told us that many Huastecans did live there. As in most places around the world, jeans and modern clothing are taking over.

We had lunch in a little restaurant in Ciudad Valles a couple of days ago, and our waitress was a bored-looking teenager, standing in the open doorway, watching the street. I said to her, “You can see the whole world go by.” She turned and began talking with us, her boredom falling away. It only took a couple of questions to learn that she is from Aquismon and lives there now, taking the bus in to work at the restaurant in Valles (probably a half hour ride or so) and going home to her quiet town at night. She wished she could continue her education, but there were twelve children in the family, and “we older ones have to work to help feed the young ones.” The children range from 22 years to 3 months. “My mother was only 18 when she got married,” she said, “and she has suffered much.” She explained something about her father, but by now she was speaking very softly and rapidly, leaning toward us as she spoke, and and we missed that part.

“How many children do you want when you get married?” I asked.

“Only two! Or maybe three. That’s much better. But now, in our town, eight children is still a small family!”

She also had dreams of going to the United States to work. As we drove out to Aquismon this morning, Kelly and I talked about how much more prosperous Mexico is than when we took a long trip around many parts of Mexico twenty-five years ago. We wondered how much of that prosperity came from the dollars sent home by the many Mexicans who work in the U.S. “That’s a topic worthy of a Ph.D thesis,” I reflected. Kelly commented on the tremendous industriousness of Mexicans everywhere.

Aquismon turned out to be a pretty little town. We parked several blocks away from the central plaza and followed other people walking to the tianguis. It had rained in the night, and people had strung up large tarps over the plaza and surrounding streets. Some of the streets had a very slick clayey mud, so we chose our route with some care.

At first, we were disappointed. Most of the items offered for sale were the usual fresh produce, plastic shoes, and cheap electronic or household goods. Most people were dressed like other Mexicans anywhere.

But then, here and there, we started noticing older women wearing the typical blouses, headgear, and simple black skirts of the Huastecan people. I saw a couple of these women selling something wrapped in plant fibers. It was pilon, which is minimally refined sugar, like an extremely dark brown sugar in a solid block. I bought a package from one of the women, and she crossed herself with the ten-peso note (worth just under a dollar). Kelly asked permission to take their photo, and they shyly agreed. That’s the picture above.


The pilon was surprisingly heavy. Here are pictures of it on the table in our RV, with the computer showing the size.

A man was selling plastic bags of a white vegetable. I asked him what it was and he said “yuca.” He pulled a cooked piece out of a basket, and I ate it. It was kind of like a very starchy and dry potato. He explained that it was often eaten with hot chili peppers. He also had some bags of yuca that had been boiled with pilon. I bought one of those bags, and it was tasty. Kelly and I had had yuca deep-fried in Cuban-Puerto Rican restaurant in San Francisco once, and it was exquisite. Here’s a little more information about it, from a food distributor’s site: “Yuca (YOO-kah) is a prime crop of tropical and subtropical countries. Also known as manioc or cassava… When yuca is dried and ground, it becomes tapioca. Fresh yuca is available year-round.”

We encountered another American couple, the only other foreigners we’d seen there, and fell into conversation. John and Shirley Ladd have lived in Aquismon for many years. He is a doctor at a clinic there, and confirmed Kelly’s and my feeling of the greater prosperity over the past 25 years, even though there is a larger population now. Potable water is still an issue, he said. They live next door to their church, a Baptist one, and invited us to stop by. As it turned out, we didn’t feel like we had the time, but maybe we will some other time.

We were impressed by their deep involvement in the community… Both of them said hello to several people who walked by as we stood and chatted, and they introduced us to one or two. (I realized later that the Ladds were living many aspects of a dream of mine, to live in Mexican community long enough to be involved in it in a meaningful way — perhaps teaching English or internet marketing in my case — and to speak good enough Spanish to not feel like an idiot every time I open my mouth.)

I asked Shirley for any advice she might have for Americans thinking of living in Mexico.
She recommended that you visit the place you are thinking about at several times of the year. It was a very pleasant temperature as we stood chatting on a January morning, maybe in the mid-70s, but she said it got very hot in Aquismon in the summer… they had seen 109 degrees in their living room! By visiting at different times, not only would you see the climate variations but you would have more chances to really get to know the place better.

Kelly and I had already decided this region would be too hot for us in the summer, or we’d have wanted to explore Aquismon further for ourselves. Mexico is sure full of fascinating towns. In any event, the smiles of the Huastecan ladies of Aquismon will stay with us!

4 Responses to “Aquismon, a Huastec town near Ciudad Valles”

  • joann garrigan says:

    Lovely blog, many thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience.

  • Rosana says:

    You’re welcome, Joanne! Glad you are enjoying it.

  • Txreed1935 says:

    I was impressed by the cleanliness of this little village a few years ago when still young and brave enough to visit there. But a nearby town had armed uniformed men at each end of the trash laden town. Thanks for bringing back good memories. Jaime en Los Estados Unidas 

  • Rosana Hart says:

    Glad I did bring back good memories… for me too!

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