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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Conversation with Roberto Villa Lobos
Sept 17. 2007 — Kelly and I got lucky when we hired Roberto Villa-Lobos last year. He’s one of the most civic-minded people I know, and a great resource for us in learning about San Juan Cosala. He’s worked for many years at the large balneario (hot springs) here in town, and his tasks include overseeing the crew caring for the pools.

He moonlights at our place, caring for our little pool, which as you can see above, took in some mud during the big storm. (He’s got it almost fixed now.) Anyway, when he came by the first time after the storm, I had lots of questions for him. We speak in Spanish and he’s quite good at understanding our fractured grammar.

First off, I wondered about his experience because he normally arrives at work around 6 a.m.

"If I had been 10 minutes late, I don’t think we would be having this conversation," he told me. "I could have been in the rockslide." He drives his truck along the highway, past the steep uphill road that is the main entrance to the Raquet Club, before turning downhill to go to work. He had already arrived, and so he was one of the relatively few people wide awake and out of doors when the storm hit just before dawn last Wednesday.

He was at the hot springs, when the rain became extremely heavy and loud. Then he heard a rumbling sound and saw the rockslide coming down that steep road from the Raquet Club. A lot of mud soon arrived at the balneario and went into some of the pools, which they were just about done cleaning up when I talked with him on Saturday.

"One of the Guadalajara weathermen on TV doubted that it was a waterspout and thought it was just from an accumulation of so much rain this year," I said to Roberto.

"I believe it was a tromba (waterspout)," he said. "It behaved like one, with that immense amount of water. And it was like the other two that I have been in, here in San Juan Cosala." The first one I think was in 1981 or so, and the second was eight or ten years ago. They were also early in the morning, and I think also in September."

He pointed up into the mountains behind us and showed me a couple of places where there were new slashes in the landscape that hadn’t been there before. He thought the main hit from the waterspout onto the mountains had been perhaps half way up the mountains, which rise something under 4000 feet above us.

That had given the rocks, trees, mud, and other debris roaring down the mountain in the water plenty of opportunity to pick up speed and carve out some new bare spots. The most dramatic new gash was long and vertical. Here is one that Kelly got a picture of:

This is a closeup, so you can’t really see the context overall.
Roberto and I chatted more. He remembered one tromba had hit the town of Mezcala, east of Chapala, when he was a child some 35 years ago. (He’s 45 now.) He recalled the adults in his family talking about it and saying that much of the town had been destroyed and many people had died.

"Gracias a Dios," he said, "that didn’t happen here, even though this is the worst one we’ve had." He thinks it is dangerous up there in the mountains because of all the water and the instability.

I asked about his truck. He had had time, after the first rockslide, to move it from where it was parked in a low area directly in front of the balneario to further down the street on La Paz. That saved him from having to deal with water in its engine.

"What about Ajijic or Chapala?" I asked. He either said they don’t have waterspouts or that they are rarer, I’m not sure which, because the mountains are not as close to the lake there. I asked him about the south side of the lake, and he said the mountains rise so gently that he had never heard of a tromba over there.

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