27 March 2016

Tecolutla - Part Three

Not many months after after our first visit, to our dismay we learned from Juan that Tecolutla had been hit hard with floods during a deadly fall storm. Being on the flat basin between river and sea, Tecolutla was under water. Every building was damaged; many flimsy structures had been destroyed, especially those along the riverbank that slid into the rushing Rio Tecolutla. We can easily imagine the wreckage it would have wrought on San Pablo in the mountains.
Our preparations to return included boxes and bags of donated clothing and other household items. How we would get this ragtag collection through two sets of international borders was slightly intimidating (only to me, apparently). Fortunately it was before 9/11 occurred with all the paranoia that followed. In 2000 neither the American nor the Mexican border authorities were much interested in us. At the customary roadblock checkpoints along the highway in Mexico, however, the police were more curious to poke around. We figured out their greatest interest was the contents of our ice chest, so distributing ginger ale ("Canada Dry!") and coca-cola proved to be satisfactory in lieu of a bribe. Actually we know they think we are crazy and perhaps they are right.

Yes, poor Tecolutla was still recovering months later. At Garabatos, Hector was not looking well but greeted us joyously with a Canadian flag. At El Rincon. Juan Carlos was depressed. But he brightened when he saw our overloaded car. He was glad to take us 'round to different families with our second-hand goods. We held back some blankets and other items for our friends in San Pablo.
The hotel itself needed repairs. Palm trees had been destroyed. Palapa huts near the beach were gone. The beach was somehow narrower. But truckloads of workers would arrive in the morning and cheerfully set to work at various venues. Mr. Gringo threw himself with zeal into the repairs, dwarfing his colleagues. Rosario is pregnant again. We are gradually cluing in that Hector is possibly not the father but we see no sign of a boyfriend.
Slowly the town came back into shape, not just then but over our following visits. Juan Carlos maintained his enthusiasm for promoting Tecolutla. We goggled at the Coco Festival's attempt to make the biggest coco candy in the world for the Guinness Book of Records. No-one is quite sure if the goal was reached, but it sure was fun watching that coco-taffy being pulled and pulled as everyone celebrated by firelight. El Rincon produced a real floor show one night. Patrons seemed to appear out of nowhere including other gringos we'd never seen.

Hector's brother came to visit from Manzanillo. We met Hector's daughter Sylvia from Zamora. We all could see that he was failing somewhat. Anyone in want of a doctor, a bank, a lawyer, and so on, must head to Zamora. Only a small nurse clinic existed here for non-emergencies. Long discussions about attracting more tourists from farther afield; the hotel needed more consistent business.

 Francisco became a friend. He greeted one of our arrivals with a huge pail of chicken tamales his wife had made. Once on our way home we gave him a ride to Matamoros so he could visit his daughter. The weather was extremely hot and for once our car's air conditioning was functioning. Happily ensconced in our back seat, Francisco farted ... All. The. Way. No matter whether the A/C was on or window open, either way I thought I'd suffocate.

Friends and relatives came to visit us. We went to Papantla where the Voladores flourish. The nearby ruins of El Tajín are little known outside the country. They are small compared to some ancient sites in this country but beautifully kept. Again we had a perfect up-close view of the performers.
A day was set aside to see the Museo Antropología in Xalapa, capital of Vera Cruz state. Marvellous drive for a few hours south along the Costa Esmeralda of lovely beaches and colourful villages, then turning west into the mountains. The street up to the university and museum in Xalapa is quite steep, altogether a picturesque city. And oh my! I can't say enough about how impressive the museum is! Featuring pre-Colombian artifacts of Olmec, Totonac, and Huastec cultures all found in this state, its awesome collections are the second largest in the country. The museum design is a knockout; the exhibits were a thrill.
The hotel has been spruced up with a new recepcion area but still, never any other guests when we are there.

© 2016 Brenda Dougall Merriman

No comments: