Saturday, November 20, 2010

To the Halls of Moctezuma

Life in a small desert town, way off the beaten track:

Leaving Villa Ahumada with the sullen news that the next inhabited place was over 50 kilometers away, I knew I was in for a hard day of walking. The pueblo of Moctezuma is not on my map and the good nuns at the convento were only vague as to it's location except to say that it's not on the highway, but several kilometers to the east. I can add that spotting the low earth-tone adobe buildings from any distance is a challenge in itself. Maybe it would be easier after dark, if they have any lights on.

Late in the afternoon, sunburnt and parched, I saw an approaching cloud of sand that signifies a pickup truck crossing the desert floor. The driver, Arturo, stopped close to me and let the dust settle before introducing himself. He heard from the sisters in Villa Ahumada that I was heading to Moctezuma and thought that I might use some help finding it. Stepping up on the sideboard outside the driver's door, I accepted his assistance for those last few kilometers. If he was following a road, I couldn't discern it. Tumbleweed and scrappy saltcedar were all I could see among the cactus. Nonetheless, appearing from the sand was a village of sorts - thirty or so adobe huts, some connected, some isolated; some newly stuccoed, some melting back into the sand. One of these huts had a shack in front with a notice that it's the community tienda. This is where I was to ask for the key to the church, according to the instructions of the nuns.

Arturo let me off once he was sure I could see the village and then took off in a cloud of dust. In the village, which has no 'center', some ladies came out to greet me. Gringa! Peregrina! then, Pere-gringa! laughing at their joke. There only thing more surprising than seeing an American woman in their desert village is seeing a pilgrim. There was no way they would let me sleep in the cold church. One of the ladies - Dora - arranged with a neighbor - well, they're all neighbors, really - and cousin - they're all somehow related, too - and widow for me to sleep in an extra bed. Dora's a good cook and fed me well and plentifully... all of the households I've been in make their own tortillas, both flour and corn types, and beans and some type of beef and vegetable soup. I was taken to meet all of the women in the village, stopping for coffee and cookies often, and even to an outlying ranch where the kids were learning roping skills. The village boasts a kindergarden and both primary and secondary schools. Dora was from the village but had moved to Chihuahua city for ten years. She moved back a few years ago so that her children could run around outside safely instead of being confined to the city streets.

In the evening, many of the village men came traipsing by Dora's home to meet me. One elderly man spoke a few words of English and insisted that I correct any slang he might say, as he wants to be able to speak 'perfect English'. For what and to whom I didn't get. Another old man bound to a wheelchair with a trucker's cap embroidered with the words 'Rock Out with your Cock Out' went into soft tears telling me of his devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe and scribbled a note for me to bring to her in Mexico City. I have to believe he doesn't know the meaning his cap bears.

I've been invited to return on March 19th when they celebrate their village patron, Saint Joseph. A big fiesta, I'm assured, even the Bishop will come from Juarez. If I'm back this way around then, I'll be sure to return. Three kilometers from the highway and with no shops or other offerings, not many people make their way to the warm and gentle people of Moctezuma. Lacking a stamp, the ladies each signed my credenziale to make sure my stop there would never be forgotten.


Laura said...

What a beautiful post. I love the story of the enthusiastic, and devoted, man in the wheel chair!

MermaidLilli said...

I was gone for a few weeks and jsut read several entries of yours. So now I am caught up!
I am so amazed at your determination and strength to endure these landscapes. Like the people in Spain, these people are so loving, eh?