Notes from Mexico Trip- Johnny Monsarrat Mexico Trip

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 18TH, 1999 – CHIAPAS (CONT.)

I meet Senor Lopez & we're going out to the airport and to drive past the site where the biotech place will go in my book. We stop at a Pemex, which looks pretty modern. It's an open space, all concrete on the ground, with pumps in rows. A big green blocky "roof" on the pillars over the pumps.

"La Foca Coletta", a local newspaper. "Ciudad Real" another local newspaper. Some other newspaper is really the most important one in San Cristobal, but the owner was involved with the Zapatistas and was a candidate for state governor. There was an attempt to kill him. How did they try to kill him? A car crash in the road.

The market "Merposur". The airport is Corazon de Maria Aeroporto. All this area was cornfields 25 years ago, now there's a hotel, a cement manufacturer. We pass a collectivo bus with the green stripe, the white funny blocky shape. The license plates here have three letters and four numbers and say Chiapas at the bottom.

My guide takes us to a place where the government has created workshops to help people. La Albarada. They learn bakery, tapestries, carpentry, ironwork, how to raise chickens & turkeys & pigs. The government pays them to come here, but after graduation they are required to stay and help teach others. The idea is to help these Indians set up their own service in their own community. Sometimes the government helps them set up shop, too. They produce gas from pig excrement.

These workshop educational areas existed when the Zapatistas came, but the Zapatistas said that this is not enough. There are over 2000 people here. Possibly they could teach the most menial jobs here in biotech. This facility is only for Indians, not coletos. Some participants live in the city, some in the villages. Pasquale's family (the one in Zincantan) came here. It's still possible for people to survive selling handcrafts even if they do not come to a school like this.

I notice that Senor Lopez's car has labels all in English. Some Mexicans are angry at the USA for not adapting their products to Mexico. Senor Lopez says that everything Nicolas and Jorge told me is untrue about "needing permission" from the government to get a job. I'm not sure whether to believe him. He admits it could happen, but he says now we have more political diversity.

There's a military base nearby, and caves. We're passing a national park, with men playing soccer: bare backs vs. shirts. Rancho Nuevo National Park, and Rancho Nuevo Military Base. There's only one military baes in the area. The next closest one (and bigger) is in Ocosingo.

I ask, if foreigners live in Mexico a long time, do they eventually get used to the water? He says no, you always have to drink bottled water. However, in big, high-tech companies they would provide pure water (aqua purificada) to all the taps. Hotels here don't have this, though. Even local Mexicans may prefer the purified water.

We arrive at the brand new airport. There's construction going on, and no fences at all! Across the road from the airport are black sheep... "baaaaaa"... with peasant boys & girls watching over them. The airport has a weak metal chain fence, but it ends... basically there's no security here. Anyone can get out to the landing strip. In fact, I do, to get a few photos. Outside the cafeteria, a balcony that leads straight to the airport tarmac, if you hop over the three foot wall.

Inside, light comes from the sun. The guards have night sticks, and no guns! They do have a tool belt with three packets on it. A plane goes to take off. The propellers become a blur. The wind moves the Mexican flag on a pole by the runway. There's a guy in a suit & tie with industrial soundproof headphones, who waves the plane on with two paddles of red & white stripes. The plane says "Aeromar", and taxis forward and right to the single runway.

The airport opened four months ago, and now there's a direct flight on Aeromar to Mexico City. To get to the airport highway, take the Pan-American Highway (Rt 190), then the road to Palenque (Rt 199). The military base is on Rt 190, so the biotech base probably would be, also. A sign by the roadside announces "Military Zone". I grab many photos of the military base as we drive by. Nobody shoots us or chases our car.

On a Coca-Cola billboard, "Refr/escate ya!". We pass through a suburb of San Cristobal "Lagos de Maria Eugenia", which he pronounced "ay-you-HEN-ee-uh". There are two boys each pushing a tiny helados cart. Shops & markets here. Suddenly, we're in San Cristobal again.

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