Notes from Mexico Trip- Johnny Monsarrat Mexico Trip

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 16TH, 1999 – OAXACA (CONT.)

OK. I have to face reality here. I'm not getting a good sense for Chiapas here in Oaxaca. I naively thought that Mexico would have a pretty similar culture everywhere. But Chiapas is really different from its neighbors, Yucatan and Oaxaca. I'm going to have to go to Chiapas, despite the traveler advisories. Nicolas helps me book a flight. Amy will stay here while I go.

Lunch at the airport involves a horribly tough, thin steak thing, very greasy. And plain refried beans, with string cheese. Ugh. I get tickets to and go through the metal detector. I'm wearing a big hat, which I use to store the stuff from my pockets as I go through the detector. The guards in black don't even bother to look in the hat! I could have snuck anything through!

I walk outside to a rollable stairway up into the jet. The tarmac is black with yellow lines. It's a small jet: 18 rows of 5 seats each. Brown grass in distance, then trees, then mountains & clouds in a haze. Clouds don't necessarily mean rain in Oaxaca. Dim sunlight. The flight is only 10% full. Announcements are in both English & Spanish over the loudspeaker.

A thin slice of sky peeks between the heavy dark cloud cover and the tall mountains on the horizon. The side of the runway has 3 foot tall grass, brownish with some yellow and green. There are villages going up onto the foothills of the mountains. The mountains are one huge encircling range.

The whine of engines is concurrent with the blowing of air through the overhead air each seat has. A rumble of wheels and a low hum. Vibrations, very bumpy. The baggage racks shudder and vibrate.

Oaxaca is dirt roads amidst rectangular fields. The sun and clouds make reflections on the water. The reflections change as our airplane moves (changing our angle with respect to the water). Dirt roads through the forest surround little clusters of towns, which are quite spread out from each other. Wisps of cloud, and finally a white blur seals off the view as we rise into the cloud bank.

A little turbulence, with a few drops which I can feel in my stomach. Yikes! Please, don't crash this plane! We rise above the clouds and for the first time there's harsh sunlight. It's hot! I can feel the sunlight through the window. I close it. This plane is a McDonnel Douglas DC9. "Chaleco saluavidas abajo de su asiento" = "Life vest is under your seat". "abroche su cinturon" = "fasten your seat belt". My seat back is upright and my tray table is stowed, but stewardess asks me to open my window! (Why? So I can see it better if we crash?) I obediently do it.

Now we're coming in for the landing. There's a terrible groaning and vibration on the left side of the aircraft as we turn left into the descent. Like a sick whale. Fields: lots of green trees. This place is greener than Oaxaca. The mountains with green and occasional white where a sheer cliff is too vertical for trees to grow. There's an airstrip in the middle of a field. The force of landing jars open the tray table next to me, startling me.

In the distance a row of yellow stucco houses with traditional red cylinder roofs. The cabin door is unlocked and wide open the whole trip. There's steam or something coming down from the vent just in front of the cabin door. Some trick of humidity?

I go down the rolling stairs at Tuxtla and got a taxi. There's a putrid smell here with the windows open as we cross town. They're building a small parallel highway. There are kids on bikes, baseball caps & t-shirts & backpacks. Also men on bikes. Behind a chain fence are many colorful little house-shack things and many shrines. Is that a cemetery?

The city looks similar to Oaxaca, but dirtier. There are lots of signs for ships along the highway. Men on motor scooters. An old man with a painter's cap is pushing a squat popsicle cart, all hunched over. Pepsi, Domino's Pizza, etc. The driver points stuff out to me, talking happily in Spanish and of course I have no idea what he's saying, but he doesn't seem to notice. I think he says "central boulevard"... maybe this is the main street of Tuxtla.

We pass an army green truck, empty, on the highway. There's a white beetle Volkswagen, painted up with a yellow stripe and numbers as a "taxi". Sam's Club, McDonald's, "Pemex" is the gas station we saw in Oaxaca, too. A small minibus / van crammed with 10 people. It's white with a stripe. "collectivo": a collective taxi.

There's a man, an Indian, with a pink/purple mauve sweater, with crutches and a missing leg, going amongst the cars with a small boy and begging with a metal cup. KFC. Nissan cars. BBV = "Banco Bilbao Vizcaya"(?) we saw that in Oaxaca, too.

Two one-way streets around a central island with tall palm trees. There are three lanes each way, tons of signs jammed in and businesses on the side of the road. There are cute little sub-compact cars here, junky & with patchy paintwork. I think, what kind of damage & repair could have caused that patchy paintwork?

John Deere. Honda. Some people are in faddish dumpy clothing, like teenagers in the US who want a sports car but can only afford a broken down rusty one. Just another example of how lower class in the US is like middle class here in Mexico. We see one fancy Honda motorcycle, sleek with pink tiger stripes. The crowded signs are jutting out over the street. Yikes!

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