Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Real de Catorce: A Stop on the Journey Home

The view of town from our rooftop at Hotel Mina Real
Sam, the boys and I crossed the border from Laredo, Texas on January 3, two weeks after crossing at Nuevo Laredo on our way to Austin, and then Baltimore.  To break up the trip we over-nighted in Real de Catorce, a fabulous, fantastic, otherworldly old silver mining town, abandoned in the early 1900s when the silver market collapsed.  To reach it you drive several miles off the main highway 57 that goes from the border to San Miguel, go 12 miles on a cobblestone road, which climbs steadily up to 9000 feet, then move single file through a 1.5-mile tunnel through a mountain.  A tunnel with a never-before-seen 90-degree, right-hand turn about two thirds of the way through.  A shade disconcerting but manageable.  There were lights at least, dim but helpful.

The town was gorgeous, all stone and ruins and donkeys braying and dogs barking and roosters crying.  The air was cool at night, as one would expect at this altitude, but it was warm and lovely in the day.  Bo and I, separately, both commented on how much it reminded us of Turkey, and the town of Sirince we visited three years ago.  

The town has only one entrance: through that tunnel.  At the end of the town the road dead ends into a mountain side.  But first you walk through the village, up the hills, along the road, where a man leaves his horses in the lane while he ducks into his house; kids roughhouse in the sand; and little restaurants pop up here and there in what is mostly a car-free town once you leave the main square.  There's a cockfighting ring, still operating every Sunday, that looks like something from ancient Rome; and a bullfight ring that's not in use any more.

Just an old street in the middle of town

The old cemetery at church at the absolute dead end of town

Praying for a miracle with Jesus
Praying for a miracle via exvoto or un retablo, paintings popular in the '40s where one drew what they were praying for and offered it to the town's saint; the local church had an entire room wall to wall collaged with this extraordinary folklore.

The lonely church caretaker
Breakfast in town

Sam in the palenque (cockfighting) court, still in use every Sunday

The only playground in town
A contemplative Redd in the plazita

Christmas tree made from a maguey cactus

The road that led to nowhere (or right into the mountainside)

Sugar's in the baƱo

The Constant Blue

This morning there were clouds in the sky--the first time since last August.  By afternoon, though, it was back to blue, that deep, solid blue of an expensive British dress shirt.