Thursday, September 4, 2014

Just Another Day in the Mountains

It was very dark on the highway at 5:30 AM yesterday.  I almost missed seeing her in her dark clothing. But I’m glad I did. I stopped and offered her a drive to Tlapa. Her first words when she got in the truck was, “How much are you going to charge me? I have only five pesos.” She seemed relieved when I told her that I wasn’t going to charge her anything.
Máxima on her way to sell in Tlapa (she is holding her five pesos in her hand)
She was talkative. Her name was Máxima, she was 76 years old, and she lived alone with her 79-year-old husband. But he was too sick to work, and so Máxima was going to Tlapa to see if she might be able to sell some bundles of cilantro (coriander) while walking up and down the riverbed. She had gone to Tlapa the previous day, but she arrived late and no one wanted to buy her plants. So she was hopeful that the early start today might allow her better luck. She said that she at least hoped to be able to buy a few vegetables to prepare a soup in the evening for her husband; since he had no teeth anymore, his diet was rather limited.
This is the riverbed (of the Jale River) in Tlapa where Máxima hoped to sell
When I offered her a 200-peso bill (about $20 Canadian) to buy some food, she started to cry and said no. I told her that I had good friends in the north who occasionally sent me money to help people like her. She took the bill, raised it to God in gratitude, and asked me to tell my friends that she would be praying for them. Consider yourselves told, friends.
Tlapa is the largest town in the mountains here—population: 90,000.
Then I went to the bus terminal in Tlapa to pick up Fernando and Julio. They had taken a bus in Mexico City the night before, and I was to take them to the village of El Obispo, where they were trying to help the poor farmers there beat a plague that was affecting their corn crop. They had gone a few weeks ago for a first spraying of the plants with an organic insecticide, and this week they would coordinate a second spraying.
Julio and Fernando outside their temporary residence in El Obispo
Before leaving Tlapa for the mountains, we went by the town square to buy an atole (cornflour drink). Another pleasant surprise awaited me there. Sitting in the town square was Pablo, a friend whom I hadn’t seen for about eight years. Pablo spends his days wandering around Tlapa on his crutches, hoping that someone will offer him a coin or something to eat. He is proud of that fact that he is not a “beggar,” like others who sit on the sidewalks of Tlapa with their hands held out. Pablo tends to start a conversation with people (“Hi. My name is Pablo. What’s your name? Do you live here in Tlapa? Do you like it?”). Pablo appreciated sharing an atole with Fernando, Julio, and me.
Early-morning photo of Pablo in the main square of Tlapa
Then we left for El Obispo. It has rained pretty steadily in the mountains since last Saturday. On that day I had gone with Father Cesar to the village of Tlaxcalixtlahuaca. It rained hard on the way back, and there were several mudslides on the highway; we were lucky to get home. In one place we waited while a Volkswagen freed itself from the mud. It was a little scary because more stones and mud were coming down the mountainside. After that car was able to move on, we drove through the slide too. Then a huge slice of the mountainside came down. Four seminarians in a truck behind us were stuck on the other side of the slide; that was on Saturday; they weren’t able to return to the seminary until Tuesday.
This Volkswagen got through just before the big mudslide
The road to El Obispo wasn’t a whole lot better, but we were able to get through. I am certainly grateful for the four-wheel-drive truck. I left Fernando and Julio there; they will stay until Sunday.
The road in and out of El Obispo on Wednesday afternoon
Have a great week, everyone. Thanks for your support of Mission Mexico. You are helping to make a difference here.
One more photo of the road to El Obispo; you can see, I think, how loose
the gravel/sand/mud is on the mountainside.

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