Written: October 2010 in London, U.K.
Occurred: June 1996 on the Pacific coast of Mexico
Last time I was back in California, I stumbled across some prints (remember those?) from a trip I took to Mexico in 1996. I was initially going to place this post in the Travel To “Normal” Places category, but then I started thinking about the circumstances of this trip and the conditions in Mexico today. I realized that The Velvet Rocket was on the ground investigating (but not participating in) the drug business in Mexico a decade before the Mexican drug wars really set off. Not exactly Travel To “Normal” Places material…
It didn’t seem like a big deal, but I can see that this trip was in the same vein as many of my more recent travels. Places like Somalia and Afghanistan are not an aberration for me, but instead are simply a continuation of me climbing up floor-to-ceiling bookcases before I could walk, riding my bicycle in inappropriate places, driving too fast and so on and so forth. I wonder what’s wrong with me?
Anyway, it was not long after arriving in Mexico that I found myself with some very recent Mexican acquaintances on a decrepit boat, its engine wheezing away, heading down the coast, chasing after a more interesting time than that offered by the bars, beaches and brothels of the larger towns. Not that there is anything wrong with bars, beaches and brothels if that is your thing… I just get restless.
My quest for the interesting brought me to the village pictured below:
It may not have had roads, electricity or running water (well, aside from the stream running through the village), but it had a lot of goats, friendly people and I thought it was a hell of a lot more fun than sitting on a beach downing fruity drinks with umbrellas in them.
My acceptance into the community was lubricated by the lads I had recently become acquainted with (who were from the village). After many introductions, some great food, some cerveza and a lot of sitting around it was suggested that I be taken up into the mountains behind the village. The lads stayed behind to visit their families and so it ended up being a few of the local villagers – one of whom spoke English – that I accompanied up into the mountains. The one that spoke English was an eight-year-old girl.
It was beautiful. The mountains are covered in jungle and drop down right to the ocean. They also happen to grow vast fields of marijuana up in these mountains. Particularly with the local lads vouching for my good character (seriously, I was described that way), I was seen as a potentially lucrative business prospect. Surveying the marijuana fields, I was peppered with questions. And I can tell you, it felt slightly odd to be discussing this topic with a child of eight.
Would I like to make any purchases? They had good shit and they’d make a great deal for me.
Would I like to go into business with them? It is always easier for American citizens to cross back and forth over the border, you see.
I asked a question of my own.
Pictures? No. No pictures, amigo.
Eventually realizing that I was not a budding Pablo Escobar or Carlos Lehder, they eased off the sales pitch, but were still quite friendly. I was taken to a waterfall deep in the jungle. The water was clean and cool and it felt great to jump in and wash off the sweat and the dust.
I spent that night in the village and moved on the next day.
The village sits on the bay pictured below… During harvest time, bundles of marijuana are brought down from the mountains on the backs of mules and then rowed out to these “fishing boats” that start the valuable bundles on their long journey north to the States.
This home below was pointed out to me as belonging to the top smuggler in the community. And it did have running water and electricity (from a generator). The idea that crime doesn’t pay would have a difficult reception in this village.
An interesting and educational trip… And probably one that could not be made now given the increase in violence and breakdown in trust resulting from the warring Mexican drug gangs.