Life in Tambaque | Mexico | Living in Mexico

Life in Tambaque

I guess that around half of all Mexicans still live in pueblos—small villages. Undeniably, migration to the great cities—Mexico, Monterrey, Guadalajara—is taking place. And millions have emigrated to the United States. But the heart of Mexico is still rural. I'm drawn to the tiny settlements, more than the great cultural centers.

Tambaque is one such place. This is its main square.


Tough to find Tambaque on a map; it's northeast of Xilitla, if that helps.

Even a place this small has enough civic pride to erect the de rigueur monument in the square.


When you have money enough for only one monument, your choice of historical figures is limited to two. Just as you'd probably go with a statue of George Washington or Abraham Lincoln in the U. S., in Mexico it's Miguel Hidalgo or Benito Juaréz. This battered bust is of the former.

Most houses are modest. In a barter economy, there's not a lot of hard cash for manufactured building supplies.


This home doesn't have electricity, but you can see a pipe that supplies running water, a step up from the places farther from the road.

A nearby restaurant has a similar look.


The proprietor didn't fritter money away on extras like signs. It's the only restaurant for miles, so what do you need a sign for? Cooking gas is supplied from the gray bottle on the right. The place seems to have electricity, but it isn't wasted on lights. That's a galvanized washtub on the roof, keeping out the rain in the one spot that's difficult to seal with thatch.

No matter how poor a place is, children go to school. They may not be very good schools, but every child gets a more or less free education through fifth or sixth grade.


It's a little startling, amidst all that poverty, to see schoolchildren in clean, neatly pressed uniforms. Probably some of these girls' parents are illiterate. But in the new generation, literacy is essentially 100%. That bodes well for a lower birth rate, economic growth and the advance of a free, equitable society.

As in the United States sixty years ago, Mexico is becoming more urban. The pueblos are dying out.


"Welcome to San Pedro" the sign says. San Pedro is the next town down the road from Tambaque. The sign gives the population as 1500 in 1996. Someone lettered over it in 1998: 700 inhabitants. I doubt there's that many today. I wonder, do Mexicans get nostalgic for small town living?