Visiting Huehuetlán | Mexico | Living in Mexico

Visiting Huehuetlán

The countryside in the Huastecan Potosí is incredibly beautiful: green meadows, tropical jungle, spectacular mountains.

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Nothing at all like the sere Bahío where I live.

Here in the Sierra Gorda, you occasionally see a traditionally dressed Tenek woman walking by, adding color to the scene.

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This one is correctly dressed head to toe: petop, colorful caped blouse, dark, mid-calf-length skirt, huaraches and the de rigeur shoulder bag cross-stitched in authentic patterns. She is headed for the pretty little town of Huehuetlán, on foot; as was I, by car.

(I love going to places you can't google for squat. Try it. Huehuetlán. You'll get nothing useful in English, and very little in Spanish.)

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Small towns don't have large budgets for monuments. But no respectable Mexican town can hold up its civic head without at least one. Huehuetlán's is a bust of Benito Juaréz.

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Well, I've seen worse. The monument utterly fails to convey any sense whatever of dignity or honor, what with the cartoon-like features, the peeling paint and the outsized pedestal diminishing the bust itself. The Bela Lugosi expression doesn't help, either.

On a more positive note, Huehuetlán has a pretty central plaza and church.

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When I arrived, I heard loud popular music. Something was going on. A band was playing, or so I thought.

A button box player was singing his heart out.

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His suit would not have been my first choice, but his pale turquoise ostrich boots—My, my!

Several expensive video cameras were recording the performance.

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I had come to Huehuetlán to explore an typical Huastecan puebla. What I found was a high-tech music video production from Mexico City.

The band was lip syncing to one of their recordings. I could hear a bass drum, but the drummer had only one trap and a cymbal. No cables connected the keyboard to an amplifier.

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Only the guitar player gave any impression that he was actually grooving with the music.

The track played over and over again. Boring. Camera angles changed. When the group shots were completed, the crew moved in for closeups.

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Everybody stood around a lot. I would have lost all patience before the first hour was up. These people were going to spend the entire day producing a single three-minute video.

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Wandering around the plaza, I met the Morales family. When they saw my camera, they posed rather stiffly, and nothing I could say would get them to relax for a candid shot.

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All three were born and raised in Huehuetlán. Artenio is mestizo; his wife, Liset, is Tenek; and the baby, Jimena, is Japanese.

That was a joke. Jimena is mestiza too, which means she will have more social acceptance and a more prosperous future than her mother. It's sad, but there it is.

Artenio works eight months a year in Nashville. He says he can earn the price of a television for a week's work there: the same TV would require three months' work in Huehuetlán. They love their home town and wish that Artenio could always be home with the family. They have no wish to emigrate to the States. Life in Huehuetlán is too good for that.

A guest worker program with a path to citizenship holds no value for Artenio. He doesn't like how Americans live. Too hurried, too stressy, too much of a rat race. What he wants is better economic opportunity in Huehuetlán. He told me if he could earn just half of what he makes in Nashville, he'd stay home.

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Huehuetlán is a sweet, peaceful town. On hot days you can sit in the shade of 100-year-old laurels and look out at the spectacular Sierra Gorda. Artenio is on to something. I find myself dreaming about living here.

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