Pan-American Trails part 5

Unworried by time, Jose Porta enjoys to the utmost a great adventure

By Jose Porta, Photography by Jose Porta

Only sixteen per cent of the population of Mexico is white, the rest being composed of pure Indians and half breeds, with a few Chinese on the Pacific Coast. The white folk are mostly settled in Mexico City and other large towns and the Indians and half breeds are left to take care of themselves in their small towns and villages. The official tongue of course is Spanish but the traveler in Mexico meets with Indians speaking scores of different dialects, there being hundreds of different tribes of Indians with a different language for every tribe.

One hears of such languages as Zapoteco, Chinanteco, Maya, Totonaco, Tarasco, Otomi, Mexican (which is different from Spanish), Mixteco and many others.

I even learned to speak a few words of Zapoteco, but then by the time I learned that I reached people who spoke a different language and I gave up.

After traveling a few days east of Guadalajara I found myself among the Tarasco Indians. A friendly and hospitable people, with childlike curiosity they watched every move I made. I had a hard time inquiring about my way as I couldn’t find anybody who could understand Spanish. At my questions, they would chuckle and grin and finally run away and tell their friends about what had happened.

I soon had a flock of them around me, mostly children, who followed me from village to village. It was easier for them to walk than it was for me to ride as I kept sliding and falling down under that everlasting rain. I soon managed to train those kids so that they would help me lift the motor whenever it fell, but the minute I started the motor they would run away and keep at a safe distance.

I reached at last, Los Once Pueblos, which, as the name implies, are eleven villages all built in a row, one next to the other. And I had to cross them all.

What a riot! My followers grew at every village until I had a lineup behind me two or three blocks in length. With boisterous laughter they would pass their comments in their own tongue. All those villages were built on hills and the roads were never level, most of them being turned into raging torrents of water.

One by one I passed them all until I reached Carapan, the last of the eleven villages. I saw a schoolhouse and I stopped there. The schoolmaster came to receive me and asked me to stay for the night.

I was also well treated by the Tarasco Indians and I wanted to know why no white man was to be found among them, since they were so kind and hospitable, but I was told by the schoolteacher, himself not a Tarasco, that they treated me well because I was something new to them, but if I had to stay there a few more days they would soon show their hostility and force me to make myself scarce.

I thanked him for the tip and after a night’s sleep on the benches of the schoolroom I left the Tarascos and The Eleven Villages behind me.

I wasn’t gone an hour when I was confronted by one of those famous stone walls and a few miles later another one because they always came in pairs.

I reached Purepero and from then on I had to travel over flat country, which meant a lot of mud. There was no way of getting out of it. It was the worst mud I had encountered so far and at every step I despaired to ever gain one more inch. The motor was pulling and screeching and I was standing on my feet and pushing with all my might. Inch by inch I proceeded towards the next village, Zacapu. If I could get there I would be safe, I thought. I always had an idea that ahead of me the road would be better. I couldn’t possibly imagine it to be any worse.

Zacapu couldn’t come to me so I had to go to Zacapu. I reached it by night and I slept there.

By Jose Porta
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