Strings of dreary days can fill February, but this year they didn't. At least not when Jim's cousin and his wife visited us from South Dakota, though, as they pointed out, just about any weather here is gentler than winter in South Dakota. They drove from near Mobridge (the name is a contraction of Missouri, the river running through it, and Bridge) all the way to our house in Colonia Ursulo Galván making stops along the way. I do think that our generation has a certain adventurous quality, or at least some of us do. S and V had not visited non-tourist, non-border Mexico before, but they listened to some Spanish tapes and hopped in their car and were on their way. V is a retired pig farmer. Wherever he travels, he seeks out other farmers and peppers them with questions. When we lived in San Antonio, S and V drove down to the border and stopped to ask about crops and stuff related at farms and ranches along the road. Here we didn't get to see more than coffee fincas and the like, so he asked all he could about coffee. He wanted to see some livestock ranches, but we just didn't have time.
It's hard to imagine two more disparate landscapes for farming than South Dakota and here where we live in Veracruz. The area that our visitors come from, part of the Great Plains, is mostly mixedgrass prairie, with trees along the rivers. They live near the shore of the Missouri River. (We lived at the southern end of the Missouri when we lived in Jefferson City and St. Louis.) The terrain is flat to gently rolling, and V loves that: standing on a high (relatively speaking) point and seeing the vast landscape fall away from him. Where we live, in the greater Xico Metroplex we lie in the faldas of Cofre de Perote, on the wet side of the mountain. It is densely populated not just with people but with trees and vines and all manner of vegetation, cattle and goats and sheep and pigs, dogs, cats, chickens, turkeys, birds, butterflies and cockroaches, among other living things. And it hugs steep sided ridges and valleys.
In the towns around here, people live, literally, right next to each other. You don't see the endless lawns common in San Antonio, TX for instance, just to the south and east of the Great Plains. You certainly don't see acre upon open, treeless acre as you do in South Dakota. I think V felt sort of claustrophobic here. Once as we were driving through Coatepec he suggested that maybe people wouldn't mind if some high rise apartments were built for them so that the landscape could be emptied out a bit.
Vand J were great guests, open to all suggestions which of course you'd expect of people who drove all the way from South Dakota to see us.
We drove to Mahuixtlan to show them a glimpse of sugar processing. Jim and I visited this place five years ago. My post from then has much better pictures than the ones I took on this trip. Just one picture.shows something different, and it is this one of graffiti on a wall. If you click on it to make it larger, you will see all kinds of interesting people and animals. We´ve noticed an increasing number of this sort of graffiti, which in fact is a kind of outdoor wall art. I know in Coatepec and Xalapa there is some. It is clear that at least some of it is not just tolerated. We've seen the artists painting them. I am not sure if there is some kind of program or if owners of buildings see them elsewhere and like the idea. Or what. In Xalapa, there is some officially sanctioned outdoor large painting going on. You can see it on Circuito Presidentes and in the tunnel that runs under the Parque Benito Juárez and along road dividers.
My problem is that every time I get into one of these posts, I find stuff I want to read about and add. So far in this post I've resisted the urge to give you more information on the sugar industry here. Sometimes I get so involved with the research, etc. that I never go back to writing the post. (I hope this doesn't happen with my Diego River and Detroit information.) Maybe later. I am going to create a list called Maybe Later.
So the next place we went with V and J was El Museo y Jardín de Orquídeas. We walk past it almost every time we go to Coatepec but we'd never gone in until V and J's visit. It is on Aldama, tucked into a terreno-sized plot between two terreno-sized buildings. If you can't get to the Museo y Jardín, you should definitely follow the link to the website. There is a you tube video, but this video on Vimeo is much better.
In the Museo, we tagged along on a tour with a family from Mexico City. They had come in part to see it. The museum contains a very large number of wild orchids and serves as a research and conservation site. But the atmosphere is homey. You can just wander among the plants and be amazed at their variety. Below are some of my snapshots of our visit. Since my orchid pictures are nowhere near asgood as the ones on the webpage, with a couple of exceptions, I've put in non-Orchid snaps.
These are orchids, and among my favorites. I don't remember the name, and I can't read the little marker in the pot. I confess here that I don't know the names of any of these.
I don't know what this tiny flower growing out of a leaf is. There are quite a few non-orchids which I imagine are here to simulate the environment the orchids grow naturally in. Conservation of wild orchids is one of the missions of the museum.
While we're looking at non-orchids, here's a snap of the same plant we saw on our walk with Jocko.
This plant looks like a lot of green sticks stuck to each other at odd angles. We have some in our yard which we found on a hike. They grow pretty fast, sometimes have little white berries. I'd really like to know what they are. You´ll get a better view if you click on the photo to make it bigger.
I don't know what these red leaflike things are. They were maybe two inches each. The red curlicue on each might be a worm or might be part of the plant.
And what are these? Stems or roots?
This is vanilla (The stem zig-zagging up the trunk of a tree) and it is indeed an orchid.
We ate at two restaurants with V and A, one for a breakfast, one for comida. For breakfast we went to La Papa which is I am sure the best breakfast deal in Coatepec. We went to Chinini for lunch. Chinini is on the carreterra from San Marcos to Xico. It's little more than some lamina supported by posts and some tarps for walls. There are several fires going with ribs and steaks and sausages and chicken cooking on them and some big pots of sauce and stuff like that. This place is incredibly popular. Cars park anywhere they can find room. We were there a little late, so it wasn't packed as it normally is, but you can get a flavor of it in the photo below.
I don't think I'd bother going if I were a vegetarian, but I'm not.
Anyway, chinini are a kind of avocado native to this region. I had some at a party celebrating the baptism of a friend's baby. The way to eat them is with salt and lime juice and some kind of chili pepper in powder form. Of course I googled chinini and found this web page where I learned that they are right at home in our area and can also be called chinen or pagua. The blog belongs to an organic farming group and looks interesting. There are some other sites, too. But I've got to stop this cruising around on the web!