Perhaps the greatest pleasure of writing a blog is hearing from people I don't know. Some have written with questions and then come to visit and then become friends. Some have written with new information as has Carlos Martínez Luengas to tell about his ancestors' ownership of the hacienda in La Gloria which I wrote about in May 2009, during and after the swine flu scare. This link will take you to some pictures of the hacienda today, and it will also introduce the bit of history we got from a couple of people who live in La Gloria. Señor Martinez´s narrative, which gives some earlier history of the hacienda starts below.
Here goes a bit of history on the hacienda Cuautotolapan. In 1838, my great great grandfather, Manuel de los Angeles Morales owned the whole hacienda. He married twice but his eldest son, my great grandfather, MANUEL MORALES, asked his step mother, PERFECTA GARCIA for his share of the property when his father died later in the XIX century.
PERFECTA was a woman of her time, she couldn't read or write, but she was well known. She asked for a loan from a certain Mr.VILLEGAS in order to meet her stepson's demand. Although she was a wealthy woman, the papers Mr Villegas had her sign or thumb print were such that she could not meet the monthly payment. It was a scam she couldn't foresee since supposedly, her late husband and Mr Villegas were good friends. She lost the entire hacienda to nepharious Mr. Villegas sometime by the end of that century.
In 1907, President PORFIRIO DIAZ ordered confiscation and distribution of the land to small farmers across the conuntry. In the Official Federal National Diary ( I do not know its equivalent in English) the government took 16,000 hectareas of the hacienda Cuautotolapan to give to those farmers as can be consulted in its web page. The "casco" where the houses and chapel are like you show in the web page was still property of the Villegas family which finally lost it during the Mexican Revolution war somewhere between 1915 and 1925. It is now owned and run by the descendants of the former laborers of the Villegas family.
I hope you find this info interesting and useful for your research.
I just want you to keep in mind the blowing dust as you look at these pictures. It never stopped. On the street we saw a number of women with brooms, some walking quickly, some standing and talking to each other. I imagine they might have been trying to keep their houses somewhat clean of it: it must seep in through cracks under doors and through window frames and push in hard when someone opens a door. The rains will come to La Gloria soon, too. They will have a short reprieve.
Not too far from La Gloria, as you turn northeast into the foothills of Perote, the landscape starts to change. You can get a hint of that in this picture, looking I think in that direction from the hacienda. (All the remaining photos are Jim's) These stacks of corn stalks were very common. Some were this shape, some were conical and reminded me of scenes in fairy tales and such. Outside one wall of the hacienda, there was a machine making them. You can also see a pig under the tree on the left. This is not an escapee from Las Granjas Carroll. This is a happy pig.
A paved street parallel to the main street blown over with sand.
These sculpted shrubs were lined up on a corner of the main street. Maybe some of the decorative touches provided by the government. Maybe not: maybe a local effort.
A dog with tortillas.
La Gloria's church.
As I've mentioned before, many pueblos and pueblitos have public health announcements painted on walls. Here's one I haven't seen before: It says keep rooms well lit. Sounds like my father who always said to me, don't read in the dark.
This one addresses women quite directly: prevent cancer of the womb and of the breast and diabetes. The clinics in many towns, including very small ones, have regular campaigns and exams for women. Right now in Coatepec, there is a sign up at the family services clinic notifying women that mammograms will soon be available for about $25.00.
Below, another a sandy street. Trees grow right down the middle. A little boy fell off his bike right as Jim took the photo. He was fine, so I'm including the picture.
At the eastern entrance to La Gloria, there was a little plaza with the sculpture you see below. It's geometric nature was intriguing. There was no sign or label indicating anything about it.
There are several lakes in the region not far from La Gloria. Here is one of them. If you click on it, you'll see the dots near the water in the lower center are sheep grazin The lake is surrounded by dunes.
We tried to find a new way home. As we entered the mountains, the land became somewhat greener. In one of the first towns we came to, geese crossed the road.
Some spectacular rock formations:
An older woman we talked to in La Gloria remembered when it was greener, or at least not so dry. She knew a lot about deforestation and spoke with anger about the destruction of the forests on the slopes of the mountains by large companies who brought in their vast amounts of trucks and equipment to clearcut. I am not sure exactly how fast the environment changed, or how different it was, but in the days she remembered, people could grow crops to feed their families. This drying-out is not only caused by deforestation, apparently, but also by overgrazing. Reforestation efforts are hampered by lack of attention to the baby trees and by continued theft of wood by commercial concerns. We face some literally huge dilemmas. It appears that growing world population (growth has slowed dramatically in Mexico) and mushrooming large scale commerce and industry are on a collision course with the survival of the environment. People in places like La Gloria are among the first victims.
The hacienda, called Hacienda Cuautotolapan, in La Gloria looms over the end of the main street. We were standing on the corner of the street across from the hacienda when Jim took this. You can see people going in the small door in the wall at the left. This is because the main courtyard of the hacienda, now a playing field, is also enormous enough to serve as a landing field for a helicopter and everyone wanted to see the helicopter to take off. (Jim's picture) A crowd of government people was waiting. This time the only person of note visiting La Gloria was the secretary of the state Department of Health. We wondered if they would in fact in the face of such tempestuous wind. But they did. Below, my picture, seen through my lens cover which would not open all the way. Still, you get the idea. Below are some shots of the hacienda taken by Jim (my lens cover no funcionó.) Part of the exterior wall. Inside, looking at the exterior wall of the original chapel.
A crop planted in a courtyard. Note the stack of corn stalks at the right rear of the planted area.
The tower of the new capilla de San Francisco peeking over a hacienda wall.
The front of the old hacienda church.
The hacienda is now the property of the federal government. After we left the hacienda grounds, we came upon two of the women we'd walked with earlier, a mother and daughter. They were dueñas of a small tienda and they offered us bottles of wonderfully cold water. We asked about the hacienda, and they immediately called in el dueño. He was interested in the history and happy to share some of it. First, he told us that his bisabuela had had a tienda actually inside the hacienda at one point that people in and outside the hacienda shopped in. He also told us that during the Revolution of 1910, the hacenderos added to the original towers to make a total of nine, if I remember correctly, to repel an attack by the Federales who were out to seize rich people's lands. He said that five hundred horsemen came to try to take it over, but they failed. Finally, the government set up a siege which finally drove the owners away.
I googled Hacienda Cuautotolapan and could not find very much. I did find some interesting information, however. It seems that there is also a Hacienda Cuautopolan and a town called La Gloria along the coast. Perhaps this was the first site, or maybe not: I don't know. The coastal La Gloria's hacienda was sold to an English firm at some point and was (and still may be) a sugar plantation. The La Gloria of the dry mountains where we were existed at least as far back as the middle of the 19th century because Ignacio de la Llave, for whom the state whose full name is Veracruz de Ignacio de la Llave commemorates, vacationed there as a young man. La Llave grew up with the Revolution of 1810, the one fought for independence from Spain, and its consequences and was a leader in his state and in the country.
There is a town called Cuautotolapan not to far from La Gloria. It's quite small -- around 1500 people -- and it is an ejido, that is, comprised of land distributed by the federal government to ordinary people when haciendas were seized. Land distributed for ejidos was not always the land right at the hacienda Our colonia Ursulo Galván was created in this way: a hacienda was seized and land promised to the people who worked on it. However, according to my neighbor, the hacendero was a powerful man, so he got to keep his land and the govenment gave the workers land where we now live, some distance from the original place.
I asked him how the hacienda made its money. Gold, he said. And waved off in the direction of some hills. The mines are exhausted, of course, but you can still go in them, and sometimes he does. He mentioned that turistas came with metal detectors to go through themine and the hacienda, but although a long time ago someone found a real treasure trove, only very occasionally in recent years has anyone found anything like a centenario, a gold coin, worth keeping, and that even more occasionally as the years go by.
The dueño of the tienda who told us all this said there was an archive in La Gloria we could look at the next time we came.
A reminder: You can click on the pictures to see them bigger.
We drove into La Gloria down a fairly smooth road from the main road to Perote. We knew where to turn because there was a bright new sign saying, La Gloria, 9 km. I suspect this was new so reporters could find their way. When we drove down the road, it didn't occur to me that it had been widened and smoothed It was a dirt road) for the hubbub that grew over it being thought of as "Ground Zero" of the flu epidemic because of the presence of the litte boy who was the first diagnosed case, but I think it must have been. There were remnants of road-making materials still lying on one side. Jim thought perhaps they were there to repair damage when the rains came...roads suffer terribly in the heavy downpours.
Here is a picture Jim took when we arrived at La Gloria.
There were no reporters, no cameras, no media vans. But there was a bit of crowd at the center. Still present were public health trucks and a mobile kitchen from the state. I suspect these mobile kitchens are normally used for disasters.
Jim's photos of the outside and inside of the mobile kitchen. I'm not sure how long the government had been providing these delicious-smelling meals, but I know it hadn't been longer than La Gloria's presence in the world news. I talked to a government representative who said indeed it was because of all that La Gloria had had to endure with being at the center of attention. Another woman said the government had never done it before. At least the trucks were there longer than the press. In the picture below, you can see people eating and lining up to eat. We were invited to join in. We felt it would be odd to do it. We weren't of the community. I guess I can't really explain our feelings, but it felt a bit like it would be cheating. Below is a picture of the clinic on the main street in La Gloria. Granjas Carroll says it provides all health services for the community. Perhaps part of the rejuvenation of La Gloria's appearance for the press (by the government of the state) was repainting (or painting) these statements on the sides of the elementary school buildings. (Jim's picture)
The values statement says that within the relationship among the director, teachers, support people, students and parents there ought to exist respect, tolerance, trust, responsibility, solidarity and fairness. While there is huge room for improvement in Mexican public schools (as there is in many countries, including the US), there is a striking difference between the US and Mexico. In the latter, responsibilities to family and community are stressed. Achievement is linked to doing well for family and community, not for oneself. Meeting these responsibilities seems ever-more elusive in times when people are forced to leave both to make a living.
(In addition to Mission and Values statements, on another wall there is a Vision statement: shades of Total Quality Improvement to which my clinic and I were subjected in the 1980s.)
In the park in front of the school, the main park, this sign hung. It shows the municipality of Perote including La Gloria and highlights all the road improvements the state government lays claim to. (Jim's picture) Notice it looks like the two most important towns in the area are Perote and La Gloria.
Now I have to add that one shouldn't be too cynical. Roads are being improved/constructed all over the state, including at the entrance to our own colonia. Texas does this, too, but on a much grander scale. No two lane roads for Texas!
We walked through the downtown and beyond. Three women joined us and asked who we were. We explained. They were eager to share information about La Gloria: not about Las Granjas Carroll anymore, but they wanted us to know that half the working population had to go to Mexico City to work -- they stay there during the week and come home on weekends, and that many were in the US. There was little work to be found in La Gloria.
We had noticed some towers toward the end of the street. They turned out to be towers of a ruined hacienda. We all walked towards it, the sand still blowing around us.
First of all here is a link to an excellent post on the La Gloria-Granjas Carroll connecton on an excellent blog called Intersections by a Mexican-American-Mexican(?), Daniel Hernandez, in Mexico City. You'll find links within it to more information about the La Gloria-Granjas Carroll connection.
Jim and I took a trip to La Gloria last week going by way of Ixhuacán de los Reyes and Los Altos. Before I write about that, here are some segments sometimes loosely translated (sometimes just paraphrased) from an article in La Jornada which I found via a link on Intersections which describes La Gloria's fifteen minutes of fame:
By Andrés Timoteo Morales, correspondent.
In only eight days, La Gloria was transformed from a neglected, semidesert pueblo into a community allive with streets being paved, the little parke being rehabbed with paint and decorative plants, and even a cafe....
In fact...a week ago Wikipedia opened a site on La Gloria and had thousands of hits from all over the world....
The bonanza arrived at the puebla with the national international press....more than fifty representatives from, among other places, the US, France, Qatar, China, Brasil, Corea, Japan, the UK, Germany, Spain and Venezuela, attracted by the reports of the origin of ...A/H1N1 and because it was the home of Edgar Hernandez, "patient zero" of the infection.....
Dozens of state and municipal workers made La Gloria the center of their rehab operations starting on April 29....and they hung a huge map marking the location of the pueblo.
They smoothed the road whic led to Perote, the center of the municipality. The government of the state, according to Silvia Dominguez, the secretary of Social Development and the Environment of the state, said they invested five million pesos in public works in addition to resources for health and food.
The communities which benefited from the fame of La gloria are Xaltepec, El Carmen, Totalco, Guadalupe Victoria and Zayaleta. At all the towns, trucs loaded with construction materials, provisions, and mobile health units from the Secretary of Health.
"We have more than thirty people who come daily to work at La Gloria, said Dominguez, the secreatary, and he continued, adding that all this sudden activity was not due to the flu outrage, but because all the works were pat of the progam of public works for the state for 2009. Not a peso nor an action have been improvized." (This last is a direct translation)
To this figure, is added the personnel of the community kitchens, three mobile health units, and pollsters/interviewers who enroll the inhabitants in various social programs of the state.
We are from La Gloria, nthing more, and now the whole world knows us, said some of the oldest. Some of them told anecdotes about interviews they gave to CNN, Televisión Española and even Al-Jazeera
The first sign posted for the media to see was this one (taken from La Jornada):
However, it seems that the mayor of Perote ordered more signs to hang at the main accesses to La Gloria. These are what we saw:
Next: Our visit to La Gloria, after the fifteen minutes of fame.
The air here in Ursulo Galván is dusty, though days have started to cool a bit: clouds are starting to drift into the sky softening the sun's brilliance. It seems horribly dry. Dust seeps into the house, covers plants along roads and paths. Nothing seems to be growing, only holding on until it rains.
We may find it dry here, but it is lush compared to the high valleys sloping south and west down from Perote. It is always green where we live, even when it is droughty. I feel as if I'm bursting out of a tunnel when we come out onto those high, dusty plains. I'm reminded of some of Juan Rulfo's short stories set on the plains of Jalisco. This quote is from Nos han dado la tierra [my translation]
One has believed at times, in the midst of this trail without edges, that there would be nothing ahead; that one wouldn't be able to find anything on the other side, at the end of this plain cracked with crevices and dry streams....
The roof of a house peaks over a dry ridge in first town we came to after driving up into the dry country. Below, a bright pink kindergarden building with a perhaps wishful scene painted all around it. In this land, people had planted fields of crops. The seedlings are pushing through sand. There was no evidence of irrigation. I think the row of agave and shrub crawling over the little hill may be an effort to prevent erosion from the endlessly blowing wind. You can see more rows like this in the distance. We asked a couple of goatherds what the plants were. On one side, a crop of a sort of potato was growing, on the other, "milpa," they said. Milpa is the Nahuatl word for fields planted with maize, squash and beans, a very productive traditional system of farming. On these windy highlands, the milpas were planted only with maize. Two boys on a burro passed us. The boy in front pressed his eyes shut against the sand. (Jim's photo) **** More wind and dust.
(Jim's photo) **** A field ploughed in sand. (Jim's photo)
We stopped on the way to La Gloria at a town called Los Altos, higher up on the slope of I think one of Cofre de Perote's foothills. The blowing dust blurs the background (Jim's photo)