Thursday, January 27, 2011

high and dry

By the time you read this, I will be spending my second night in Guanajuato. 

I am not going to have enough time to write about this visit as it occurs.  This tour schedule is too full -- and the hotel internet a bit too unreliable.

But I can, and will, put together some brief initial thoughts while I am on the road.  When I get back to Melaque, I will flesh out my impressions.

Earlier this month I ruffled the feathers of an event organizer in the Chapala area.  I told her I probably would not be able to attend for a number of reasons -- one of them being that I was not certain if my truck could make it through the mountains.

I received a curt and librarian-exact response that Chapala is not in the mountains.  It is on flat land near the lake.

I sighed.  She appeared to be a bit offended that I might be mistaking her cultured community for some Ozark backwater.  When, of course, I was referring to the mountains I would have to climb to get where she lived.

I thought of that exchange as we were driving through the mountains on our way to Mexico's central plain.

Geography is not cultural destiny.  But it certainly is a factor in defining cultures.  We did not have to get too many miles from the coast before it became quite evident that I live in one Mexico.  And the highlands are another -- or several.

I have long known that Mexico's highlands look very similar to Spain's altiplano.  It may be one major reason why the Spanish congregated on the Mexican plain.  It made them feel at home.

As we were driving through the countryside (and I must confess I did far more sleeping than looking), it occurred to me that I have seen landscape like this before.  Not only in interior Spain.  But also southern Texas.

And that caused me to chuckle.  I served time in southern Texas, and I never once said to myself: "When I retire, I am going to move somewhere just like this."

While I walked through Guanajuato, I noticed patches of the surrounding hills that are not yet stacked with houses.  But the hills are as bare as any Brownsville cattle ranch.

It was not a challenge.  But I realized that Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende are going to have to make up a lot in culture for what they lack in geographical offerings.  Bare hills are not a fair trade for pounding surf.

But I think both places may be up to the challenge.

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