Monday, March 26, 2018

the road not taken

I would like to tell you a tale about how the shaft tomb culture of western Mexico evolved into one of the least known major cultures in Mesoamerica.

How that culture reached its peak in the Formative period (about 200 AD) at Los Guachimontones. And how the civilization simply disappeared in the Classic period (around 900 AD) leaving behind circular mounds that only hint at its complexity.

I would like to tell you that having visited the site (as I told you we would last week), but I can't. Because we didn't.

We got an early start on our day last Friday. Our plan was simple. We would leave Tequila and head east then south then west to Los Guachimontones. Both Darrel and I had programmed the route into Google maps on our telephones. The route was a bit convoluted, but we knew where we had to go. 

As we were driving along the cuota (Highway 15D), both of our telephones recalculated the route. There is a relatively new bypass that connects Highway 15D to Highway 54D heading south to Colima.

The bypass has two virtues. It is new enough to have the feel of an autobahn with very little traffic. Best of all, it completely skirts Guadalajara and its suburbs.

So, we followed the advice of the competent-sounding woman in the telephone. We should have looked at full route she was suggesting before we made the turn.

Being new, the bypass has no exits. None. Early on, we passed over the top of the highway that would have taken take us directly to 
Los Guachimontones. But the bypass would not free us from its grasp until we were just south of Guadalajara. Then, the suggested route ran us through the heart of Guadalajara -- on the Friday before Semana Santa.

For those of you who do not know, Semana Santa (Holy Week; the week before Easter) is one of the big, if not the the biggest, holiday in Mexico. To those of us who live in beach communities, it seems as if all of Mexico shuts down to spend the week in the sybaritic pleasures of beach life. Darrel had no desire to drive through that type of traffic. I concurred.

So, after the three of us conferred, 
Los Guachimontones lost out on this trip. The concern about traffic was the deciding factor.

It turned out that we based our decision on faulty intelligence. Just as the allied forces found no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, we found no Semana Santa traffic on our trip to Barra de Navidad. In fact, we almost had the cuota to ourselves.

While we were in Tequila, our distillery guide and the clerk at our hotel both remarked how small the crowds have been leading up to Semana Santa. The distillery guide particularly noted the dearth of northern tourists.

Barra and Melaque looked almost normal. There were a few more tourists on the Barra malecon. But not many.

I talked with a couple of merchants who said they were a bit concerned that the early visitors did not seem to be here. One said more people would arrive on Monday. Another said Wednesday.

They need to be optimistic. The revenue they raise during Semana Santa goes a long way toward rounding out annual revenue. For many of them, it is the equivalent of Black Friday in The States.

Personally, I have no income dog in the fight. But I have always liked seeing our town fill up with people. It brings new life to the place. The beaches throb with bodies in and out of the water. As if a human grunion run had descended on us, but with less spawning. After all, this is Mexico, not Florida.

Los Guachimontones is still on my visit list. Darrel and Christy would like to go before they return to Oregon. And I would like to add a stop at the shaft tombs in Tampumacchay just outside of Colima -- another site that has been on my tour list for almost ten years. They seem to be a natural combination.

So, stay tuned, as my late blogger pal John Calypso used to say. We will get there eventually.

After all, life in Mexico is not a destination to be reached. If it were, I would probably take the wrong tour.

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