Archive for March, 2008

We have been walking the streets of Xalapa for six weeks and enjoying the beauty of its people.  Yes, beautiful people and things can be found in Xalapa and often within an arms lengths in what sometimes seems a very crowded community.  I suppose our biggest adjustment was getting use to the narrow sidewalks crowded with people and the even more crowded streets with cars.  It took two weeks of walking twice a day before we didn’t get lost even with a map, compass, and street signs.  You see, Xalapa is a very complex city, at least in its “historic centro.”  Yesterday, we had lunch about noon at La Fanda restaurant.  The  “blue plate special” included several items and was very good, especially the price of less than $5.00 (USD) each.  From the balcony of the restaurant, we had the following few of the main street leading from our residence up to the central plaza.

From the balcony, we saw people just beginning their afternoon shopping and young people returning from morning school.  Also, we noticed the local bicycle club (person in the orange shirt) working on a project for the blind.  We spotted Raul on the sidewalk across from us following a person with a guide dog and filming the challenge of being disabled and walking in Xalapa.  Raul appeared invloved in a service project to help people who are blind to live more independently.  AND, even though we are just “Genuine Tourists” in Xalapa, we spotted our landlord, Roy, networking with folks on the street on his way home.  Just drag your cursor slowing across the following thumbnails to read their descriptions.

Woman Serious About ShoppingStudents ReturningCouple Returning From School

Person Blind and GPS MonitorOur Landlord Networking

Interestingly, this very night, several tandem bicycles were delivered to the local bicycle club so that blind people will be able to experience bike riding with a sighted person.

Tandem Bikes For The Blind

And, here they are unpacked . . .

 Unpacked Tandem Bikes

The beauty of Xalapa’s people is not seen in their outward appearance but rather in their honorable conduct, some already noted in the preceding service project for people with the disability of blindness.  However, we also found beauty in their honesty when we overpaid many of them in the market place and were returned our funds even in their poverty.  We have experienced beauty in their kindness when they have interrupted their own daily routine to help us find a street or shop, sometimes going many blocks out of their way.  Perhaps, their greatest work, however, has been and is their children.  Today, we found one such moment when we observed very young school children celebrating an early “Festival of Spring.”  Here are two videos of the event, followed by a few photos.

Princesses Waiting For CrownsSpring Festival QueenSpring Festival Smallest

We have almost completed our “Visit” of Xalapa for this year.  Soon,  we will travel to Huatulco, then Oaxaca, and then finish our first winter in Mexico with a visit of several weeks in the small Mexican state of Tlaxcala.  We will miss this place and hope you will too.  Next week, posts regarding our time in Huatulco will be available at —


Stephen, also posting at — http://www.Genuine-Tourist.com


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Scenes from Coetzala

I was fortunate to be with Steve and Pat on the day when Roy brought them to Coetzala. I was a slacker and didn’t take nearly as many photos as Steve, the Genuine Tourist, but here are a few.


This is the same suspension bridge as the one Steve posted. I’m on the opposite side of the river from the town, where the road dead ends. This bridge is the one and only way into this community.


From the village side of the river, a view of the road’s end, where all vehicular traffic gets left behind.


I’m normally rather shy about taking photos of people. I’m always afraid of offending. But I enjoy Steve’s people pictures so much, hanging around him encouraged me to try to get over that a little.


Even though they are isolated, the people of Coetzala do have electricity and running water in their homes. Here you can see the electric lines and a tinaco.


A shed or possibly a barn, built the old fashioned way.


Roy started chatting with this woman and found out she is preparing to make a salad from this spiny cactus.


It is apparently a traditional salad that is eaten during Lent. I saw a number of this type of cactus plant growing in people’s yards.


The tireless Genuine Tourist, hard at work, performing community outreach.


The hills were alive, not so much with the sound of music but rather the braying of burros.


No worries! Not dead, Perrito is snoozing on the street where there is never any traffic. In the background, the salad cactus.


Everything that comes into Coetzala comes over that one suspension bridge on the back of man or beast: every sack of cement, every cinderblock, everything. I did see some road apples on the bridge, so burros apparently traverse the span as well as pedestrians and bicyclists. (For those of you who didn’t grow up with horses, “road apples” are. . . burro byproducts.) This man is cheerfully carrying a sack of cement to a construction site.


The people of Coetzala were very nice and seemed curious about us. They didn’t seem to mind that we were being typical tourists and taking pictures of everything. I get a return wave from a friendly resident.


Pat and I had a personal chaperone while we were walking through Coetzala.


A friendly family allowed me to take their picture.


It may be small, but there’s one bar/restaurant in town, right next to the suspension bridge.


Scratched into the concrete on the village side at the base of the suspension cable anchor, the commemorative bridge reconstruction plaque.


Coetzala’s “Golden Gate” Bridge.

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Roy Dudley, our landlord, is also a guide, photographer, bicycle enthusiast, and fund raiser.  He has lived in Xalapa for some 35 years and has manged to “eke” out a living one way or another.   We decided to contract with him one day so we could leave the “big city” of Xalapa and see some of the rural areas around Xalapa.  Now, you might think after all these years Roy would take us “foreigners” on a well rehearsed circuit, but this did not appear to be the case.  You see, Roy likes to bicycle with his friends in the country, so he put us all in his car and then took us places only bicyclists should go.  Not only were cars not found on the paths we followed in Roy’s vehicle, but no tourists either!  It was nice not to have to be concerned about moving quickly through haciendas being restored or old railroad stations being unearthed after a 100 years of being covered by jungle growth while other tourists pushed on us.  One of the places we visited was a community called, Coetzala,” (sometimes spelled “Cuetzala”) which is quite special.  Here is photo of the suspension bridge one must cross in order to enter the community.


Now, “work with me on this” and try and figure out what is so unusual in the following thumbnail photos.  Let your cursor land for a moment on each thumbnail before clicking on them to get hint from each photo.

Roy Dudley “networking” with the localsDog laying in the street not in danger.Dog laying in street WATCHING man carry bag of cement up street.School with NO crossing guards.Steets look like sidewalks.Little girl with doll playing on the curb.

OK, if you haven’t figured it out yet, take a look at this BIG clue.

Tree still growing in middle of street.


Yes, the tree has been allowed to remain in the middle of the street and grow because the community of Coetzala has NO cars.  You see the suspension bridge only permits pedestrians and bicyclists to cross.  A week before our visit, Roy Dudley and his bicycle enthusiasts had visited the village for the FIRST time.  Then, only a week after Roy’s first visit to Coetzala, we returned with him to see the community in its unusual setting.  As you can see, we were the ONLY tourists in the place and probably will be so for sometime to come. 

Of course, the villagers can use bicycles, like Roy’s group, and here is a video of a girl crossing the suspension bridge on a bike.

You see, the community citizens planned their streets, carried in wheelbarrows or on their backs all the cement and gravel across the suspension bridge, and hand mixed all the concrete to make the streets without any idea when a bridge would be built that would permit cars and trucks to enter their community.  So the school needs no crossing guards and the streets have become sidewalks and patios as demonstrated by the dog AND woman in the street in the following photo.

Dog and Woman Using the Street.


For those of you who are old enough to remember our time in Coetzala felt like, . . . . “You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind . . . .”  Yes, it seemed a bit like “the Twilight zone!”  Why don’t you take a look and see for yourself by going there with me in the following video.

The citizens of Coetzala where very gracious during our visit and tolerant of our “wonderment” over their community with no cars.  WE wonder if they realized how nice a community it was without them, but understand they have hopes and dreams like all of us for a different life.  As outsiders, we wondered if a bridge to get trucks across the river with goods would be better and no further passage into the community by vehicles would be more desirable.  But, we do not have the same dreams and ambitions that the residents of Coetzala have already demonstrated nor could we understand how strong their desires must be for different lives with more choices.   

Stephen, also posting at — http://www.Genuine-Tourist.com

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Supposedly things are slow this time of year in Xalapa, Mexico, but we are finding much to do.  Oh . . . it has been fairly “cool” in the evenings for us from the Midwest, USA, but layers of clothing do the job.  Last night, evening with the coolness, we went to an auditorium at the head of Los Largos and enjoyed “Huasteco” music and dance for several hours for just 30 pesos each (a little less than $3.oo USA).  Of course, we had no clue what “Huasteco” music was all about, but it turned out to be a delightful evening largely because children once again “stole the show.”  Also, a bit of research revealed that “Huasteco” music originated from northeastern Mexico and usually features three instruments and singers who often sing with a “falsetto” voice.   As is often the case, audience members wanted to participate and often danced in front of the stage.  One couple danced quite nicely and here they are.

Dancing to Huasteco Music

Perhaps you would like to see them “in action” by clicking on the Youtube video below. 

And here is some early audience participation by more young people.

Many groups performed during the course of the evening but one group that included a father and son seemed to get the most attention.  Here is a photo of the 5 year old boy, Enriquito, hawking his CDs with help from this big sister (I think).

Enriquito Hawking His CDs

 Here is a video of Enriquito and his father singing a duet.  Of course, the little girl on the platform in the video is just as entertaining as the performance on the stage!

 Here is a picture of Enriquito with his mother and sister.  His sister, probably only three years old, also danced a lot on the platform who you will see in later postings. 

Enriquito with mother and sister

As mentioned, children made the evening and here are some thumbnails of them until some video can be uploaded of them dancing.

Enriquito dancing with sisterGoup of three with little girl.Little girl in blue dress restingThree girls resting

We just could not stay until the end because we have more dancing to enjoy on Saturday night but here is what some of the audience was doing just as we left about 11:30 PM.

Supposedly things are “slow” in Xalapa . . . “I don’t think so!”

Stephen, also posting at — http://www.Genuine-Tourist.com

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