Posts Tagged ‘coetzala’

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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