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