Published: January 27th 2011December 17th 2010
Our next destination was to be Morelia, but there was no direct bus from Guanajuato to Morelia. Well, actually, there was, but it required leaving at 7 in the morning, and we had well and truly slipped into holiday mode, so stuff that for a joke. Using just a bit more of your noggin it's possible to simply catch a bus to León and grab a bus there to Morelia, and those buses went every hour. Given that the early bus went through León anyway, the exact reason you were unable to simply buy the ticket straight through from Guanajuato was unclear. And, in hindsight...is still unclear.
We went to bus station to catch the bus to León. The bus was a bit late, so we took a seat outside bus station and waited. Soon enough we were approached by a more than a little dodgy-looking Mexican.
“Y'all look like white folk.” he drawled.
He was, in fact, Mexican, but had grown up in Utah, had been there since he was 7 or 8 – about 30 years. Apparently he had 5 kids all up – 3 living with him in Mexico and 2 grown up kids back in the
US. His wife was a US citizen. As some point he had committed some sort of felony, and, not being a US citizen, had been immediately deported. Exactly what sort of felony he didn't say. This had all happened about 2 years ago. Since then he had been living with his dad on a farm near León. His wife went back and forth back home for work but he manly helped his dad on the farm, jobs being hard to come by in that area.
Now, I'm not sure how much stock to place in his story, but he wasn't looking for anything, just an opportunity to chat in English, and nothing to gain by lying. He seemed to be mostly honest (well, in his story, at least). Apparently he was now waiting for 3 years since his deportation to apply for clemency, maybe get back home. And home for him was Utah, not Mexico. I don't know about you, but I find the idea of this sort of deportation pretty repugnant. The bloke had been a little kid when he arrived in the US. I figure if you grow the bloody criminal, you deal with the consequences, you don't
dump the problem in someone else's backyard.
On the way to Morelia Klaire pulled out the Lonely Planet to read up on the town. I demurred, being one for more spontaneous discovery.
“Hey,” she said, “we get to Morelia right at the beginning of the week-long festival of the Virgin of Guadalupe.”
“What luck!” I exclaimed, “I say, we will be witness to a fantastic spectacle of celebration! A melding of ancient cultural tradition and modern European Catholicism! Whoopee!” or something like that.
The next line in the LP was a little more ominous, something like “you will need to book ahead at this time...”
Also ominous were the huge lines of people at the Morelia bus station waiting for taxis, suitcases, costumes, screaming children, and piñatas in hand.
The young fella at the Hostel Allende
seemed quite pleased to see us, though, and cheerfully informed us we could have a room – the last room in the hostel.
The room was quite nice, and had a window opening onto the courtyard. It also had a telly, which we duly flicked on.
“Hey, check this out,” Klaire said to me, “Something happened yesterday somewhere in Mexico.” There had
Street parade, ,Morelia
This was in aid of the Virgin of Guadalupe. The boys are dressed as Diego and the girls as Juanita. They throw lollies at people as they go by, great stuff.
been a massive shootout between the Federales and the La Familia drug cartel. The police had been trying to capture the head of the cartel and the cartel had responded by blocking the roads into the city, stopping cars and buses, pulling all the people off them (unharmed) and setting fire to the vehicles.
The city was, of course, the one we were now in.
It did explain the unusually large numbers of cops and black helicopters we had seen that day, a lot even for Mexico. Anyway, thatsa happen, as they say.
I've often thought there should be a t shirt, something which says on the front “I respect everyone's rights to their own beliefs...” and on the back “...and reserve the right to think they are bloody stupid.” or something like that. What we witnessed the next day was a case in point. We walked back down from the city centre to have a look at the aqueduct, which is one of Morelia's symbols, and the church. Leading up to the front door of the church is a wide pedestrian avenue of reasonably rough cobbles, maybe 500m long. As part of the festival people walk the length
of the avenue on their knees. Some have family and friends rushing ahead to put blankets and padding under their knees, and most at least wear thick jeans. A bit soft really – if you're going to engage in silliness you may as well go the whole hog. Some do it completely bare kneed though, so there was plenty of blood and tears. If I ever have an epiphany and find a higher being I'll be sure to find one which doesn't require quite so much self abuse I reckon.
We had a bit of a look around, walking through the markets and stalls that had been set up for the festival, sweets, peanuts and toy cigarettes some of the highlights. At this time of day it wasn't too busy, so we decided to come back in a bit to see what it would be like later and grab some street tacos.
We were not disappointed. The boulevard was packed, thick with joyously miserable self flagellating pilgrims, laughing children dressed as Diego and Juana, and blokes selling cheap cds. After a very satisfying dinner of street tacos we had a poke around the crowded market.
I spied some
suspicious looking little fried fish and walked over for a closer look. A small lady smiled warmly, offering me a taste. Eyeing it warily, I had a taste. Pretty damned tasty, and only a peso for a whole cup. One miscalculated bite later, though, and my initial suspicions were confirmed as a crispy fried tail wedged itself in my gum. I was to dig small bits of deep fried fish out of my head for hours to come.
Walking back to the hostel I heard the unmistakeable sounds of Paul Van Dyk's “Out There and Back” album playing in the square. An outdoor rave, perhaps? It was not to be – a lonely speaker set amongst some public art display tried vainly to teach Mexico that good music does not generally involve brass instruments.
Basically Morelia was a good place to simply hang about in. Did the walking tour, found the markets, bought a cheap guitar. Apparently the best place in Mexico to buy guitars is Paracho – not far from Morelia. This guitar was made in Paracho. Possibly, though, it was kicked out so as not to give the town a bad name – with the strings
perfectly in tune a lot of the chords are out as the frets haven't been done properly.
Still, it was less than $20, has a good sound, and it's tiny so it will be good for travelling. And blues stuff, involving as it does a lot of note bending and the like, sounds fine.
After the weekend festivities died down the whole settled down a bit. Faced with the prospect of lower sound levels, some locals organised a noisy protest about the narco violence. Interestingly, this one was in support of the narcos and against the federales. The cartel in Michoacán – La Familia – has pulled the trick of providing charity and services to poor Mexicans, and covering themselves with the cloak of religion, so they have a lot of support. The slogans and the signs blamed the police for causing the trouble by stirring the whole mess up. That said, the rest of the population here seemed to simply be fed up with all sides – every taxi and bus in the town was daubed with signs proclaiming “Queremos Paz – Mo Mas Violencia en Michoacán” - 'we want peace, no more violence in Michoacán'.
There are more photos below