El Gran Payaso
Joined: Apr 2006
Location: San Antonio
Tlapacoyan - never heard of it. Tlacotalpan, yes. Tlaquepaque, sure.
If Tlapacoyan is hard to pronounce, try "ta-la-pa-coyan". Then try to blend the first two syllables as best you can, to eliminate the first 'a' sound in my example. The result is a fairly easy sound to achieve, once you ge the hang of it.
Often if not usually the unplanned excursion to see what's around the bend achieves the most surprising results. This was one of those side trips. It wasn't even a done deal until just about time to clutch out from lunch.
I was wondering what was in Jims Big Bag. I couldn't imagine what possibilities he was preparing for. I mean, he had a full set of Givi hard luggage, and now this, a parcel bordering on the gigantic. An assumption was made that it was extra gear for his trip to the BMW rally so perhaps it was additional fru-fru evening attire. Who knows, I didn't ask.
Noshing over lunch, the subject came up of who wanted to accompany Jim to Tlapacoyan (been able to pronounce it yet?) and who wanted to cruise on into Veracruz and have a longish afternoon. Brian, Frank, and Ralph went with the latter, and I decided to provide "wingman" support to Jim on the remote chance the he had a mechanical or other problem. This was unlikely due to the fact that he was experienced and had no issues traveling off the established trail. He mentioned that his drop-off bag was full of clothes, and thought we would stay for a short while and then resume the vector to Veracruz. I was good with all of this.
Digesting a fairly non-descript seaside lunch, Jim and I took off for the delivery and the others headed south on Mx 180 to Veracruz. We cut onto Mx 129 to Tlapacoyan. If you've been on this route, you've seen the endless banana plantations that 129 seems to split. Many of the bundles of bananas on the trees had a blue plastic bag around them, I suppose to ward off the cold, but I tried hard to think of where that cold could come from, as even at night at this latitude the temps were extremely tropic. Save for one wrong turn that turned out to be extremely intriguing, we pulled through town and to the appointed destination.
Noe's house was at the top of a hill, of nice appearance and in a quiet area of Tlapacoyan. All seemed as it should for the first few minutes until he came over to the bikes and said "hey, how's it going?". His wife and sons in their middle teens and a young twenty-something were equally at ease speaking English. Invited in, we sat in the living room (salón) as Jim presented clothes from the depths of his gigantic bag. Jim had been here before and he was the one to suggest "hey, you want to see Noe's hogs?" Off we went to meet what I was to call "Juan Pelota" and his friends.
Immediately out the back of the house I was struck by the sight of dense jungle and a steep hill, which combined to add to the dissonance of finding a virtual pig farm built on the side of a hill, each pen ten to fifteen feet lower than the previous, a series of them, culminating at one large one at the bottom of the hill. Mixed in with all of this were banana trees, orange trees, and coffee plants. Not expecting any of this (and never having seen a coffee plant up close), this was a bit surreal to me.
Piece by piece, Noe's story unfolded on the tour of his property. Turns out he had crossed the Rio Grande once or twice and eventually been caught and deported. He crosses again, makes it to the Midwest, and cranks out a hard working life as a roofer. His kids grow and go to American schools, becoming fully and totally bilingual, to the point that in either language they have no accent at all. Only Noe is caught again, threatened with prison time, so he packs up his family and returns to Mexico.
From roofing to hillside farmer and hog raiser, I was fixed on the idea of being transplanted like that and wondered if I could pull it off if I had to. In the sense of taking what life throws at you combined with the force of will to try to provide a good life for you family, Noe was a walking example of grit and determination. To me he is a hero, even though our own government has him filed as a marked man.
I'm constantly thinking and re-thinking about our government's policy on our southern border, and I've been watching Border Wars on the Nat Geo channel. Recently, we had tree work done on the property, and three of the men in the trees were from Honduras, and one from El Salvador. None had entered legally, and I had a lengthy conversation with one of them about his harrowed night crossing and being chased by the Border Patrol. His boss, Benicio, also has his own story to tell of how he came to the United States.
If anyone is inclined to inject an opinion on U.S. border policy, I'd say keep it out of the ride report and take it to jo momma. We're not going to solve it here. What I can say is that this little side trip that I hadn't planned to take widened my eyes big time on the impact the collision between dreams and policy can have. I'll just leave it at that. If you have strong feelings you can PM me and get more on what I really think.
Climbing the hill back to the house, it was time to say our goodbyes and get on to Veracruz and meet up with the other guys. Just before we clutched out of Tlapacoyan, Noe's wife handed Jim a large package, which he placed in his now empty bag. Turned out it was ground Veracruz coffee, from their own beans. I made it my goal to get my hands on some of that coffee. We rode back down 129 to 180, and pulled into Veracruz in the very early evening. Plenty of time to see the zócalo and then take a taxi to a nice seafood restaurant. Most of that day, and often since, I thought about making a life on a jungle hillside, and the hero that makes it all work.