Feliz Navidad!

I finally reached the Gulf of Mexico. It’s great to be by the sea again. I guess I am just a beach person. As you might expect, fishing is big around here.

Bacon wrapped shrimp, salad with avocados, rice. Typical seaside fare. Cost? About $6.

View from restaurant where I had lunch one day.

More food. Shrimp tostadas. This stuff is so cheap—about $3.

I visted another old mesoamerican site called Quiahuiztlan, (pronouned key-ah-weets-lan). When Hernán Cortés landed in the area in 1519 there were 15,000 people living there. Here is a view of the sea from the town.

There’s not much left of the place. Here I am among some tombs.

I happened to listen to a great podcast recently about Hernán Cortés’ victory over the Aztecs (called Mexica and pronounced meh-she-ka). The podcast was written and read by Daniele Bolelli in his History on Fire series of podcasts (all his stuff is worth listening to). This four part series covers the time period 1519 to 1521. It is a fascinating and detailed look at how Cortés and his group of Spaniards led a coalition of local tribes to overthrow the Mexica empire and take control of what is now central Mexico and eventually the entire country.

One thing I learned from the series is that it’s a bit of a misnomer to say the Spanish conquered the Mexica, In fact, the Spanish only amounted to about 10% of the entire force that overthrew the Mexica. The Spanish provided a  key leadership and strategy role but Cortés’ genius was to assemble a group of allies to help them. One reason the other tribes were so eager to help the Spanish is that the Mexica apparently were really bad people. They oppressed their neighboring tribes, often kidnapping thousands for human sacrifices in order to please their Gods. They also imposed heavy taxes on them which created resentment.

So when Cortés came along instead of sticking with “the devil they knew” they took a chance on the newcomers who promised them freedom and security if they helped overthrow the Mexica. Of course that didn’t happen in the long run; more than 90% of the natives died during the subsequent occupation. However, this was due more to disease, mainly smallpox, rather than fighting. Smallpox, brought over from Europe, decimated the mesoamerican culture since they had no resistance to it.

You can get the podcasts here.

If you haven’t seen it, the 2006 film Apocalypto, directed by Mel Gibson, gives you some idea of what life was like back then. It centers on Mayan culture but I assume the Mexicas were more or less the same. Below is the trailer for the film.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ngWBddVNVZs

This is the spot where Cortés first landed in 1519 and set up his first town, Villa Rica. It was eventually moved to present day Veracruz, but this was the original place.

Dipping my feet in the Gulf of Mexico while sipping a cold cerveza. Too cold to swim though.

I’ve been eating a lot of shrimp cocktails lately. Shrimp mixed in spiced tomato sauce garnished with cilantro and avocado. it is addicting and cheap: about $3. Here is one with a michelada on a beach just south of Veracruz.

The cemeteries in Mexico are very colorful.

I try to get off the highways as much as I can and take back roads, but you never know what you’re going to get. Some road surfaces are pretty bad.

Veracruz is a major shipping port. So there are a lot of trains to move all that cargo across the country.

A small plaza with people relaxing in Veracruz.

At the naval museum there were these ceramic faces made by the mesoamerican people of the area. They must have been happy folks. Or maybe it was the magic mushrooms.

Also in the museum was this sculpture of Cuauhtémoc, the last Mexica king who was executed by Hernán Cortés in 1521. Just about every town in Mexico has a street named after him.

Danzón is the official musical genre and dance of Cuba.  Written in 2/4 time, the danzón is a slow, formal partner dance, requiring set footwork around syncopated beats, and incorporating elegant pauses while the couples stand listening to virtuoso instrumental passages, as characteristically played by a charanga or tipica ensemble. It is popular among the older folks of Veracruz, and can often be seen around the main plaza.

https://vimeo.com/247651109

At the Veracruz port. Not exactly the most romantic spot, but I guess it works for some.

I get interrupted from time to time by ranchers moving their cattle from one pasture to another. Best thing is to stop and let them go by.

Bottles.

Boat tied up at the beach.

Unloading the day’s catch of shrimp at the docks.

Most people don’t have clothes dryers so you see a lot of this.

Kids marching in a Christmas parade.

The coast is hot and humid. Perfect for growing sugar cane. It must be harvest time because I see a lot of trucks stacked full of cut cane.

I have been a big fan of Stephen Colbert ever since about 2010 when I first saw his Colbert Report show. He has been hosting the Late Show on CBS for a couple years now. I think he’s lost some of his sharpness and wit, due no doubt to network restrictions and the show format. But I almost always get a laugh at some point in the show. Recently I saw this Holiday song he performed. I thought it was hilarious.

I’ve had to change my plans again. For some reason I have been going a lot slowing than I thought I would be. It’s partly the shorter days (Today is the winter solstice), partly the bad roads, partly I am staying more in hotels so I leave later in the day. But in any case, I will not be able to go as far south and east as originally planned. In fact, I am just about to head south straight to Oaxaca state, so I will miss Tabasco and Chiapas. Well there’s only so much time and I need to be back in the USA by March.

Here is my current location.

Have a safe and happy holiday season everyone. I’m not sure exactly where I will be on Navidad. The mountains around here are pretty steep so I’ve been going a bit slow but I should be in Oaxaca state headed for the Pacific Ocean!

2 Responses to “Feliz Navidad!”

  1. steve says:

    Merry Christmas, Kev. Great looking food. Wish I was there to help you put it away.
    Eva should be here any minute from Louisiana. I’ve been making jerky from our llama. Do they eat llama down there? We’ll try to get in touch on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

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