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The Teotihuacan Valley in 1961 (by William G. Mather, III)

The Teotihuacan Valley in 1961 (by William G. Mather, III)
The Teotihuacan Valley prior to the urban expansion of Mexico City. Notice the Sun and Moon Pyramids in the center and the edge of Lake Texcoco on the right.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Day 5 - An Early Return

During breakfast, Maria and I decided it best to go check out a few more of the pueblos from the documentary and head back to Mexico City a day early. We had accomplished more than I thought possible in the short amount of time we had been in the Teo Valley. In addition, I realized I could save several hundred dollars by checking out a day early and returning the rental car.

We first went to Oztotecpac looking for the old train station. Luckily we found it (see photo). On the way to Mazapa we saw a freshly planted field of nopales. Nopales are the only succulent planted in the area today, as maguey cultivation is all but extinct in the valley due to the decline in pulque demand. Nopales are grown for their leaves (pencas) and their fruit (tunas).

Next we stopped off in the zocalo of Mazapa to take a few photos.

Lastly, on our way back to Mexico City we stopped to take advantage of the extremely clear day to take a few shots of Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl.

I believe we have enough footage and stills to hopefully convince funding agencies of the importance of redocumenting the Teotihuacan Valley.

Day 4 - La Especial and a Cute Little Lamb

The morning was spent catching up on field notes and writing questions to ask Don Luis and his friends. We left the hotel around 11:30am and went over to Rancho Huixcoloco to tell Gustavo that we would not be able to meet with him later in the day. We were told that he does not work as a guard at the hacienda anymore. He had been moved. We assume that he got into trouble yesterday for letting us into the hacienda. We felt pretty bad. But we soon got over it.

We arrived in San Juan Teotihuacán around 12:30pm and took some footage of the zocalo. We soon mosied into La Especial and met with Don Luis, Don Humberto Pineste Montemibio (Don Luis's cousin), and Maurilio Vega Suarez. Don Humberto remembered Sanders and crew very well. Maurilio is a local historian who had a bag full of pictures (photo copies of photo copies of photographs). He did not know Sanders but was very interested in talking to Maria about everything. He showed here about 5 million photographs. Again, I felt kind of bad about this. And yet again, I soon got over it. The tequila helped.

Next came the barbacoa. And this barbacoa had all the trimmings (kidneys, liver, lungs, etc.). Maria and I sucked it up and had 6 tacos of each of this amazingly grotesque, but delicious, cute little lamb.

I then set up the camera and filmed these old timers watch Land and Water. It wasn’t the reaction I was hoping for. It was in a bar and there were a lot of distractions. They seemed more impressed with the outtakes. Maria thinks this has something to do with the English narrative in the film versus the silence of the outtakes. We also interviewed each of them after the film to get their reactions.

After the film, we drank and talked, and drank, and laughed, and drank a little more. It was a great afternoon and making those contacts is invaluable.

We ended the day in true Norte Americano style by watching the New Orleans Saints spank the Indianapolis Colts in the Super Bowl and ordering a pizza from Don Mincho's Pizzeria.

A fine day.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Day 3 - Killer Bees and a Low Speed Chase

Trying to find our way up Mt. Malinal (Malinalco) Maria asked the military how to get there. Although they told us we couldn’t go through San Juan Teotihuacan, they told us to go through Cozotlan. We followed that road and started to go around and up mount Malinal. We drove on a dirt road through several ejidos and met Porfirio Medina who gave us permission to hike through his land (which was covered with nopal). He told us about the military fence that would not let us go all the way to the top. We hiked up until we found a water tank and a sign warning about the presence of breeding killer bees hives. We then proceeded quietly to take some pictures and decided to hike back down and encountered another hive of killer bees in a maguey that had been “castrated” for pulque production. We found another path that seemed to go around the mountain. We followed it and came to the military fence that went up the mountain again. We filmed from the top and also noticed springs as we hiked down. We then missed the path to the car and started walking in the appropriate direction. While walking we found a possible site, loaded with fine orange pottery and obsidian, and promptly recorded its location with GPS. We hiked up a tiny hill and found the location of the car. But to get to it we had to climb over a fence. We were spotted by someone who yelled at us and then saw a red pick-up truck hauling ass down the mountain towards us. We ran and jumped into the car and fled in our super Chevy Aveo.

We drove to San Juan to investigate the zocalo and get a beer. After locating one of the principle buildings from the original film, Maria noticed a bar across the street called La Especial. She remembered this name from one of the photographs. We walked inside and ordered micheladas. We began talking to the bartender, Oscar, and he told us that this bar had been here since 1942. We showed him a little of the footage and he was very impressed. He soon called the owner and told him what was going on. Moments later the owner of the bar, Don Luis Cano Garcia (aka “El Pollo”), walked in. He was shy at first but Maria went to talk to him. He immediately warmed up and told us that he remembered all the people from the Penn State project (Sanders, Charlie Fletcher, Joe Marino, Bill Mather, Barbara Price, and many more). He said there were 15 of them in all. He said that this was the bar they all hung out in everyday. He said, that in 1961 “La Especial” was an “elitist” bar. Only generals, captains, commanders, Spaniards, and Sanders were served here.

We showed Don Luis some of the footage and the entire bar became a buzz. Everyone was so excited to see their town of San Juan as it was 50 years ago. Don Luis even called the mayor, Senor Sanchez, on is cell phone. Turns out, the mayor is a relative of Juan Sanchez from Atlatongo. Don Luis also said doing a public showing of the film is a great idea and getting permission would not be an issue.

Next, Don Luis said he would have a party in our honor the next day starting at 12:30. He said he was going to invite a few other old timers. He agreed to be interviewed on camera. Hopefully we can interview several people. We did not tell Don Louis but have decided to show Land and Water at the bar and film people’s reaction. I am looking at this as an opportunity to show, on a much smaller scale, the reactions that people are going to have when they see the film at one of the public showings in August.

After having more drinks with Don Luis, the asshole that was with Ana Maria Vasquez (a nice lady who offered us a place to stay during the project) became extremely jealous and abrasive, insulting Maria and myself. He was beyond drunk and things started getting out of hand. We promptly closed our tab and told Don Louis that we would see him tomorrow.

An adventurous and productive day to say the least.

Day 2 - A Beautiful Day for Cerro Gordo

Today we went back to Rancho Huixcoloco to meet Don Angel, Don Nabor and Don Mario while they shuck corn. But we couldn’t find them. Instead we walked around back and found Don Nabor who was grazing horses and burros. We talked to him and he remembered Don Jorge and Don Jose. We showed him some pictures and he got interested. He liked seeing them. He said he remembered when the first film was made but he may be confused with another commercial film done in the hacienda about Pancho Villa (according to Gustavo Lezama, the guard we met today and was extremely helpful in comparison to yesterday’s guard). We offered to play the movie to Don Nabor and his family and he liked the idea and agreed to meet with us on Monday at 3pm. Don Nabor seemed to also know Aniceto Martinez, the plowing farmer from Land and Water.

We then went to the back entrance of the hacienda and were taking some shots when Gustavo Lezama, the guard for the day showed up and asked us what we were doing. We explained to him the project and he then said he understood the importance of what we were doing and agreed to let us inside the hacienda. We walked around the property with him and he then allowed Kirk to take the camera with him and take some pictures of the church, tinacal, and living quarters. Gustavo told us to come back on Sunday at 4:30pm and he would let us inside again.

Next, I came out and filmed the outside of the hacienda. We then left for Cerro Gordo. Finding the old road to the summit was relatively easy and we got some great footage and stills. The previous day's rainstorm really cleared the valley out. Incredible views.

After returning from Cerro Gordo we stopped at Santiago Atolman. We asked at the pasteleria at the zocalo when the Christians and Moors celebration takes place. We were told there are three of them: May 13 (aparicion de Santiago Apostol), July 25 (San Santiago Apostol) and September 3.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Day 1 - Getting Our Feet Wet

In an unusual dry season rainstorm, Maria and I went to Rancho Huixcoloco and unfortunately found it ruins. We went in but were not allowed to film or go inside the buildings because the property is now in dispute and apparently owned by the wild animal park, Reino Animal (according to the guards). Only the guards and the acasillados (permanent residents of the hacienda) are allowed to inside the hacienda. The owners are not allowed inside and we were asked to leave. However, we met Don Angel and showed him some of the pictures from the original film. He said he remembered Don Jorge, the administrator of the hacienda, and offered to talk to us together with two other guys, Don Mario and Don Nabor. He also remembered Don Jose, the mayordomo del Tinacal (the boss of the pulque brewery).

The hacienda does not produce pulque anymore and the maguey fields are nonexistent. The church of the hacienda, the stalls, and the tinacal are all in ruin. We were told that pulque is now produced at a few of the other haciendas. Don Angel also told us that Rancho Huixcoloco is the oldest of the three in the area. They referred to it as the mother hacienda of the other two.

Don Angel said Don Jorge must be now 70-75 and he’s not sure whether he is alive or not. Don Angel said he thinks he was 16 at the time when Sanders and crew filmed Land and Water and remembers it being filmed. He also said, he used to be one of the favorite workers of Don Jorge.

The guard and Don Angel told us that to get inside the hacienda and film we need to get an official permission (in written form) from Reino Animal.