Mexico. Jan. 3. Ciudad Juarez. Enjoying lunch at Cafeteria Vyc, across from the Futurama Shopping Mall. Wow, it feels great to be in Mexico. What a contrast! My only hitch so far was in the back of an ice delivery truck. We crossed streets named for Central and South American nations. I didn't notice Perú. We avoided the fast thoroughfares by weaving through back streets and even detoured around an overpass because their old Chevy has only one remaining gear. From atop the truck I enjoyed an unobstructed 360 degree view of deteriorating adobe housing, the bull fight stadium, the Ford dealer and an overflowing garbage truck, all slowly. At the several ice delivery stops the crew bought cold beers. I declined descending to partake of beer and mota.

Mmmm. Great enchiladas. In all the USA there are no Mexican restaurants with decor like this, consisting entirely of one Emiliano Zapata picture. Ranchera music fills the small room. Due to low grade diesel fuel and no pollution controls thick black exhaust and loud mufflers await on Avenida Tecnológica.

Jan. 4. 10:28 a.m. Saucillo, Estado de Chihuahua. In a coffee shop. Yesterday José, my 375 km. Juarez-Chihuahua ride, gave me his Mexico City address and invited me to stop and stay whenever I might pass through. He also gave me a 1907 penny as a friendship token. I gave him a little soapstone pebble which I found near an 11,000 year old human occupation site in California. Because he smoked cigarettes I got a headache.

The first truck I thumbed thereafter crossed most of Chihuahua City. While walking to the edge of town people sought to converse and twice people in cars stopped to ask where I'm going. The evening street was filled with people. The atmosphere was warm and friendly. The first motel offered rooms costing $4.50 U.S. "I'll take it."

During this morning's ride, from Chihuahua to Saucillo with two irrigation project engineers, we stopped at one's home for a great breakfast. Such openness and hospitality is a pleasant surprise, even on this, my tenth Latin America trip. I'm enjoying the language change. My Spanish is rough after a two year abstinence. An occasional English word escapes me in mid-sentence and I have vocabulary hesitancy. Hitchhiking provides ample practice.

It's another beautiful, sunny day, as has been each one since the Colorado Plateau. This morning it was chilly before sunrise. One negative, especially disadvantageous to the hitchhiker, is the thick black diesel exhaust typical south of the border. I'm extending my breath holding skill. One must pay close attention and take a deep breath just before a foul diesel passes. It's necessity, not sport, when left standing in a toxic cloud.

11:28. Ojinaga Junction. The sun is bright. It seems like summer. On the slaughter house wall is written: "We buy horses and burros." The smell is unique. I arrived here after two rides, one with seven hitchhiking children on a layer of alfalfa bales in a compact pickup weaving at slow overloaded pace and the other also in the back of a small pickup, but with a bible-toting preacher-hitchhiker.

Many people, with incredible courtesy, are hand signaling their reasons for not stopping. All fingers together pointing up means too full. Pointing sideways means going to turn off. Pointing down means staying here. Pointing down while making a circular motion means just driving around. Many passing vehicles are very full. One time years ago in Southern Mexico someone stopped and apologized for having too full a vehicle, only to then fit me in anyway. How many people fit in a Mexican car? Always one more! How many in a bus? No one is certain yet!

12:39. Still waiting for a nice person with a vehicle, no matter how full. There seems no shortage of nice people. Oscar Robinson, a local man, stopped to chat and asked if I needed anything, "Food, drink, money?" He gave me his address and said to stop if ever I need anything, anything at all. We spoke of his trips to New Mexico where he worked while an illegal alien.

Two young girls who live in the nearest house brought a delicious tangerine from their aunt's tree, saying, "If we can offer you anything, we live right here."

2:16. Ciudad Jimenez. In a restaurant surrounded by curious people and just off a ride in a cargo truck. The moment I boarded I was offered a bean and beef burrito and a share of a soda, half the driver's lunch. What courtesy!

6:28. The Durango junction. After lunch I didn't bother to throw the thumb at one of the first vehicles to pass, a very slow, old diesel. The driver hand signaled, "What you doing?"

I signaled, "I'm hitchhiking."

He stopped. His name is Nacho. Writing in large red letters on the wall of a building we passed said "Reagan" and "Gringos" out of Central America.

8:36. Torreón. Finding a ham and avocado sandwich with a soda for only 45¢ was a pleasant surprise. I'm still adjusting to the big differences in currency and values. Presently I'm in Room 50 of the Hotel Hidalgo, for which I paid 2 dollars and received the price of dinner in change. A cockroach is exploring the floor so you know what squalid quarters I'm exploring. The streets in Torreón tonight are a multitude of humans and diesel engines in a sea of toxic exhaust. Deep in the hotel it's respiratable and quiet except the conversation of laborers stoking the hot water boiler with cordwood.

Jan. 5. 9:21 a.m. I awakened early to painful intestinal contractions and awakened again and again for the same reason. I got up, had a bout of diarrhea and the cramps have stopped. It feels like a thorough purge only.

2:30. Having lunch somewhere north of Fresnillo. My first ride down the Pan-American this morning was a four wheel cart drawn by a pair of jackasses. I couldn't resist requesting a ride of the two Native drivers. We spoke of weather and crops during the 4 kilometer ride to their small village, Los Angeles. I told them I was born far to the north, so far that the season is too short to grow corn for mature seed. The driver disbelievingly asked what the people ate. I replied that instead of tortillas they eat potatoes.

"Do they eat with spoons?" he asked. I explained that forks are preferred and that my people don't know how to eat with tortillas instead of silverware. They were amazed. True natives indeed.

The next ride, a slow diesel truck, had a gas mask on the dash. I wonder if my gastrointestinal cramps were caused by a high dose of diesel fumes. Riding in a slow diesel is preferable to riding behind them.

The North American desert is vast. Since Utah all has been desert. Today's surroundings have marginal dry land farming interspersed with the cactus and greasewood.

When I approached this restaurant a group of children encircled me asking for dollars. They are busy devouring leftovers and emptying sodas at two just vacated tables. A car is arriving and they are now rushing outside, hoping to scam a few coins for window shining.

6:57. Hotel Condensa, Zacatecas. I'm splurging for comfort and a private bathroom with shower; this room costs an expensive $6.40. I'm tired of the truck noise and exhaust and a bit ill still with an occasional cramp. Today, for the first time, I miss my kitchen and refrigerator, tofu and mushrooms, yogurt and granola. My mood reached a low point and then I caught today's last ride, a reinvigorating encounter with a Maya Indian from Yucatan who gave a lengthy discourse on the perils of the people leaving the land and becoming materialistic. While walking into town I passed a park with greenery and blossoms, thereupon realizing that today I crossed the tropic line. A joyous mood has been somewhat restored.

Jan. 7. 9:13 a.m. San Juan de Teotihuacan. To enter the Teotihuacan Valley and witness the awesome proportions of the pyramids, immense geometric ruins rising like mountains from the valley floor, is truly an impressive experience to even the return visitor. Such extraordinary products of human hand and mind inspire awe and wonder and many a question. Teotihuacan was once one of the largest cities in the world and the largest and most influential of all early North American cities. It was the principal center for a large area of Central Mexico beginning over 2,000 years ago and until its abandonment around A.D. 700. The 12 square mile urban center of 100,000 plus people was built on a planned grid system, considered unprecedented in America. The principal axis, oriented 15 degrees 28 minutes to the east of true north, is four miles long and bisected by a perpendicular avenue of the same length. The city's surveyors achieved a near perfect right angle. I've studied the fresco painted masonry walls and walked the ancient concrete floors of this city before, yet I look forward to further exploration.

Yesterday I traversed the states of Zacatecas, San Luis Potosí, Queretaro, and Hidalgo. This morning two fast rides brought me to this village a few kilometers from the pyramids. Between rides I was deposited within the smog zone at a freeway junction and toll gate near metropolitan Mexico City. I had to jump out of a ride amidst rows of stopping and starting diesels. The scene defies description. Imagine the darkest exhaust ever witnessed, perhaps from an earthmover, except issuing from below, behind, or beside each bus. Add a large cloud billowing with each start and gearshift. Then all that's left to envision is the toll house and three stop and go traffic lanes in each direction filled with crammed full bus loads of morning commuters. So there I was, holding my breath and making my way to the edge of that lethal scene. I could barely see the surroundings. A prompt ride sped me out of the dense, noxious cloud. Cresting the hill where the pyramid-graced Teotihuacan Valley view is attained was compensation enough, believe it or not.

12:00. Cerro de las Maravillas. On a ridge top rock outcropping hunting petroglyphs. I'm seated beside a hearth and an offering of four cobs of purple corn. The Pyramid of the Sun is plainly visible 5 miles to the east, though its immensity suggests a lesser distance. The other monumental pyramid, the Pyramid of the Moon, is hidden by an intervening ridge.

The so-called Astronomer's Chair, a petroglyphed boulder, is located at the low end of this outcropping. One of a network of rock engravings around the valley postulated to have astronomical significance, it is perhaps the most distinctive of them. Faces outnumber the snake image. Holes were drilled in the rock, perhaps for shadow sticks. The most conspicuous image, more sculpted than incised, is a common figure in Teotihuacan art, the goggle-eyed and fanged face of Tlaloc, the so-called god of rain. Is the valley's network of petroglyphs millennia older than the pyramids? Quite possibly yes.

1:18. Teotihuacan Archaeologic Zone. Restaurante Los Pyramides, the Museum Building. It's such a hot afternoon that I've opted for a cold, fresh pineapple juice before studying the museum. Beyond the windows many pyramids fill the view.

While walking back from the astronomer's chair I encountered a man, we made eye contact and he hand signaled, What?

"Que Maravillas hay por aqui." (What wonders there are here.)

"Si, hay no," (Yes there are, aren't there,) he said as he made large circles around his eyes with his fingers, in imitation of the Cerro de las Maravillas goggle-eyed Tlaloc I presumed.

I placed my fingers on my chin. He smiled and said, "Y ahora, a donde?" (And now, where to?)

"A subirlo." (To climb it.)

5:11. Pyramid of the Sun, facing the sun and Cerro de las Maravillas. From this perspective the equinox sun sets over the astronomer's chair. This over 40 million cubic feet adobe brick pyramid rises 230 feet from a base 738 feet per side, more or less. I walked up non-stop while counting the steps, resulting in a tally of 243. The wind feels great. The weather is different on the summit.

Atop the pyramid is a great place to meet comic souvenir peddlers and other interesting people. I became involved in conversation with a group of young Mexicans discussing the mathematical symbols and astronomic data engraved on the immense Tenochtitlan calendar stone. Several of us each had book excerpts on this same subject which we shared. As I concluded translating an article from English a woman behind me asked, "What do you know about Teotihuacan?" I had chosen this vantage to study some Teotihuacan articles which I briefly lent her. Conversation followed regarding scientific aspects of pre-Columbian civilization, especially the astronomic tables deciphered in the few surviving Mayan screenfold books. She and her two fellow South American companions, all Boston educated, are doing preliminary fieldwork for a film about what was lost and destroyed by the conquest of America.

I count fifty pyramids scattered below. How many more are overgrown or destroyed? To the north the 490 foot wide Pyramid of the Moon rises 138 feet. Teotihuacan's principal avenue, the Avenue of the Dead, begins at the Pyramid of the Moon, crosses the foreground and extends to two miles just past the museum and then beyond. Visiting Teotihuacan means long walks and high climbs, yet there is no evading the persistent vendors and their purportedly ancient wares.

7:34. San Juan de Teotihuacan. I've taken a room at the only hotel. The restaurants are many and after a cursory inspection tour I selected the "Zully." I like the red and white carnations with green table cloths, los colores nacionales. The cassette player is blasting "Hay tanto amor." This is truly Mexican. The first course, consume de pollo (chicken soup,) just arrived in colorful floral china.

Just before the ruins closed I was photographing fresco murals below the Palace of the Quetzal-Butterfly. Upon concluding a close up of the "Eagles," I walked back to the "Jaguars" where sat the guard's wife studying illustrations of the solar system. The guard, his wife and I conversed and again I shared my Teotihuacan information. Their interest in Teotihuacan archaeoastronomy was keen.

The tacos and the Spanish rice are great. The waitress and waiter arrived together and as one held the tray the other served the courses. Only the floral plate under the rice pudding bowl is mismatched. The chili verde sauce is flavorful but hot. The pickled peppers are definitely HOT! Great apricot juice and bread, but the peppers are still HOT. WOW.

"Would you like the mineral water with or without ice, Sir?"

I gave the beggar who came to the table a French roll slice. He was 86'ed. Not taking any chances, he quickly stuffed the whole bread slice in his mouth. The stereo is blasting, "Anoche no pude llegar a ti." On a shelf on one wall there are carnations, a burning candle and a Blessed Virgin Mary picture. The topless lady calendar and stereo are on another wall. "No dejame por otra cosa." Dinner, apricot juice and mineral water: $1.42. The beggar awaits outside due to my hand signals.

8:39. At the panaderia, the bread store, I bought the man four French rolls for a dime. What a smile that produced. He made strange sounds but didn't speak. I'm sitting near the zocalo in the middle of the central plaza after hunting postcards. The surrounding 100 or so promenading and socializing people sound delightful.

The moribund municipal clock reads 5 to 12. This morning I stopped in the municipal building to ask directions to Cerro de las Maravillas. A group of village officials had not heard such a place name. Unable to assist, one cautioned against going out into the countryside "amidst the Indians." Another warned that because Indians cut weeds and clean the fields they have machetes. Once in the countryside at what seemed like the correct side road I asked an Indian driving a new pickup. He told me exactly where to find the petroglyphs.

Jan. 8. 9:20 a.m. In a bus en route to Mexico City. I will spend the day in the Museum of Anthropology, now minus 140+ pieces. On Christmas Eve that greatest treasure house of American heritage was robbed of more than 140 pieces of the most spectacular and beautiful prehistoric art of the world. It seems an impossible tragedy yet it really happened. Are the gold artworks now melted? Have the jades been recut beyond recognition? In America this Navidad was not feliz. Will this crime be solved?

We are driving through thick exhaust smoke, protected inside the bus. There are times and places where hitchhiking seems stupid. Mexico City tops the list. Visibility is one half kilometer as we enter the suburbs, or "barrios." I wonder about the life expectancy of street vendors and traffic police.

Mexico City has changed through many centuries. Bernal Diaz del Castillo, one of the conquerors of Indian Mexico, described arriving in Tenochtitlan (Mexico City,) the greatest city in Anahuac (the One World,) on Nov. 8, 1519 as follows:

""...we saw so many cities and villages built in the water and the other great towns on dry land and that straight and level causeway going towards Mexico, we were amazed and said that it was like the enchantments they tell of in the legend of Amadis, on account of the great towers and cues and buildings rising from the water, and all built of masonry. And some of our soldiers even asked whether the things that we saw were not a dream .... I do not know how to describe it, seeing things as we did that had never been heard of or seen before, not even dreamed about."

Bernal's statement is appreciable while visiting the museum.

11:06. Museo Nacíonal de Antropología. For $.0024 I rode the crowded subway across this vast metropolis and arrived at 10:20. Due to the Christmas Eve robbery several museum sections remain closed and the museum will not allow photography until further notice. My purpose includes photography so I've decided to stop again on the return journey. Today I shall instead visit the nearby Chalpultepec Palace to view colonial art, First a walk around the impossible to steal 200 ton stone sculpture of Tlaloc, a monolith of Teotihuacan vintage decorating the front garden.

11:48. "Viva la America! Muera el mal Gobierno!" -- "Long live America! Death to bad Government!" The famous Cry of Dolores, Padre Miguel Hidalgo y Costillo, Sept. 16, 1810.

Chapultepec Palace is closed. Are they working on the security system? Happy not to have wasted the long climb up Grasshopper Hill I entered this adjacent museum, a National History Museum gallery about the Mexican revolutions, beginning with Father Hidalgo's cry. Hidalgo was named the first Captain General of the American Nation. On Oct. 19, 1810 he decreed, "Siendo contra los clamores de la naturaleza el vender a los hombres. Queda abolidas las leyes de la esclavitud." My translation: "It is contrary to nature to sell men. The laws of slavery are abolished." Hidalgo also decreed the abolition of tributes and large estates and ordered the lands returned to the native communities. He was shot by the authorities by firing squad in Chihuahua on July 30, 1811. The citation against Hidalgo reveals much of history. It begins: "We, the Apostolic Inquisitors against Heresy, Depravity, and Apostasy, in the City of Mexico, states and Provinces of this New Spain, Guatemala, Nicaragua, The Philippine Islands, their Districts and jurisdictions by Authority Apostolic, Royal and Ordinary, Etc..."

Another priest, Father José María Morelos, replaced Hidalgo and a constitutional decree for the Liberty of Mexican America was signed on Oct. 22, 1814. Morelos was captured and imprisoned. On Dec. 22, 1815 he was shot. In April of 1817 Francisco Javier Mina arrived from Spain where he had fought against King Fernando VII. His brilliant leadership was short-lived as was he. On Nov. 11, 1817 he was executed, shot in the back by firing squad.

The 1820 "Plan de Iquala," the plan of the three guarantees, proclaimed the independence of Mexico. The three guarantees were: 1) Union of all its inhabitants, 2) As the only religion the Catholic Church, 3) The Imperial Crown would go to King Fernando VII of Spain or a member of his dynasty. On July 21, 1822 Iturbide was crowned Emperor Augustín I in the Mexican Cathedral. Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana proclaimed a republic. Troops sent to battle Santa Ana by King Augustín joined the rebel forces. Eventually the newly crowned Emperor was captured. Two days before the second anniversary of his coronation Augustín I was shot. The Federal Constitution of the United States of Mexico was approved by a Constitutional Congress on Oct. 4, 1824.

My intent today was to study prehistory, not bloody modern history, but this museum is educational indeed. There is more, I know, because they have yet to mention Pancho Villa. Onward through time in this structure means slowly winding downhill in a multi-storied circle, a "caracol," Spanish for snail. Uphill would be more appropriate.

"Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up, and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable--a most sacred right--a right, which we hope and believe, is to liberate the world,"
Abraham Lincoln, speech in the U.S. House of Representatives, subject: The War on Mexico. Delivered January 12, 1848.

At about the time of that statement this very hilltop was under siege by United States troops. The Palace defenders including military cadets numbered a mere 800. President Polk defended his ordering the Mexican invasion, but Lincoln had this to say about what provoked the hostility,

"The marching of an army into the midst of a peaceful Mexican settlement, frightening the inhabitants away, leaving their growing crops and their property to destruction, to you may appear a perfectly amiable, peaceful, unprovoking procedure; but it does not appear so to us. So to call such an act, to us appears no other than a naked, impudent absurdity...the war was unnecessarily and unconstitutionally commenced by the President."
A. Lincoln, July 27, 1848.

"...refusing to accept a cessation of territory, would be to abandon all our just demands, and to wage the war, bearing all the expense, without a purpose or definite object."
President Polk.

On Feb. 2, 1848, the Guadalupe Hidalgo Treaty was signed. Mexico conceded Texas, California, and the Territory of New Mexico for 15 million pesos. Today that many pesos will buy $35,714.28 U.S.-- one cheap tract home.

An 1853 revolution that ousted Santa Ana was overthrown by Benito Juarez, beginning an era of reforms which included; 1) Nationalization of church property, 2) Civil Marriage, 3) Secular cemeteries, 4) Religious freedom, and 5) Civil registry. The War of the Reforms victory, on Dec. 22, 1860, was also the 45th anniversary of Father Morelos' execution, about 50 years after Father Hidalgo's cry.

In 1862, France, England and Spain joined forces and invaded Mexico. The first defeat suffered by the French on any front in 30 years on May 5, 1862, the now infamous Cinco de Mayo, caused Napoleon III to quintuple his forces in Mexico. The victorious French organized a monarchy and Maximilian I was crowned. Article I, Title 1 of the Imperial Decree states: "The form of government proclaimed for the nation and accepted by the Emperor is a moderate monarchy, hereditary, with a Catholic prince." Benito Juarez again led the revolutionary forces until victory in 1867. Miramon and Mejía, Maximillian's general, and Maximillian were sentenced to death by firing squad. On the morning of June 19 Maximillian asked that his face not be damaged, with his hands he separated his beard, opened his coat, pointed to his heart and said, "Here." Mejía, who had bribed the firing squad with an ounce of gold, said nothing when he saw the guns point at him also. So ended the short French era. Juarez, a Native Zapotec Indian and Mexico's only modern Indian president, reentered Mexico City in triumph.

Constitutional reforms and election fraud ruled Mexico until 1910. It was an era of land being taken from the people, in some instances displacing entire linguistic groups. By 1910 65 percent of the useful land in Mexico was owned by 840 individuals, some with holdings exceeding 750,000 acres. Violent repression of agricultural strikes occurred in 1906 and 1907. The popular opponent candidate in the 1910 election, Francisco Madero, was jailed in San Juan de Potosí before the elections. Rebellion began when the fraudulent election returns reinstated Dictator Porfirico Diaz. Prison escapee Madero and others formulated the Plan of San Luis which called the nation to arms. After victory in 1911 Madero was elected.

If this history isn't confusing enough, someone stole the next plaque. Here's Pancho Villa at last. He helped overthrow Diaz. By Nov. 1911 the Plan de Ayala declared war on the Madero government because lands had not been returned to the people. Emiliano Zapata led this agrarian revolution. In early 1913 yet another group began warring against the Madero government, the Porfiristas, cronies of dictator Diaz. They won, Madero and V.P. Pino Suarez resigned and were shot. In this manner Victoriano Huerta became dictator. On March 26, 1913, the Plan de Guadelupe declared a revolution against Huerta. Revolutionary forces advanced towards Mexico City on the railroad system from three directions. On June 23, 1914, Pancho Villa won the Battle of Zacatecas. Huerta resigned when Obregón captured Guadalajara. Pancho Villa's army of miners, cowboys, ranchers and campesinos represented the most important element in the victory. After an attempt to form a permanent government, war broke out between the victors. The Pancho Villa-Emiliano Zapata faction lost. Venustiano Carranza formed the government and decreed the Agrarian Reform Law nullifying all land changes after Dec. 1, 1876. On the 5th of February, 1917, the present Mexican Constitution was ratified, 106 years after Hidalgo's cry.

2:42. The display ends in a tall circular tower containing the Constitution, open to the page declaring the eight-hour work day. The remainder of the museum, named 'The Struggle of the Mexican People for their Liberty,' winds twice around the tower. Little did I realize what a long gallery I had entered. The subject is overwhelming. At the exit engraved in stone is written:

"Among nations as among men, respect of the rights of others is peace,"
Benito Juarez, 1862.

"I want to die a slave to principles, not to men,"
Emiliano Zapata, 1913.

We leave the museum, but not history, for history continues with our lives.

Jan. 9. 10:27 a.m. The Tepexpan Prehistoric Museum, the site where in 1947 geologist Helmut de Terra discovered the remains of a human skeleton while digging for mammoth skeletons. Found face down in the over 9,000 year old sediment of the Beccera Formation, the so-called Tepexpan man was then the oldest human remains known in America. The actual remains are exhibited in the Nacional Museum of Anthropology. Helmut de Terra concluded the skeleton was of a male 55 to 65, of sturdy build, about 5' 9" tall and needing dental care. Later studies concluded that Tepexpan woman was under 30, 5' 3" tall and needing dental care. A romantic account assumes that a mammoth stomped Tepexpan man into the mud during a hunt.

Skeletons of mammoths, an extinct elephant much larger than the surviving species, have been found in this area. Several scientifically excavated skeletons were intermixed with spear points and butchering tools. Some bones were found to have tool marks caused by slaughtering. In some cases bone location indicated obvious dismemberment. It is known that the humans who occupied the Valley of Mexico over 20,000 years ago butchered mammoths nearly 10,000 years ago.

Hundreds of school children are flowing through the museum. The background sound is a constant cacophony of little Spanish voices. On the wall hangs a photo of the Tequixquiac bone, the sacrum on an extinct American camel species carved to represent a dog's head. Found 39 feet below ground, the sculpted bone is considered one of the oldest known artistic efforts.

9:51 p.m. Jalapa, Vera Cruz. Cafe La Parroquía after seven rides and ten hours on the road. I've eaten here before and been made to feel at home this evening. On entering a waiter recognized me and extended a warm welcome. Today's route featured viewing Mexico's two highest peaks, 17,888 ft. Mt. Popocatepetl and 18,701 ft. Mt. Citlaltepetl, both beautiful snowcapped volcanoes. It's cloudy and drizzling on this, the Gulf Coast slope of the Sierra Madre Oriental Mountains. Beginning at the pass, from nightfall onward, the route was very foggy. An accident involving a vehicle a few cars ahead of my ride stopped all traffic for an hour. The driver of a small truck died. An 18 wheeler with a flatbed missed a turn and crossed the oncoming lane. The small truck crashed beneath the trailer. The victim was a young doctor.

Daily we accept risks in life, be that driving on a foggy highway or mammoth hunting. My last driver was returning home after a month directing earthquake relief efforts in Mexico City. Some of life's risks are not of our own taking. Hitchhiking entails a few extra risks, like bad drivers, bad vehicles, and riding in the back of fast flying vehicles, not to mention the unknowns. In a sense one is placing one's life in the hands of strangers. It's exciting. Today I spared a driver an accident by shouting a warning. He quickly swerved and avoided a sideswipe.

Jan. 10. 2:36 p.m. The National Biotic Resource Research Institute. I reviewed the Mycology Library's ethnomycological section. A wealth of information is being copied for me at half the best USA price. I enjoyed having lunch with mycologist and friend, Dr. Gastón Guzman, who organized the valuable ethnomycology section. It's great to see friends and find an excellent library in the same place.

We drank coffee and I must warn that a small cup of local brew is potent. This is one of the best coffee regions in Mexico, if not on the planet. Coffee is an important local crop. Dr. Guzman and the researchers at this Institute have developed a methodology for producing the delectable, edible oyster mushroom on coffee bean husk substrate. Until now this husk was a waste product, a disposal problem and an environmental contaminant. Daniel Martinez gave me a tour of the Institute's mushroom growing pilot project. The researchers additionally found that the mushroom growing process rendered the abundant and otherwise inedible coffee waste suitable for use as livestock feed. Already one farm has started production in nearby Coatepec. New projects have begun to experiment with maguey and nopal waste products.

Jan. 11. 8:12 p.m. Valle Nacional village, Oaxaca state. Journeying today involved six rides on five highways to arrive in 8 hours. In 4,680 f.a.s.l. Jalapa it was raining so I chose the road to the coast, descending into drier lands through the papaya zone and past cacti even. Near Vera Cruz, where the highway reached the Gulf of Mexico shore, I saw people on the beach. The route inland again traversed mango orchards, sugar cane fields, banana plantations, pastures with Brahman cattle and broad rivers with people swimming and washing clothes. The Gulf coast region is warm, moist, and green. In Valle Nacional the vegetation is lush and vibrantly green, young corn and potato plants dot fields, orange trees are laden with fruit and people are preparing land for crops. Today I arrived in the true tropics. I'm excited and animated by this passage through such verdant terrain, by the many kinds and the great size of trees and by the vivid colors of the trees abloom, white, pinks, reds and purples. Living trees form many pasture and parcel fence rows. One entire row was ablossom in dazzling red. It probably hasn't frosted here in 10,000 years.

This favorable, two crops a year habitat gave rise to Mexico's first civilization, the hypothesized mother civilization in Middle America, the Olmec. Until the second half of the nineteenth century the Olmecs were unknown, a truly lost civilization. In 1862 a colossal stone head was discovered in Tres Zapotes and subsequently published several times. At the beginning of this century other Olmec artworks and sites received study. In 1929 Marshall H. Saville, whose study of Olmec objects began in 1900, named the culture.

Olmec civilization, and thereby Middle American civilization, began before 1200 B.C. in the Olmec heartland, the hot, tropical coastal plain south of the Gulf of Mexico. The Olmec invented sculpturing colossal bodiless heads, 4' 8" to 9' 10" in diameter. Great monolithic rectangular solids and stelae up to 17 feet tall were also carved. Stone sculpture stands as the greatest evidence of Olmec civilization.

Several areas influenced by the Olmec which developed civilizations with predominantly local traits have been called Olmecoid groups. Monte Alban in Oaxaca and Izapa in Chiapas are so classified. The Olmec culture is considered to have been the most influential on a regional basis though these centers developed in parallel. Tomorrow's travel will be a steep climb back over the formidable Sierra Madre to visit the Monte Alban ruins and the city of Oaxaca.

Today life in the tropics has been inexpensive, total spending was a new low. The hotel in this village costs $1.20 as did dinner with two beers. In La Tinaja I paid 87¢ for a typical roadside lunch, four pork fat tacos, two beef cheek tacos and a soda.

Jan. 12. 6 a.m. Valle Nacional could well be the rooster capital of Mexico. There's a non-stop crowing contest in progress.

7:36. The roosters have given way to the many local songbirds, radios and jukeboxes. It's Sunday morning and subsequently there is very little traffic in this remote village.

9:11. After finding a good breakfast I began walking. On the bridge near the edge of town I met a Chinantec Indian couple. We walked together discussing aboriginal medical knowledge, for which the Chinantecs are noted. They informed that many people know treatments and practices utilizing local plants. When we passed blooming morning glory plants they said they think some people use them pharmacologically. The ground is wet so I asked about rainfall. "It hasn't rained for a month," the man reported. Here near the valley floor it must dew daily. At the first curve past the bridge an ascent began. When we arrived at the end of a long grade I stopped to rest and said good-byes.

10:30. Another cardiopulmonary rest. Wow, what an incredible, steep roadway this is; I've arrived at a 10 degree grade of S curves on a near vertical cliff, now many meanders above Valle. The fourth car to pass today now approaches.

Too full and in first gear. All the people walking, Chinantec Indians, stop and briefly chat. It seems to be a local custom. I invited a man carrying a heavy load of empty soda bottles with a forehead strap to test my hip-loading backpack. He agreed that it's more comfortable to bear, though heavier than his load. I hear another vehicle.

Too full also, not to mention that few vehicles have brakes and clutches capable of stopping right here. Onward. Upward also on the steepest of mountains to beyond 9,000 f.a.s.l.

10:53. A photo stop and a necessary rest. Another vehicle sounds in the distance, straining upmountain.

4:39. Sitting beside the toad stela amidst the Monte Alban ruins. I caught that ride. My kind driver, Ruben, is here also. We arrived at 3:00 and have enjoyed various vistas. It is a bright, hot cloudless afternoon. A cooling wind blows across this mountaintop.

The hitch from Valle Nacional was quite perfect. The winding, steep climb up the Sierra Madre features a continuous vegetation transition from hot, tropical rain forest all the way into cool pines. The descent is through a dry shadow semi-desert ecology. We crested the pass just after noon and stopped to watch clouds roll over the ridge and disappear into the drier interior air mass. After gathering Indian Paintbrush blossoms we continued. At the first switchback a hawk plunged into our field of vision in a fast, full dive into the roadside vegetation, landing a car's length in front of us. Wow! I turned and watched it take flight with empty claws. Beyond Ixtlan we stopped again, to collect bromelaids.

I'm enjoying the good fortune of a ride with Ruben, who, besides being intent on enjoying a leisurely Sunday, is also going to my other destination. Later we will drive to Oaxaca City, visible in the valley 1300' below. There I wish to find one of 250,000 inhabitants, though all I know is his P.O. Box number.

This mountaintop, a geologic island where three valleys meet, was the greatest of all Zapotec sites. Construction, which began about 2,500 years ago, preceded the founding of Teotihuacan. Between 500 and 1,000 A.D. the 40 square kilometer city saw the greatest amount of building, including most of the excavated ruins we view today. Abandonment occurred towards the end of the 10th century. Thereafter the mountain became a great necropolis. The most ornate and splendid tombs and the most significant treasure so far discovered in America have been unearthed here.

One of the earliest structures, dating to the 5th century B.C., includes a great wall with monolithic slabs carved in bas-relief with Olmecoid life-sized human figures, glyphs and numerical signs. These "Dancers," so called because they present unusual postures, and their glyphs provide the earliest proof of writing and a calendar in America.

In the course of 1,5000 years human hands transformed the natural shape of the mountaintop into a complex geometric form of platform mounds surmounted by pyramids and thick walled buildings surrounding a central 650' by 1000' plaza. Some of the platform mounds contain natural rock cores. We are seated facing the Great Plaza with our backs to the Ball Court. A large building-crowned pyramidal platform mound dominates the center of the plaza. South of it stands Building J, a unique arrow-shaped construct. Oriented differently than the other buildings, Building J is thought to be astronomically aligned. We are about to examine Building J and climb the tall pyramid-crowned platform south of the plaza.

Jan. 13. Just after midnight. Ruben and I left the ruins at 6, closing time. He said he was going near the city center. He turned off a block before the zocalo. I jumped ship with a "Thank you friend, it's been a great day traveling together." I walked to the zocalo corner, got my bearings and then inquired about a room at the always full Hotel Plaza. It was full as expected. I returned the half block to the arcade of the zocalo plaza for the public phone, thinking Dan might have a listed number. Once there I saw that there were no phone books. I turned and to my surprise Dan was walking towards me with an immense grin.

We had an enjoyable evening discussing coincidence, the future, writing and our mutual interests. Our morning plan is to explore a local museum.

1:00 p.m. Museo Frissell. Mitla, a small town east of Oaxaca with a beautiful, large ruin as well as a superb museum of ancient art. I was drawn to this museum by published reports of mushroom-shaped carved stones of various sizes. Again I've enjoyed spending time with someone I know. Dan will return to Oaxaca while I hitch toward Chiapas. The next museum awaits in Tuxtla Gutierrez, the capital of Chiapas state. After Chiapas the next country, Guatemala, awaits. Many countries lie between here and other friends in Perú.

4:04. A late lunch. I caught a ride atop a load of brick with two other riders. Flying ceramic particles are an ocular nuisance. The riders immediately asked if I was interested in mota, claiming their village produces the very best available. They export by the planeload and once a plane failing to lift off and crashed, yet both pilot and mota were saved. After this brief promo they asked if I wanted to take a crop north. I inquired about antiquities and their linguistic heritage. Though their village is surrounded by Zapotec Indians they speaks only Spanish. They claim their village was settled by refugees of the revolution, they know not of antiquities and they claim to have a few green-eyed people. I believe it.

Between their turnoff and this restaurant a group of school teachers painting "Support the teacher's strike" on a roadside rock facet hadn't thought ahead far enough to fit all the letters. Perhaps the students should go on strike.

10:34. Hotel Donaji, Tehuantepec. During the several kilometers I walked after leaving the restaurant I noticed someone following me. I was curious so I stopped a while, allowing my obvious tail to catch up. He asked where I was from. I responded with the same question. He said he was from Mitla. He asked if I was interested in any mota, asking how much I paid per kilo. This young character, perhaps 18 years old, was certainly taking a quick, direct approach.

"Do you have any?" I asked disbelievingly.

He said, "Yes."

"Let's see it," I said.

He explained that we need only turn down the next side trail.

"Forget it," I responded.

He began grabbing and feeling my tent roll and sleeping bag and asked what I was carrying. Still walking, I responded, "Books, papers, clothing, my house and bed." He didn't relate.

He asked me to give him my sunglasses "to show that we are friends." I refused. "I know you're a smuggler," he said, adding that he could call the police so they could inspect my pack or I could give him my sunglasses and we would be friends.

I urged him to call the cops because, "they should get to know you better." Again he asserted that he knew I was a "marijuanero" and asked if I was armed.

"Do you think I would be walking down this road unarmed?" I retorted. I felt it was time to get rid of the jerk. As a car approached I asked him to bug off so I'd have a better chance of obtaining a lift. He moved to block my being noticed and again asked what I carried. I said I wanted him to go away. He asked why and I answered, "Because it's what I want." Another car passed.

"Are you afraid?" he asked. I told him in no uncertain terms to leave my vicinity.

"Do I have to shoot you to see what you have there?" he asked.

I firmly restated what he would do immediately, leave. He walked the trail over the riverbank edge about 100 ft. away, then threw a rock at me. I stared down the second rock, which barely missed, then pulled out my shirttails and moved my hand to my pants top. He quickly ducked below the bank and I saw no more of him.

Again I rode in the back of a truck, this time with five men and one drunk. When offered a cigarette I said, "I don't smoke."

"Not even the good stuff?" one man asked. Obviously, they grow marijuana in the Oaxacan mountains.

Immediately after they detoured I caught my first bus hitch, a full bus with seventy passengers and standing room only. We lost an hour en route fixing a flat. I enjoyed helping out in good hitchhiker tradition. Passengers formed a circle of entertainment around the operation, telling jokes and giving instructions. Bus tires are heavy, my hands are dirty.

Jan. 14. 8:06. Breakfast. Tehuantepec. I strolled the central market building, viewing the flower and plant displays and mountains of foodstuffs. The fresh fruit is beautiful. The quantity of flies is repulsive. There are cut pieces of fresh cheese, masa, lots of meats and even a pig's head, each with its share of flies.

Tehuantepec is ethnically unique. The Tehuana women wear colorful full length skirts and richly embroidered huipils. The women operate businesses and conduct most of the marketing. Such is local tradition. Tehuantepec is also the name of this isthmus, the narrow section of lowland which separates North America and geographic Central America. Powerful wind currents blast this region for months each winter, blowing from the Gulf of Mexico towards the Pacific. Near here I once saw a truck blown over beside the road. No uncommon, I'm told.

Jan. 15. 8:34 a.m. Tuxtla de Gutierrez. I went to bed to the sound of fireworks at 12:30. I awakened to fireworks at 5. Beyond a doubt the early morning blasts awakened the roosters also, and they continued crowing thereafter. Even in the center of this large city there are roosters. I arose early and strolled the pedestrian mall between the Regional Museum, the Orchid Garden, the Botanical Garden, the Children's Park and the State Theater, a commons decorated with carefully tended flower planters and busts of the revolutionary heroes. While there more fireworks rang out so I asked a young man why. He responded that it's the feast of some Virgin. That's all he knew.

I am enjoying breakfast at Jugos Mazatlan. One can choose smoothies made from any or any combination of the following ingredients: orange, carrot, papaya, melon, apple, guanabana, watermelon, pineapple, banana, mango, oats, guayaba, strawberry, tascalate, peach, alfalfa or lemon. A strawberry smoothie with four avocado and chicken tacos costs $1. The museum opens soon. I'm off to see a few more archaeological treasures, another morsel of our vast human heritage.

9:24. Regional Museum of Chiapas, the Anthropology Salon. One of the charts illustrates the oldest human occupation sites known in the Americas. To list a few of the oldest: American Falls, Idaho, over 40,000 years; Santa Rosa, California, over 37,000 years; El Cedral, San Luis Potosí, about 33,000 years; Old Crow, Yukon, about 29,000 years; Meadowcroft, Pennsylvania, 19,610 + 2,400 years. Listed are 18 sites exceeding 11,000 years, 8 North American and 10 South American. Another drawing displays distribution of the very old Clovis points, showing two concentrations, Sonora, Mexico and highland Guatemala. In Chiapas a culture called Ocos occurred 3,000 to 3,500 years B.P. in 20 known sites. Their fired clay objects include facial busts, figurines, sculptures and containers of various colors and designs. Stratified society is thought to have originated 3,000 years ago due to agriculture and excess production. Olmec cultural influence began between 3,000 and 4,000 years ago. Solid clay Olmec type figures appeared 2,800 years ago. Teotihuacan influence, both cultural and commercial, followed. Obsidian and silex and other raw materials were imported from central Mexico.

10:50. In the History Salon admiring a beautific 18th century oil painting of a shepherd kneeling in prayer before a tree entwined with heavenly blue morning glory blossoms. White lilies, transparent white morning glories and other flowers bloom near the shepherd. Birds fill the air. One of two angels standing behind the shepherd points across canvass to the tree. This immense image painting by an anonymous artist bears a dedication to a Chiapas bishop and the following Latin inscription: "Prote caclicolae pavare gregemifatur en it. Opilio, vt pascant te quoque tempus erit." That's more Latin than I can translate.

12:07. The museum restaurant. Prices are tourist based so I'm enjoying local coffee only. The decor is a carefully planned modern artistic expression with black and white clowns, fans, accessories and the marble floor. The plants and immense Palenque ruin photos are green. This impressive museum building was constructed in 1982.

I've photographed some unique modern art in the History Salon as well as the 18th century painting with botanicals. I want to take archaeology photos next. Then I will inquire about the mushroom stones this museum possesses. They were not on display as expected.

The waiter arrived with change, charging an extra 25¢ U.S. for creamer. Imagine the world's most expensive cup of coffee here! I couldn't so I argued. The rest of my pesos just arrived. Nice try fella!

12:31. Waiting in the museum offices for permission to use a tripod in the archaeology gallery. The guard didn't allow me 10 ft. past the salon door upon seeing my equipment. Now I'm told, "Yes, it is permitted."

1:26. In the inner sanctum, the "hands on" section, the archaeology workshop. I just photographed several mushroom shaped pottery forms which seem to be utilitarian items, their rounded tops are well worn from use. The mushroom shaped stones are being brought out of storage.

2:35. Having lunch. An inquiry about the beautific oil painting led to the office of A.R., a museum historian. We walked to the History salon. While standing before the painting we discussed the ethnobotanical details. Though A.R. did not find additional data about the painting she promised I could expect further information in the mail. I'm curious about the painter's identity and other available historic details. We discovered we have a mutual acquaintance. Now onward to San Cristobal de las Casas, high in the Central Chiapas mountains.

10:54 p.m. I arrived after dark. I'm in a $1.75 room in some sort of hospedaje. The place is unlabeled. There are lots of illegal Central American refugees in this area, and I didn't ask questions. The clerk at a full hotel sent me to an intersection where I was met by the man who led me here. The price is right.

The first ride from Tuxtla was with a topaz miner who spoke about insects and organic material found in rare topazes. It is hypothesized that prehistoric genetic material may be recoverable from such sources in the future. At the Chiapa de Corzo junction the first car to pass picked me up. The driver, a man of Cuban-Spanish descent, advised me to be very careful in Nicaragua because "they don't like Yankees." As I near Central America people are warning of dangers.

From Chiapa de Corzo the highway ascends. The view of the valley and pyramid ruins from the steep mountainside was stupendous. At the Villa Hermosa junction, where the panorama is also precious, I began walking without hitchhiking, climbing higher and higher, enjoying the slow pace at which the view changed and hoping to attain an even loftier view of the valley. When the road leveled and the view diminished the first people I thumbed, a young Swiss couple driving an American camper van, stopped. A lively conversation followed about travels, tourist sites, and interests. We made photography stops during sunset. One of them took a photo of a Native child in beautiful, bright-red hand-woven garments and in return got pelted with a pebble. There are Indian groups with beliefs that metal objects pointing at them can take their spirits away. I think this problem originated with firearms. Sunset from high elevations overviewing fields of clouds featured a spectacular blend of soft, pastel tones. The route from Chiapa de Corzo is an enchanting part of the world. Colonial churches tower above the tile roof towns. The cornfields are very productive. The largely Indian population wears authentic native garments, hand woven and brilliantly colorful. And the geography is lofty and breathtaking.

Upon arriving we parked near the zócalo and immediately met two Swiss who they had met elsewhere. They led us to a small restaurant popular with local foreigners. A party developed as musical instruments were brought out, tables were pulled together, rounds of beer were consumed and information about sites, ruins, towns, and plans was exchanged. I really enjoyed the gathering.

Jan. 16. 10:24 a.m. Santo Domingo church. Surrounded by altars, a multitude of burning candles, scrollwork and chanting natives. I wish I had a tape recorder. The chanting is mesmerizing, very musical, truly harmonic. The only words I recognize are "Jesu Christo." The singing is in native language. Here in the side vestibule the chanters kneel before their low floor altars facing the vestibule altars. Two separate groups of people are present, each with one or two singers plus someone lighting the many floor altar candles. Their children's voices also fill the air. Their faces are brightened by candlelight and prayers. Vases of fresh flowers decorate the altars with colors that match the native clothing. Sculptured flowers, leaves and grape bunches grace the scrollwork. On a sculpted cross a design similar to Mayan water lily depiction replaces the usual grape leaves.

A narrow shaft of light entering via a small octagonal window in the central dome makes apparent the candle smoke and the movement of the earth. The gold colored scrollwork filling this temple seems bright though the lighting is low. I am now near the side entrance and a much adored painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary with prehispanic designs overlaid on the skirt. Before it are candles and a vase with cedar branches and flowers, the only non-altar to receive such treatment. Passing people sign the cross, some genuflect and others even kiss the woodwork. I set up camera, cable release and tripod and took a multi-second exposure of the canvas. While the lens was open a worshipper reached up into the frame and touched the design after kissing his hand.

The chanting has continued non-stop for nearly an hour. It's 11:01. On to the New World Archaeologic Foundation. Their library is one reason I'm in this former colonial capital.

2:06. Having lunch. In the NWAF Library I found the data I sought. They excavated Izapa and many other Chiapas ruins. G.W. gifted me a copy of the album of Izapan sculpture, a NWAF publication.

7:12. La Trinitaría. Nighttime began as I stood beside the road. It seems that traffic is nil beyond La Trinitaría after dark. I found this restaurant but no hotel.

The rides this afternoon were in the backs of vehicles with a total view of the surroundings. South from San Cristobal has been a transition to poorer and poorer land and consequently poorer corn, poorer people and humbler dwellings. On this high plateau the wind blows forcefully. Low clouds move swiftly overhead towards the Pacific only to disappear into the drier air mass. A multitude of clouds pass, yet the cloud front does not advance. Sunset was pastel.

I wonder if the tall mountains to the south are in Guatemala. Yes, they are. A local teacher dining at a neighboring table also reports that this is not an ethnic area, the population is recent--not surprising in view of the poor local ecology. Now to find a place to crash. Often the easiest solution is to ask the local police. Several are dining at an adjoining table. That was easy. Tonight it will be sweet dreams at the local cop shop, the "Comandancía."

8:07. This isn't exactly the Comandancía, it's the sidewalk out front under the veranda. The plaza verandas are a common camping choice in this part of the world. I recall arriving in Ocosingo, Chiapas, the day before an important fiesta and finding the verandas as filled as the hotels.

Jan. 17. One month on the road! Breakfast. Comedor Mechita, Paso Hondo. Sleeping on the sidewalk is a lesson in how much sleep one really needs. In a soft comfortable bed it's possible to sleep at almost any time and, most certainly, for hours longer. Having walls as a sound barrier also makes sleeping easy. The roosters began to crow before first light. I rolled over several times trying to find the position that had been adequately comfortable while I still needed sleep. At 6 o'clock with faint light through the clouds, roosters crowing and church bells tolling a half-block away, I arose from my concrete mattress.

With the car I helped push-start at the Pemex station I rode down from the rocky highlands and out from under the clouds. Trails of fog were visible in the valley. We passed poor, rock-terraced corn and boulder fields and quickly arrived in the rich valley bottomlands The driver offered the opportunity to explore a cave which an old country friend of his knows about, a cave with prehistoric artifacts, including a green statue. He said there are ruins near the cave that are unknown to outsiders. What a tempting offer. This entire region is archaeologically abundant. Last night on the sidewalk I had a non-stop conversation from two to ten people for hours and Oscar, who was there for the duration, offered to bring two stone monkeys from his home.

I detoured at the Tapachula junction, walking and collecting seeds along the road to Paso Hondo, an assemblage of humble dwellings amidst beautiful flowers and flowering trees with shades of red and a bright purple as the prominent colors of the vivid local ornamentals of choice. The ecology changes quickly in this mountainous region. Cool, rocky plateaus and lush tropical valleys are only a few miles apart. Yet more ecological zones lie between here and tonight's destination, Tapachula, on the Pacific coast piedmont.

Mmmm. What a great breakfast I've found, the best huevos a la Mexicana to date and exquisitely seasoned beans. Amend that, I just asked what seasoning in the beans gives such great flavor and was told that the only additive is salt. The cook claims the flavor is due to the earthenware beanpot. I stand corrected on the seasoning. The flavor is nonetheless exquisite, mmmm.

9:41. After a ride from Paso Hondo to Cosalapa I decided to walk because the roadsides feature so many flowers. Chanting resounds at this, my second stop to collect seeds. The singing in native language interspersed with whistling comprises an enrapturing sound. I sit facing the house from which it emanates. The singer now passes into view through her open doorway. She is sweeping. Again I wish I had a tape recorder.

12:36. I walked miles then stopped for a sizable blooming orchid patch nestled where the tall trunk of an immense tree branches into massive lichen covered limbs. Sunlight filtered in, illuminating that most pristine and beautiful floral sight of this journey, a perfect arboreal garden. I caught a ride and then bailed out for a large patch of unusually colored morning glories beside the road.

After collecting seeds and photographing I loaded my pack just as Salamón, at whose table I now sit, and his family passed. I inquired about their name for the morning glories. They responded. "campanñitas," and seemed to attach little importance to them. We walked together discussing Salamón's immediate plans to travel to Perú with me. I reached down and plucked a yellow flower and they said that the blossom is very sweet. Salamón pointed out an orange flower across the road in case I was interested.

I pointed to an impressive row of giant cactus on their property edge. Salamón volunteered, "It's a medicine, it reduces fever." We walked to the cactus, which he called "organo," and with his machete he cut a chip of bark off a lower trunk, saying it is the medicinal part. The bark is smooth and spineless and covered in part with a brown peel. The green, ribbed, spined upper branches resemble a Trichocereus species. I'm being treated to a soda, a real luxury item among these rural, land dependent people. They are not drinking any at the same time. I asked Salamón how the organo bark is prepared for use. He turned to his wife, Beatrice, and asked, "How is it done?" First it is boiled, then crushed and then the water only is drunk.

On the wall above them is written, "Woman, you were made from man's rib, not his head to surpass him, nor his foot to thread on him. Woman, you were made from his rib to be his equal, from below his arm to be protected, from beside his heart to be loved." I've asked if they have a wedding picture. They have no pictures of themselves. I'm about to do the honor.

2:07. Lunch in Motozintla. More huevos a la Mexicana, this time with rice. It's a good thing I like eggs, the eateries I'm finding often have little else except, of course, beans and tortillas. I'm hungry and thirsty. Again I've walked miles. My legs are tired. The road from Cosalapa up the Grijalva River valley has led to progressively higher and drier terrain. The organo cactus is the dominant plant of the landscape near Motozintla.

6:51. Hotel Cinco de Mayo, Tapachula, after a cold shower. I forgot to ask about hot water and didn't note the single shower valve while inspecting the room. I avoid cold showers when possible.

From Motozintla I rode atop a truck, immediately ascending the mountainside into pine woods with a few small cornfields and an occasional view of the village filling the very steep valley wall to wall. In one forest area long, draping lichens and a strong pine scent filled the clean, fresh air. At the pass the windy divide is green with short grasses. The transitions continued with a direct descent to the coastal plain, a steep, continuous downgrade in a narrow valley through forests, pine, deciduous, subtropical and tropical. Here at 500 f.a.s.l. on the Pacific Coast plain it's really hot. A hallmark today was many butterflies. Also, I got sunburned.

Jan. 18. The Izapa ruins, a site occupied beginning approximately 3,500 years ago, a millenium before Monte Alban. Archaeologically this hot and fertile region is noted for Izapa's highly distinctive style of bas-relief stone sculpture on the largest pre-Maya assemblage of carved stelae. The monuments were carved from 300 B.C. to A.D. 250. Izapan art is significant because it represents an early stage of Mayan iconography. The meanings of the symbols are not entirely understood.

I'm sitting in the shade in the southwest corner of Plaza B, facing mountains to the east. Within this grassy, park like clearing stand a large grass covered pyramid, a variety of elaborately carved stelae, three stone spheres atop cylindrical stone pedestals and a few trees. The standing stones align to the eastern horizon positions of the following events; moon maximum and minimum north and south, Venus maximum north and south, summer and winter solstice sunrise, equinox sunrise and solar zenith sunrise.

The 6 foot tall stela beside me, Stela 12, is the backsight for both the summer solstice and zenith passage sunrises. It also serves as a fence corner post. Barbed wire wraps around the unsculpted backside. This vast, complex pyramid site is today inhabited and cultivated. Three park like plazas, literally pastures, contain almost all the sculpted stelae and several of the many pyramids. Thatch-roofed dwellings are everywhere between and on the pyramids. Pigs, turkeys and chickens graze and forage the plantation covered ruins. The site literally is being shat upon by a variety of domestic animals and seems productive. This corner post stelae is deeply shaded by cacao trees, so much so that lichens grow on the stone. Though the images are difficult to discern the relief carving is obviously a great work of art.

1:43 p.m. Plaza A. Astride a giant stone toad, more precisely on the left paratoid gland of Altar 2. The toad image is several times repeated. Prominently featured are their paratoid glands which elaborate and secrete numerous chemicals bioactive in many metabolic pathways in humans and other animals. What importance did toads have to Izapa's prehistoric inhabitants? A source of medicine? The answer remains a mystery.

Upon departing Plaza B children solicited my signature in a tattered register book. I inquired about other stelae and thereby was led by a young girl through a banana plantation to the largest of the sculptures, Monument 2. The immense stone head emerging from the earth has a larger than life human form in its wide open maws. The human image is incompletely represented, roughly shaped and simple. The timeworn, eroded monolith lacks perfect symmetry and has an ancient, even archaic, character.

The sculptures have thatch roofs of the simplest sort which are fast becoming downfallen. Thatch debris litters the carvings. "Why the roofs?" I asked. The young girl answered that they prevent breaking of the stones by lightning. That seems a most unlikely reason. The roof above this toad is providing ample and welcome shade.

My information indicates that there are 87 stelae, including 28 with carvings. The carved stelae are about 6 ft. tall and up to that wide, are slab like and typically present imagery on only one surface. Many of the carved stelae have before them low, plain or decorated stone platforms which archaeologists have named altars and thrones. I'm not sure how to distinguish the altars from the thrones and, besides, they seem intended as seats from which to contemplate the carvings. My seat, the toad, is positioned before a sculpted stela.

This plaza, Plaza A, has stelae and pyramids on all four sides. The pyramids are unexcavated, overgrown and outside the fenced grassy enclosure. The plaza is the neighborhood soccer field, for which it is not quite large enough.

Along the pyramid base on the northern plaza edge six sculptured stelae once stood. Several have been moved to museums. The central and forward most of those remaining, Stela 6, depicts a fantastic creature, part toad, with paratoid glands. It has five digit hands and feet, has very long fingernails, sits upright, is rotund and faces upward. The creatures mouth is open and its bifurcated tongue reaches up to touch a "U" glyph. Beside me, on Stela 3, a human head in a "U" glyph floats above the open jaws of a double-tongued snake-like being. Beside them stands a masked human figure. Nearby Stela 2 depicts an immense winged person floating upside down above two people and one of the earliest Mesoamerican Tree of Life figures. The prehistoric local artists imagined intriguing, fanciful scenes, the meanings of which remain a mystery.

2:22. Plaza B again. I inquired with the gatekeeper's family about purchasing drinks in the neighborhood. They are bringing down a coconut from the closest palm. In the cooking shack a woman is palming tortillas on a metate. A young boy just handed me the opened coconut. What a treat, for its hot and humid. I'm sweating. A slight breeze is blowing. From within the hut a commanding woman calls for chili peppers. A full 10¢ coconut is a lot of juice, even on a hot, thirsty afternoon.

2:53. Back at the corner post stela, enjoying the shade and waiting the earth's turning for a change in lighting angle. Time permits cleaning dirt and lichens off the seat. This shaded corner is little visited and needs work.

3:37. Atop the large pyramid. There are several hearth spots indicating present day use of the pyramid by humans. Also cows graze the plaza and pyramid so one must step with care.

4:55. Tapachula. Cinco de Mayo market, awaiting duck soup in a comedor without a name. One of the two women, referring to her coworker, said to call it, "the comedor with the beautiful girl." I asked the women what they were whispering and the same woman reported that the beautiful girl wants to go with me to the USA. I said I'm going to Perú. They answered that sounds fine, that she'd go.

I can't find any meat in my soup, but there's lots of fat and some real big bones. I began to wonder what sort of animal I'm eating so I held up a large, long fatty cylinder-shaped thing and asked the cook which part of the duck it is. They say it's the tendon and all this seems funny to them. Damn, I got served Hoof of Beef soup, not duck soup. In Spanish the difference is one letter; pata v. pato, which is also the difference between a female and a male duck. My mistake. Being entirely unaware of hoof soup led me to assume they offered female duck soup, "sopa de pata." "Hoof soup is very popular, very Mexican," the women assure me. Take my word for it, its no cup of tea. It's quite tasteless. I'm consuming the broth only, not the tendon and cartilage chunks. The laugh's on me.

9:57. A hot, humid night though the dormant ceiling fan belies hotter seasons. My stomach is feeling normal again. There was something unsettling about mixing coconut juice and hoof soup.

There is a hole in the ceiling, a necessary ventilator shaft of sorts. I've been conscious of it because people walk about on the roof. The management dwells up there and I can see linen on the laundry lines. I looked up a moment ago just as someone stuck their head into the shaft. Given the architectural details, I suppose it's happened before. Cheap trills in a cheap hotel. What next?

Jan. 19. 9:29 a.m. The Tapachula Museum. The doors opened at 8. So far I'm the only visitor. Two brothers, ages 10 and 18, are taking care of the place. Minutes ago three policeman arrived. There's no gold or jade to guard though there is plenty to see. I've kept busy viewing and photographing. The young caretakers assisted in changing lighting and moving statues and plants as needed. Unluckily seven of fifteen display cases have burnt out lights. They say it will be fixed soon, but first the bulbs must arrive from Tuxtla.

Several Izapa stelae are displayed here, as are many other pieces excavated from the ruins. There are mushroom shaped stones and other beautiful small stone sculptures, mostly anthropomorphic figures. One small, simple stone head has a face inscribed in its mouth. A face or a person in the mouth of an animal, often a snake, is a common prehistoric motif in Middle America, especially in Mayan art.

Several display cases have fired earthenware figures with a noteworthy feature in common, facial expressions. Explicit emotional states are depicted with the plastic clay medium. One figure appears ecstatic. Another odd facial expression, suggestive of teeth gritting, is rather disconcerting. Others stick out their tongues. Some figures are goggle-eyed and fanged. Many have ear plugs with a variety of adornments, including flowers, animals, and geometric forms. One figure has a snake projecting from one ear plug and a fish from the other. Did these details convey meaning?

The museum building is 12 sided and about 64' across. In the center is constructed a thatch-roofed shack surrounded by a circular planter of river stones. Snake plants, dumb canes and stone sculptures surround this typical huts outer walls. The floor is earthen. I'm seated on a simple wooden bench and writing on a folding card and checkers table. This is a real home-grown museum, quaint and comfortable.

12:48. La Parrilla Restaurant. Near the central Plaza and a block from where the museum will soon relocate. I stopped writing the museum description when the director, Antonio, arrived. We conversed and exchanged ideas and information until noon. Antonio is interested in the astronomic orientations of the Izapa pyramids and stelae. He lacks exact enough data to set up a new display. The data is available in English in the USA. Antonio reported that on the night of full moon a group of people gather on the pyramids and claim to feel forces present there and to achieve out-of-the-body experiences. Perhaps they made the campfire hearths I saw. Doing out-of-the-body experiences there would be convenient considering the grazing evidence littered about. I hope I don't damage my only shoes while doing night photography later.

In the restaurant I count 13 staff and one other customer. Let me amend that, the other customer is the boss. The waitress just gave her my $20 traveler's check. She is going to the back for change.

3:33. On the toad again. Five cattle staked nearby are busily manicuring the soccer field, a sound far superior to that of a modern lawn mower. In the distance I hear a truck going through the gears. Birds of differing voices and insect sounds truly fill the air. A rooster crows and the afternoon breeze rustles leaves above. It's a hot January day. I'm enjoying the shade. It's partly cloudy overhead and appears entirely cloudy around the volcanoes to the east. I hope the afternoon will have some cool moments. The sun is intense. Oh! the trails, trials and toils of exploring tropical lands. While at the museum I examined a good map of the archaeologic zone for the locations of more carved stones. Some are nearby and some are near the river. One is in the river, whereupon I wish to sit and cool my feet.

5:36. Plaza A, Stela 5. While cooling off in the river near the petroglyphed rock I noticed morning glories all around. They had evaded my notice for some moments because all the blossoms were closed. Is that why they are called morning glories? The path to the river crosses banana, coffee, and cacao plantations and recurring jungle interspersed with pyramids.

Ants were climbing my legs so I've moved completely onto this 4 ft. wide stone platform, a convenient seat for studying super-narrative Stela 5, so-called because it presents more figures than any of several others combined. It is also the largest stela. Centuries, or rather, millennia of wear obscures some details. In the bright, diffused light of day the worn images are difficult to photograph. Night photography with illumination limited to extreme side lighting achieves contrast not possible in daylight. The camera is set up with tripod and cable release. I'm awaiting darkness.

5:51. A young man, the son of the caretaker, was here to ask me to depart because the ruins are closing. To forestall my expulsion I gave him an official looking piece of paper, the permission I purchased allowing me to use a tripod at Teotihuacan. It bears an ink stamp and letterhead of his father's employer, the National Institute of History and Anthropology. He departed with the paper.

The sunset is soft pastel toned. Crickets are singing as are the evangelical Christians in the plantation adjacent to the plaza. In this dim light I clearly see the Tree of Life, the largest and central element in the Stela 5 relief carving. Will I get the details on film? High overhead looms a half moon, already very bright. A beautiful white pigeon is flying across the plaza before it.

8:57. Back in the hotel, cold showered and changed into sweat-free clothing. I've concluded that if I lived here I wouldn't worry about hot water either. Well, I was allowed to take photos. I'm not sure if the official stamped paper assisted. The young man and a friend of his quizzed me about my side-lighting techniques as I began making exposures.

For the first several frames I set up six candles in varying positions below and to either side of the stela. With a small flashlight I illuminated the upper portion from constantly changing positions, though only with extreme side lighting. With the flashlight at arm's length I could observe from a sufficiently forward angle what details were being revealed. With such control I decided to make two exposures using the flashlight only, exposures of 5 and 10 minutes at f4 with a 50 mm, f4 macro. I can only hope the exposures are correct. What my eyes observed makes me optimistic of useful results. I have the added insurance of differing exposures.

While taking one of the frames a large black spider was perched on the topmost portion of the carving, the skyband, unmoving while illuminated. Upon reillumination for the following frame I found the spider sitting on the trunk of the Tree of Life. The spider was peaceful. My shoes are still clean. I nearly lost part of a pant leg to canines along the dark trail. Now off to find dinner, hoping not to become one.

Finding America -- Part I -- Part II -- Part III -- Part IV -- Part V -- Part VI