After an outstanding breakfast of "chilaquiles", I headed out into morning mist, heading up steep streets to the main square. Live music was playing, quite good, and I entered the jardin to find some locals dancing to the sound of the band. The vocalist was great, but my eyes fixated on the guitarist, a boy with cerebral palsy. His distorted body held his guitar at an odd angle, his head against the instrument playing it with great intensity and enthusiasm, raising and lowering it like a rock star with great joy on his face.
I stood in the stop and go rain, savoring the sounds and sites of a local people enjoying themselves. I had little desire to photograph the scene, instead finding myself alive in the moment. Surrounded by mountains and mist, the only gringo in town, I felt completely alone in a different world.
Afterward, I wandered the streets trying to catch a photo here and there, but mostly just fascinated by the sights, sounds, and colors of the street market amidst the rain and sunshine as they fell together. After several challenging months in Texas, I tried to bask in as much of a different world as I could, hoping it would begin to sweep away recent memories and turn my eyes forward to a new and exciting world. I had not yet begun to feel the exhilaration and rush of the big adventure that lay ahead.
Wandering the Mercado, I found a vendor making bistec tacos for six pesos each, roughly 30 cents U.S. An order of two fit the bill as I watched him searing and finely chopping the meat, tossing cilantro and grilled onions in the mix. A weathered indigenous couple sat directly across from me at the tiny table, emotionless until I smiled, upon which they burst into big smiles and said "Buenos Tardes!". The tacos were well worth the 12 pesos... the smiles across the table much more.
Earlier, the bells of the church had intermixed with the music on the plaza, a mixtured call to mass. I wandered back the the church and inside to the sweet sounds of parishioners singing. I sat in the corner a while and watched, feeling the serenity and peace of the old place.
As I walked from the church back out into the plaza, a drunken man pursued me, asking and almost demanding money. I feigned un-understanding, walking away quickly as he pursued. As a gringo I've always been a target for money in my travels. So much so that at times it can feel like harassment and it's easy to harden your heart. I combat the situation by looking for the people who truly appear to be in need, surreptitiously slipping them pesos when possible. The nation of Mexico has a high rate of poverty and there are so many in need it can be heartbreaking.
The day finally done, my walk back to the hotel down the long, steep street lay under the watching eyes of a soldier, his green camouflaged body half hidden behind a concrete light pole. True to his tactical training, his presence was barely seen under the tropical vegetation covering the sandbagged machine gun emplacement. What lay down the side street he guarded mattered not as I waved and did my Jethro Bodine smile to his unflinching stone face.
A sight for sore eyes. Blue sky!
A rain shower came and I quickly ducked under the narrow overhang of a hardware store, pressing against its roll up door covered in condensation for a few minutes until the rain lightened.
Tomorrow points me a few hours west over the Sierra Gorda. I'll be a bit sad to leave Xilitla, but my internal master dictates motion and fresh experience. I'm not sure why this little town has fulfilled me so. In many ways it's not what I like - the rain and humidity primarily - but it seems to have filled some cracks in my soul and given me time to shift my thoughts from a challenging summer season. But then that's why we really ride don't we? ...to escape our cages and fly, if but only on the ground. Tomorrow, the high deserts and the Pueblo Magico of Bernal.