PASSING THROUGH FELIPE CARRILLO PUERTO
Last Sunday Don Bruce arrived at Mayan Beach Garden to fetch me back to Hacienda Chichen up at Chichén Itzá for the winter tourist season. By the time we got underway already daylight was fading and it was looking like rain, so nearly our entire trip northward took place in the night as we passed in and out of mists and drizzles, and little Maya towns where water from the afternoon's downpour puddled deeply and still ran through the streets.
It's always pleasant passing through little Mexican towns in the early evening, Maya or not. They remind me of small-town Kentucky back in the 50s when everyone wasn't inside at that hour with their faces glued to some kind of screen. In little Mexican towns at dusk, people of all ages come out to see what's happening, to visit family, or sit in tiny restaurants with their elbows on red and white, metal Coca-Cola card tables laughing and nursing sodas.
At that hour, even dogs look particularly alert and good natured. Most stores, tiny ones, are open on their street sides so you can see inside them, their colorful and always-the-same-as-every-other-store's items cheerful and homey to look at. Limones, Uhmay, Señor, Tusik, Tihosuco, Xtobil, Tixcacalcupul, in early evening and with so many people smiling and socially engaged, even the towns' names are friendly and celebratory.
You don't get lost in these towns, just drive straight through them, the main streets -- sometimes the only real streets -- perfectly identifiable as such by everyone. Except in Felipe Carrillo Puerto. There it's impossible to get from one side of town to the other without asking, unless you already know the way, because at one critical juncture there's no signage at all. When we traveled the same route six months earlier no signs helped us coming from the other side, either. Once you realize you're lost, you just have to stop and ask, or have very good luck, for Felipe Carrillo Puerto is by far the biggest town in the region, until you get to Valladolid, which is bigger.
But, in the early evening, almost you don't mind getting lost in Felipe Carrillo Puerto. Once you know you're lost and you're going slowly down dark streets looking for the right person to ask for directions, you see nice things. Folks inside churches singing, their heads bobbing back and forth. Old men drinking together on somebody's doorstep. Little kids playing while mama watches hard just feet away.
Felipe Carrillo Puerto hasn't always presented such a congenial and homey image. The town was founded in 1850 by rebelling Maya during the Caste War, when it was called Chan Santa Cruz. It wasn't conquered by Mexican troops until 1901. The Caste War is one of the most interesting, bizarre, and overlooked, historical events in the Americas. It's described here.
The town's early history is outlined here.
Traveling northward through the darkness, drizzle and those agreeable little towns, I thought about Felipe Carrillo Puerto's fight to protect Maya culture from outsiders. What's wrong with wanting to protect your own way of being, when you're not hurting anyone else? But, in this case, the foreigners won, and the homefolks lost many rights and privileges. In fact, history shows that combatants with superior arms and strategy usually win, no matter which side is the most aggrieved, or has "the purer heart." Most conflicts are resolved along Darwinian lines, with the most powerful winning out.
That's a hard insight to deal with -- that sometimes, maybe most times, injustice wins if the ones committing it are strongest.
However, in Nature -- which is the whole Universe -- everything keeps evolving, even until perspectives warp or rearrange themselves so that bad becomes good and vice versa, even until there are no bad and good, just things being, and changing.
And in that context, all those little Maya towns in early evening remind us that even amidst ruin eventually there are agreeable, even beautiful blossomings that spontaneously appear.