Thursday, July 22, 2010

Day 11. Saltillo

I tossed and turned in a restless, shallow sleep, and woke with a start, drenched in sweat. I had done the same for the last eight hours, concerned that we would miss our stop. Normally the driver announces on a deep baritone the name of the town where the bus is stopping, but this particular driver was in a grumpy mood and the passengers had to fend for themselves. No, not yet, we were in Matehuala this time, and I had to face another three or four hours on the overheated bus. Rats!

Finally the torture came to an end, and at 5:45 am we stood, blinking like owls, in the platform of the city of Saltillo. It was too early to call my aunt and uncle, so we decided to take a taxi. A nice old gentleman was behind the wheel, but try as he might, he could not remember where the street Davila Fuentes was. Hmm . . . OK, I started describing to him the way, but he said there was no street of that name there. He had driven through Saltillo for 30 years, and he knew every street. There was no Davila Fuentes street on that part of town. Reluctantly he followed my instructions, shaking his head. I was confident because I have gotten lost many times going there, and finally my uncle impressed on me that I had to go up from downtown—on this street whose name I couldn’t remember—until I got to the Oxxo (a type of 7-Eleven), and then make a turn left. So we get to the Oxxo and turn left, and I say in triumph “This is the street”. The man turned to me with some resentment and said “You didn’t tell me you wanted the street Zapateros”. I asked my aunt a little later and indeed, the street had been called at some time Zapateros, but the name had been changed nearly 10 years ago. It just happened that my worthy cabby had not had a fare to this street in more than 10 years!

OK, it is 6:15 am, and enter the family Ramos Suarez: My uncle Bernardo is in his mid 70’s, as is my aunt Prieta (this is not her name, but a moniker she got as a kid because she was very dark skinned). My uncle is a retired doctor, and a very jolly soul. My aunt is the most divine cook and loves to talk. They have four children, all of them grown up. The older is Bernardo, who is married to Rocio; then comes Liz married to ????; Jorge married to ????; and Carlos. Because Carlos is not married he lives with his parents, and will only leave when either he gets married, or when his job forces him to leave town. Maya was blown out of the water by this Mexican custom, since Carlos is 37 years old (she is chomping at the bit to go out to college shortly before she turns 19). Like all good Mexican families they all like to be together, and very often come to enjoy Mom’s fabulous cooking. They are the most kind and generous family you can imagine, and they received us with open arms.

We started with a badly needed shower, which Maya followed with a four hour nap. I used the post-shower time to catch up on family gossip, and to go downtown with my uncle to buy some books. On the way back we picked up Maya and went to visit the Museum of the Teaching Profession (a big to do because my Saltillo family includes some very prominent educators, one of whom is featured in the museum). It was kind of funny because the house where the museum is located was the house of an aunt of my uncle, so he kept expanding on the explanations given by our guide, telling her stories about the fountain, the chimney, or the banister of the grand staircase. We also went for a walk in the Alameda, the favorite Sunday walk of old residents of the city.

Back home we sat down to a fabulous meal of Arroz con Pollo and Albondigon, and immediately after left with Bernardo Jr. for a tour of both the old city (the Ojo de Agua where the city was founded, the mirador with a great view of the city, the cathedral, etc.), and the new city (an immense area to the north of downtown with many modern residential developments, malls, and commercial areas). I had no idea Saltillo had grown so much and was such a vibrant city. It has a very good climate (particularly when compared to Monterrey 75 km to the north), and has attracted lots of industry, so level of employment is good and its economy is thriving. At the end of the tour we picked up Rocio from her work, and went back to a yummy supper of taquitos and tamales.

Sadly all this good food made me think that as soon as the summer travel is over I need to put myself on a severe diet. Sigh.

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