Bus Trip To Mexico City

June 30, 1940

 

 

 

 

Sun June 30, 1940 Monterrey

Left San Antonio by Travel Bureau car

Left Mex Laredo last night at 8:00 pm, not quite dark. I had gotten on Monterrey bus on the Am. Side and left hat and newspaper in my place. After going thru customs I went to get my seat. Most places filled, mine still vacant, except for 3 lovely girls who occupied rear seat with me. Only 3 men other than driver & I. One a Mex., 1 Am. Lawyer, other Russ. Am. M.D.

I found quickly how extremely difficult communication of ideas becomes when each speaks a different language.

The girls knew some few Eng. Word. Most of the passengers were girls who had come from Monterey to Laredo for the day. Considerable interest in me. They started singing Rancho Grande & S. of the border etc. I asked for La Cucuracha, La Golindrima etc. I exchanged places to be in a corner with girl ahead able to speak Eng. well and one at my side understanding some. Ride on Greyhound bus to Monterrey took till 12:50 A.M. Sun. In the 4 ½ hrs. we were well acquainted, exchanged all the songs we knew. A very dark night, alone with lovely company, in a foreign land, entirely new situation, never enjoyed a bus ride so much in my life.

 

 

The trip to Monterey was over before I wanted it to end. One left an address for me to look up in Mex. City, another a tel. no. The one who's hand I'd been holding whispered goodbye & slipped away to her husband who was waiting in a car for her.

Nelson Eddy very popular - sang all his pop songs plus "Let me call you Sweetheart". Taught the words to Marie Antoinette.

The Am. Lawyer had gotten off before the Jew and I went to Bridges Hotel. Beautiful stucco iron & tile bldg where I got a room 18' x 18' with 16' ceiling, well furnished, private bath, all tile floors, for $3.50 Mex. No window panes - shutters & iron grilles. Huge double doors opening on tiled courtyard. Lower panels of doors hinged, protected by grille.

Up at 10 AM. City bus ride, 5 cents Mex. Breakfast of bananas & cream, mango, orange juice, milk, $1.40 (1.30?). Sidewalks on side sts. 3 ft wide, all windows grilled, sidewalks often beautiful tile. Sidewalks along main Sts, wide also tile. Outside of bldgs stucco, gay in color, glimpses thru doorways of beautiful courts. Walls 2 ft thick, roof tile, houses 150 yrs old. No fire hazard. Mts all around & tops buried in clouds and off thru horizon more Mts, deeper blue than sky. A declichty (?) along one side of city thru which

 

 

cloudbursts roar occasionally. Crossing effected by stairways at end of Sts. going down 48 steps to slope path across arrayo. Off across abyss houses on Mt. side with the inevitable church, monastery or chapel occupying places of prominence. On further Mt. side in huge white letters - Avila Comacho.

Left Monterrey for Mex. City at 8:00 PM Sun. At Daybreak, poorly cultivated land quickly changed to Mts. Heaps, stacks, unbelievable quantities of Mts. Land the Sp. never conquered by the sword but which the church finally won by its steady aggression. Natives still as Indian as the Aztecs of Cortez's time cultivate land in same fashion, raise same crops, wear same clothes, same bldgs. It's a country of 400 yrs ago and as poor as it was then. Very sparsely settled. Mts. vertical. Surfaces all have been cultivated. After raising a crop, left idle 4-6 yrs to recuperate. Bush cut off with long knives, tools, hoe. Crop. Corn. Rocks so close together corn grows in rocks.

 

 

May make 15 bushel per acre. No fences. Fields or patches run up Mt. side to its peak. Newly planted fields amidst shrub growth of 5 yrs from a distance looks like Mt. had been shaved in spots. No trails or roads visible. Solitary houses of stone or reed with thatch roof. 2 or 3 dejected cows or bulls. Occasionally discouraged burro. Scrawny chicken or two. Razorback pig-like wart hog extremely rare.

Mt. so steep shadow of little scrubby trees falls straight off & hits bottom of Mt instead of side. Little yellow Mt stream has quit trying to get away. Plumb crazy & dizzy from blowing round & round without getting away. God plumb forgot this country. Even wages of sin are lower here. Would make fine annex when Hades gets crowded. After hrs. of driving you reach three little houses and a shed all alike except one has sign Coca Cola. You continue hrs. more often wondering why Indians fought for this land except as matter of principle - only rock.

 

 

 

Finest place in world to start stone quarry. Piles of solid stone miles high. No soil on it - never any landslides or avalanches here - nothing to slide, solid rock. Biggest ques. not how people live here, but almost unbelievable that anyone should want to live. What's the use. Plants & animals have quit trying, only man hangs on. He is his own beast of burden carrying hundreds of lbs. of wood, pottery ware etc on his back. Miles & hrs of this continue, you stare till your eyes hurt yet want to scream from vexation of sameness of it. All the while your driver roars up hill and with 2 gearshifts zig-zags, doubles back, turns, crawls, but steadily climbs til he reaches Mt. top & then instead of shooting down shifts from low to creeper to go slowly enough to keep from pitching headlong off the road to oblivion below. You look down & see where you were 30 min ago. Off to the right the thread along which you came this morning and ahead,

 

 

 

way up higher than the buzzard who has quit hoping to find food but is still looking for it, is the road trying to maintain a toe-hold and catching its breath as it creeps around corners & s-curves that make 20 mi. per hr disastrous. You watch the driver - he's large, clean, dark, and intelligent. He speaks English and as he spins the wheel to take the corner his arm muscles ripple. You notice this because its warm & his shirt sleeves are rolled above his elbows. Approaching each curve he presses the horn button whereupon the bus lurches, the passengers grit their teeth & clap their hands over their ears and horn emits such a hellish combination of scream & explosion that the roar shatters your nervous system, throws you 6 inches forward in your seat and leaves you limp. This is repeated ever 4 minutes until you are too weakened to react even though you're sure the bus will plunge

 

 

 

 

over the precipice that cuts in directly ahead of you.

Your driver is a demon. Less nerves than a steel railroad rail. He knows his stuff. You know he's good. But you don't care by this time whether the bus stays on the road or leaves it. You're helpless anyhow so you sit and stare or close your eyes and wonder why you didn't come by airplane, price, after all, is a small item. You wonder if you'll ever have the courage to go back over the same road, knowing what it is. You know why Mexicans stay in Mexico. They can't escape.

You smile at the yarns you have heard of Hitler invading the U.S. by way of Mexico. You could yourself with a stick of dynamite loosen enough rock that now is poised over your head to bury the road 20 ft deep. You could easily obliterate it and destroy everything

 

 

 

down the Mt. side. No tanks made could stand to have a 40 ton stone dropped on them from a quarter mile height. You feel sure that Hitler would as likely start an expedition to conquer Mars as the U.S. by way of Mexico.

Without becoming aware of it you're on a plateau & instead of driving along Mt side, the whole country is now one big flat Mt. cut by gullies formed ages ago. Even the Indians can't make a living here, no rabbit, snake or bird ever shows itself. The country is dead. The nondescript shrubs are even smaller than before. The maguey plants become rare, even the cactus loses it upright attitude and instead becomes a lump, shaped like inverted bushel basket so covered with spines the green hardly shows thru. The road, a truly stupendous engineering feat here, levels off and on a prominence

 

 

 

you notice the church steeple, the cross of a shrine, possibly a nunnery, monastery or other religious institution. The church is usually the first appearance of life for because of its parasitism it could maintain itself where nothing else could. A little adobe village looms up. The horn splits your ear drums. Two or three toiling Indians scurry off the road. You roar by. Miles further it is again repeated - the church, the village, larger number of Indians, possibly also a burro or two who instead of leaving the highway, brace their feet while one Indian tugs on a rope, while another belabours his stern. Only air brakes and a quick turn prevent disaster to the stubborn beast. You begin occasionally to see patches of corn, thin undernourished looking stuff apparently suffering

 

 

 

from degeneracy, overcrowded living conditions and galloping consumption. You know the land is more fertile because the churches are larger, have 2 or 3 bells instead of one and appear at much more frequent intervals. Maguey is planted as a regular crop. Occasionally an abandoned village is passed but never an abandoned church. At infrequent intervals a donkey trail crosses the highway. A team of oxen plowing along the roadside. Finally we meet an A Model Ford and we know we will soon be back in civilization. The highway is carefully marked for intersections, crossroads, hills, curves, etc, but no Burma Shave or other advertising is permitted. In 400 miles of driving it is unlikely if 10 signs marred the roadside scenery except the slogan Viva Avila Comacho repeated in whitewash on boulders and adobe walls at frequent intervals.

 

 

 

We rise to a crest, a well paved road intersects from the left and a mile or two away we see a large city. I want to yell Mexico City but a Spanish lady behind me speaking to her companion points and says Pachuca. I look at my map. Mexico City lies only 54 miles ahead.