February 20, 2007

Los Mochis, Topolobampo, and El Fuerte

In January, Brady and I took a trip to Sinaloa, the state just south of Sonora. We started in Los Mochis, a town four hours south of Guaymas and 20 minutes inland. Los Mochis is the name of some sort of turtle we’re told – we assume a sea turtle. We had a hard time finding a hotel that would accept dogs in Los Mochis, but finally ended up at a simple but nice enough place at the edge of downtown called the San Marcos Hotel. It was in a neighborhood, and all the neighborhood dogs were either very interested or very angry about Osito and Blondie being there. We arrived Friday night. There are several nice restaurants in town, so we picked a seafood place (El Faralon) and had a nice dinner. The next day, we went back downtown and searched for bookstores, because Guaymas has only one. It’s really cool and old and dusty with an old proprietor – the whole thing looks like a mexican version of a Dickens scene – but it has nothing that particularly interests us. We are generally searching for Spanish language kids and young adult books – to help ourselves, our future children, and Brady’s future students in Portland all learn the language. The first bookstore we found in Los Mochis was okay, but consisted mostly of magazines. The second one was fantastic. It was small, with minimal inventory, but it had some great kids books, mostly big compilations of childrens stories. We bought three big books, two of them with audio CDs of native speakers telling the stories. The man who runs the store, José Ochoa, asked if we were married. We said we were, and that seemed to endear us to him more. He asked why we were interested in kids books, and we said because Brady is a Spanish teacher (or will likely be when we return to Portland because they’re in much higher demand than social studies teachers, his other certification) and also because we want to introduce our future children to Spanish very early. He was hooked. On us. So he gave us a discount for paying cash, and then also gave us a poster from his wall that we admired (because Brady is searching for Spanish language posters for his future classroom) and then also gave us these little booklets in Spanish with recipes, quotes, Mexican history, advice about life, and religious stuff (of course), and THEN also these free little calendars with his name and info and he said whenever we come back we should visit him and meet his family etc etc etc. How cute. He was so sweet. Next we found breakfast, and then decided to see the beach town near Los Mochis, called Topolobampo.

Topolobampo means, in some native language (probably Mayo), “lion’s watering place,” and is supposedly named for the native bobcat population. It’s a port, and through a random Internet search one finds it is also the site of what one author has called “the most fascinating Utopian experiment in American history.” Apparently an American came there in the 1880s and began a commune, and tried to get a transcontinental railroad line running through it, but both endeavors failed within 10 years. If you're interested, read more here.

Besides its interesting history, which we didn’t know during our visit, the beach was gorgeous. The best beach is actually just a few miles away from the town, on Maviri Island. There are no hotels, no paved roads once you cross the bridge, and only a few palapa restaurants.

After Maviri Beach, we drove through Topolobampo (and were told by some Mexican guys sitting and gabbing on the side of the very narrow road that we had “cojones,” and we weren’t sure what he meant by that until we got to the unpaved part of the road a little further down and had a helluva time turning the damn van around).

Our next stop was El Fuerte, a colonial town a little more than an hour east of Los Mochis.

El Fuerte was named, by Spanish conquistadors, for the fort they built there. Before the Spaniards, nomadic hunter-gatherers had lived in the area for 9,000 years. Eventually, around 2,000 years ago, they settled down and began farming. These people came to be known as the Cahita and spoke a language of the same name. Later, their ancestors became known as the Yoremes, who are related to modern Mayo Indians, and they still inhabit the valley in numerous small villages around El Fuerte. In fact, apparently a world-famous shaman/healer lives nearby in one of the Indian villages, a man named Don Chuy. Too bad we didn't learn about him early enough to visit.

The Spaniards arrived in the El Fuerte river valley in 1533. (As you can see, we learned a lot of history during this trip). In 1564, a Spaniard decided to establish the first Spanish settlement along the river, in a location now unknown but expected to be

only five kilometers from the existing town of El Fuerte. But the Indians drove the Spaniards out. The ever indomitable Spaniards tried again, of course, in 1584, and this time the Indians killed all but two colonists. Not to be deterred, the Spaniards tried yet another time in 1598, and this time it stuck. They built a fort along the river and named the town after the fort, and renamed the river El Fuerte as well. No one knows where the original fort was. The picture here is of the museum, Museo Mirador El Fuerte, built in 2001 around a water tank built for the city in 1920 and still in use.

El Fuerte flourished over the centuries due at first to silver mines. However, the Mexican Revolution in the early 1900s had devastating effects on the city, driving people and their money out. Now the city relies on tourism, and mines again (probably copper, but not sure). There are two very large reservoirs nearby that are supposedly world-reknown for bass fishing, but naturally we didn’t visit them because WHO TOLD YOU TO PUT BASS IN A RESERVOIR AND CALL IT A LAKE?! We're not terribly fond of reservoirs....

As always, for more pictures, click here.

All this history about El Fuerte makes us realize that we should post some history about the city we live in, Guaymas. Some day we will.


Anonymous said...

Oops! Almost forgot to post something. I know how much you like comments.

You guys DO have cojones! I'm so impressed with you! I love the photo of the burro in the river. Dave and I simply melt whenever we see a burro. Maybe we'll adopt one someday.

I also love it that you travel like me - only finding out later interesting background information that would have been really great to know while you were there.

Glad you and the hounds are well!
love, Martha

Michael said...

I kind of feel that people should have spread civilization using the Kinnison Principle and kept it to where the food and water is. But, if you're going to have a reservoir, there should certainly be bass in it... Just a little less koyanasqaatsic that way.

Brady and Natalie said...

Thank god for the Internet. Dictionary.com says "koyaanisqatsi" is a Hopi word meaning 'life of moral corruption and turmoil, life out of balance.' With this definition, I personally think reservoirs with bass in them are MORE koyaanisqatsic, because it seems like people start to think that's the way they should be. And honestly, if you're going to destroy the native ecosystem by building a dam and reservoir, then let people at least feel the results of their actions instead of band-aiding over it with warm-water fish who end up making the destroyed ecosystem even FURTHER destroyed.

Ann said...

Bummer - we can't get the pictures posted on the blog. I don't know why. We haven't had any trouble in the past. We will go to Flicker. The towns sound really interesting. You are really getting to know the Northwestern part of Mexico. Glad you are getting to travel. Love, Mom

Anonymous said...

Hey guys,

As I always say, I am quite envious of all your adventures. When do you return to Portland? It's an overcast, typical, February day here. I'm not spotting any cactus from my window.


Anonymous said...

Hey. Great photos. I especially like the beach! Osito looks so cute too (and proud). Hahahaha. I look forward to more fun stories. Coli

NickO said...

Is that dog on the roof the neighborhood thug you guys had to bribe to pass through town? Or did he see Osito's medal and back off? I know I would. Congrats Sarge, you look great! And hey, you guys look pretty good too. Glad to see Ocho is keeping you exploring as well. Grab us a hunk of cactus for Portland!