Missionaries, Soldiers and Refuges

45 … The year is 1996, high on spirited breezes we sail over Alamos …

Missionaries of Fatima in Alamos, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

Across the Arroyo Aduana from Centro Alamos stands an impressive enclave

After four years of planning the Missionaries of Fatima, founded in Fatima, Portugal arrived in 1977 by invitation of the Bishop of Sonora in Cuidad Obregon. He recommended the order visit Álamos, Sonora, Mexico. My research indicates six priests and four seminarians are based behind these high walls. They serve southern Sonora with several programs helping those in need across a vast landscape including towns in Yaqui Valley and Social Readaptacion Center internees in Navajoa.

Army base, Alamos, Sonora, mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

Separated from Centro Alamos by El Mirador was a Mexican army base.

The army barracks are here in the old slaughter house. Low profile army jeeps patrolled Álamos a couple of times a day. All of the soldiers were from other areas of Mexico. I was told a soldier was never stationed in his home town. At night, from atop Sierra de Álamos one could see flashing lights at army and police checkpoints on the road north to San Bernardo, the old El Camino Real. Military activity was more visible during my 1996 summer shoot. At times, there were dented local police pickups, pristine purple Sonoran state police SUVs, and green-dust-covered army jeeps and trucks on the go from the airport out to the graveyard. Occasionally, helicopters landed and offloaded to waiting military trucks at the airport.

new town near airport, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

On the way to the airport a new settlement was growing.

Off to the north of Calle Hildago, as one approached the airport, was a new community of poor shacks and basic shelter. Area locals told me people living there, Sonochihua, were displaced refugees from floods in Sonora and Chihuahua. Today, the barrio is called Nueva Esmeralda and a section to the west is Sin Nombre, without numbers. I am interested to know what this neighborhood, after 15 years, has grown into. This is a chapter in the saga of modern Mexico.

Spring Day in the Plaza – Part One: The Race.
Spring days in the Plaza de Las Armas are a portrait of the community at large. Here, we start with small children with big back packs enroute to their classrooms. This sunny morning, there are school races, boys and girls, around the Plaza.

Spring Day in the Plaza – Part Two: Getting Ready for another Day.
In the cool of the morning folks go about hand sweeping and cleaning the streets and sidewalks of Alamos, Sonora, Mexiso. Residents take pride in the town’s appearance. Enjoy a 360 degree pan of the plaza from the gazebo-bandstand in its center. We end with the garbage men making their rounds.

Spring Day in the Plaza – Part Three: People come and go and the day goes on.
This is Easter weekend in the Plaza De Las Armas. People come and go across the Plaza or are headed for the bus station to leave town for the holiday. A crowd leaves the church and will travel along the streets of Alamos following a reenactment of the Crucifixion.

Spring Day in the Plaza – Part Four: From Light to Night.
Afternoon shadows begin to creep across a Plaza shared by all: young and old, workers and those relaxing on a bench, going from here to there, meeting others, watching Alamos pass by, hearing the news, being one with all that surrounds… Horseback, on foot, bicycle or driving – it is wonderful to be part of the eternal promenade.

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