Taxi Ride to the Campo

90… Part One: On Easter Sunday in the Country…

There are some days one never forgets. Easter Sunday 1995, on the Figueroa
family ranch was one of those days for me. Unfortunately my workbook for
this period of time is not to be found, so the names of Antonio’s parents,
wife, daughter, brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews are not at hand. It
will be hard to tell a story about a large family without their names but
I will do the best I can. This story will be told in two parts. This is
Álamos, Sonora, Mexico.

Alamos photographer Antonio Figueroa, wife and daughter outside his home.  Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tmlinson

Antonio invited Anders to join his wife and daughter for a weekend trip.

Antonio Figureoa had been inviting me for several weeks to spend part of
Easter weekend at his family’s ranch east of town. I appreciated
Antonio’s friendship and was honored by his hospitality but I would not
confirm that I would make the trip. I explained to him that I was dealing
with a couple of health issues that would such a trip problematic.
Antonio persisted. On the Wednesday before Easter he asked me again.
He talked of his family, ranch, countryside, history, views and the…
I answered yes. Antonio flashed his big Figueroa smile and thanked me.
I learned the plan was we would take a taxi from the Alameda Saturday
afternoon and return Sunday afternoon. And off he went, a happy man
crossing the Plaza on his way to his home at the northern foot of
Guadaloupe Hill. At the time, Antonio was renting a three room
apartment with a large backyard on Calle Aquiles Serdan for
400 pesos a month, $60 or so in dollars at that time.

Taxi stand in the Alameda, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

From here all of the town and surrounding countryside can be reached.

Immediately I started to have reservations. Over the next couple of days I
went back and forth in my mind, should I go or should I stay? I was not
feeling good and the concept of being in close approximation with four
people inside a cab, including a sniffling kid did not bode well. In
defense of the sniffling child, everyone here in late spring had a sore
throat, cough, sniffles, or all of the above. Late Friday night I decided
I would go. Saturday afternoon was noisy and colorful in the Alameda, as
is it is on most weekends. There was much to see and many to be seen by.
The bus station was extra busy with relatives coming and going to join
their families and friends for Easter.
Street carts cooked fragrant food. The cab reserved by Antonio was
waiting for us. We all hopped in the cab. The trunk lid and doors were
closed, the engine started up and we headed east on our journey away from
today and towards yesteryears.

Unfinished water treatment facility upended by Summer storm.  Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

Unfinished, upended, water treatment facility rests in arroyo east of town

As we left the cobblestone streets of Centro Álamos and traveled on dirt
roads that connected the surrounding barrios and campo I thought of the
arroyo we would be crossing that carried raw Álamos sewage towards the
Cuchujaqui River. I looked up and there in the Arroyo de la Aduana,
east of Arroyo Agua Escondia, Arroyo la Barranca and Arroyo la Aduana’s
confluence, was the beached remains of a future-to-be wastewater treatment
plant that was under construction when Hurricane Fausto destroyed it the
preceding summer. I understood that when completed it was designed to
reduce raw sewage that had been free-flowing east for a couple of
centuries. And so it was, the technological future had yet to arrived as
we prepared to travel back in time to when and where Spaniards irrigated
their 18th century orchards with foot-wide-brick-lined aqueducts.

late spring in Alamos, Sonora, Mexico is a hot, dry, dusty season.  Photo By Anders Tomlinson.

The arroyo, carved by seasonal rains, snaked through dry dusty hills.

We passed the cemetery and Ida Franklin’s house and made a turn to the
right on the narrowing road and we were immediately in the country. The
town was behind us, the Sierra Madre foothills ahead. The rutted road
traveled next to the arroyo that we would have to cross from time to time.
When we did I would hold my breath to avoid sewer gas wafting up from the
tainted runoff. Every once in awhile we would pass modest dwellings. The
farther east we went the greater distance between humble ranches. After a
fifteen to 20 minutes ride we arrived at our destination, gathered up all
our bags and started a short walk through dried orchards up to the house.
We were greeted by Antonio’s mother and two brothers. One brother was the
family comedian who worked in town as a laborer and the other Moro who
lived on the ranch. Moro spoke only to animals. Antonio’s father was
there but I never saw him in person. One of Antonio’s sisters and her
husband and daughter would arrive later from Navajoa. And here we were,
here where Antonio was raised as the youngest of 17 children.

Clothes line and blue pipe bring water to Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

Cows are interested in a little one on one football as the clothes dry.

We were here, unconnected from the 20th century. The Figueroa ranch was
above and a good distance from the arroyo. Behind it was a large hill
that we would climb the next morning. One of the points that Antonio made
was we would have a good high ground view of Alamos from the east. Though
the house was not connected to any wires or modern sewer lines it was
connected directly to the big blue water pipe that brought water a good
distance from the Cuchujaqui River to the east near Sabinitos. An
author’s aside: this is the same Cuchujaqui River that Álamos sewage was
headed towards. When the blue pipe reached the Figueroa ranch the
builders wanted to keep it running in a straight line run through a barn
and corrals behind the house. The workers put a faucet into the pipe in
exchange for damaging Figoeroa property. When we arrived I was cautioned
to be careful when I turned water on because of the great pressure coming
from the big blue pipe, unrestricted, to the sink or shower. On being
connected, one can always be disconnected.

Watching TV powered by solar panel on a ranch outside Alamos, Sonra, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

Time for a hour or two of solar panel powered TV. Grandmom keeps cooking.

The brothers and I went out to watch the sunset and arriving stars. They
were playing a game they always played when together on the family ranch.
Who would see the first passing satellite that evening? As we searched the
heavens for the hand of man I noticed how quiet it can be away from the
city. Centro Álamos is not a quiet place: church bells on the quarter
hour, radios, televisions, cars, trucks, humans, dogs, cats, burros, city
bred farm animals, native birds, insects… Here at the ranch, warm soft
breezes rustled dry grass and branches as crickets fiddled. We
concentrated on the sky. And the game was done, Moro spotted the first
satellite. The comedian brother turned to me and said Moro always wins
this simple but cosmic game. We retired to the house and awaiting dinner.
Antonio’s mother was dishing up food off the big wood burning stove. The
women and daughters were watching, more listening, to a TV. This was
courtesy of a small solar panel provided by a government program intending
to give all the rural off-line ranches access to solar generated
electricty. Modern times allowed this household to chose between a radio
for eight hours, a light for three or four hours or the small black &
white television for an hour or two. Or some combination of electrical
appliances at night for as long as there was stored energy.

Choices, choices, choices.

I knew I would have a good sleep and I looked forward to Easter morning
with the Figueroas in the Campo.

A family thats works together

It is March 1, 2017 on Antonio and Teresita’s ranch, Rancho Casa Grande, a
couple of miles east of Álamos, Sonora, México. They are busy working in
the yard, watering, weeding and building new beds for plants and
vegetables and discussing the day’s coming events. The scene shifts to
the kitchen with Teresita making tortillas on a wood burning stove.
Video by Anders Tomlinson and Antonio Figueroa. Music by Antonio and his
brothers. Editing By Anders Tomlinson.

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