It had been almost ten years since I had traveled to this area, and then, I had approached from Tampico and not from San Miguel. I wanted to experience the road through the mountains which I now know has 850 curves, according to someone on the bus.
I wanted to see if this Huastecan region was still as untouched as it was previously and I also wanted to see the Missions built by Fr. Serra as well as to visit Edward James surreal scupture gardens known world-wide as Las Pozas.
The bus ride was exquisite - you travel through semi-arid desert land until you reach the village of Vizarron, which is a marble carving village. We stopped there and saw amazingly beautiful statuary, tables, chess sets and zillions of other things. Now this town is about 4 streets and yet the craftsmanship of the products they export to the USA were of the highest quality. Also in Vizarron we saw a small flower market set up for the locals so they could make their altars that day for Dia de los Muertos. This scene was replicated in every village we traveled through. Even if we didn't see the flower market, we would see women and children walking along the side of the road with armloads of flowers to take to the cemetary or home for their celebrations.
As we left Vizarron we began to climb into the mountains and for the next couple of hours it was twisting and turning. At one point we traveled under a sign that said "La Puerta de Cielo" which translates to the Gate to Heaven - (I was hoping we weren't actually going there that day) And then all of a sudden, we were in pine forests and green lush vegetation. It was so surreal and the beginning of the surrealness of the Sierra Gorda.
This biosphere area was declared a "Protected Zone" by the Mexican government in 1996. The rainfall goes from 1500 meters in one area to only 350 in another so you can see the difference in the topography. The ecodiversity holds six different kinds of forests as well as 360 different types of birds, 71 reptiles and 23 amphibious species. I saw butterflies like I have never seen before along with a group that were lime green and huge. Spectacular.
We arrived in Jalpan, which is the first village to have one of the five missions bult by Fr. Serra in 10 years in the 1750's before he moved on and WALKED to California and built nine of the missions in California! We were here for four days and ventured out to the other villages in the next few days to see the other missions. I took so many photos that I'll post tomorrow with the story of the missions. And, in subsequent days on other things we saw.
Sadly I must confess that the area is no longer "undiscovered" and Jalpan and Xilitla have more then quadrupled in size. One of the treasures of my last visit was seeing the Huastecan women walking and dressed indigenously. They piled their hair high with red fabric woven through.......no more. It has become Westernized and I did not see one person dressed indigenously.
Aaah, but it was delightful to experience the warm, humid weather (not too humid) and to see hibiscus, crotons, bromeliads and other tropical flowers that we don't get to see in the high sierras of San Miguel. I am so NOT a shoe person so to have my sandals back on was BLISS.