I wish my Visa would get here just as fast.. .
- usted quiere un poco de water?
o necesita el restroom? -
the US C.B.P. Field Operation Officer asked me in “Spanglish”. I had been in that freezing cold room for more than two long hours. I didn’t even know why I was there or how long it was going to take. I just wanted to cross the border and keep riding my bike.
After taking my mugshot and scanning all my fingerprints I was finally told I need to go to the US Consulate and apply for a visa. Apparently they think last time I was in America I stayed longer than I should have: I get 3 months tourist visa with my spanish passport but after riding from NYC to LA in 2009 I never gave back my customs document when we crossed on to Mexico. I forgot and no one stopped us or asked for anything at the border.
I wasn’t expecting this. Now I’m stuck in Matamoros until I can get a visa. Now I know what Mexicans feel when they ask me about crossing the border.
The other day on the beach in Ciudad Madero (my first rest day) I met Señor Mantequilla (Mr. Butter). He sold me an amazing icecream and told me his experiences as a “wetback” in the US:
he pays about US$3000 to get across with a “Coyote” and stays there doing any jobs he can until they find him (they always find him eventually). By then he’s made enough cash to feed his whole family for a while back in Mexico.
He couldn’t quite understand when I was telling him how I could just show up at the border and get through just like that; simply because my passport says I am born in Spain. I was so wrong.
I’ve been in Mexico for over 2 years now. After all this time it feels great to be back on the road again: finally, we keep going. “We” as in me and my bike. I’m riding my Soma Rush (fixed: 46×17/21) from Mexico DF to Chicago for the 2012 Cycle Messenger World Championships.
The ride so far has been beautiful: mostly flat, nice roads, amazing scenary and tailwinds. I went from DF toTulancingo (with Vico, Charly and Adrian. Gracias banda), then through the Sierra Madre mountains, down to the coast in the state of Veracruz all the way to Tampico (Tamaulipas) and then a long, pretty much straight road (with some very rough unpaved sections) to Matamoros.
And I’m loving my bike; the Rush is my workbike in DF with BicimensajerosDF. The best bike I’ve ever had. I love the geometry, its steep angles and long top tube. Super comfortable and a super smooth ride. The weight of the bags makes it a little bit unstable, especially at the fron end, and when climbing off the saddle, but it’s just a matter of getting used to it. I know it’s not a touring bike, it’s a track bike! for touring? why not? yes, I love my bike.
I made a feetrest platform thingy with some cheap plastic pedals so I can give my legs a break every now and then. My homemade front rack support is doing the job just fine. I carry my Skingrowsback messenger bag on it with all the essentials (tools, tubes, rain jacket, snacks) and everything else (tent, sleeping bag, clothes) in my Carradice Barley saddle bag (I’m sending home my Seagull bag and stuff I don’t want). That’s all I carry, all I need.
All I want now is to be able to keep going. I am not complaining though: I couldn’t find any cyclists on Warmshowers so I went on Couchsurfing and met Carlos, one of the most geniunely nice persons I’ve ever met. He’s a doctor and owns a private hospital, where I’m staying now. It’s a bit weird (since I hate hospitals) but I have my own room with bathroom, air conditioning, wifi internet, and cable tv. And they also feed me!
Besides, Carlos knows some people here who can help me with the paperwork for my visa.
I also met Panchito, Don Pancho, the cleaner and all around handy man here who’s also looking after me. I can hardly understand his strong northern accent but we get along very well. I gave him some tools and stuff I don’t want to carry anymore and he brought me some Tomatadas his wife made for me. Awesome. And we went for a ride to the local bike shop this morning.
So, I’m quite happy (muchas gracias Doctor Carlos y Doctora Vilma, Pancho y staff en el hospital San Francisco) but I can’t wait to be back on my bike, across the border, in America, on the road, all the way to Chicago.
San Cristobal de Las Casas was founded in 1528 by the Spanish conquistador Diego de Mazariegos with the name of Chiapa Real de los Españoles. The city adopted its current name in honour to its Patron San Cristobal and to the Spanish friar Bartolome de Las Casas who defended the native indigenous people from the conquistadores.
San Cristobal was the capital of the province of Chiapas until 1821, when it belonged to Guatemala, and it was the capital of the state of Chiapas in the Independant Mexican Republic until 1892.
The city is located in the highlands of Chiapas, where the indigenous communities descendents of the ancient Mayas, the Tzotzil and Tzeltal, survive preserving their traditions and culture.
On January 1994 the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) came into effect, and on the same day the Ejercito Zapatista de Liberacion Nacional (EZLN) emerged from the mountains to occupy San Cristobal and other towns in Chiapas, to fight for the rights of the indigenous people.
Since then the Mexican goverment has tried to wipe out all the native people in Chiapas, but failed due to most of the territory being in high mountains and a fierce defence by the EZLN. In more recent years, the Mexican people joined forces with the EZLN and the natives in marches and demonstrations in the city.
The Mexican goverment finally agreed to talk and try to resolve the situation peacefully. However the agreements made have not been respected by the goverment and the situation has remained the same.
There’s something about this place. I’m not sure what it is yet, but we like it here.
We’re staying for Christmas.
I was still in the sea, watching the sunset, thinking: I could just stay here forever. But we left Puerto Escondido the following day. We decided to make a side trip to Oaxaca city, so we took a bus up the hills to the valley.
On our way there we met these guys
They’re part of a group making their annual pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of the Virgin of Juquila: several days riding from all over Mexico up the hills and many switchbacks to the town of Juquila.
Most of them were riding old school singlespeeds.
This is faith. This is Mexico.
On our way to Manzanillo we stopped to have a break hiding from the hot sun when this guy approached us. He was spraying for weeds on the side of the road. He asked us where we were coming from and where we’re going, and told us he had been living in LA for four years until a cop caught him without documents and was sent back to Mexico. He wanted to know about New York; he’d always wanted to go there. He was sad.
And then he told us about La Boquita.
We followed the signs to Club Santiago, the road turned into cobble stones, we waved to the security guard and we were inside a luxurious residential area with brand new condos everywhere, big houses and fancy hotels. I wasn’t too sure about this place.
But then the cobble stones turned into sand, and we arrived to a small beautiful beach. A local fisherman riding his bicycle told us we could camp for free anywhere along the beach. So we rode around to check out the lagoon on the other side of the beach, and all the ramadas (beach bars) until in one of them a very nice mexican woman said buenas tardes and offered us an ice cold beer. We had a couple of Estrellas and then she brought us a carnita. She was preparing her friend’s birthday, so we left to set up our campsite.
We spent the afternoon swimming in the sea, writing, drawing, watching the pelicans fly, looking at the horizon… it was hot, mexican kids played in the shore, people came by selling fresh fruit, bread, chips; 3 guys were picking up pebble stones.
I could see the big houses on the opposite side of the bay, cruise ships arriving to the port of Manzanillo, foreign cars drove by behind us every now and then, old couples walked their silly looking dogs, …
We could hear the birthday party getting louder, and then Antonio, a friend of the birthday girl, came to ask us if we wanted tacos. He is from Miramar, he likes riding his mountain bike around and La Boquita is his local beach. He told us about the coral reef, the lagoon, and the people who make a living fishing. He was sad.
This precious little corner of the world is about to disappear. They’re expanding the residential area and building a marina for yatchs.
This is tourism.