History

Abandoned Homes
Along the Camino Real Road
Near Paso de Ovejas
Los Morales and El Limon

Photographs and Text by John Todd, Jr.

4. Los Morales and El Limon

Map of the Area
La Hacienda de los Morales
As we drove up the hill away from Mata de los Toros, Juan was telling us about his family.

"Just over there is where my father grew up."

As we topped the hill, we saw what looked like some old abandoned houses with trees growing around it.

Although it was surrounded by lush pasture land and was on a hill with a beautiful view, the place looked dead.

It was the now abandoned Hacienda de los Morales.
La Hacienda de los Morales
Not the Restaurant
The Hacienda de los Morales is a famous restaurant in Mexico City, but this didnīt look much like that.

It looked more like the cover of the book "Wuthering Heights".

The old houses must have some interesting stories, the stuff movies are made of.

Itīs because many of the main players in the history of New Spain and Mexico must have passed by this lonely spot along the road.
La Hacienda de los Morales
A Chill in the Air
Although it was a hot day, when we looked at the old abandoned buildings, it felt like there was a chill in the air.

There is something special about these old places. Sometimes you feel it in the air.

When you are with one of the relatives of one of these once elegant places, sometimes you donīt want to ask many questions about what happened.

Juan said that after the ambush at nearby Mata de los Toros, the water dried up, and his grandfather died.

Later the children sold off their inheritance, and Juan drove mules back into the mountains for many years before settling with some cows just outside of Paso de Ovejas.

"Sometimes in life, thatīs the way things work out," Juan said.
La Hacienda de los Morales
La Hacienda de los Morales

La Hacienda de los Morales

Cows along the Camino Real
Taking a Side Road
Near the Hacienda de los Morales was a dirt road that headed back towards Paso de Ovejas.

"Where does that road go?", I asked

"It goes back to Paso de Ovejas," Juan replied.

"Itīs the old river crossing for the Camino Real thatīs on the same street as the ruins we just saw."

"Letīs go take a look," I said. "Do you think the car will make it?"
Cows along the Camino Real
"Sure, pick-up trucks make it fine," Juan said.

It looked like there were a lot of rocks that could rip out the transmission, or at least take the muffler away.

So, one more time in Mexico, you say a quiet prayer to yourself, and off you go slowly dodging the rocks hoping for the best.

Cows along the Camino Real
Sometimes when you think you are alone in the country, you realize you are not. Up ahead, a herd of cows appeared.

We stopped the car to let them go by.
Back to the River
As the cows passed by, Juan said hello to the friendly cowboy on foot, and the cows went by.

Surprisingly, they never touched the paint or the sideview mirror.

The River at Paso de Ovejas
About a mile later we reached the river.Just across the way, was Paso de Ovejas, as if it were in another country.

After a long trip through the dry badlands this small rocky plain next to the river must have been a welcome sight for weary travelers when Mexico was still a colony of Spain.
The Town Across the River
There were some people from town on the other side, and I almost imagined that the border guards were missing.

It felt like the beginning of a border town where you needed a visa to cross.

Juan said the river is low this time of year, and when it rains it really fills up.

He told us that until they started using hauling away the rocks for construction in Veracruz, the river used to be much wider at this spot. When he was a child he used to come swimming here with his friends.
At Paso de Ovejas
It was time to take Juan back, because we had to continue our trip.

Rather than ford the river like pick-ups do, we chose to drive the long way around back to Paso de Ovejas. It was only about a 10 minute drive and was better than spending 3 hours with a mechanic pulling the car out of the river.

On the way back, I thanked Juan for showing us around.

"No hay problema", he said. "I enjoyed getting out into the country again. "

"Anytime you want to come back, just stop by any time."
Back to the Map
It seems like everybody you meet in this part of the country is like that.

Back to the Old Map
We dropped Juan back at the place where weīd picked him up, and hit the road again.

At the same time, I looked at the apparent misspelling of "Acanosica" on the map and wondered if perhaps that was the way it was pronounced in those days.

Maybe it was an old cartographerīs mistake, or maybe it was changed in later years.
Map to El Limon
San Martín is now San Martín Tlacotepec de Mejía, but the people still call it "San Martín".

I wondered what else we would find along the old Camino Real.

After all, the road we were now traveling was authorized by the king of Spain in the year 1600.

And before that, it perhaps it was an old Indian trail used by the Aztecs, and those who came before.

Soon the pavement stopped and the Camino Real became an all weather dirt road.

White Rocks
A Mystery
As we drove for a couple of miles through the wilderness, I asked my buddy why people painted the rocks around their houses.

"Who knows? Itīs always been that way in this area", he replied.

"One of lifeīs mysteries", I thought to myself.

Soon, we entered a little village where all the rocks were painted white.

It was the "Ejido El Limón".
El Limon
El Limon
They call it "El Limón" for short since all the villages in the area are "ejidos" or communal lands.

The "ejido" is a concept that originated as a consequence of the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1920 in what is called the "Reforma Agraria" of the 1920īs and 1930īs.

It was when all the large haciendas in Mexico were divided up and given to the people who worked on the same lands.

The people who now live on these hard scrapple lands are the grandchildren of the original "campesinos" who participated in the movement.
El Limon
Full of Life
As we came into town, we saw a group of farmers working on an old truck.

It looked like they were changing out a gasoline tank for a more modern tank that uses natural gas.

"Letīs stop for a minute", said my buddy, "Over there is a friend of mine and would like to say hello."

We stopped, and my buddy introduced me to the main people, and we shook hands all the way around.
An Abandoned House in El Limón
While my buddy was busy talking to his friends, I began to look around, and saw an old abandoned building on the other side of the fence.

It had an eerie feeling about it, like it might have had bullet holes in it as leftovers from the Mexican Revolution.

When you see things like that, and you donīt know the people well, itīs best not to ask too many questions.

But, here everything was peaceful, and it was a normal day in the countryside.

It was also a very hot day.
The Wide Branches of an Old Tree
Crossing the Fence
As we crossed over the fence, I looked at the farm animals in the heat of the noon day sun.

Close by, there was a very old tree that must have witnessed a lot of traffic along the old Camino Real.

Without leaves this time of the year, there was sparse shade for the cows quietly resting in the shade.

There was one donkey in the sun, looking for something to eat among the old corn cobs.

On that hot day, perhaps the cows were smarter than the donkeys.
An Old Shade Tree
At the same time, looking over toward the abandoned house, it seemed like it didnīt seem so hot any more, and you couldnīt hear sounds of the men working on the truck.

As I approached the old house, I realized it was a special place.

Although nobody said anything, it felt like it was a place that may have cost human lives.
Cows in the Shade
Donkey in the Sun
The Wall and the Bullet Holes
Old Bullet Holes
As I walked through quiet of the old house, I remembered the scenes of some old movies about the Revolution.

One was a battle with bullets and bombs, and then the return to the love of a woman who had waited for him.

For a moment, I could imagine a battle that might have been fought here during one of the bloody times in the history of the area.

The people out front talking to my friend were probably the grandchildren of those who had won.

Looking at the bullet holes, for a moment I thought maybe this could have been a wall for a firing squad for the losers.

It also could be my imagination and the wall was a handy place for target practice for cowboys over the years.
An Old Doorway
An Old Doorway
An Old Doorway
Made of Rocks
In trying to determine the age of a structure, you look at the material it is made of.

In this area, I look for the red bricks or "tabiques" which are prevalent in city construction.

This house was made of stones from the river and there wasnīt a brick in sight.

At the same time, it still looked like a 20th century structure because it lacked the columns of the 19th century

Before that the houses more than likely were simple corn stalk thatched huts.

An Old House in El Limon is a Reminder of the Past.

Old Tree Along the Camino Real
History at a Distance
After looking around the old house, it was time to get back to reality and it was time to move on.

For me, history in a library always used to be tedious and boring.

Here in the bleak countryside at the end of the dry season near Veracruz, you realize that there is a lot more to history than just reading about dates and the key players.

For me it is about talking to the descendents of the participants who were there.

As time goes on, events are polished, and when they arenīt "convenient", they are simply omitted and later forgotten.

That is the case with this very old Camino Real not far from Veracruz.
Sign for a Dance

On the Road Again
By now it was time to continue on our trip, my buddy was also finishing up the conversations with his friends.

We shook hands all the way around, and got invitations to come back any time.

"We need to come back after the rains start", my buddy remarked. "Itīs when countryside becomes green, and itīs full of life again."

From the sign painted on an old wall announcing a dance, I knew we were getting close to Acazónica.

The next village was El Angostillo, and I wondered what we would find next.

>> Next: 5. To "El Angostillo"

<<< Back: 3. Mata de los Toros

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