History

Another Old Hacienda
Along the Camino Real Road
Near Paso de Ovejas
El Angostillo

Photographs and Text by John Todd, Jr.

5. El Angostillo

A Refresher Look
Hereīs a refresher look at where we have been and where we are going next.

Map of the trip

Map of the trip

White Rocks
The White Rocks at Angostillo
After a couple of miles across the parched countryside, up ahead we saw some white rocks again.

"This is Angostillo," said my buddy.

Off to the left was a very old house built in the coastal architectural style of the 19th century.

You could tell from the slant of the roof and the round columns out front.
Antique Bus
An Alligator Tied to a Tree
"Letīs stop here", my buddy said, "I want to show you something."

We pulled up next to what looked like an alligator tied up to a framboyan tree that was bathing the remains of an old truck with its last blossoms of the year.

Normally, I donīt pay much attention to abandoned vehicles, but my buddy said,

"This was the first bus in this area. The owner lived here in Angostillo."

The last of the pink blossoms of the year of the framboyan tree were still falling on the old remains of what had been the first bus in the area.

We parked the car and got out to take a closer look at the old bus.
A Closer Look
A Closer Look
The Dashboard
Unexpected Treasures
When you travel in the countryside in Mexico, you sometimes find these unexpected treasures.

To some these treasures are antiques, and to others they are things that should be in a junk yard.

When this bus was new, I can imagine what a luxury it must have been for the people traveling over the old Camino Real in rural Veracruz.

It was probably a lot better than riding a horse or donkey to Paso de Ovejas.
Shifting Gears
The Last Parking Place
The Last Bus Stop
The Details
As I walked around looking at the details, I wondered what it must have been like to drive this old bus.

I wondered where the clutch was, and how many gears it had.

During the rainy season, the mud holes must have been impressive.

Iīve heard old stories where farmers who were fortunate to live near mudholes, made money pulling old cars out of the mud.

But, for this old bus, this was its last stop. Very few of its riders are still around now to tell its stories.
Built to Last
Built to Last
To me these unexpected finds are just as much fun as visiting the pyramids.

One day, I will do some detective work to find out what this old bus looked like when it was new.For this area, it must have been a real innovation.

It has probably outlived several generations of the original owner of the old hacienda here.

If you have any information about this bus, please send me an email: john.toddjr@gmail.com

The Bus from San Andres Tuxtla to Catemaco
Another Old Bus
This is probably what this old bus looked like.

It was the bus from San Andres Tuxtla to Catemaco.

Bus travel in Mexico must have been a real adventure in those days.

The Village Church
Across the Road
Across the road I noticed the old village church, along with some old buildings.

They looked like they must be 100 years older than the bus parked in front of the tree.

These houses were built by several generations before the road was even passable for motorized vehicles.

You could see these structures had been here for a long time.

I wondered how many years they had been here being used as part of the daily life of the village.

The red tile roofs and the rounded columns are typical of the coastal style construction popular in the 19th century.
A Quiet Porch
Before that, it was probably a loose collection of huts made from bamboo, mud, and corn stalks.

Three Camino Reals Before the Year 1600
The Camino Real must have been a touch of civilization in the wild country of bandits and a long dusty road of those days.

You could sense that for many years, maybe centuries, this was an important way stop for weary travelers along the Camino Real.

I remembered the Spanish empire had been the richest empire in the history of humanity.
Cool Porch with a Corn Grinder
And in this part of the world the Spanish Empire had lasted for about 300 years.

This road was one of 3 Camino Reals that led to and from Veracruz which in those days was the only legal port on the Gulf of Mexico.

This road was authorized by the King of Spain in the year 1600.

I thought about this as I walked around the area thinking about what it must have looked like back then and looking for other remnants of this rich empire.

Old Columns and a Red Tile Roof

A Tropical Window
About the First Camino Reals
What was remarkable, was there were no people.

It was like walking through a quiet museum on an off-day.

From information I found in State Archives of Veracruz, I discovered that the original Camino Real in America was started around 1550 and was from Veracruz to Mexico City.

Itīs purpose was to link Mexico City to Spain.

For 300 years, Veracruz was the only official port, and many years later the Camino Real eventually reached Santa Fe, NM and San Francisco, CA.

At the same time, I wonder why itīs not mentioned much in the history of New Mexico, California, and Texas that the beginning and the final destination of the Camino Real that reached these early frontier states was the port of Veracruz, and not Mexico City.

Veracruz was the link to Spain, the rich mother country.
Spanish Porch
Intentional Omission or Error
I wonder if this omission is intentional, or history doesnīt go back far enough. Spain was the richest empire in the world for 300 years, and that, in itself, is noteworthy.

In looking at my old map again, I realized that this third Camino Real from Paso de Ovejas, Veracruz to San Bartolomé predates the official roads that reached the primitive areas of what is today the United States.

When the Jesuits came to Mexico in 1572, they asked for authorization of this Camino Real from Achilchotla and San Bartolomé to Paso de Ovejas to link their missions and provide a road for their sheep herding business.

In exchange, they agreed pay the required royal taxes for the concession given to them.

Started by the Jesuits in 1600
It looked like a good arrangement for the King and the Jesuits, and in the year 1600, the crown authorized this new Camino Real.
The Atrium Cross
Now in Business
The good friars were now officially in business, and would start paying taxes to the crown.Over the next 167 years, the Jesuits eventually built up a profitable herd of around 25,000 animals.

Each year they would bring around 1,000 down from the cool mountains to Paso de Ovejas to be sheared and packed into bales to be shipped to Spain through the port of Veracruz.

In looking at the map that started this trip, I tried to visual what it must have been like in those days to walk the dusty, or muddy Camino Real from the mountains to Paso de Ovejas.

Where I am standing now in Angostillo, which means "narrow place" in Spanish, I could almost see the flocks of sheep being herded along to Paso de Ovejas.

Sheep walk slowly and this village was probably a convenient stopover place along the Camino Real. At the same time, I wondered if there might be any remaining buildings from the time of the Jesuits.
Investigating the Atrium Cross
The Works of the Men of the Past
I wasnīt a good history student in school, and somehow it feels very different when you are actually standing here on the Camino Real trying to imagine what it must have looked like back then.

Much of the real history is not written, yet it can be still found in the legends of the people, and the works of the men of those days that were left behind.

Thereīs a lot of information thatīs not in the libary or in the official records, but itīs better than nothing.

There is no comparison to getting out in the country to "Walk the Walk" so to speak, and listen to the accents of the people. These accents probably havenīt changed much from the way their ancestors talked.

For me, the library is where to go to prepare for the trip, so that you will know what to expect to find.
The Village Church
The Mysteries
When I go back to the archives in Veracruz to look for details about something Iīve found in the field, sometimes I realize the people who wrote the books have never been to the areas they write about.

Sometimes, the information you see in the field doesnīt match up exactly right with whatīs in the library, and yet, thatīs the beginning of the mystery.

In Mexico, there are many mysteries, and lot of research left to be done by those who are in the history business.

I hope that one day, historians from the States will come to see and walk the Camino Real for themselves.
Old Columns and the Village Church
Across the Field
I looked across the field toward the village church, and wondered if this was where the original church was.

Then we noticed a young couple with a baby in one of the nearby houses.

Like many people in the country, they were reserved, but friendly, to us strangers.

In Mexico, you always ask for permission even though you know the people wonīt say no, so we asked for permission to enter the church, and they told us it would be OK.
The Belfry
The Old Bells that Survived
The day was very hot and the countryside around us was dry and parched.It has been this way for several months.

In the old days, the church here in Angostillo must have been a haven of civilization.

For almost 200 years, this was the road established by the Jesuit missionaries and originally this was probably one of the early missions they started.

As we got closer, I looked at the old belfry. The date was 1895.
Dated 1895
The bell wasnīt the original one that called people to mass in the 1600īs and I wondered what it must have looked like back then.

The original church was probably a simple hut, and this chapel was the latest of the many layers of history in this settlement.

At the same time, I have seen several bells with dates between 1895-1898 and each say they were made in Puebla.

There arenīt many bell factories, and the one in Puebla was probably the most popular in its day.

Somehow these bells had survived the religious persecution of the 1920īs and 1930īs in Mexico.

It was a time when the churches were closed and the priests were in hiding from the government police.
Mysterious Pockets
Mysterious Pockets
Entrance to the Chapel
Little Stone Pockets
Next to each side of the door, it looked like little pockets cut into the stone wall.

Perhaps it was for holy water for people to touch as they walked into the chapel.You see this functional touch, only in the very old churches in Mexico.

A Special Place of Devotion
As we entered the chapel you could feel it was a must have been a place of devotion and safety in this wild country.

In the old days, it was far from anything, and for travelers who came here, this settlement must have been a welcome sight of civilization.

I was raised an Episcopalian, and which is a "remote brother" to the Catholic Church, but somehow the Church in Mexico "feels" different, as if it has developed its own unique regional traditions.

In this small chapel in the wilderness, I felt comfortable.
The Virgen of Perpetual Help
Our Lady of Perpetual Help
When I see the old paintings of the past, I look for the little things.

In this portrait of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, I can see that like many statues and pictures, she wears a crown.

Later I found that golden crown was placed on the original picture by an order from Rome in 1867.

So, this would place the portrait sometime after that date.

Another thing I noticed was that the Christ Child doesnīt looking like a baby, and has the face of a young man.

I added these details along with the inscriptions in Greek to my notebook to ask some of my friends at the church when I get back to Veracruz.
A Guardian Angel
A Guardian Angel
A Memorial dated 1887
Other Details
We walked around the church looking at other details that might provide us some more clues about the lives of the people along the Camino Real.

Although according to official records, the Camino Real was authorized in the year 1600, it doesnīt look like the settlement called the hacienda El Angostillo was settled until around the mid 19th century.

Perhaps before that, it had another name.

In those days, it must have still been wild country here in this semi arid climate.

At the same time I still had several questions.

Could there still be any remains of a small convent or chapel of the early Jesuit friars who walked this dusty road along with their sheep?
Old Columns and the Village Church
At the same time, I realized that the relics here in this little remote chapel were part of the inheritance that was left in the language and the hearts of the people who live here today.

A Private Reserve
As we walked out of the small church, I thought to myself:Veracruz is a vibrant tropical seaport city and an exciting place to live.

But, there are times when itīs good to get out of the city and go to places that are quiet and peaceful, off the beaten path away from the typical tourist places.

This old Camino Real is one of the places I like to go.
The Empty Belfry
This old Camino Real is becoming like my own private reserve of places to go.Itīs a special area of the country to enjoy talking to the people and investigating the mysteries of the past.

One Last Walkabout
As we walked out of the church, I noticed the empty belfry.It was probably the original one when the church was built.

On the base, I tried to make out the handwriting and couldnīt make much sense from it. It looked majestically tall after all these years, and even though the belfry is empty, I am glad it hasnīt been torn down.

Looking for the Pigeons
The last clue I was looking for were the pigeons, and I realized there were none.

Perhaps this meant that the settlement at El Angostillo was founded after the Jesuits were expelled from Mexico, or they couldnīt survive well in the countryside with chicken hawks.
Writing on the Base
The Empty Belfry with Bromeliads
The Forgotten Structures of the Past
Behind the Chapel
In the dry weeds behind the church, we noticed some ruins that looked like it may have been those of an old convent like the one we saw in Paso de Ovejas.

Maybe these were the ruins of a wayside place for travelers to spend the night built by the early Jesuit friars.

Since we really didnīt have permission to walk around the old place I thought it was best to save this place to explore on another trip.Perhaps in the meantime I could find out more information in the local archives in Veracruz.

Or perhaps through friends of friends, we can find the owners who can tell me more about the history of their old hacienda.

I will have to leave this search for another visit to the Hacienda el Angostillo and will come back another day.

It was time to continue on our trip to Acazónica and we as we walked back to the car we took one last look around.
Flowers and a Gate
The Flowers of Mexico
In Mexico, it seems like flowers are everywhere, planted by the people near their homes.

Along the Gulf Coast of Mexico, it seems like there are always flowers that bloom during any time of the year.

Although we are at the end of the dry season, there are still flowers blooming as if it were spring time.

It is always a touch of civilization, even in the most remote areas, or even in the deepest part of poverty in the cities.

In Mexico, you can always find the flowers.
Flowers and a Gate
Flowers and a Gate

An Interesting Letter
The other day, I got the following email from someone who grew up in El Angostillo. I thought Iīd share it with you:

"My cousin forwarded this to me and some other relatives.

The truck belonged to my grand-father's brother. My cousins and I used to play there when we were little, about 25 years ago. My uncles-great grand father (grand-father's brother) died 14 years ago.

The church was rebuilt by my relatives, also about 25 yrs ago or a bit more than that. The house with the corn grinder belonged to my great-grand-father. The house next to it is where my cousin lives today with his family. The church is within my relatives' property limits. It was customary, in the old days, that the most influential family would build the church.

Didn't know anything about the Camino Real or anything, to us, it was just a dirt road that took a long time to drive. Actually, my brother broke his head with the white rocks along the road.

My cousins, brothers and I used to play baseball outside the church, and several times was I stung by bees from bee hives hanging off the church bells.

I had a friend who chopped his finger nail accidentally in the corn grinder. Actually, it was a cousin's cousin. He put the finger inside the grinder, and my cousin, without knowing, activated it with the end result expected.

Also, I was always told that my family established the village. The Lagunes family. That's the memorial about.

I was always told that my ancestors (grand-parents and beyond) were relatively wealthy, hence the church within their property. I was also told that the Mexican revolution in 1920 affected them quite a lot...as expected.

I haven't been to Angostillo in the longest time...at least probably 18 years. Not sure the state of the road these days. But when we used to go, the 13 km road took about 45 min to drive. It was so tedious and boring!!!

Nice memories nevertheless...from a long time ago. (I am now in Toronto, Canada)."

Gabriel

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