20 hours of a blur in time

by Ana Priego (United States of America)

Making a local connection Mexico


While driving uphill and enduring the nonstop bouncing I kept thinking we were lost in the middle of nowhere. Through a cloud of dust surrounding us I could read the sign “Tunel Ogarrio”. The only way to get to our destination was going across a tunnel with sketchy lighting. A two-way road with just one lane. As we excited the tunnel built in 1897, I was transported to that foregone time. We had arrived to Real de Catorce, a once thriving silver mining town, located 3 hours from San Luis Potosí in México. Horses, hippies, locals and what were sure to be tourists were among the wanderers I saw through the window. Once a 40,000 population, today about 1,000 people call it their home. Walking through the steep and rocky streets my boyfriend and I peeked inside the old beige and gray stone facades. We visited bars and stores selling mainly paintings and accessories. The Huicholes, natives of the region, insert the pop of color to the dilapidated town with their colorful art, pieces as yarn paintings and beadwork. “Excuse me miss, I think you might like this.” I heard someone call while turning the corner of the Plaza Hidalgo. I saw a woman with a couple of scarfs in her hands handing me a green one. With some deep wrinkles around her eyes , they were looking directly into mine making it impossible to just walk away and say no thank you. She went on and on about the quality of the materials and the techniques she used to make her scarves. She showed me three different ways to wear them and made me practice her styles. I actually liked the scarf, but I liked her much more. I asked about her family and her work. She was a mother of 3 and had been living there since she was 13. She was not a Huichol, but worked alongside them in the Plaza. She made me poke a hole through the silk and wool embroidery with my fist. This is a scam, I thought, and she is going to make me pay for it. Turns out she was showing me the method I could use to easily repair any holes so the piece could last forever. I felt her freedom and absolute contentment, Most of all I felt she was empowered. She loved what she did. I will never forget her sales pitch, it was the most honest and enthusiastic interaction I had ever encountered. I paid for the scarf and asked her where we should go next. We couldn’t find the place, so we sat at a restaurant we picked randomly, much as everything else we did those less than 24 hrs. in Real (as the locals call it).