South by West- camping from Alaska to Nicaragua

Travel time: January 2003 - January 2008  |  by Jerry Bazant

5- Alamos

Alamos town of silver mines; Losers and looters; Church mass; School kids: RV caravan;  Guided tour; Bottled water; Frustrated bird watchers; Eating out;
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We'd read about Alamos in the Lonely Planet guide book. It is one of the oldest town in Norther Mexico, built in Spanish colonial style and designated as a National Historical  Monument by the Mexican government. The richest silver mines in the world were found in this area and at one time the town was the capital city of Greater Sonora. Opulent mansions and big haciendas were built by mine owners and merchants. Mexico went through many wars and revolutions and Alamos had the knack for picking up the loser. Consequently it was plundered many times by victors. The mines were abandoned, inhabitants left and the town fell on hard times.
By 1920s it became almost a ghost town. It was discovered after the WW II by Hollywood celebrities like Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Archie Bunker/O'Connor and others who restored many homes and mansions to their previous splendor.
 

...17th century church was built to serve as fort during Indian wars...

...17th century church was built to serve as fort during Indian wars...

The picturesque town square or Zocalo, shaded with palm trees is surrounded by arcade buildings and a church. Streets are narrow and sidewalks are elevated 2' - 3' above streets. Sidewalks are elevated to prevent flooding of houses because three dry creeks run into town so when it rains it floods and streets become storm sewers.

The church was very old, dating to 17 century. One time everything inside was made of silver but being on the wrong side of one revolution, the victor looted the altar, columns, ornamental candelabras and everything else. 
One evening we went to a mass. Catholic service is the same around the world, but this one had a twist in it. Half way through, the mass stopped. Eight Indian ladies got up and started to dance or rather to shuffle their feet to an Indian music in front of the altar, while the priest looked on. After finishing their dance, they sat down and the mass resumed.

...elevated sidewalks don't make much sense until it starts to rain...

...elevated sidewalks don't make much sense until it starts to rain...

 
Near the town square was a big school covering almost half of the block. It was an arcade building with tall windows facing the street. Windows had no glass, just iron grates. Whoever was walking in the arcade could see and hear what was going on inside the classroom. At recess, students sat in windows watching what was going on. "Senor I want to buy your bike" a cheeky kid was yelling at me in English. A big portal door lead into a large courtyard that was the center of activity. Students wore uniforms and there was no sign of poverty.

Our campground was inside a motel compound within walking distance of the Zocalo.One afternoon I went shopping and when I returned could not believe my eyes, the campground was full. A caravan of big RVs arrived!! They were retired US servicemen "doing their Mexico trip". They were nice and one even apologized to Sue for invading our camp. Until they showed up, there were only two other campers.

...Arcade school building with cheeky kids in windows without glass...

...Arcade school building with cheeky kids in windows without glass...

I overheard two RV women talking about visiting a school. Maybe they knew something about Mexican schools, so I asked them. "We don't know anything about schools here. We brought school supplies with us and wanted to distribute them to needy children," one replied. "We passed one such school in El Fuerte but unfortunately there was not enough parking space for our rigs so we could not stop," She continued.
"Now we are heading back to the States and don't want to bring that stuff back." I could not believe my ears. These do-gooders wanted to unload their stuff in Alamos because the "needy school" didn't have enough parking. It was so phony.

We took a guided tour of the town with Candy Joe. First was the obligatory visit to houses that belonged to Frank Sinatra and other celebrities. Then he talked about the history of Alamos. He pointed at the massive church."The church was built to serve as a fort during Indian wars. The Indians were used as slave labor to work in silver mines. They rebelled many times...."

He took us to an abandoned mine. Crooked mining shafts dug up by hand were miles long, disappearing in darkness, vertical shaft so deep light would not reach the bottom. In Canada such mine would closed, barred, locked up. Here anybody can go in and do exploring. Alamos had a interesting museum and in a little bookstore beside it I hit the Jackpot, they had a road map of Mexico!

...mining shafts were dug by Indians forced to work in mines. They rebelled many times...

...mining shafts were dug by Indians forced to work in mines. They rebelled many times...

The weather forecast on the radio predicted cold weather, temperature dropping to 0 C in the mountains and Northern Sonora!!! This in Mexico? The radio was full of messages, warning the population about the cold weather, to be careful with heaters and the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning [Shepard froze to death somewhere on the mountain and 10 people died of carbon monoxide we heard later].

Radio Sonora was very good, similar to CBC, many talk shows and at night they played classical music. Every day they had a broadcast about human rights for woman, children, sexual abuse etc., giving phone numbers to call. Would not expect something like that in macho country like Mexico.

...cemetery in Alamos recalls past rich glory...

...cemetery in Alamos recalls past rich glory...

Another myth: "Mexico has very bad water. Good water is hard to find and is expensive."  Wrong!! Every town and village had a reverse osmosis water system. Pick up trucks overloaded with 20 liter water jugs cruised town all the time. The jug costs about 10 pesos ~ Cdn$ 1.60 delivered. 
 
In the campground we met a Canadian couple from Calgary. They were bird watchers. "There are so many birds to see in different places. Unfortunately we cannot be away from the campground for more than two days." Why ? "We have a freezer full of Grade A Canadian beef. The freezer must be plugged in every other day." Another couple of idiots. Every town has a market with butcher shops, stalls with fresh fruits and vegetables. Shops look clean have freezers and every evening are scrubbed down.

The street vendors are so far the best. The food is good, wholesome and healthy and inexpensive. Chickens are barbecued on open fire pit is. We usually go to the vendor with longest line.

...this view from Mirador does not give justice to the splendor of Alamos...

...this view from Mirador does not give justice to the splendor of Alamos...

© Jerry Bazant, 2009
You are here : Overview The Americas Mexico 5- Alamos
The trip
 
Description:
This journey in our pick up truck camper took us West from Ontario to British Columbia and Alaska, then South to Nicaragua. Later we trailered a sailboat and cruised the coast of BC, Alaska and Sea of Cortez in Mexico.
Details:
Start of journey: January 2003
Duration: 5 years
End of journey: January 2008
Travelled countries: United States
Mexico
Guatemala
Belize
The Author
 
Jerry Bazant is an active author on break-fresh-ground. since 12 years.
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