Eduardo, the city tour guide, had also been hired by Nichols Expeditions to take us to Creel where we would meet up with the next set of guides. Eduardo spoke English very well, and had a fondness for cookies. We stopped, north of Cuauhtemoc, to see the Mennonite museum. A large group of conservative Mennonites from Canada purchased many thousands of acres back in the 1920's to start a community. Since then, they have continued to purchase farm land and grow their 'campos'. They are incredibly prosperous, with modern homes that resemble the ranch-style mc-mansions in the Panhandle of Texas. Lining the road, all the way north, were farm implement dealerships, car dealerships, fertilizer and seed stores, just about any kind of industry you can imagine that has anything to do with farming. Most of the apples grown in Mexico are grown in this area, along with oats, wheat, corn, and other staples.
|Mennonite Museum near Cuauhtemoc, Chihuahua|
Many of the farms are dairies, and cheese is one of their primary exports. We stopped at a cheese factory and were impressed with how clean it was and how wonderful it smelled. Someone purchased a half kilo of fresh cheese and cut it up for all of us to sample. It had that slight squeek when you bite into it, typical of new cheeses. The museum was full of old implements, tools and household goods. The building itself was typical of a large family dwelling, complete with pantry on the north wall full of home canned fruits and vegetables, butter churns, wood stove, and an enormous table with a bench seat (for boys) on the wall side, and chairs for the girls (who would be getting up often to serve) on the opposite side. The bedrooms were decked out with normal beds, convertible beds (a bench by day....lift the lid and it's a bed inside), clothing, decorations, Hope Chest, etc, typical of boys' and girls' rooms, plus a salon and master bedroom.
The Mennonites are still in villages all over the huge valley. Some are very conservative, others have become more modern. We visited the home of a conservative family that makes cookies the old German way. The home, yard, barnyard, and grounds were immaculate and manicured. The women still dress in puffy sleeved long dresses, gathered at the waist, with hair pulled back in a bun. The cookies were frozen and there were many kinds to choose from. Most of us purchased a few but were too full from breakfast and the cheese break to eat any. When we finally got around to trying them, they were very soft, more like small cakes and quite sweet.
In the museum, the hostess and other locals spoke German. My tour room-mate Lia is German and she had fun chatting with them in their old dialect. Most speak Spanish too, which they learn in school. Eduardo told us that the children still go only through 8th grade. From the Mennonite perspective, too much education leads young people away from the old lifestyle and religion.
The entire area from Cuauhtemoc north to Colonia Alvaro Obregon is Mennonite territory. They are also a large employer of the Tarahumaras from Copper Canyon, and they've been very generous sending food and needed equipment to those poor people who have suffered so much from the drought of the last three years. There appears to be a loving and strong sybiotic relationship between the Tarahumaras and the Mennonites.
Creel: The route to Creel was curvy and through forests resembling Northern New Mexico. Our guide Eduardo bid us farewell and turned us over to new guides, Noel and Manuel who loaded our luggage into two large vans equipped with seats on the top for spectacular viewing opportunities.
|Our guides for Barrancas de|
Cobre: Roberto and Noel
|The amusing long-toed boots that |
men in Chihuahua favor.
The area had some interesting rock formations in the shape of 'hongos' (mushrooms) and the second area had tall slim monoliths like standing monks in their robes. One village featured a store inside a cave where several women were selling things they'd made like wooden dolls, woven belts, toys, jewelry, and musical instruments. The area was dusty and bone dry. Dogs were skinny and worn. It's a wonder anyone is able to survive there at all.
|A Tarahumara family compound.|
|The cave store and it's proprietress.|
|Little girl with her cat.|
As the sun began to set, we drove further into the higher reaches of Barrancas de Cobre to our hotel, a primitive log building set against cliffs facing a river, near the town of Cusuare. On the way to the hotel I noticed a clinic and wondered if it might not be a good idea to talk to a doctor. I'd had several embarrassing coughing fits and worried that I might spread this horrid cold to the others in our cramped quarters in the vans.
|Church where people received food.|
He refused to accept any money. "But I'm not a Mexican citizen" I said. He shook his head and replied, "This is a service of the Government." Wow. Real socialized medicine in action. How wonderful for him to be practicing where he doesn't have to fill out any forms, put information into some distant computer database, or go through all the other bureaucratic crap that Americans have to go through. I thanked him profusely and went back to the room to take one each of those medications as quickly as I could!
|Our rustic hotel with kerosene lamps.|
|A family headed home with food for a week!|
|Valley of the Monks|
|A regular Monastery!|