I’ve now spent exactly a week in a town that has two attractions and six restaurants listed on TripAdvisor. Not exactly a tourist magnet, it is famous (if that’s the word) for its mineral springs (home of Peñafiel and García Crespo), chicken farms, and denim maquiladoras. Judging by the looks I get as I walk around the square, Gringo tourists are as rare as snow in this warm-weather town. But I’ve nonetheless had a great time here.
My main and only reason to visit, of course, was Edgar, who I met in Puebla about five weeks ago. He was also the cause of a much longer-than-expected stay there, so he’s held an unexpected sway over this trip. And what a delightful “unexpected sway” it has been. Since we met in Puebla, we’ve been living a mini-romance, first in person, then via WhatsApp and Skype, and now again in person. It was really a delight to meet up once again a week ago Monday, and we’ve been pretty much inseparable since. I think I’ve found my most compelling reason to come back.
But of course there’s not too much blog-worthy stuff to report either. Tehuacán has a reasonably nice plaza, Parque Juarez, though a number of the mature trees are either dead or cut down, leaving stumps behind. I’m sure they’ll get replaced one of these days, but for now, the plaza doesn’t have a lot of shade. Which is unfortunate, because the city lies about 800 meters of altitude below Puebla or Mexico City, meaning it’s hotter here than there. Of course it’s nothing like the Yucatán, and blessedly the heat is pretty dry. Still, I’ve kept the hotel a/c running pretty constantly. And speaking of hotels, I may well have the world’s best deal in a hotel here. Right on the plaza and at $550 pesos per night (~$42 USD), the room is large (15’x25′) with a luxury bathroom, two double beds, nice furniture, and a (so far unused) flat screen TV. And there’s parking in the basement. Oh, and the internet works great. It’s called the Tehuacán Plaza, if you ever need it.
Across the plaza lies the cathedral, which is nice, though not spectacular. However the interior is undergoing a nearly-complete restoration, and it is very beautiful. Much of the painting and most of the gilding have been redone, and fresh gilt is a sight to behold, dazzling in its imitation of heaven. The church has elected to make blue the predominant interior color, and that blends very nicely with the gold. Overall the effect is brilliant, but tasteful in my view.
God, church, and country are nicely blended below. Outside of the Shrine to the Virgin of Guadalupe, I don’t recall having seen elsewhere a representation of the famous peasant, Juan Diego, who saw the Virgin and whose image was left on his cloak.
Aside from the cathedral and a few churches, the city doesn’t seem to have a lot to offer architecturally. There’s the odd colonial-style building here and there, but there don’t seem to be any blocks of them, even right off the Parque Juarez. The majority of the buildings here are mid-to-late twentieth century, pragmatic things, connected to each other with the never-ending rat’s nest of wires that are the bane of anyone trying to take pictures in Mexico.
But there is a very nice Palacio Municipal facing the plaza that would be right at home in Puebla.
With a population of about 250,000, the city does have the amenities of a shopping mall, cinema, a Liverpool, and other comforts of civilization. It also has one gay bar (Choperia Living Gay), that we went to late Saturday night. Initially we hadn’t planned to go out, but since we couldn’t sleep, at about 1:30 am we left to go clubbing. There was a smallish, but decent crowd at the bar, probably small due to it’s being Mother’s Day in Mexico. For entertainment, there was a singer, and then a stripper. Unlike in Mexico City, he did not take it all off, but was entertaining nonetheless. Later, with the dance floor clear, we all got up and danced. We were there until about 3:30 AM, though I think they were about to close anyway. (Thank God; I can only take clubbing in limited doses.) The club is pretty nice, and it’s nice to see that it is not hidden in some back alley. It sits on Independencia Poniente at the corner of Calle 12 Sur, right on the main drag near the mall, and the façade is painted with a large rainbow flag motif. Obviously there are some people who won’t “get” the iconography, but I’d say it stands out. And to me it says there’s a gay community here that’s ready to be recognized and accepted for what it is, which always makes me happy to see. It’s real progress in this world that even in Mexican backwaters, there are gay bars and people living their lives openly.
Edgar has decided that his experiment with Puebla was not to be. Here in Tehuacán he has clients, work, and now has rented a house. We’ve spent a couple days getting the house ready to live in, and there’s still more work to be done, which we plan to continue today. Though it’s a very small two-bedroom row-house, the rent is amazingly cheap at $1,100 pesos per month, or about $85 USD. No, it’s not in a great neighborhood, and it’s about 15-20 minutes out of the Centro. It’s also very small, probably about 500 square feet if even that. But it has a front garden, back patio, parking, and is plenty big for one or two people. And for less monthly rent than my cell phone bill? Amazing. I’m not sure how the economics of that work for the landlord, but I’m glad he was able to find a deal.
As for me, I’ll be here a while longer. I feel like every day with Edgar is a blessing. We hit a little tope yesterday that we quickly overcame, but overall things have been amazingly wonderful. I’m not sure about the remaining trajectory of my trip, though I still need to be back in Boston on May 31st. Whether I drive to Laredo and fly back from there, or drive the whole way needs to be decided soon. For now, I’ll count my blessings and enjoy every minute. Saludos!