A friend of mine, Max took me to the nearby puebla of Petatan yesterday and we had a late lunch looking out over the southern shore of Lake Chapala.
The pelicans are migratory birds who come to winter here every year from as far away as Canada. The south shore of the lake is where the birds congregate – this is the undeveloped poor side of the lake – whereas I am told that the rich Canadians and Americans who live on the north shore are spitefully jealous that none of the birds reside there.
As a side note – I am comparing the guidebooks I bought at the book fair in Guadalajara a week or so back to the famous Lonely Planet Guide to Mexico and I have come to some interesting discoveries. First, the LP Guide might weigh in at some 1000 plus pages but only devotes a mere 28 pages to the entire state of Michoacan. This in and of itself is highly telling.
It tells me that the editors of Lonely Planet have really dumbed down their Mexican guide either rightly or wrongly assuming that English speakers should only be given a pablum portion to this highly diverse country.
This highly contrasts with the Spanish guide to Michoacan – published by Mexico Desconocido – and at 200 pages long makes it obviously a much more complete guide to a state that has: 6 UNESCO rated World Heritage cultural events including (surprisingly) Michoacan’s unique and wonderful gastronomy. The guide also includes information on all 8 of the state’s Pueblos Magicos (towns that are recognized as having important cultural significance). And the guide also provides driving routes that cover several different topics of interest.
The approach, coverage and depth between Lonely Planet Mexico and Mexico Desconocido are light years apart.
So back to Lonely Planet – Yes, I realize the folks there have to make some hard editorial choices whenever they publish their guidebooks but I’d be willing to bet that sloppiness (in the form of not giving a shit) was as much a factor in producing a just good enough version of the Mexican guide for them to maintain their sales objectives.
I say that in all seriousness because somehow (mysteriously) the entire Mexican state of Sineloa is absent from their guide. How did they do that? From my perspective you just don’t arbitrarily erase an entire state; after all there are only just 31 of them.
I can imagine the conversation. ‘Whoops, do you realize the guide went to press without the Sineloa chapter?’ And the response, ‘Ah, don’t worry. No one will ever notice.’
But not to worry, there is negligence everywhere. According to Max, Mexico Desconocido publishes their Mexican guides and travel magazines to educate Mexican’s on just how much cool shit there is to see and do in their own country. In that he reinforces what I’ve generally suspected, that Mexicans’ who can afford to travel either go to the beach, Europe, or the US for their vacations.
That is rather unsurprising because Americans’ and Europeans’ who travel to Mexico come to loiter on the same beaches, visit a few ruins, and spend a few days in the capital (then consider they’ve seen all there is to see here).
So except for the rare cognoscenti, Mexico is a truly unappreciated place; both by visiting foreigners and its citizens.
I’ve been here almost four and a half years and I am uncovering new places all the time. There are villages around here like Petatan that are so old school – meaning interesting in they haven’t in any way, shape, or form been gentrified or modernized – and that stepping into such a place like Petatan is like doing time travel.
All in all I am happy to report that I am still hanging in here. And I hope and pray Donald Trump doesn’t get too heavy handed to where I get caught in the crossfire and deported. (But I will admit there would be some delicious irony to that.)
But until that day comes I will continue to wring every bit of joy and happiness I can out of my quiet tiny little life in this remote corner of Michoacan.
PS – Given the opportunity (and the funding of a completely mad, hands off financial backer) I would propose to travel Mexico for the next 18 months with the intent to produce 3 books: First, the greatest travel book on Mexico ever written. The second being a novel of the literary proportions of Bruce Chatwin’s magus opus ‘In Patagonia’, and translate the Mexican experience much like he did for Patagonia. Third, I would like to write a book (and shoot some videos) on Mexican food that transcends the singularly marvelous ‘A Cook’s Tour of Mexico’ by Nancy Zaslavsky published some 20 years ago.
Brother, can you spare a $100K?