Welcome to La Garrucha


It was a long night of tossing and turning in the stone hard bed. All of my extremities were falling asleep which woke me up frequently throughout the night. We woke up about a half hour late (6:30AM) only to find the water was not working. So, no shower, but just a quick brush of the teeth with some bottled water and then across the street we went to meet the trucks to La Garrucha. We waited for about an hour to gather enough people. Feeling like crap, muscles aching, no sleep and PMS-ing, we climb into the truck for a two hour ride into the mountains.

As we went up the hills, we picked up various other men and one family to fill up the truck even further. A woman and her baby sat beside Linda and the baby’s feet were resting on Linda’s leg. It was adorable. After about an hour, the road turned from pavement to dirt and in many places it was apparent that the road washes out during heavy rain on a regular basis. There were more than ten places where a good rain could prevent us from getting back down. It was quite an experience as we literally “bottomed out” going over ruts with 15 people in a small Nissan truck.

We arrived around 10AM and were guided to the registration area which was much more lenient than our visit to Oventic. Here, we didn’t even have to show our Identification. They handed us a badge to wear around our necks similar to the backstage passes you get at a concert. This was to separate us from the Zapatistas and we were told it must be worn at all times. An American girl from UC Davis led us to a horse pasture where we were allowed to set up camp. Half of the pasture was already full when we arrived. We had no choice, but to set up our tent about 3 feet away from a fresh horse patty.
Since we arrived, we have seen a large contingent of foreigners, various journalists, and Mexicans from other parts of the country. There seems to be a significant contingent from Europe and South America. However, we have only ran into a few that speak English, thus far. Many of them are camping with us in one of the few tent cities.

One thing I am concerned about, however, is the fact that many of them seem to be “hippies” trying to promote an alternate agenda. It appears to be a good excuse for them to gather and smoke weed and sell their wares as they move along in their nomadic lifestyle. Linda and I appear to be the two of the only non-hippy foreigners around. It seems like they are here to be part of a movement, to be part of anything regardless of actually understanding what is going on here. I swear if you handed them a gun and suggested they march down the mountain and attack the Mexican Military, they would.

As for our first day at the conference, registration day, it has been interesting watching all the people from the indigenous towns. We met Stella who lives in the Mountains with her three children, two girls and a boy. They do not have running water or electricity. Linda gave each of the kids a dollar from her co-worker. I would love to “adopt” them and send clothes or material to them as the two girls had beautiful handmade indigenous dresses on.

There are so many men at this “women’s” conference. And, despite the posted signs telling them they are here to work and take care of the children, most are sitting around or standing while the women cook, look after their children and sell their goods.

As for the Zapatistas, sometimes I think they take themselves way too seriously. They wear masks all day and we were told not to ask them questions. You can see the lack of trust in their eyes, but I guess I don’t blame them. I am a guerra from the North and don’t even speak Spanish.

The bathrooms are about 500 yards away up in the hills where they dug 4-6 trenches. Each individual bathroom is divided by brush and black plastic. The trench has thin wood logs on either side which you stand on while you squat. However, a local girl came up to our tent and said we could use their bathroom for a peso. She led us by her home and up into the woods. She opened a gate and said, “there you go.” In various places we saw toilet paper and feces where she had also let other people go. So, we paid 2 pesos to pee, just to avoid the long hike. Retrospectively, this was not a great idea.

The sun has set and the festivities have begun: music and dancing. Well, at least the foreigners are dancing. They arranged benches in front of a large two-story building and I wait in anticipation of some sort of welcome or announcement.

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