Escape from Batopilas
25 March 2015
January 25, 2015
DAY FIVE, Continued
After we woke up from our nap, Cesar took us on one last tour. We visited the remains of the Hacienda San Miguel, once home to Alexander Shepard. A former governor of the District of Columbia, Alexander Shepard left D.C. after having being ousted from his position amiss controversy having to do with the misappropriation of funds. He arrived with his family in Batopilas in 1876 where he spent his last years making a fortune in the silver mining industry. One of his claims to fame was the aqueduct he designed providing water to the hydroelectric plant which created electricity (the second city in Mexico to have electricity) thereby increasing the production of silver. The successful mining business brought much prosperity to the town of Batopilas and many buildings were built under the supervision of Mr. Shepard, including a hospital, a boarding house, and a bridge over the river.
As we walked through the remains, we could see remnants from a wealthy past with huge rooms and high ceilings. He even had a pool surrounded by a tall stone wall. Also on the property were the broken-down walls of the foundry and crew quarters where the miners lived and processed the silver ore. We stood still imagining what this property must have been like in the days of full production. It was an interesting insight into what created this once prospering town.
We left San Miguel and headed into Batopilas centro for dinner. Any restaurants in town that were open (and there might have been two, maybe three) were actually just a room in someone's home. Tonight we were dining at Dona Mica's. We were invited in and sat down at one of several dining room tables where I had a view of the kitchen. We were served sodas and had a choice of several Mexican dishes, all of which the lady, Bellevia, and her daughter would make to order. This led to a lengthy stay and I watched as Cesar joined a man at the kitchen table and held a lively conversation. A young boy entered the house and helped serve for a couple of minutes and then found his way out the door again, presumably to catch up with his friends. Eating here gave us a window into the lives of those who live here, especially when Mary asked Cesar where one gets tequila in this town.
“Oh, one minute.” He said. “I will go ask my friend.” And he leaves to go back into the other room to talk with the man at the kitchen table. He comes back out.
“Just a minute and my friend will take us to his house. He has some very good tequila he can sell to you.”
We pay our bill, thank our hosts, and then follow Cesar and the man up the street to his house. We enter through a gate and into a courtyard where we hear several dogs barking. The man calls for his dogs to calm down. He opens his front door and has to fight and call out orders to keep his dogs from charging at us. They are definitely guard dogs; a German Shepard, a Pit Bull and a Boxer. We wait outside in the courtyard area wondering what we have gotten ourselves into. Who is this man? And what is his role in this town?
He comes out and goes into a back room. He returns with a glass of tequila for us all to taste. Not bad. I am not a tequila connoisseur, but Mary and Kirk are, and they seem to like it. They agree to buy some and the man leaves to go into the back room again. This time he returns with a water bottle full of tequila. Mary pays him and we thank him and leave. Hmmm, that was interesting.
Ready to call it a night (It is Friday but nothing else is going on, that we can see anyway.) we climb into Cesar's truck. We cross the river and turn left onto the dirt road that leads out of town and to the hotel.
“Uh-oh! What's that?” I ask Cesar, seeing four trucks filled with men holding AK-47s blocking our way. Cesar slows down, stops and opens the window. He turns on the overhead light as one man comes up and looks in to see who we are.
“Touristas.” He says, along with some other Spanish that I don't understand.
“Passe.” The man says and they let us through. We breathe a sigh of relief.
“He knows me.” Cesar says proudly.
“But what are they looking for, drugs?'” I ask.
“Well, yes, maybe.”
As we drove away, I thought about the necessity of having four armed trucks blocking a road that is in the middle of nowhere and barely traveled.
“But why are they here, Cesar? Why are there so many of them on this road?”
“Well, you never know what can happen at night.” Was his only reply.
Cesar's indirect answer only raised more questions. But by now, we could surmise the gist of what was going on and who was running the town. Tomorrow we would be leaving, and honestly, it wasn't soon enough.
“Batopilas is the last outpost...in the center of an untamed wilderness.” (Copper Canyon Lodges.com)