While I was recently perusing the labels of my vast collection of faux leather photo albums, I came across one identified as “Mexico 1990”. As I opened the cover and began viewing the photos, the first thing that struck me was how young and attractive my husband and I were 22 years ago. How time changes us! The second thing that sprung to mind was our encounter with a bat. Not the baseball kind, but the other kind - that nocturnal creature that flies in the night and inspires the likes of Dracula and Batman.
This trip to Mexico in June of 1990 was just one of the many music education conferences my husband has attended over the last 35 years, and I was more than happy to go along for the ride. Unlike other group events typically held in big American cities with first-class hotel accommodations, our home for a week was a large athletic campus used for Olympic training in 1968.
From what I can tell, the location was a town called Tlayacapan, about an hour and a half from Mexico City. Why this location was chosen for a convention I’ll never know, but it was highly popular with the local people of Mexico City looking for an escape to the country. It was basically a summer camp.
The building we were housed in was a dorm of sorts.
My memory of the room we occupied is vague, but the photos tell me it was a small, unattractive room with primitive furnishings, no décor to speak of, two single beds and no AC. In looking at the photo, why we didn’t just pack up and go find a real hotel remains a mystery. The room wasn’t just unattractive. It was plain ugly – and dirty.
I’m glad to say our standards in accommodations are much higher these days!
There was a single window in the room, open and screened, and we noticed several good-sized holes in the screen. Some time during our first evening, we were awakened by a noise and noticed the outline of a small winged creature flying around the darkened room. Our original thought was that a bird found it’s way through the hole in the screen, but after flipping on the light switch, we discovered it was not a bird. It was a bat! It wasn’t very big, but it was there. I can’t remember if it was moving or just “hanging” out, but the sight of a bat was more than enough to send me screaming from the room and my husband out to the hallway to fetch a staff member for some assistance. Of course, the gentleman we found spoke only Spanish, and after a game of really bad charades, he was able to determine the problem. He came into the room, took a look, left and returned a few moments later with a long-handled broom. A broom? Well, apparently, this is the pest elimination method used in this part of the world. In all the chaos, we did not remember to get photos or video, which is a darn shame. It would have made for some great entertainment. The guy was running all around the room on a wild chase, swinging his broom in a feverish frenzy, attempting to beat the poor creature to death. I don’t remember if he killed it or just mortally wounded it, but that was the last we saw of the bat.
As I made my way through the pages of the photo album, I was reminded of other sights we experienced in Mexico. On a walk through town, we saw sidewalk vendors selling all manner of clothing, household goods, fruits, vegetables and raw chickens – surrounded by buzzing flies! Poverty was alive and present in this town, as well, but so were beautiful old churches, architectural ruins and a culture totally new to us.
A page of the photo album also revealed a stunning botanical garden we visited on an excursion outside of town with lots of green palms, a variety of birds and waterfalls.
The highlight of the trip took place on our final day in Mexico. Our group was transported on a wild bus ride up the side of a winding mountain road to the picturesque town of Taxco, famous for silver.
If this were a vacation I had planned on my own, and not a group trip planned by someone else, I would have had a touring plan in hand. Since we had no such strategy, we simply roamed the charming cobblestone streets, learned how to barter with the local shops, and explored this beautiful hillside town with its ornate churches, white washed houses and red-tile roofs.
Later that evening, we dined at a local restaurant and had a rousing time, complete with margaritas, brightly decorated sombreros and a mariachi band.
We flew home the next day with our own pair of sombreros, a pair of small straw hats for the kids, a beautiful Mexican blanket, wonderful memories - and a bad case of Montezuma’s revenge, leaving us both ill for the following week.
I closed the photo album, glad to have had another glimpse at all we experienced that week in Mexico – the good, the bad and the ugly!