At the Mine

October 14, 2008

At the Mine

In the morning I hear the marching band again.  The horribly discordant marching band.  I wonder what they are doing.  They were out playing last night, as the rain poured down.  They must be dedicated, but for being so dedicated they are horrible.  Horrible like when I played trumpet in the elementary school band.
I put thoughts of marching bands out of my head, and went for a walk around the city.  It is, I must say, not a very exciting city, despite being set in a valley and surrounded by small hills; I am not all that impressed.  There does not seem to be anything to distinguish the city except that Pancho Villa was murdered here.
Later, while touring the mine, I am told that the rumor about his death is that he was murdered so that there could be a deal between the United States government and the Mexican government, something to do with mining rights, and how the U.S. wanted the mining rights and the Mexican government wanted to sell them the mining rights and Pancho Villa wanted to stop it, or something like that.  I have no idea how true it is, but a U.S. company owned the mine, and all the silver and copper and other precious metals were shipped to El Paso, Texas for final working there.

There is a river running though the center of town.  It is set in a hundred foot wide concrete gully, with dirt and trash on the bottom and a small river slowly meandering down the middle, taking up a quarter of the space.  And there is a road down there, following along the edge of the river.  It is at the level of the river, forty feet below the rest of the town.  When I saw the road, there were bits in perfect condition, and there were portions that were completely destroyed and washed away.  I didn’t think about it much, because there is so much unfinished building here, there are concrete footprints of buildings, with rebar sticking out, scattered everywhere, so this destroyed road was not a big deal.

But what was neat, was I found the marching band.  They were underneath one of the bridges, standing on the part of the good river road, and they were still playing horribly, but now I saw why.  The girls were wearing the catholic schoolgirl pleated skirts, and the boys wore the white button up shirt and dark trousers.  It was the school band.  Ok, so they will get better, hopefully.

I continue to wander, with a vague mission in mind.  Last night my motorcycling English friends said they tried to ride their motorcycles to the top of the hill, the one with the huge statue overlooking the city, and could not make it.  I had spare time, so I decided to walk it, and see what happened.
Through the center of town, with my camera on my hand, taking pictures of the town.

Random photographs of Hidalgo de Parrel:

And I slowly walked toward the hill, up and around, finding dead ends and finally found the entrance to the top of the hill, which was covered with a mine.

I guess I should have mentioned, that next to the statue over looking the city, was a tall wooden structure, looking like a giant right angle triangle, with a wheel on top.  It is the head of a mine, where the men and minerals were lowered and raised.
Through the gate of the mine, and there were two men working, they stop what they were doing and watch me go by.  They didn’t stop me, so I kept walking.  Up and around the corner, and three men were working in a little field next to a concrete watchman’s hut.  One of the men called to me and I stopped and looked at him.  He laughed and smiled and posed and said something about a photograph, so I took his photograph, and then his two helpers.

Rising above me on my left was the apparatus of the mine, the tin roofed covered conveyor belts and the little mine cars.

Up through what might have been a parking lot, with some sort of unoccupied visitor hut, and around the corner.  There were three people standing on the edge looking like they were doing nothing while doing something.  I smiled and they said hola.  A young lady smiled and rattled off something in Spanish.  I answered with ‘Mi Espanol es malo.’  She smiled and in faltering English asked where I was from.  “Los Angeles’ and that is where the conversation broke down.  Then another person came up, he was in a suit, and looked like he wanted to look important.  He said that I should wait here.  So I waited there.  It was only about five minutes while the four of us stood around, the lady who spoke a little English tried to talk to me some more, but neither of us knew enough to say anything important.
The two ladies went back to talking between themselves, and laughing.  I could pick up only a word or two of what they were saying, not enough to understand.  Another lady showed up and smiled and said in slow English that she was the mine guide.
I guess I was going on a tour of the mine.
The first thing she said was that she was sorry because the mine was flooded and they could not take me into the mine.  “How long has it been flooded?” I ask, “One, two years” she answers.
Right in front is a beautiful old fire engine, I would guess 1950’s and she says that it was the first fire engine in Parral and was used up to three years ago, so I take a picture of it sitting on its blocks.  Next to us is the tall wooden structure that can be seen from town, the structure for the mine elevators.  Off to the side, built into the mountain is the control room for the cables for the elevators.  Giant wheels, with just as big brakes, sit silent but clean, the mine has been closed now for thirty years.

There are circular disks in from of the operator, with a pointer and numbers, just like the classic elevator pointers in 1930’s hotels.  The circular disks tell the elevator operator which level the elevator is on.

Behind us is a dark tunnel, the only tunnel I will visit on the tour.  Less than a 100 meters long, and used as training for the miners, but before we enter one of my guides says something and the other laughs.
But I should say something about my guides, Elizabeth and Lourdes.  Elizabeth is probably mid 20’s and speaks English well enough so that we can understand each other and she tells me the history of the mine, there are only a few words she stumbles over.  Lourdes is probably late 30’s and speaks no English and is following us in the tour because she looks bored and wants some sort of excitement.
Lourdes is the one who said something before stepping into the tunnel.  And Elizabeth translates, “She says that it is the tunnel of love.”  They both laugh, and I look at Lourdes and say “Para Usted y Yo?  (for you and I?) She laughs and follows me through the tunnel.

My tour guides:

Out of the other side of the mountain, and Elizabeth is trying to tell me the history of the mine, and Lourdes is trying to get Elizabeth to translate what she is saying.  Lourdes is saying that this is a place for a big party, with much dancing.  Lourdes puts her left arm straight out and her right against her stomach and does a quick twirl.
On top of the hill, and the statue is looming above us, It is a man holding a baby.  I ask who it is, and she answers “Jesus’ father.” “Joseph” I answer, and she smiles “with baby Jesus.”

We look over the city and Lourdes talks about a great flood, where 1000 homes were washed away.  Where?  I ask and she points over a small hill.  When?  Last month, and suddenly I realize that the washed away street is a recent thing, and the trash in the branches of the trees in the river is not normal, it is the after affects of the flood.
We walk through the abandoned buildings, and I take pictures and Elizabeth describes the machines.  They want to take me to the village of the American workers, next to the lake that they built, but that is enough of these two charming and tiring ladies for one day, and the living quarters do not look very exciting.
We are back where we started, and I ask how much money Elizabeth needs for the tour, and she says nothing, no money.  I consider the idea of tipping her, but am not sure.  So we all say goodbye, and I head back down the hill, with the men I took pictures of earlier smiling and waving, and the men at the front gate quietly watching me go by.

Random photographs of the mine.

And finally, the Pancho Villa Cantabar, where parties are held in the abandoned mine.  Where locals, like Lourdes, dance the night away.

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