Flashback Mexico Travel Journals 1992-2013

Tenacatita, circa 1990

Tenacatita, circa 1990

Dec 31-Jan 10, 1992  Tenacatita, Jalisco (age 13)

We traveled through the dessert (which was kind of boring) and then we crossed the border. We then drove down to visit our friends the Huichols. Guillermo had just left for the sierra! Too bad. We had an OK time with the Huichols and I once again tried tortilla making and failed. I can do it with a press, but patting it out by hand is beyond me. (Mine always are full of holes.) Well anyway, after we visited the Huichols, we drove down to Tenacatita and here I am!!

Jan 16, 1992  San Patricio, Jalisco

Oh, well right now I am in a hotel room. The walls are green and turquoise. The showers are cold, but the beds are pretty soft.

Jan 17, 1992  San Patricio, Jalisco

We got up this morning and me and my mom ate in the market. The San Patricio market has a low roof with a skinny aisle down the middle and food booths on either side. We ate in one with a yellow and white tile counter and a picture of the Virgin Mary on the wall. The ladies there were very nice, although the only things to eat that we could afford were beans and eggs. I had the beans, of course.

Mexico travel Journal, circa 6th grade

Mexico travel Journal, circa 7th grade

March 20, 1992 San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato

San Miguel de Allende is one of my favorite places. Can you remember it? It’s full of churches, and it is very beautiful. There are lots of beautiful old buildings, and the streets are winding and cobbled. The houses are painted lots of different colors and the streets are scattered with ancient flower sellers and beggars. I am staying at Alejandro’s for the weekend. Today we went to a bunch of video arcades, we had ice cream and, believe it or not, consumed 6 whole feet of bubble tape! (In one day!)

Dec, 31, 1999 Tulum (age 21)

Ah beautiful glowing bottle of Dos Equis!

Ah dappled light on drunks.

My beautiful hammock

A flapping pirate flag

Avocado sandwiches

Freshly painted toes

In their horrid tank tops, the sloths wile away the last day of the 20th century

circa 2002

circa 2002

Jan 22, 2003 Road from Guadalajara  (age 23)

Three hours out of Guadalajara. We’ve driven through bright fields and now the slanting light brushes the tops of the sweeping barancas. A flash of yellow flowers, a tree in bloom. A weak fence made of forked posts that remind me of sling shots. There is a purplish hue to the scrub jungle as it falls into the cool shade, though the upper reaches have the golden look of California hillsides.

In Guadalajara, we stayed in style at a four star joint called the Hotel San Francisco. Spent too much money but it’s nice to at least pretend to have some class. We mostly ate at taquerias but we did nurse some 25 peso beers at a venerable old bar (bull fighting theme) that looked, we agreed, like it might have served some rough customers before it started catering to 20 something rich kids with cell phones and too much cologne.

The agave is gun metal blue in the honey-colored light. We pass a soccer game in progress, a house with an old TV dish patching the roof, and, of course, the ubiquitous bougainvillaea, twining over brick walls.

Jan 27th 2003 Tenacatita, Jalisco

Sitting in my smoking jacket working on my second cup of the day. It’s cloudy so I can’t tell if the sun has come up yet. The coffee is good and I am wearing a smoking jacket and reading To Have and to Have Not. Becky would laugh.

Three girls sit on beach drinking beer.

Annie, Churpa, Chels
Tenacatita, circa 2003

Lorena just took Poco and Cuca out, and Meg got up around the same time and is now launching an expedition on bike with Paloma. I am starting to think the sun is up. There’s a patch of pearly white at would be about the eight o clock hour.

A girl naps in a hammock next to a tent.

circa 2003

Yesterday was the Super Bowl. Everybody got drunk and the Raiders lost. Annie and I complained and painted our fingernails. I won 50 pesos off of Bob.

Feb 22, 2003  On the road, Jalisco, Mexico

I have been reading an history of Australia’s founding and it makes me want to make brief seaman like entries that impart information on thinks like miles traveled, rations, and

weather conditions.


…Departed from Ajijic on the morning of the 22nd. Weather conditions were favorable. We breakfasted on scrambled egg sandwiches and stopped for gas in Chapala. Gas was 5.9 pesos a liter.

In a mirror at a Pemex station I didn’t look as fat as I expected after a mirrorless month at the beach. As you see, however noble my intentions, it doesn’t take me long to stray into the parlance of the modern journal or, worse yet, the soporific whinings of an American Bridget Jones.

Coco Open planning circa 2003

Coco Open planning circa 2003

We are driving through flat farmlands and I am crammed in the back of the Chinook on top of teetering mounds of bedding. Hopefully San Miguel will afford me a chance to check my email, perhaps a rooftop margarita with Bonnie and Hayden and (though I am ashamed to admit it), a decent salad. After two weeks of living on birria and tacos, I feel like I have scurvy. The heavy fiesta schedule (Coco Open, Lupita’s wedding, and the pinche rodeo) made the last two weeks pass in a blur. Tainted with birria grease and lard frosting but embellished with nice decorative touches like spray painted red cowboy hats, cheesy key chain photographs (I am developing a collection), plush purple prom dresses, red glitter spun around candle light and of course the ubiquitous blender drinks.

Dec 30, 2003  Mexico City, DF (age 24)

Sitting in a coffee shop feeling rather romantic in heels and pearls writing pretentiously in my little red book. We are staying at the Hotel Isabel, a cavernous colonial affair that was obviously once very splendid. It’s suffered some tawdry renovations, but as far as I’m concerned they add to the surreal appeal. There are scalloped pale pink electric chandeliers and windows embossed with a pattern of vines and flowers and a rather charming bedroom set inlaid with pink Formica. The ceilings were never lowered and are actually higher than any private room I’ve ever been in, and the doors must be at least 25 feet high and 4 feet wide. The wrought iron balconies look out on a rambling abandoned mansion where crumbling faces are caught in stone. In short, this is the hotel of my dreams. Now, sitting here drinking an americano out of a little white mug, I feel as though I have brushed (at least fleetingly) against my Hemmingwayan ideal.

Jan 23, 2004 Tenacatita, Jalisco

Yesterday Chels and I talked about how this place grow more beautiful with time. We had a very devotional sort of day, spending the morning writing the palapa theme song. The chorus is:

I don’t want to leave my palapa

I don’t want to go into town

I’m happiest here, with

my cooler of beer

and I don’t mind just sittin’ around

Beer appears in every verse, I think, although sometimes indirectly. Our palapa has a nice, homey crowded feel. In general, everyone is amiable and cheery, with the exception of me and Kamari’s bickering. I hope no one takes that too seriously, as I don’t. Somehow I would like to record a real impression of a typical day in this palapa, but this tiny book does make writing seem laborious. Or maybe I am just lazy. Many things laborious here that would not even appear on the radar at home.

We have two 50 cent prom dresses hanging on hangars from the eaves of the palapa. They sway in the breeze and, from far away, give the impression that someone is perpetually home. We have our pirate flag, and our chronically problematic bathroom, and the beautiful flip-flop Virgin Mary that Annie gave me for my birthday. We have no chairs,  but on Weds, we had a feast with A and S and Mario and we all sat on the cleanly swept patates and it seemed quite civilized.

travel journal,circa 2003-2004

travel journal,circa 2003-2004

March 30, 2004, Mexico City DF

Reading Dr. Fisher of Geneva and drinking coffee on the floor of the Hotel Isabel. I can hear the sound of city streets below and the sound of workmen outside, making an infernal racket just the other side of the door, as is their habit at ungodly hours of the morning. Yesterday we ate sandwiches and then I wandered through the streets of Mexico City, getting minorly lost. Maybe Utah is right, maybe I am a city person at heart and don’t know it. It’s almost like an electric rush I feel…Immense potential like a pulse around me, the delight of sensory overload.

At night we wandered through the dark drenched (empapada-your vocab word for the day) streets and stopped for a few tacos. The inside of the taco place was tiled and the light was warm instead of the hated fluorescent that is the plague of Latin America. I chatted with the taco guy for awhile (we had pork tacos for 5 pesos each) and then we wandered back to the cozy Bar Isabel to fend off drunk old men. This one guy was so drunk all he could say was “Chiapas” very seriously as he offered his hand. Occasionally he’d list some of Chiapas’ main attractions. The other people in the bar were a toothless musician with worn down fingers who kept playing “Cielito Lindo” over and over again, a fat guy who looked like Diego Rivera and was too drunk to talk, and a party of beer drinking Austrians. I drank two Negro Modelos and ate some peanuts a la japonesa and then retired to my beautiful room. Now it is morning.

circa 2010

circa 2010

Jan 18, 2010 San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato (age 31)

Sitting at the plaza. The sun is bright. Girls (I think they are Tarahumara) sadly try to sell dolls. An old gringo is playing the guitar. I probably look pretentious, sitting here in my straw fedora, writing in a journal, amidst the remains of a croissant. San Miguel makes me sentimental. I feel like I should have new memories here, that I somehow owe it  a renewed devotion of time.

Jan 22, 2010 San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato

Last night was the anniversary of Allende’s birthday. We had dinner at el Payo (the food was excellent, but the margaritas flawed) and then went up to the Zocalo, which was packed with people from all walks of life, though mostly Mexican. Teenage boys, cocky in outdated American street styles, preteen girls playing Nichole Ritchie, rich old women like spiders, the occasional very poor family wearing acrylic sweaters and clutching picnic buckets of Mexican shopping bags.

The fireworks were brilliant, beyond the pale, seriously impressive. As the old bells rang and the sparks fell through the starry night, I had the impression the cathedral was a living entity, crouching like a great but reasonably benevolent beast.

Long shot of beach with fading sunset clouds.

sunset, circa 2010

Jan 27, 2010 Tenacatita, Jalisco

Reclining in a hammock. The bay is bright. A southerly rustles palm fronds. Waves prance in the channels around the Rock of Time. Willie Nelson sings as Rich fiddles with the solar panel. Today is the memorial for Al and Carol. The beach goes on.

A girl in a green sundress wearing a pith helmet, standing in a Mexican hut on the beach.

the author, circa 2010



Jan 19, 2010 Tenacatiita, Jalisco

I love the mornings here, when it’s nearly dark and everyone is still sleeping in their tents. Great swathes of clouds fill up the sky, waiting to be lit. I can hear Rich and Abigail stirring now, in the camp behind me. Feet on sandy patates, sounding like lizards or mapaches. The waves are huge this morning, dark coils roaring into buoyant foam. Today I want to: work on book, record Abigial’s story, run, swim, read, visit Rich and Michelle, and maybe practice a little Spanish.

The sun rises over placid Mexican bay.

sunrise, circa 2010


Jan 30, 2010 Tenacatita, Jalisco

The sunrise looks like an expensive piece of religious art.

Jan 17, 2013 San Miguel de Allende (age 34)

Sitting on the roof of Bonnie and Hayden’s and hoping the clouds will do something interesting. If they don’t turn pink I’m not sure the cold is worth it.

Feb 10, 2013 Coast of Oaxaca

The sun is coming up over the cove. How many of my journal entries have been written on a beach just before or after sunrise? By accident we discovered an actual free beach camp spot! I didn’t think these places existed in Mexico anymore, so I feel greatly heartened.

A girl in sunglasses drinks a cocktail.

Abigail at Tenacatita, circa 2010

For a tiny beach there are a lot of houses here and also a low key but expensive hotel. However, so far no one has hassled us for camping in the rudimentary palapas at the

end of the beach. There are no bathroom facilities but it’s a dream come true.

This trip has offered me the opportunity to implement some of the wisdom of Abigail, which I should have picked up from my parents but was slow to learn. Abigail’s fearlessness taught me that my boundless love for Mexico can take me places — that if you get past shyness and fear, this country has so much more to offer. Pluse, I’ve realized that I feel so much better when I’m camping and eating in taquerias.

Feb 25? 2013 Punta Perula, Jalisco

Punta Perula. Listening to Los Tigres del Norte. Soy el Jefe de los Jefes. Sitting under (but not too close) to a palm tree and looking out to the blue bay. Wish I could stay here forever, or at least a month.



7 Responses to “Flashback Mexico Travel Journals 1992-2013”

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  1. Tina Rosa says:

    Oh, yes, sunrise looking like an expensive piece of religious art! And love the wisdom of Abigail (and your parents!)

  2. Cree says:

    Finally got around to browsing this – love the progression of the flashbacks! And the writer in you was already honing her skills at the age of 13. But a little puzzled by this image:
    “Today we went to a bunch of video arcades, we had ice cream and, believe it or not, consumed 6 whole feet of bubble tape! (In one day!)”
    You “consumed 6 whole feet of bubble tape!”? Exactly what does that mean? Enquiring minds want to know……..xxxxcree

    • churpa says:

      Ha. Thanks Cree. Bubble tape is flat bubble gum that comes in a roll. I really don’t know how we managed to chew six feet of it over a weekend. Takes real dedication.

  3. Tom Lewis says:

    Tenacatita – wow, does that bring back memories from 1974. Convoluted about how & why we got there, but with the People’s Guide in hand, Dennis, Dave & I camped there for a couple of weeks. One day others arrive. Lorena & Steve and churpa’s grandmother & uncle. Tenacatita was the last place on our four month travels around Mexico & Guatemala and after falling off a big wave in the bay I was sore and ready to go. (thanks to Lorena for the intro to Tiger Balm).

    One day I’m talking to your grandmother (I’m sorry I do not recall her name) and we were talking about the real world. I told her I lived in Delaware and she said she lived in Delaware… Ohio. I said I’d lived in Columbus in the mid-50s and that my dad had attended OSU. She asks me what department he was in and when I told her she then informed me that our family had attended a function at her house and that she worked in the same department as my dad.

    That’s my penultimate “its a small world” story.

    I never made it back to the west coast of Mexico again, though I spent time traveling to a sweet little place called Akumal QR which was my winter home for 25 years.

    The sunrise photo took me back to a place I enjoyed very much.Thanks for putting together such a great blog. I’ve enjoyed it very much.

    • churpa says:

      Thanks Tom! My grandmother’s name was Maki Rogers and she was an amazing lady. I’m glad you got to meet her. Thanks so much for the memory!

  4. Abigail says:

    I am SO flattered my love!! Five days ago I was eating some delicious unidentifiable curried thing, flat and shaped like a very fat figure eight, that had the consistency of very hard gouda cheese along with deep fried fish heads in a dirty coconut plank roadside restaurant in Indonesia – things have not changed… I am so glad you keep journals, as you well know I am crap at it!! xoxoxo


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