Crossing from Yucatán to Campeche took us from milpas to agribusiness. I hardly expected that such a straight line on the map could delineate such a difference on the ground. If you don’t know what a milpa is, think Milagro Beanfield War — small-scale, probably family-run agriculture, no irrigation. They often grow corn and squash together, not bad for the soil, but it requires harvest by hand, according to Jack.
The Mennonites run the agribusiness. Putting together a few different stories, I can surmise that the Campeche State government invited the Mennonites here from Chihuahua a couple generations ago. There’s land, they said; water too. And why not? Mexico imports food, and Mennonites do a surprisingly good job with the harsh, dry, high land in Chihuahua. They’re an insular group, but when members decide to leave the culture/religion, they’re welcomed into the nearby communities as Mexicans, according to the tamale makers I talked to in Hopelchén.
The straight line on the map didn’t affect the Mayans so much apparently. We still passed archaeology sites, visited a couple, and were particularly impressed with Edzná, the biggest Mayan tourist draw in the State of Campeche. The ball court was the smallest I’ve seen, and the five-story building was rather impressive.
The highlight of my visit to Campeche was the Gulf Coast, in particular the colonial capital, yet another Mexican UNESCO World Heritage Site! The perfectly-restored, pastel-painted buildings go on and on, block after block, in an area that used to be entirely surrounded by a defensive wall. This is Pirates of the Caribbean country, and Campeche was the city that suffered more than any other from piracy. Its defensive wall, however, was considered the most successful in the Americas as the city was never attacked again after the wall’s completion in 1710.
We followed the coast for a number of days after our rest stop in the capital. Even with a depressing number of private property signs blocking access to the beach, we still found quite a few places to enjoy some sun and sand and most importantly a dip in the cool water.
The closer we got to Tabasco the more it seemed to rain. A preview of what’s to come?