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Full Circle

Day 225: Tlacote

Tlacote, Mexico 
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Tlacote - rural Mexico. Don Antonio makes sure we don't go away empty-handed.
Michael Palin - Full CircleNot far outside Querétaro we stop off at a village called Tlacote. It achieved overnight fame when a dog, supposedly on its last legs, drank water from a local spring and made a miraculous recovery. For almost two years the village was inundated by the halt and the lame, but most of them left in exactly the same state, and eventually the fuss died down and the village went back to normal.

Don Antonio is a smallholder who grows maize, beans and squash. He has the dark, leathery face of someone who has worked hard, out of doors, for most of his life. He wears a wide-brimmed straw hat and his T-shirt is stained with sweat. He owns his property but expectations are low. By the time he has fed his own wife and three children, and a further nine children he looks after, there is little left for him to sell to raise money to improve his lot. There is irrigated water nearby but he can't afford to pay the charge for pumping it so he relies, as he says with a smile and a finger pointed heavenwards, on agua de dios, God's water. Downpours, like the one that hit last night, cheer him considerably. He's cautiously optimistic that he might be able to afford two pigs by the end of the year. Cactus leaves squeeze out from between the dry stones which wall his property. His wife, Guadeloupe, greets us with a broad grin. She's dressed in a white T-shirt over a patterned floral skirt and white sneakers. She shows me how tortillas - the pancakes that are the staple of the Mexican diet - are traditionally made. A maize paste is rolled out on a granite slab and then slapped from one hand to the other gradually increasing in size until it is ready to be laid onto a tray resting on a wood fire. Her skill in producing one perfect specimen after the other is one that will probably die out over the next few years as hand-presses become more common. She tries to teach me the rudiments, but by the time she's made twelve tortillas my first one remains, for some reason, firmly stuck to my left hand.

Don Antonio and Guadeloupe are fine company, amused by, and infinitely tolerant of, the strange demands of filming. Nor will they let us leave without bags of hand-made tortillas and hand-picked maize cobs for the journey. I wish they'd come with us as well.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 225
  • Country/sea: Mexico
  • Place: Tlacote
  • Book page no: 290

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