MEXICO – INCIDENTS AND COINCIDENCES 2020
This amazing and interesting story unfolds and intertwines with one of our adopted girls and some engrossing books set in Mexico.
|Lupita and her daughter May 2020|
We read the book The Lost World of Quintana Roo on the advice of a friend, Mark Callaghan, whose mother took her two young sons to Yucatán to escape the carnage of the Vietnam War. Mark’s mother was a journalist and adventurer.
We often ran into Mark at Caffe Latte where we heard many of Mark’s stories of adventures in Tulum, a wild outpost in the Federal Territory of Quintana Roo on the Caribbean coast, long before any paved roads pierced the jungle.
At one chance meeting at Caffe Latte Jane and I exuberantly told Mark the story of our recent trip to the Caribbean Sea coast at Akumal where we paid $20.00 for a book we definitely wanted to read entitled, Under the Waters of Mexico by Pablo Bush Romero, owner and operator of Mexico City's largest Ford dealership, a big game trophy hunter, treasure seeker, Caribbean resort owner, and very manipulative businessman.*
Mark replied that we must read the book, The Lost World of Quintana Roo by Michel Peissel for the true story of Quintana Roo before the advent of tourism.
Without going off target here let me tell you Mark’s piece of advice opened up a most intriguing part of our lives. The book was out of print, scarce and hard to find.
Long story short: The Mérida English Library had a copy and a friend checked it out for us. The print was too small for Jane to read. Jane was not going to be foiled. Jane made a digital copy of the entire book. This was time consuming but the resultwas that it could be read be on Kindle reader where the user friendly features made font size and other modifications easy.
Back to this amazing book that ultimately led us to more intriguing reading and out of the way adventures.
A quick synopsis of young Michel Peissel. Michel (1937-2011) was the son of a French diplomat and raised in England. He attended Harvard Business School. After business school he had six months free before starting work on Wall Street in NYC. Looking for an adventure, he headed to Mexico. It was 1957.
In Mexico he fell in with a group of expatriate German intellectuals and artists who had fled the regimes of Russia, Germany, Spain, and other war torn hot spots. Michel told the group he was looking for an exceptional adventure to a place without roads. Their unanimous advice was to head to the jungle territory of Quintana Roo on the Yucatan Peninsula’s Caribbean sea coast.
The result was one of the most harrowing stories of exploring and discovery of the century.
We have several friends besides Mark Callaghan who can collaborate Michel Peissel’s stories related in his book The Lost World of Quintana Roo.
Michel’s recounting of the trip from Tepoztlan to Mérida, Yucatan, contains enough adventure to be a book of its own. The trip from Mérida to the Caribbean coast through the jungle was more adventure than could be endured by most people. The trek along the Caribbean south from Cozumel all the way to the British Honduras, now known as Belize, got him acquainted with the local population in their isolated cocoteros or coconut plantations that extended along the entire Caribbean coast of Mexico. On this trek Michel was befriended, helped, guided, transported, and hunted like an animal. Hunger, thirst, fatigue, and insect attacks were just a few of his hardships he endured before being jailed in Belize. Along his way he made some extremely important geological discoveries that included the Mayan temple ruins of Muyil, a jungle seaport connected by extensive canal system still operable to this day and a series of Mayan signalizing stations dispersed along the coast.
A few interesting revelations and discoveries excerpted from The Lost World of Quintana Roo:
Seagoing sailing freight canoes of the Chontal Maya from Tabasco plied these waters ranging from distant Vera Cruz, Cuba, Florida and Central America. The cumbersome sea salt from northern Yucatan could have only been transported by seagoing vessel. Other cargo items included cotton, cocoa, copper, dyes, fish, honey, jade, and more.
I learned that the peninsula of Yucatan has always considered itself independent from Mexico, and the Yucatecans, as they are called, had often tried to gain their freedom, even attempting to join the short-lived Texas republic. In April 1958, when I set out, there were no roads connecting Yucatan with central Mexico, and apart from planes the only means of communication was by the Ferrocarriles del Sur Este, a small, prehistoric railroad line that wound through the dense jungle of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec to the state of Campeche.
Unfortunately, Quintana Roo is changing rapidly and civilization will soon precipitate the extinction of the last rebellious Indians, thus hastening the end of the long history of the Mayas, who for such countless centuries have reigned as masters over the jungles of Yucatan. And the day will come when only the chachalaka will remain to call up the gods of the East, the North, the West, and the South who rule the windswept lagoons, the endless jungles, and the sun-scorched beaches of Quintana Roo.
Our Lupita’s connection to the story: In Lupita’s inquisitive life of travels she settled in the mountains south of Mexico City at Tepoztlán, the city of eternal spring, where she became acquainted with Don Ruge, one of the last to remember the group of German expatriates Michel Peissel met in 1957. Gustav Regler whom Michel met in Tepoztlán where his adventure began was part of the group.Lupita met Don Ruge and they became friends. Lupita was easy to like.
Don Ruge, a philosopher, peace advocate, and author, launched Lupita into the five-star world of travels across Europe and even as far off as Kazakhstan where Lupita started her counseling career and was the guest of the president of Kazakhstan.
One of the group of expatriate Germans that Michel Peissel met in 1957 was Gustav Regler, author of Owl of Minerva, an autobiography, and A Land Bewitched about his experiences in Mexico. Gustav Regler is one the finest authors we have ever read. His books are hard to find, but we now own a copy of A Land Bewitched, thanks to our German friend Karin Humbert who found it in a rare book store in England and gave it to us as a gift.
Excerpted from Michel Piessel’s book, The Lost World of Quintana Roo. He describes a meeting Gustav Regler:
A man quite so fascinating I had never met, and Gustav Regler had no trouble firing my imagination about Mexico and setting alight in me a small fire for exploration and adventure that had almost been extinguished by the rigors of student life and docile resignation.
In this sense Gustav Regler was responsible for what was to happen to me during what I had planned to be a peaceful stay in Mexico. The narrow window of the small gray car had not been so narrow after all, and had led by way of the four-lane highway to Gustav Regler and onto a path that was going to cost me all but my life.
A note about Gustav Regler, he was an activist with exceptional intellect and a brilliant mind. He was a compassionate humanitarian, politically just and publicly empathetic. Many events impacted this man’s life beginning with his mother introducing the Bible into her bed-time stories. He wanted to trust and came away with memories of his foolish heroism in WWI. He wished he could talk to one of the dead and was conscious of the utter finality of their end. He was imprisoned because he would no longer endure the war. Hitler’s fascism of the 1930s which he found frighteningly lethal drove him and his social conscience to communism.
Joe Stalin’s twisted and oppressive degradation of the Soviet people drove him away from communism to fight Franco’s fascism in Spain, and ultimately he was imprisoned in a concentration camp in France for being anti-fascist.
He and a shipload of anti-fascist refugees from the camps in France were shipped off to the U.S. and refused entry…Mexico took them in.
The following are quotes from The Owl of Minerva:
Regler to his wife: “We could each think our own thoughts, and we would not let this mad, merciless century drive us apart.”
Regler about his wife: “It is the only temple that has any link with the cosmos." She loved the Mexican pyramids because they were not graves but altars speaking to Heaven.”
In The Owl of Minerva Regler relates how the Russian Communists went to absurd extremes to destroy Regler, his wife, and their adopted home in Mexico.
This is a powerful book of an extraordinary man’s struggle through the tribulations of the 20th century. I have read it twice.
Experience Mexico through the words of Michel Peissel and Gustav Regler:
The Lost World of Quintana Roo by Michel Peissel
The Owl of Minerva by Gustav Reglar
A Land Bewitched: Mexico in the Shadow of the Centuries by Gustav Regler
*Akumal is a small beachfront tourist resort community in Mexico, 100 km (62 mi) south of Cancun popular with scuba divers and owned by Pablo Bush Romero. Pablo Bush's family still controls a portion of Akumal.