Riding the all-night bus from San Cristobal de las Casas to Merida made me realize that there are some things I am no longer good at: 14 hours in a sitting position is one of them.
The person in front of me had her seat fully reclined so in fact, she was lying on my lap… Jorge did the gentlemanly thing and insisted on swapping seats with me. Then in Palenque, two people got off and you’d have been shocked at how fast I nipped into their row. With two seats each, we were indeed more comfortable for the rest of the journey…
Mind you, I still couldn’t sleep, and with my i-pod on (I made a great new play list before leaving on this sojourn…) I settled into the dim light and observed my fellow bus-mates. There were three young foreign couples, sporting Chiapas Fashion (Jackets made out of the material we use to mop our floors, embroidered tops and big wide colorfully-striped, wrap-around pants) A couple of the guys sported very long dreads, piercings and tattoos… Draped over one another like puppies, they slept soundly all the way to Mérida.
Contrast this with the Yucatecan mestiza (in her perfectly starched, white huipil) sitting stoically in the front row. It’s doubtful that she closed her eyes for the entire 14 hours. I’m sure she felt her vigilance was all that kept our vehicle from hurtling down over the steep cliffs.
There were a dozen or so young men from the mountains that I could only assume were headed to Yucatán as part of a work crew. Various middle class couples and singles filled up most of the other seats.
But the couple in the 4th right-hand row tore hard on my heartstrings. I judged the young woman to be no older than 15. Dressed in the typical highland heavy wool skirt and satin blouse, her waist-length black hair spilled over her brightly-colored rebozo… and tucked into that thick wool shawl I spied a newborn baby girl. Her partner did not look any older than she did. When morning came I saw how they looked out the window with puzzlement at the Yucatecan landscape… so different from the lush mountain terrain of their native Chiapas. What lay in store for them in this sweltering lowland peninsula?
The differences in my fellow passengers’ apparent attitudes and circumstances seemed to be as deep and wide as the Grand Canyon… We know that economic advantage affords the “luxury” of choice… but what a broadsided example I saw of that this morning.