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Mexico Travel - Tehuantepec and Salina Cruz
( Originally Published 1939 - Presented For Historical Purpose )
THE ONLY WAY TO REACH TEHUANTEPEC COMFORTABLY at present is by rail, although eventually it will be possible to go by automobile over the Pan-American Highway. This, however, is probably a matter of several years. It is not an easy trip, as it requires a rail journey of at least thirty-six hours from Mexico City. There are two ways of going. You can either go to Cordoba and change there for Tierra Blanca and at Tierra Blanca change again for the Tehuantepec train, or what is much easier, go to Veracruz and then go straight from Veracruz to Tehuantepec, with only one change at Veracruz, instead of the two on the other route.
It is also possible to reach Tehuantepec by water by way of Salina Cruz, but by the time you have traveled from Mexico City to the Pacific at Mazatlan or Acapulco and then changed to a ship and then changed again at Salina Cruz for Tehuantepec, you will have wasted so much time that it is far easier to take the Veracruz route and the train.
The rail trip from Veracruz is extremely beautiful, although, as it is directly through a tropical country, it is apt to be hot. From Veracruz you can get a train every Friday morning which takes you as far as San Geronimo Ixtepec. The train arrives a little after midnight, and you will have to spend the night at Ixtepec in hotel accommodations which are decidedly primitive. The next day you leave Ixtepec in the afternoon and arrive at Tehuantepec in time for supper. A day is enough time in which to see Tehuantepec. You can then return to Ixtepec and spend the balance of the next day there. This time, instead of primitive hotel accommodations, you have a sleeper.
All during the next day you will be on your way to Veracruz, and finally, the morning of the day after, you will be back in Mexico City.
It sounds like a hard trip, and it is, but you won't be sorry. The whole trip takes six days-you leave Mexico City Thursday evening and get back Wednesday morning. It is possible to cut the time down somewhat by taking the plane as far as Tapachula, although when you get back to Tehuantepec and Ixtepec, which the plane has serenely sailed over, you will find that you have not saved much time. If you like flying, however, it is certainly a great deal more comfortable.
The Isthmus of Tehuantepec can also be reached by rail, or from Cordoba. The through trains run from Veracruz, and a change of cars is necessary from Cordoba. The route from Veracruz is the general one. The junction point for both routes is at Tierra Blanca.
There is little to describe about either route. The ride is pretty enough after you leave the uninteresting country around Veracruz; the landscape is tropical; and the people and villages seen from the car windows are a colorful sight.
The scenery gets steadily better after you pass JESUS CARRANZA, for here you enter the land of butterflies. Some sixty kilometers after Jesus Carranza, there is some beautiful scenery through a ravine about five kilometers long. The best views are on the right-hand side of the train.
MATIAS ROMERO was established as the working point of the railroad because of its healthy location. It is only a few years old and offers nothing of interest to the tourist. About 24 kilometers farther, at kilometer 228, the train reaches CHIVELLA PASS, which is the highest point on the line. The difference in this country from that surrounding the central plateau is dramatically shown here, as the highest point is only 730 feet up, whereas around the central plateau, anything even ten times that height is considered insignificant.
SAN GERONIMO IXTEPEC is the junction of the railway to Tehuantepec and the Pan-American Railway running down to the Guatemalan frontier. It is of interest to the tourist chiefly because the present schedules force one to stay overnight there in decidedly primitive accommodations.
TEHUANTEPEC itself has a population of about 11,000, and is celebrated for its earthquakes and the beauty of its women. The railroad gets very friendly with the town, running part of the way down its main street.
The hotels are the Perla and the Bohemia. They are both fairly primitive, and no matter which one you go to, you will probably wonder vaguely why you did not try the other. They offer no terrors to a good traveler, but would probably be pretty uncomfortable for the class of people who suffer if they cannot have their oatmeal for breakfast. It must be admitted that the entire trip to Tehuantepec is pretty much "caviar" to the comfortseeking tourist.
If it is humanly possible, you should time your visit to be in Tehuantepec on Sunday, for that is when the town is at its best. Then you will see the people in their gayest costumes, and the beautiful women decked out in much gold jewelry. It is said that the favorite piece of jewelry is American twenty-dollar gold pieces strung as a necklace, or worn as earrings.
The PLAZA occupies the center of the town and is extremely attractive. Here is by far the best place in which to see the people. The PALACIO MUNICIPAL, a pretty white building with many columns, is worth looking at.
The churches in town are rather unimpressive. The largest church is SANTO DOMINGO, which has been much battered by earthquakes. The JAIL dates from 1530. There is an old FORTRESS in town which was once the headquarters of General Diaz during the time of the French intervention, and if you must have a sight, this is about all that the city offers. Nearby are the locally famous hot springs, and a long, hard horseback ride away from town are the ruins of GUERENGUELA.
You will undoubtedly wish to visit SALINA CRUZ. This port on the Pacific is very largely an artificial one. It is formed with breakwaters, and, like so many of the harbors in Latin-American countries, was built by an English contracting firm. It is a delightful place to bathe and a pleasant excursion from Tehuantepec. Because of the constant breeze from the ocean, it is usually cool, although in the dry season quite dusty.
Another interesting town is JUCHITAN. This is an extremely old town of about 16,000 people and is admirably situated for the production of salt, which is manufactured by the simple process of evaporating the waters from the lagoons bordering the ocean.
If you go to Tehuantepec by air, your plane will drop you at TAPACHULA, almost at the Guatemalan frontier. The town stands at the base of the TACONA VOLCANO, 14,000 feet high, and the frontier between Mexico and Guatemala crosses the center of the mountain.
The above description does not make the Tehuantepec trip sound too attractive, yet, as a matter of fact, the experienced traveler with time to spend always comes back enthusiastic. Just because the landscape has no one outstanding feature does not necessarily prevent it from being exquisitely beautiful. A town may be minus a great cathedral and still be fascinating for all that. After all, the most interesting thing in any country is the people, At Tehuantepec you will see an extremely interesting and picturesque populace, unspoiled as yet by the tourist, and going about its own affairs indifferent to the world outside. I would not recommend that you go to Tehuantepec until you have been to every other tourist zone described in this book, but if you have been to those zones and still have time, then I unhesitatingly say "Yes."
The rail route from Mexico to Guatemala is becoming increasingly popular, and travel over the airplane route is growing by leaps and bounds. If you are traveling through to Guatemala by either of these methods of transportation, a stopover at Tehuantepec is almost obligatory.
Let me warn you, though, that it is not a trip to do too much on your own. Here you really should consult one of the great tourist agencies in Mexico City and have this trip very carefully arranged for you in advance. The accommodations at best are nothing to get excited about. The trains are apt to be crowded, and if you try to go without advance arrangements, you may find yourself without a berth on the train and forced to stay at a rather too primitive hotel.