In the Wild Country:
La Hacienda El Coyol

Searching for
The Camino Real Road

Photographs and Text by John Todd, Jr.
Black and White Photos Courtesy of Rodrigo Barradas Muñiz

7. La Hacienda El Coyol

Help from a Young Explorer: Rodrigo Barradas Muñíz
Awhile back, I received an email from Rodrigo Barradas Muñíz in Xalapa. He said that he had seen my web site story about my own search for Santa Anna's lost haciendas. One of these haciendas was Boca de Monte. He said was doing an historical study on his family in that area around the hacienda El Coyol. He also said that one of his relatives had married someone from Boca de Monte and that families of the two haciendas were close.

An Invitation to Visit a Nearby Hacienda
Over the months Rodrigo and I exchanged information, and found a good time to meet at the Hacienda el Coyol. He said El Coyol is very old and was one of the first haciendas in the area. From his research, he found it was purchased from the original Caja de Temporalidades. His uncle Gerardo is now the owner of El Coyol and is interested in preserving the history of the area.

It sounded interesting, so we agreed to meet one Sunday for lunch at the hacienda. Maybe I could pick up some new clues about the Camino Real.

Looking for the Lost Route from Acazónica to San Martín

Many Questions Remained
One of the problems was that the Camino Real was not clearly marked. One of the mysteries was how to cross over the huge gorge over the Panoaya River between San Martín Tlacotepec de Mejía to Acazonica. I wondered if the Camino Real actually crossed the river or if the Jesuit friars brought their sheep down from the mountains along another easier route bypassing the river?

I had spent many hours looking at topographical maps of the area and to find the answers to these questions, I would have to talk to the local people in the area. Maybe they had the answers.

So, I packed up my maps and put them in the car in hopes that maybe Rodrigo and the people at the Hacienda el Coyol could help me find the route from Acazónica to San Martín. I had my doubts because the hacienda was too far down the Camino Real, but still the people might know something. At the same time, I felt I would be close to finding the answers.

Overview Map of the Whole Trip

From Acazónica to Dos Caminos

From Dos Caminos to El Coyol--Looking for the Missing Street to San Martín Tlacotepec

Marcial Ochoa and his wife
Reviewing the Maps for Today's Trip
Marcial Ochoa: My Travel Buddy
Last year I met Marcial Ochoa in Paso de Ovejas.

From his formal studies in topography and his work on different projects, he also knows the people in the area well and enjoys traveling the countryside.

Marcial had been on several trips with me and had showed me some places I'd never seen. He's a great traveling buddy.

An Early Start
It was a hot Sunday morning in Veracruz in the month of May so after a good breakfast, I left early to meet Marcial in Paso de Ovejas.

When I got there, I pulled out some new maps I'd picked up at the INEGI office for him to look at.

His wife also knows the area and is interested in our trips.
Breakfast of Picadas and Black Beans
Then his wife brought some delicious picadas and black beans along with a coke, and asked me if I was hungry.

"It will be a long day," she said, "and you all don't need to get hungry along the way."

Hard to Say No
It was hard to say no, so I had a second breakfast. While I was eating Marcial and his wife looked at the maps.

I could eat only two picadas and was stuffed. It was also time to go before it got much later.
The Camino Real
"See you when you get back," Marcial's wife said, watching as we backed out of the driveway in the patio of his house, then closing the gate behind us.

Continuing on the Camino Real
While we were driving the dirt road, I filled Marcial in on the details that several months before, I had been in contact with Rodrigo Barradas. His uncle Don Gerardo, is the owner of the Hacienda el Coyol.

Today they had invited us to the hacienda for to Sunday dinner and to get to know the area. I had never me Rodrigo and was looking forward to our meeting.
People Wave When You Let Them Pass
Rodrigo had said the Hacienda was very old, and it would be an interesting visit.

After we left Acazónica, we continued along narrow old Camino Real.

Sometimes One Lane Only
By this time the Camino Real was a narrow one lane road, but there wasn't much traffic.

A couple of times we pulled over to let an occasional pickup truck pass. In this part of the country, I noticed that people always wave when they pass.
A Quiet Sunday in the Country
A Quiet Village
After a couple of miles through the remote country, we arrived at the Hacienda which looked like a small village.

Meeting the Family
We drove through the main gate, and when we got out of the car we were greeted by a smiling man with a white hat.

"Hi! I'm Gerardo. Come on in." It was don Gerardo the owner of the Hacienda el Coyol.Several people came out to shake hands all the way around.

A Comfortable Porch
We walked up onto the cool porch and Don Gerardo introduced us to the rest of the family. We felt right at home.
Don Gerardo
Cold Lemonade and Photos
An Old Aqueduct and Picnic
The last one to shake hands was Rodrigo, and it was good to meet him in person for the first time.

"Would you like some lemonade?", Don Gerardo's wife asked.

We all agreed.

While we were waiting, Rodrigo brought out the old family photograph albums and began to tell us about each of the members.

Don Rafael Lagunes Sosa
A Hot Day and Fresh Chilled Lemonade
We were served some cool glasses of lemonade, and Rodrigo began to tell the story of the Hacienda that was started in 1838.

Later they brought out the family albums and we looked at the very old photographs of weddings and different outings. I realized that many of the photos were from the early days of photography.

The Story of the Hacienda El Coyol
Don Hilario Lagunes came to Mexico from Spain, and in 1815 married María Rita Sosa from Actopan, Veracruz.

In the year 1838, he purchased the original land for the Hacienda el Coyol from Don Francisco de Arrillaga who was the cosigner of the note for the bankrupt "Republica de los Indios".

This is Don Rafael Lagunes Sosa, the son of Don Hilario Lagunes and María Rita Sosa, born in 1843.He is the father of Rodrigo's great grandfather, Don Facundo Muñiz.

Facundo Muñiz Grajales Wedding in 1916
A Confrontation
Rodrigo told us that his great grandfather Facundo joined the Delahuertista Movement.

He was killed in a confrontation with federal soldiers near San Martín Tlacotepec de Mejía on July 12, 1924.

The DelaHuertistas and their Movement
While we were looking at this photo, I asked.

"Who were the Delahuertistas?"

Rodrigo who was still in school answered,

"They were followers of Adolfo de la Huerta."

"Who was Adolfo de la Huerta?" I asked.

Life from 1910-1940
Later I did some homework and the years of 1910-1940 were an effervescent period when it seemed that personalities were more imporatant than principles.
Don Facundo Muñiz in the Middle
About Adolfo De la Huerta
Adolfo de la Huerta is one of the almost forgotten men who played an important part during th0se years of turmoil and conflict.

In 1919, as Governor of the northern state of Sonora, he led the "Revolución de Agua Prieta" that eventually ended the presidency of Venustiano Carranza who was killed on his way to Veracruz when trying to flee the country.

Adolfo de la Huerta was appointed interim President by the congress.

The Early Years
He was born in the northwestern state of Sonora in 1881. He attended local schools Hermosillo and later studied accounting, music, and voice in Mexico City.

In 1900, however, his father died and he left school and returned to Sonora to help support the family.
Miguel Lagunes Sosa and large family
De la Huerta later worked as a bookkeeper in various businesses and the Guaymas branch of the Banco Nacional de México.

After that, as the Mexican Revolution advanced, he became active in local politics and eventually became governor of the state of Sonora.

President of Mexico
In 1919, after the resignation and death of President Venustiano Carranza, the Congress selected Adolfo de la Huerta as interim president. He served from June to December 1920.

During his term as President he was able to convince many of the rebels to lay down their arms and some were even integrated into the new government to keep the fragile peace.De la Huerta developed a less confrontational style of government and formed a cabinet that represented a wide range of anti-Carranza groups. In December of 1920, he handed the reins of government to Gen. Alvaro Obregón.

The Rebellion in 1923
The situation between September and December 1923 became tense, and a number of military officers allied themselves with de la Huerta. After receiving the support of General Guadalupe Sanchez of Veracruz and the 12,000 army troops at his command in December, de la Huerta led a rebellion against the Obregón government.

Later, on January 29, 1924, after a decisive defeat at a battle for the railroad station in Esperanza, Puebla, on the Veracruz/Puebla border, the back of the delaHuertista Movement was broken and it gradually subsided.

Many of the generals who had supported the rebellion were executed, but de la Huerta, using the passport of a friend, escaped to the United States. De la Huerta spent most of his exile in Los Angeles, where he earned a living as a singing instructor.

Amnesty and Return to Mexico
In 1935, President Lázaro Cárdenas granted amnesty to De la Huerta, and later appointed him inspector general of Mexican consulates in the United States, and later director general of civil retirement pensions. He died in Mexico City in 1955.

The Voices of the Great Grandchildren
We were served another round of lemonade and continued to look at more of the photos in the family albums talking about the old times on the hacienda. In looking at the photos, it seemed like we were so far away, in another time, when things were very different.

Yet, sitting there on the same porch as in the old photos, next to the same round support columns, listening to the old stories and looking at the same trees out front I looked around, and it seemed like those times almost became part of the present. It was almost as if the spirits of the people in the photos were looking over our shoulders, telling the same legends along with us through the voices of their great grandchildren.

Grandchildren at the 100 Years Independence
Day Parade at the Hacienda around 1900
Independence Day Parade
The parade was organized by a school teacher who had been a soldier who participated in the Battle of 5 de Mayo in 1862 in Puebla, under the command of Gen. Ignacio Zaragoza.

He put the cannon together and left it at the hacienda as a souvenir of the parade.

Later during the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1920, Carrancista soldiers stole the cannon.
Aunt Rita Lagunes Sosa 100 years celebration
(in 1954 or 1955)
When Rodrigo´s Aunt Rita Lagunes Sosa celebrated her hundredth birthday they held a special church service and a meal at the home of the aunts.

In the photo seated from left to right are: Paulina, Rita, Carmen, and Luz (sisters). Standing behind is Severino Espinosa, the husband of Carmen, the only sister who married.

The three sisters who never married dedicated their time and money to the Church, donated bells, carpets, a golden "costodia", and whatever the church needed.

These ladies also helped many priests and bishops during the Religious Persecution in Mexico.

An Act of Christian Kindness
Most people think that the Agrarian Reform of the 1920's and 1930's was about taking land from the people on the plantations who had plenty, but there are also stories about how land was also taken from the poor. Although these people aren't mentioned much in the history books, they were the truly unfortunate results of the Reforma Agraria.

In Paso de Ovejas, I had heard a story about the people from the Rancho El Zapote who were left without land. It was sometime after the Mexican Revolution. It is a compassionate story about how a whole community of men, women, and children were forced off their lands to wander in exile through the badlands somewhere along the Camino Real looking for any place to live.

It was in the time of the Reforma Agraria, the Land Reform Acts, when the old haciendas and plantations were being broken up and given to the poor campesino peasants. Yet, somehow when the new peasant owners took over their lands, the people of El Zapote were left without land. In fact, these families had no place to live.

Retelling an Old Story
The story I'd heard was that the ragged group of people arrived at a hacienda and were not only given shelter, but were given land where they could build their houses, and land to farm as long as they would stay to work the land.While we were looking at the family album of photos, I retold the story of the people of el Zapote, and asked if anyone had heard the story before.

One of the elderly ladies sitting off to the side had been the school teacher at El Coyol. I think she was the aunt of Don Gerardo. She said,

"Yes, I know the story. It is true what you say. It happened here on the hacienda el Coyol when I was a little girl. Later when I became a school teacher, the children of El Zapote were my students."

"Can you tell me exactly what happened?"

It became very quiet while we listened.

A Humble Request:
The Wandering People of the Rancho El Zapote

"El Zapote was an area of land that belonged to Guadalupe Caballero Barradas de Lagunes, who lived with her husband Anastasio Lagunes and their 7 children. El Zapote was near San Felipe, a rancho formed by the extensive lands belonging to other members of our family.

On July 13, 1929, the people of San Felipe requested lands to work which belonged to several of our cousins.

Later the Comisión Agraria Mixta from the Federal Land Reform department sent an engineer to perform a census, and they decided to take approximately 25% of our cousins land to form the Ejido San Felipe. This land included the old Rancho el Zapote.

At this time, the people of El Zapote were asked to leave and were left without land to work. It is strange that the people of El Zapote didn't want to become part of the new Ejido San Felipe and receive new lands, but perhaps it was because they couldn't pay their portion of the fees of the engineer and the representatives of the new Ejido.

No one really knows the reason why."

The Wedding of Roberto Espinosa Lagunes
The People were Destitute
Perhaps it was in the 1940's, when the people of El Zapote came to El Coyol to ask for a place to live.

In those days, the El Coyol had several owners even though they were all brothers or cousins.

They say that one of the owners, Roberto Espinosa Lagunes, felt sorry for the poor people.

Later he spoke with the other owners of the hacienda and convinced them to allow them a place to build their homes and perhaps a little land to farm.

The only condition would be that they would agree to work the lands that were given to them.

The Risk was High
The risk was very high.
Don Gerardo is the Little Boy
If they allowed them to live there, eventually the people from El Zapote might request that their own ejido be formed and the lands from El Coyol would be affected.

However this never happened. Perhaps it was an act of good faith and loyalty by both parties that has lasted until today.

With the passage of time, the families of el Zapote grew and now they are more numerous than the original inhabitants of El Coyol
Here is a picture of Don Gerardo when he was a little boy.

The Key to the Old House
Exploring the Hacienda
Later, don Gerardo went into the house and came back with some keys, and said,

"Let's go take a walk around the hacienda." One of the keys was huge, and it was very old. It was the key to one of the 7 old houses on the premises.

It was a beautiful day with blue skies, and it was a pleasure to walk down the dirt road along with Don Gerardo, his kids, and Berreta, the dog.

As we passed several of the houses, Don Gerardo remarked:

"My great grandfather Don Hilario Muñiz was the original owner of the hacienda and he built these houses for each of his seven children.

Their descendents continue to live in these houses even today."

"This particular house has been empty since the last of the heirs died and it hasn't been occupied since then."
Coastal Architecture after 1850
An Empty House
Then we walked up onto the empty porch of the old house.

The porch was cool and fresh, and it didn´t look like anyone had lived there for a long time.

Don Gerardo said it had been empty since the last of the heirs passed away about 10 or 15 years ago.

Even then, he said, the people who lived there hadn't changed much since around the 1920's.Don Gerardo took out the large key and fit it into the lock.
The Empty Front Porch
The old wooden door opened easily, and once inside the house, we saw that it was a simple affair with a living room and several bedrooms.

The dirt floor kitchen was in the back. What was remarkable was a huge round brick oven in the middle.

There were also spaces between the walls for ventilation for the wood smoke and the heat the oven must have generated.

It was interesting to see how the people had lived back in those days.

The Old Saints in the Corner
The Mysteries of an Old House
In just about every Mexican home there is a special place reserved for the family saints and photos of the family from the past.

It is always very personal, and a place to come to feel at home perhaps to be alone and remember the past.

In this old abandoned home, this part of the Mexican home had been left untouched.

Photos of the family which were more than 100 years old were still on the walls, and the personal altar was still in its place.

You could almost feel what it had been like in those days, so long ago.

The normally energetic kids of Don Gerardo calmed down, perhaps out of respect for this almost holy place out of the past.
A Portrait on the Wall

Civilization in the Wild Country
Out here in the wild country of 19th century Mexico, of bandits and fear, as well as the lack of creature comforts, this was an image of civilization and culture which brought comfort to the people in times of troubles and fear of the unknown.

In those days, there was not only fear of bandits, but of drought, illnesses without medicines, famine, and the times of the year when the heavy rains turned the roads back to civilization into impassable mudholes and the hacienda became isolated for weeks at a time.

It was the women of the hacienda who were forced to be strong and carry their share of the suffering, and help the children through their troubles while growing up in this very isolated place on the edge of the badlands of 19th century Veracruz.

In this early photograph, I could see the heroic strength in the face of this woman who must have really struggled to hold her wilderness home together.
A Note to a Little Girl
A Chest with Some Old Papers
Don Gerardo's kids opened a chest with a lot of loose papers and found this little postcard with a note on the back which had been saved all these years. It said:

"Niña Ernestina, we want you to be obedient to your padrinos (baptismal sponsors) and that you pray the Holy Rosary with devotion. Next year we will bring you more things."

Signed: The Kings, Gaspar, Melchor, and Baltazar

I noticed the Copyright date in small print on the card. It looked like 1939.In those days, these were the things that were important to children.
An Altar in the Corner of the Bedroom
Special Saints and Prayers
You don´t have to be a Roman Catholic to appreciate these old paintings.

My own background is Anglican rather than Catholic, and culturally, we share the traditions of many of these very old saints even though we don´t venerate them quite as much as the people did back then.

I tried to imagine what it must have been like living in those days, back in the 19th century, so far away from civilization.

I recognized some of the saints like Our Lady of Perpetual Help and San Antonio.But there were others who I didn't recognize.

Looking at the Religious Pictures
We stood for a moment look at each one of the religious pictures that had been on the wall for at least 100 years.

I recognized some of them, but found 2 that I'd never seen before. I took pictures of them on the wall because I wanted to do some further research when I got back to Veracruz.

San Ramón Nonato
The Story of San Ramón Nonato
I looked at the background details, and after the trip I found out that this is San Ramón Nonato.

He is an interesting Spanish saint from the 12th Century who is the patron saint of midwives and pregnant women.

Later I looked around and found out more about San Ramón Nonato.

San Ramón was born in the 12th Century. His mother died just about the time he was ready to be born. When she died they found the baby was still alive and performed a caesarian section and saved his life.

As a child, he was always very quiet and showed an interest in religious things and later wandered the roads of Spain preaching the Gospel and helping needy people.

The details in these old portraits portray important events in the life of the saints, and here is more about his life:
The Iconographic Details
In taking a closer look at the iconography, you can see important events in the life of San Ramón Nonato.

From the year 700 AD until 1492, the Moors or the Moslems from North Africa occupied the Iberian Peninsula, and there were continual wars trying to oust them from Spain.In one such battle, the Spanish lost the battle and many captives were taken back to Morroco where they were kept prisoner.

San Ramón went with them to North Africa, and was allowed to wander freely in the streets to beg for food.He also preached the Gospel of Christianity which was a death offense in the Moslem country, but somehow San Ramón was protected.

Later the prisoners were released and returned to Spain.

From North Africa
Above all Worldly Goods
The Saint for Midwives
To Quiet Idle Gossip
While I was asking people about San Ramón Nonato, several ladies told me that this saint is good for quieting gossiping people around you.

When you think that people are talking behind your back, you should place a coin on the mouth of the portrait of San Ramón Nonato. Many people use chewing gum.

After a couple of days, when the coin falls to the floor, it means that people have stopped their gossip.

San Ramón Nonato is more widely known as the saint of unborn infants, pregnant women, and midwives.
Rejecting Worldly Prizes
Later when he returned to Spain, and he was offered money for the wonderful work he had done. He rejected the riches and said, "I don´t need the money. The Lord takes care of all my needs."Then the Pope offered him the position of Cardinal, which he also rejected.He thanked the Pope and replied:

"My job is to spread the Word of the Gospel, and to work with the poor who need me. That is the best service I can do for the Lord."Since he is elevated, he rose above the things of the world.

Declared a Saint
Later in the 17th Century Ramón Nonato was canonized and declared to be a saint.

Another Mystery Saint
On the wall next to the picture of San Ramón Nonato was the picture of another saint. Nobody in the room knew who he was either.

This second mystery saint was not so easy. Later, when I got back to Veracruz, I printed a copy of the picture on the left and showed it to several people at the local churches without luck.

The Second Mystery Saint
The Mystery Solved
A Mystery Solved
Finally, a couple of weeks later, Rodrigo Barradas sent me the photo on the right.He said it is Saint Nicholas. It does look very similar, especially in the iconographic symbols. Maybe it was when the saint was a little older and more mature.

I think he is the same one who eventually became St. Nick or Santa Claus, the patron saint of children.

Rodrigo also said that the last person to live in this house was named Nicolás.

The Oven in the Kitchen
The Village Bakery
Then Don Gerardo took us into the kitchen to look at the bakery.

The old oven used wood that they burned down to the coals on the table full of sand on one side.

Later when the flames had died down, they placed the coals inside the oven.

Don Gerardo said the oven stayed hot for many hours.

For ventilation from the smoke, there were spaces between the wall boards to the outside.

As a child he said he remembered the fresh bread cooked here and how wonderful it tasted back then.

Then he motioned for us to look over in one corner.

"I want to show you something," he said.
Looking for the Hideout
Marcial and I went over to the wall to take a look, but didn't notice anything strange.

"It's a false wall," said Don Gerardo. "It's where people used to hide if the bandits came."

A Secret Hiding Place: A False Wall
Many of the older homes in the area around Veracruz have a secret hiding place, or a hidden escape route for times of troubles.

People have told me about secret tunnels in the small towns, and even in the big cities, but I had never seen one until now.
Entrance to the Hideout
The Entrance to the Hideout
"I'll show you where the entrance is," said Don Gerardo.

In the front bedroom, he went over to a small empty bookcase with some doors which was indented into the wall.

He pushed the bookcase, and behind it looked like a small closet, perhaps only 2 or 3 feet wide.

It went the length of the wall.

It was a cramped space, but probably served its purpose as an inconspicuous hiding place.

It reminded me of an old storm cellar. Not comfortable, but it would serve its purpose for awhile.

I had heard stories about marauding Carrancista gangs in this area of Veracruz during the Mexican Revolution.

I wondered if it had ever been used.

Looking out the Window
Time to Move On
We had thoroughly explored the old house, and you could tell it was time to move on.

The kids were getting a little restless.

We went out onto the empty front porch and talked for a minute as he locked up the door behind us.

I told Don Gerardo, there was a lot of family history left in the house, and that they should try to preserve the old papers and photographs.

If they are left here much longer, they will deteriorate.

We never know when they may be of interest to the children of his children.

He agreed that now was the time to do something, and later that week, he said he would pack it all up and keep it at a safe place at his home.

A Walk Over to the Church
It seems like every community and rancho has its own church. After we finished looking at the church we walked out into the little street and into the fresh air again. Now it looked like it might rain, and Don Gerardo said,

"Let me show you our iglesia. It is very old."

When we got to the church, I noticed the atrium cross in front, but there was no cemetery. Most of the very old cemeteries in Mexico have been destroyed in time, and this was the case here at El Coyol.

The Hacienda Church Complete with an Atrium Cross

A Huge Palm Tree
Back into the Sunlight
We walked out of the musty old house, and into the bright sunlight of the 21st century.

Although it was late May, we were close to the mountains, and the clouds had built up. There was a mid afternoon shower threatening nearby.

The church was clean and in beautiful condition along with the classic atrium cross in front.

Although I was looking for the presence of the Jesuits along the Camino Real, I knew this church was built probably 100 years after their expulsion in 1767.

Normally, churches are built in the center of activity, and this church was a little different.

It was off to one corner of the community so that you couldn't easily see it from the road.
The Atrium Cross
Perhaps, it was because of the years of religious persecution by the government when there were roving bands of people looking for churches to vandalize.

Now all that was over, and people could come here freely when they needed help or wanted to express thanksgiving.

There were also baptisms, marriages, and burials which are the truly important events in life.

The Atrium Cross
We stopped and looked at the modern atrium cross for a moment.

The atrium cross is a very old custom in Mexico that has been lost in time, and is only seen in front of only the very old traditional churches.

I always look for the welcoming atrium cross because you can tell it is a very old traditional church.
Final Resting Place of a Beloved Daughter
Inside the Church
The inside of the church was bright and cheerful.I tried to take some photos, but they didn´t come out well.

In the old days, the church used to be the final resting place for the important people of the times.

Off to one corner, was the tombstone of Doña Ana Lagunes de Muñíz.

She was married around 1842 to Manuel Muñíz, and was the only daughter of Don Hilario Muñiz, the founder of the hacienda which began in 1838.

It is said that being the only daughter, she was especially loved by her family. Faithful wife and tender mother.

It looked like there were more saints and religious icons at the abandoned house than here in the village church.
The Bell
Climbing up to the Belfry
By this time, Don Gerardo's kids were full of energy and so we climbed the stairs up to the belfry to take a look at the view.

Most church bells have an inscription and a date.

I was especially interested looking at the date.

When we reached the top, there were definitely a lot of pigeons. You could see the "evidence" on the bell.

The bell was of recent vintage, and the date was 1955.

The kids gently rang the bell for me once or twice for fun and then went running down the belfry stairs.

Marcial and I stayed for a few more minutes looking at the view, high above the old homes on the hacienda at the edge of the wilderness.
View of the Countryside
The Surrounding Wilderness
From high up in the belfry, we looked out across the surrounding wilderness.

The countryside was dry and harsh, full of scrub brush in the beastly heat of the afternoon.

My travel buddy Marcial, told me:

"Once the rains begin in a couple of weeks, you won't recognize this country. It becomes green and beautiful."

"Right now, we really appreciate the water because it is scarce for both the people and the cattle around here."
A Shady Porch
Time to Eat
Don Gerardo and the kids were waiting for us downstairs.

"I think the kids are a little hungry and my wife probably has something for us to eat back at the house. Let's go get a bite to eat."

By this time, I was hungry, too, so we walked back up the dirt road past shady porches of the small country homes built back in the 19th century.

On the way back we talked more about my search for the missing stretch of the old Camino Real.

Tropical Plants on the Front Porch
The Missing Stretch along the Lost Route
After a great lunch of beef raised on the hacienda, a tossed salad with homemade Italian dressing, and some delicious papayas for dessert,Marcial, Rodrigo, Don Gerardo and I settled down on the front porch with the maps.

On the table was some more coffee, just in case anybody wanted more.

After Don Gerardo looked at the maps, he said,"I know the route you are looking for."

"Where is it?", I asked.

"It's a cut off at Dos Caminos. It´s the little town just before you get to our hacienda. Here, I'll show you where it is."

The Corrected Route Through Dos Caminos

Papaya for Dessert
"When you leave Acazónica, the next village is Dos Caminos. Dos Caminos means Two Roads."

That makes a lot of sense, I thought to myself.

"Dos Caminos must be the "Y" in the road!" I exclaimed.

"That´s right", said Don Gerardo.

"You take a left and go to El Coyol and Boca de Monte.

If you go north, that´s the road to San Martín Tlacotepec."

A Mysterious Bridge in the Jungle
Don Gerardo cautioned me though.

"After Dos Caminos the road gets very rough and narrow and is only for burros and horses. It is a very beautiful way to go with lots of vegetation and a wonderful view. You might like it. Another thing is the mysterious bridge over the Panoaya River. "

"A mysterious bridge?," I asked.

"Yes," said don Gerardo. "The bridge over the Panoaya River is majestic and very old. Nobody knows who built it or why. It is out in the middle of nowhere."

"It is a magnificent old bridge has 3 arches and looks like a smaller version of the bridge at Puente Nacional."

I remembered that the bridge there had been built in the year 1803.

"When I was younger, I used to go along with the cowboys from the ranch on horseback to dances in San Martín and when we would come back at night we would ride our horses fast over the bridge to see the sparks fly from the iron horseshoes. As I recall, it on horseback it was a 4 or 5 hour ride from Dos Caminos to San Martín."

The Next Project
By now, I was interested, not in just continuing my explorations of the Camino Real. Now I had to see the Bridge in the Jungle.

"We can go anytime you want," said Don Gerardo. "Let´s try to make it on another Sunday, and I´ll take you along with the kids. They´ve never seen the bridge."

It sounded interesting and we agreed to meet again at the hacienda another Sunday. Rodrigo said he was ready any time, too.Maybe we would find the missing stretch along the Camino Real that connected Acazónica to San Martín Tlacotepec.

Not Wanting to Leave
Reluctantly, we shook hands with Don Gerardo, each of his children, and the other members of the family. It was one of those moments when you don´t want to leave and would like to stay another 5 minutes. Each of the people I was shaking hands with felt like part of my own family.

I could hardly wait to come back to the Hacienda el Coyol and continue our explorations. Our next project would be to walk the jungle path of the Camino Real and look for the old bridge.

An Old Oxcart

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