Tope (speedbump) culture is one of the more fascinating elements of living here in Huatulco, and Mexico in general. I don’t think I have experienced a country more into their topes than Mexico. Fat ones, where you have to slowly roll over them, almost flat ones, where your rear end, or a tire can be fried if you didn't see it, with a warning sign, or most often not, topes are a fact of life here. But from the corn and juice thrust through your window, to the informal collection of charity monies for the fire department or a children’s park, to the tire, and auto mechanic’s shops conveniently located at many topes, it is a microcosm of daily life here in Huatulco. A 6 hour trip to say Acupulco is bumped (literally) to 9 hours, as there are easily over 270 topes between here and there!
My theory is that these speedbumps were meant to slow down bank robbers from speeding off with the loot. Or they are meant to slow one down to notice the town that isn't there. Or, actually what it really is, is another economic opportunity. Here in Huatulco recently, all the topes on a bicycle race route were removed days before the race, but the day after the race, those topes were back. I mean they chiseled and scrapped that cement off, the race went “smoothly”, and those topes were cemented back in. (Everyone has a job.)
Off to Salina Cruz (2 hours south of us) the other day, our first tope encounter was the fresh squeezed OJ stop. As we gently rolled over the tope, with window down and passing out 10 - 50 pesos in change, we’re handed a tall fresh squeezed OJ, iced (a mystery to us as they only have coolers and how long can they last in 98 degree weather), without even stopping. It’s so great! The fastest drive-through in the world. Five or six topes later, was our first food tope pick up. These enterprising women have about three bags of corn in each hand (3-4 ears) hot, with a little baggie of fresh squeezed lime juice, and some chile salt. This is a little trickier than the OJ hand off, as these suckers are hot. Nonetheless we managed 2 bags. Tope No. 12 (?) was our first rope across the road (oh shit we’re being robbed!), held by the cutest girls from the local elementary school, and their mamas. Cans in the hand, pay up, the rope gets dropped. It is so effective. And all they have to do is smile, and we’re digging between the seats for lost change.
The Isthmus area is quite interesting geographically, and Salina Cruz is the big oil port here. This is oil country, and refineries rule. It looks like an oil town, smells like an oil down, and I always think of those 1930‘s/40‘s film noirs being filmed here when we visit. Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer, sneaking around corners, smoking, looking for a safe place to stall the bad guys. Mexicans use the word “feo” , ugly, when they talk about Salina Cruz, but this area does have it’s hidden charm. . Aside from Salina Cruz, there are towns here, including Juchitan, which have a unique charm and history. This is the heart of the indigenous peoples here. You see it in their markets, on the street, in the women dominating the business scene here, and the beautiful embroidered clothing unique to this area. This is were women rule, like no other place in Mexico. Women dominate the economy here. Not to say men don’t do anything... but the women here make it clear who is running the show. And so, the charm in this drive is the pristine beaches, salt farms, and utter emptiness, knowing that you are about to embark on yet another adventure.
These topes were a wonder to me when I first moved here, I cursed them like a sailor (as many of you who know me, my language has always been an issue), and now if there is no one on the tope to fuel me on to Salina Cruz, or Veracruz, or Oaxaca city, life is so not right. And so it goes...