Saturday, September 7, 2013

Water-logged Tabasco

You can't talk about Tabasco without talking about water. With its cacophany of rivers, swamps, and blobs of land in between, the geography of this southern Mexican state looks like a toddler's squiggle drawing - though one dotted with scores of PEMEX oil drills. Somehow I always end up researching here during the rainy season, when major flooding becomes routine and the TV news kicks off with footage of families being rescued by boat.

I swung up to the northeast corner of Tabasco today for a quick visit to the Pantanos de Centla Biosphere Reserve, a massive and biodiverse wetland and river delta. Huge iguanas lumbered along the raised wooden boardwalk of the reserve's interpretation center, and chunky islands of waterlilies flew by on the river current. Driving back to the main road, I stopped to marvel at a house completely surrounded by a swampy tide and accessible only via a skinny walkway. One of the residents invited me in, but first I had to embarrass myself by inching across the wobbly planks as his family giggled and encouraged me to walk with confidence. Inside the dirt floor room, a woman cooked over a fire, three 'tween girls thumbed through bilingual dictionaries to do their English homework, and I chatted with the ten inhabitants as we waited for the rain to let up.  

Every so often you rush through a place and wish you'd been able to linger and explore it more deeply. Last night I stayed over in Tapijulapa, a little town that dazzled me a few years ago with its cobblestone alley streets, red tile roofs and never-ending green mountain ridges. It reminded me of some of the towns - mostly Spanish - I've visited in the Pyrenees, except with little kids sidling up to me to ask where I was from. 

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