by Richard L. Thornton, Architect & City Planner
Edo. de Oaxaca – August 5, 1970
One Summer In Mexico – Part 35
The architecture of Oaxaca will be covered by a video.
My life as a “Super-Groovy Américain Hippie”: I was still recovering from Sra. Soto getting me stone drunk at my 21st birthday party the previous afternoon, when I boarded the bus to Oaxaca. I planned on sleeping all the trip.
Well over half the passengers in my ADO Luxury Class bus headed to Oaxaca, were French-speaking young people. I got the impression that they were headed to some sort of gigantic hippie or drug festival at a remote location on the Pacific Coast of Oaxaca. I was surrounded on all sides by people my age, mostly females, speaking French and wearing hippie clothes. Most spoke something to me in French and as soon as I answered with French, lathered by a Southeastern American accent, they turned their head and ignored me.
Across the isle a girl pricked up her ear, when she heard me say: “Je suis un étudiant en architecture d’Atlanta aux États-Unis.” She reached across the aisle and whispered to me in English that her name was Yvette and she was an architecture student from Lyon in southern France. She spoke perfect English. She said that she had lived a year in Toronto, when in high school. She wanted to immigrate to Canada, when she finished architecture school. Because of the presence of the Quebecois, French architecture degrees are accepted for licensing in Canada.
She apologized for the rudeness of the other students from Paris. Her eyes lit up when I told her about my fellowship. She said some things in French and thus persuaded the French passengers to play musical chairs so I could sit beside her and in the middle of the girls from Lyon, who were architecture, art and archaeology students. They asked me if I would be their guide at the Zapotec capital of Monte Alban. I, of course, said, yes.
These girls were not your usual American hippies, wearing worn out blue jeans. Their clothing obviously came from the most sophisticated fashion salons of Paris. The only places that I had ever seen such outfits, they were wearing, were in women’s fashions magazines at the supermarket counters. Several of the gals, including Yvette, wore plastic flower bracelets. They told me that they were a folk singing group at the Université de Lyon. All of them played musical instruments. I strongly suspected that they were rich girls, playing hippie.
Just as a joke, I started singing the old folk song, Dominique, by the Singing Nuns. Yvette started singing with me after the first line . . . then all the other girls in her group. By the end, most of the French people on the bus were singing along. Needless to say, the bus driver and the poor Mexicans on the bus, most of whom were traditional Indians, thought that they had entered the Twilight Zone.
Don’t ask me why, but I learned all the words in Fifth Grade French at Enota Elementary School in Gainesville, GA and remember all the words to this day. They said my pronunciation was perfect in the song . . . but not so good, when I tried to speak French. Singing Dominique floored the gals and at that point they officially adopted me as a the “Groovy Américain.”
The two “Singing Nuns” eventually committed suicide.
One of the group’s members had purchased an Aztec drum at a market in Mexico City, but none of the coquettes knew how to play it. When the bus stopped in Acatlan for a lunch and restroom break, I played the drum for them. I told them that I was part American Indian. They immediately declared me to be a Super-Groovy Américain and made me their official mascot.
I was surprised that every single French girl lit up a cigarette as soon as she stepped off the bus. The majority of college coeds in the US smoked during that era, but usually only in social situations or when relaxing. Most of these French ladies kept a cigarette or marijuana joint in their hands constantly, except when they were playing musical instruments.
The French girls tended to walk around with the cigarette pointed up into the air, giving the appearance of a human choo-choo train. Yvette smoked less and less, as she was around me. Instead, she began posturing in a really sexy manner, taking long draws and looking me in the eyes, when she inhaled and blew out smoke. I suspected that this had a subliminal meaning.
I don’t know why most of them chain smoked. They didn’t seem nervous or odd otherwise. Actually, they were always very pleasant to be around . . . dawn to bedtime. Maybe the cigs were the reason. Who knows? Nowadays, young women walk around dawn to dusk with Smart Phones in their hands. Perhaps they serve the same function.
As we approached Oaxaca, Yvette asked me if I would be willing to camp out with them. All of the male-female couples had decided to stay in hotels in Oaxaca, but her group of gals could not afford that. They were rightfully concerned about their safety with no man around then told me that they would prepare me gourmet French meals, if I would be their body guard and tour guide. I am not worthy. I am not worthy.
We found a really nice campground, advertised at the Oaxaca Tourist Center. It was only 14 pesos a night – $2. We hired a VW bus-taxi, which took the girls to a Supermercado, where they bought food and a cooler and then on to the campground. When we wanted to go to downtown Oaxaca, we could call the VW bus-taxi from the campground office. Otherwise, the girls were very experienced campers and had all the equipment they needed in compact duffel bags. It was going to be four people per tent – that’s tight. I had never even slept in a tent with a female and I was going to be jammed in with three French coeds . . . tough, but I was now a man and I could endure.
The girls started puffing marijuana as soon as the tents were set up. I didn’t at first, but finally decided to try the famous symbol of the Hippie Era. Alicia smoked pot with her girlfriends at the university and at parties. We were scheduled to attend several parties when I got back to Mexico City from Yucatan, so I figured I might as well practice among French strangers, so I would not look like a country bumpkin in front of Alicia’s friends. Therice smoked pot even in the tent, so I probably could have gotten high from being in the tent.
The dinner was absolutely incredible . . . like going to a five star restaurant. The French used mushrooms in a lot of dishes, plus lots butter and mild spices. The girls were totally stoned by then. They started spoon-feeding me . . . which was kind of erotic. They guzzled wine all during the meal and continued drinking glass after glass. I couldn’t drink anymore wine because I was getting nauseated. This is embarrassing, but then I had to run to the edge of the campsite to vomit. They laughed. Then Yvette threw up then most of the other girls. Why would they laugh about vomiting? I was soon to find out.
My world started swirling around me and become technicolor. Those girls had put hongos de Oaxaca on our food . . . the infamous hallucinogenic mushrooms of Oaxaca. I have only vague memories of the evening. I remember playing music, singing and dancing . . . the girls taking off most of their clothes . . . beyond that I could not discern was real and what was fantasy. I started seeing what looked like the ghosts of animals . . . many of them long extinct. Very bizarre. I did not like the feeling at all. It was like something invisible had control of me and I was its puppet.
My head was still swirling when I woke up to the sunlight coming into the tent and saw myself jammed between three gals wearing only men’s tee shirts with hippie motifs on them – when I say nothing else, I mean NOTHING else. I went back to sleep until Yvette woke me up as her elbows were propped on top of my chest. She said, “Bonjour handsome Richard. Would you like coffee.” Then the other two girls raised their heads, smiled and said, “Bonjour Richard.” So, I guess I didn’t do anything that upset them.
The girls had their coffee and cigarettes then cooked a gourmet brunch. We spent the rest of the day at Monte Alban. The girls really enjoyed helping me measure and analyze the buildings. The architecture students and I discussed architectural things. Several of them remarked that I was a great drummer and that I should join their group. They did admit putting a lot of magic mushrooms on my dinner.
That I didn’t appreciate. I was still having periods, when I couldn’t think clearly. What was the most scary thing, however, was that times I would think I was seeing the ghosts of ancient peoples walk across the plaza or see great birds, like from the dinosaur age, fly over Mt. Alban then disappear.
That night, the girls grilled steaks and fixed French-style french fries and haricot verts as side dishes. We had flan for desert. I did not get nauseated after the meal, so they kept their promise about the magic mushrooms. We started jamming and dancing . . . slowing my body seemed to be one and the same with the music then everyone seemed to be distorted and I saw flashes of bright colors in the starry night. I vaguely remember hugging Yvette and some of the other girls then I thought I remembered Yvette and in a tight embrace and then my mind goes blank.
Then next morning, I woke up to Yvette being cuddled up to my back with her arm around me . . . but that might just a natural expression of comfort, I thought. When she woke up, she spontaneously kissed me on the cheeks, then apologized . . . pulling away her arm at the same time. “No apology needed,” I said! “That was a nice way to wake up.”
She actually was blushing like she had done something wrong then kind of stuttered when she tried to ask if I would like some coffee. The girls went outside and had their coffee and cigarettes then again they cooked a gourmet lunch. After the meal, we folded up the tents and packed up the camping equipment.
I called the VW-bus taxi, since they didn’t know Spanish. They locked up their camping equipment in a locker at the bus station and bought tickets to Puerto Escondido on the coast. I checked into a cheap hotel and took my back pack upstairs to the room.
We then wandered around the old colonial capital, especially spending time in the old churches. Without thinking about it, Yvette and I started holding hands. We both looked down in shock what we were doing. She looked at me pleadingly, “I like this. Is this okay with you?” I said, “Yes.”
After an early lunch, it came time to part. One by one, the French girls hugged me briefly. Yvette also kissed me on the check. Then Claire (guitar player) kissed me on the lips and whispered, “I think we had fun together the first night, but I am not sure.” Yvette looked a little jealous then came back to me and kissed even longer on the lips. We all said au revoir and went on our ways.
Nothing was as it seemed
I laid down on the hotel bed, trying to recover from three days of torment to my brain and body. On the night of August 4, Sra. Soto got Alicia and I stoned drunk for the first time in our lives. I woke up in Alicia’s arms on the couch, not knowing what had happened. On the night of August 5th some French hippie girls got me zonkered with magic mushrooms. I woke up in a tent containing three half naked French hippie girls, nor knowing what had happened. On the night of August 6th, the French hippie girls slipped me LSD, which sent me on a trip to lala land. I woke up in the arms of Yvette, the French hippie, not knowing what had happened.
I had been asleep for maybe an hour when there was a knock on the door. I opened the door. It was Yvette. She looked like she had been crying and she was looking at the floor.
She looked up and said, “Believe me, please. This has not been the real me. Please forgive me. It was terrible of us to put those mushrooms in your food and LSD in your water. I am so sorry. I will never forgive myself. Also, I want you to know that I am not a salope (slut). I can tell inside me that we . . . you know . . . last night. I am so ashamed.” I told her that I don’t remember anything. Did she? She said, “No, I don’t remember it, but I can tell.”
“This is terrible, but I must confess to you that we bought the drugs and camping equipment to have an orgy with some man, but we had never used mushrooms and LSD before, so did not know that they would take our brains away. None of us have ever been at an orgy and you are the first man, who I ever slept beside. We were crazy girls. I don’t know why we did this.”
They messed up their heads just as much as mine was messed. I told her that there was nothing to forgive, but please throw away those mushrooms and LSD. I hated hard drugs and never wanted to be around them again. Next time they could be with an evil man, who would hurt them while they were helpless from the drugs. She agreed and said that she had told Therese to throw the LSD away. The mushrooms were all eaten.
“You have to understand. I am so lonely. I have not had a man in my life since I went to the university. Before then they were just boys. In architecture, we have to work all the time. (Oh yes, we know about that!) But . . . also, I am a Huguenot . . . a Protestant. Although only old ladies go to Mass in France now, the Catholic men will not be seen with the Huguenot girls, because we are not Catholic. We are also have trouble finding professional jobs because the French Catholics do not consider us to be real French. That is why I want to move to Canada. Being French is no problem in Canada, but I can live in Ontario, where most people are Protestant. “
“When I touched your bare skin this morning at sunrise. I am so lonely. I wanted to make love you with so much. I even started touching you all over in hope that you would make the first move, but then I felt ashamed of myself.
“When you started singing, “Dominique,” we knew that you were a Catholic and so sang the song with you to make you think we were Catholics. But you are very different than the French Catholics. Susanne wanted to scold you because Dominique was not a good man like the song says, but an evil devil, who caused over 20,000 men, women and children Protestants in southern France to be burned alive. He would sing songs of praise to God as Protestant babies and children were thrown into burning pits. I stopped Susanne, because then you would not be our friend anymore.”
I didn’t have a chance to tell her that I was Protestant, because she was so intent on describing what a bad person she was.
Then Yvette dropped a bomb shell. “Richard, we are not hippies and we are not rich. We are fakes. We paid over 4000 francs ($720) for the hippie clothes in Mexico City so men at the festival would think that we were rich hippie girls. We spent almost all our last money to impress you with our gourmet French cuisine. Because of buying the clothes, drugs and tents, we have no money to go home. ”
She said that if they went to the festival, they would have to become prostitutes to get back to France. They only had enough money to take a bus back to the Mexico City airport, where they would wait for their parents to wire money to Air France to get them home. Air France had agreed to accept too much money and then give the balance back to the girls.
In 1970, there was no such thing as debit cards, credit cards and standard wiring of funds between banks back then. Well, there were credit cards, but only a few wealthy people had them.
Then she dropped another bombshell. “Richard, I am not from Paris. I grew up in a small Huguenot village in the mountains of Languedoc in southern France. I spent my summers, working on my grandparents farm. I really am descended from French nobility. I am descended from Emperor Charlemagne. My family had to flee Lyon during the Wars of Religion. Do you hate me now?”
My answer was a no-brainer: “Nope! Actually I could have fallen in love with you, if I had known that you really didn’t use hard drugs and were from rural background like me. First of all I am a Protestant and the main problem with my girlfriend in Mexico City is that her mother rarely goes to Mass, but calls me a Diablo Protestante.”
You have the same sweet personality and sexiness that Alicia has, but you and I have the same religion and much more in common with our interests. Remember how much fun we had going through Monte Alban together? Right now, Alicia is not interested in architecture.” I was telling her the truth.
“Actually, when I thought I was dreaming that your hands were on me, I did secretly want to make love to you. The drugs have messed up my head. Then I remembered that you were a hippie girl, who used hard drugs all the time, so there was no way we could have a love relationship.”
She said, “Really!” and pushed me down onto the bed. We “made out” awhile then she started saying “Arrêtez! Arrêtez!” (stop) She panted, “I am sorry. If I don’t stop now, I will never be able to stop. I must take the bus to the airport this afternoon so I can get some money.”
As she backed away, she kissed me on the forehead and said, “Va avec Dieu mon prince.” [go with God my prince] and began slowly walking toward the door. I shouted, “Wait a minute, I don’t know your full name or mailing address!”
Yvette didn’t know where she would be living when she returned to the university so I handed her my parent’s address in Georgia for her to write me. She laughed through her tears and said, “I don’t want my parents to know that you took the drugs with me. I will write to your parents home from Lyon, when I find an apartment. My family name is De Veaux, Je suis Yvette Marie De Veaux. It is spelled, De V . . .”
“Woe! I had a great-great-great-great grandmother, named Marie De Veaux. Her grandparents were refugees from Lyon. They were Huguenots! We are related! I had no clue that Marie De Veaux was descended from Charlemagne!” Life is indeed a box of chocolates.
I never heard from Yvette. I guess she was so ashamed of her poor choices in Mexico that she wanted to erase that part of her life . . . but then again, it could be something else. However, readers now will understand why, a week later, I was able to converse in French with three Quebecois school teachers at Chichen Itza, who were deathly ill with dysentery.
I had so many intense emotions and experiences in August 1970, while in southern Mexico and Guatemala that my brain tended to stash most of them in the back recesses. I only consciously remembered that some French hippie girls had drugged me in Oaxaca and really messed up my brain. Reading the journal brought everything else back.
There were several thousand hippies from the US and Europe (mostly drugged up) on the sidewalks of Oaxaca on August 7, 1970 . . . apparently on their way to the festival. I was glad to get out of there. It took about two weeks to completely rid my brain of the LSD. I was still affected by LSD, when on the bus headed back to Oaxaca from Mexico City, I sketched this “LSD style art” on the bus. The woman in the lower right hand corner is Alicia’s mother.