by Richard L. Thornton, Architect and City Planner
One Summer In Mexico ~ Part 67
I returned “home” to Mexico City a changed man
It is time to move on to the Totonacs and Aztecs. I have digitized and restored 1152 color slides from the Maya country in southern Mexico, Guatemala and British Honduras (now Belize). You could be subjected to articles on individual Maya cities from now till the end of 2021 . . . but we won’t do that. Instead, I will continue preparing videos on Maya architecture, for those of you, seriously interested in the subject.
The Totonacs claimed to be descended from the elite of Teotihuacan and afterward in their later cities produced some of the most sophisticated architecture in the Americas. Although still a large indigenous ethnic group in Mexico, they are little known in the United States. What very few people anywhere outside of Mexico know is that Totonac architects independently invented concrete. That’s right, many Totonac buildings had concrete floors and walls! Unlike all the other civilizations in Mesoamerica, the Totonacs were able to construct many large structures, which were not relatively small buildings on top of solid pyramids or mounds. The Totonacs also built concrete aqueducts. Three articles will be devoted to their brilliant civilization. In the last one, I will examine the evidence of contacts between Totonacs and Scandinavians.
A lifetime of experiences in one month
In early September, I returned to Colonia Nueva Santa Maria in Mexico City with both my mind and innards swirling . . . the latter due to contracting amoebic dysentery in Guatemala. The former due to a rapid succession of intense emotional and physical experiences . . . far, far more than the previous 21 years of my life.
Alicia had not seen me since I flew off to Merida, Yucatan a day and a half after returning from Oaxaca. She was about to explode with hormones, but also was distraught. The bodies of three of her college classmates, one of them a female, had been found in Michoacan – bound and executed by their Marxist commanders. Just as in the case of the Zapatistas in southern Mexico, the college students had been promised that they could go back to classes in the fall, if they so desired. The Zapatistas encouraged their students to back to classes, the Marxists in central Mexico lied. When several college students left anyway, three were captured. Their classmates were forced to shoot them as Capitalist Spies.
Alicia was worried sick about her good friend Elena and for good reason. I told Alicia that I had seen Elena and that she seemed to regret joining the Movimiento Octobre Segundo. I didn’t tell Alicia that the commanders forced Elena to sleep with me. That was initially a very awkward situation for both of us, but once we got to know each other, we at least liked each other. I was only there for one night. I felt sorry for her and was very concerned about her survival. I was right. She was killed in a government ambush a few weeks after Christmas.
Elena was also supposed to drug me afterward and go through my belongings. Instead, I told Elena where I kept documents hidden in my backpack, which would prove that I was very sympathetic with the Mexican college students and was a reporter for the Great Speckled Bird Newspaper. See https://apalacheresearch.com/2021/02/17/cancun-mexico-in-1970/
My first assignment as an information gatherer
A couple of weeks before flying to Mexico, a LT. CDR. in Naval Intelligence had invited me to join him for lunch. He claimed that the US Navy had played a role in me getting the fellowship. Could be . . . but that claim was not obvious. He then asked me to do something for my country. The primary request was that I write a report on the cultural and political attitudes of college students in Mexico. Before leaving for Mexico that request was expanded to something quite a bit more dangerous . . . actually making contact with four new insurgent groups, which were known to be recruiting college students. Those visits are explained in the article, linked in the previous paragraph.
The Naval Intelligence officer said that there were people in the CIA, NSA and Army Intelligence trying to get the US into another Vietnam War . . . this time in Mexico and Central America. They seemed to all be in bed with the major defense contractors. The CIA officer in the Mexico City embassy hung around the elite. Covert agents from the other intelligence agencies spent most of their time at bars, brothels and restaurants . . . picking up women . . . then replicating what the local CIA officers were saying. He wanted to know what was in the hearts and minds of the college students . . . the future professionals of Mexico. They would determine Mexico’s future.
Well, the US Navy got much more than the bargained for. Dr. Román Piña Chán intentionally immersed me into Mexican culture and then in the last six weeks of the fellowship, I befriended a whole lot of female college students, but none of them in bars or brothels – four of them were in guerilla training camps! Throughout the report I wrote immediately after returning to Georgia, I used personal examples to explain attitudes. Basically, I told a series of stories, just like I wrote in the Americas Revealed. I particularly emphasized the Rojas family in Campeche, who really liked North Americans and had mutually beneficial business relationships with many universities. I felt that rather than using heavy handed military pressure, it would be far more enlightened to promote mutually beneficial business relationships with Latin America . . . and yes . . . international romances. If you would like to see most of what else I wrote, go to this article: https://apalacheresearch.com/2020/08/09/eyewitness-to-the-secret-wars-in-mexico-and-central-america/
The day before registration for fall classes at Georgia Tech, the Navy ROTC commandant called me to his office. Don’t worry, they never knew about me being drugged by the French hippie girls! He first complemented me on my report and said that my handler in Naval Intelligence had forwarded it, unchanged, to the higher brass. He then told me that unfortunately, the US Navy was cancelling my Science and Engineering Contract. Over 30,000 S & E officers were being retired early because the Navy was downscaling. I would no longer have to attend NROTC classes, but could be called to active duty by order of the President until after the age of 65. He then offered me a contract to become a career Naval Intelligence officer. The Navy would pay me the salary of a Lieutenant and pay for me to get a Masters in Foreign Languages then a PhD in International Affairs.
I declined because it would mean that I had wasted five years of my life in architecture school, whereas I had looked forward to being a SeaBee officer. A few days later, the Commandant called me back to his office. He said that I could change my mind about becoming an Intelligence Officer until after age 28. He also asked me that if the Navy created “opportunities” for me overseas as officially a civilian, would I be willing to do “favors” for Naval Intelligence. I said, “Yes!”
The sexual and drug revolution (Mexico and France)
Before going through a timeline of experiences during the last phase of the fellowship, I want to explain the very different attitude of Mexican college coeds at that time, when compared to their counterparts in the USA. It was different. I found that all of the young Mexican women assumed that it was normal for young men to be promiscuous, primarily with prostitutes from the Lower Economic Class. However, they wanted to create a new morality in which their boyfriends only went to brothels, when their girlfriends were not available. Remember this was in an era when such monsters as AIDS, herpes and cancer-causing viruses had not appeared.
The senorita’s version of the sexual revolution, then underway in North America and Europe, was that they would maintain the public appearance of being “nice” girls, but privately have the same fun that the guys had. Well, they also wanted their boyfriends to minimize their exposure to conventional STD’s at brothels by minimizing their visits and using precautions . . . if you get my gist.
None of the Mexican college students, who I circulated with, approved of hard drugs. The more radical ones didn’t even approve of hard liquor – only beer, wine and marijuana. At parties, I attended in affluent suburbs of Mexico City with Alicia, marijuana was endemic. Normally, Alicia only drank wine and smoked pot, but at wedding party in a rural Indian village, she quickly downed two glasses of tequila. I didn’t.
My understanding from communications with long time friends in Mexico is that just in recent years, female college students have become less concerned about public appearances in regard to intimate activities. Some Middle and Upper class girls do openly cohabitate with men, but none want to appear to be prostitutes or have multiple lovers. They said that most middle and upper class men no longer expect their brides to be virgins. They said though that if a woman is beautiful and charming enough, she can start out life as a mistress or paid escort and end up marrying into the elite.
As readers of my articles on Oaxaca know, the French college students went wild in Mexico. They consumed a far greater variety and quantity of psychedelic drugs than either Mexican or North American students. The non-religious and Catholic girls didn’t give a flip what people thought of their morality or how many drugs they were consuming.
My tent mates (literally) Yvette and Clare were Protestants. They dressed much more conservatively in public and claimed that they had never touched any drugs other than pot before coming to Mexico. Once Yvette and I paired off, she would make people in public think that we were a long term couple, perhaps married. Both she and Clare didn’t want anybody to think that they were promiscuous. Interestingly enough, 20 years later Vivi, who was nominally a Catholic, but originally from Protestant roots in rural France, was the same way. About six months after we first met, she returned to United States to see me. She wore a wedding ring when we were in public and even told people like Chef Julia Child, that we were married.
Chronology of the last six weeks in Mexico
So . . . when I returned to Mexico City from Michoacan in late July, Alicia was like a swarm of hornets. She assumed that I had retained the services of prostitutes. I never did, but her complaint was that I was having fun, while she was bursting with unsatisfied hormones. She was so naive that she didn’t know about alternative solutions to the problem. We held a conference in the national forest north of Tres Indios Verdes and signed the Treaty of Tres Indios Verdes, whereby I taught her alternative solutions, plus agreed to be more attentive to her needs. She agreed to stop blaming me for a situation that was created by her mother and weird relatives. I would have been delighted for Alicia to accompany me around Mexico. Her mother would not let her and treated her like she was still young teenybopper.
- At my 21st birthday party, Sra. Soto got Alicia and I drunk for the first time in our lives. She spiked the punch! We woke up on the couch around midnight, with Alicia partially clothes and curled up against me.
- The next night I found myself in a tent near Oaxaca with three French college coeds . . . only slightly clothed. Thus, began a three day romance with a beautiful French Huguenot architecture student, who could have become my wife for a lifetime, but didn’t.
- A day and half after I arrived back in Mexico City from Oaxaca, I flew to Merida. That afternoon, my maid asked me, “Señor, usted esta muy huapo. ¿No queres una mujer bonita?” Thus, began a week long effort to persuade me to let her 16 year old daughter shack up with me for the duration in Mexico. After actually seeing the girl the next day, I began to have doubts about my refusal. She looked older than Alicia and like a future Miss Universe. Her mother insisted that Teresa had wanted me the moment I came in the hotel and even showed me her daughter’s report card – Straight A’s – but she was still 16! Alas, though, the poor girl’s fate was to be sold by Merida policemen to a wealthy, fat Gringo, living in Texas. It was my first exposure to the sex slave trade.
- The afternoon after leaving Merida in a bus, I was in the midst of a FLN guerilla base in what would become Cancun, Quintana Roo. Instead of talking politics or war things, we ended up designing solar and water energy technology for remote Maya villages. An anthropology student from Villahermosa was assigned to be my 24/7 companion. After were both back at college, the mixed-blood Maya anthropology student wrote me note to the fraternity house with a photo of us together that someone secretly took. She thanked me for being so kind with her and always a gentleman. She said that I was the first Gringo that she had ever known, but never dreamed that such a encounter would happened so suddenly. There was a sketch of her winking at me. She added that when I came back to Mexico, she would love to be my girlfriend for more than a night. She wanted to show me her beautiful state of Tabasco. Of course, the letter ended with “Viva Zapata! Viva Mexico Libre!”
- The following day after staying in the guerilla camp I was invited to have dinner with the Rojas Family in Campeche. Their daughter, Ana, was starting her senior year in college. She initially appeared to barely tolerate me, but 36 hours later that situation turned 180 degrees into a torrid romance. Ana could have been the love of my life, because unlike the situation with Alicia, her parents adored me and encouraged us to have an “adult” relationship. Ana went on to become a highly respected anthropologist and tour guide.
- One day after bidding Ana fair well, a female French archaeologist, four years my senior, invited me to her home for drinks and dinner, after we met at their archaeological dig. That was an interesting evening.
- The next two days I was in Palenque then spent parts of two days and a night at a FLN guerilla camp in the Chiapas Highlands. My assigned hostess was a Maya college student, studying to be an English teacher. She was a tall Itza Maya and beautiful. It was obvious that she felt very uncomfortable being forced to be my courtesan. I told her that I did not expect her to sleep with me. She then started smiling and thanked me. She said though, that she had to pretend to be my woman in order to obey her commandante. She had to kiss me and hold my hands some. We actually liked each other although still strangers. She was going to take a year off from college to teach young Maya men English, so they could be tour guides. That night after kissing me several times, she snuggled up to me to sleep. It was chilly in the highlands. I didn’t take advantage of her, even though she might have temporarily changed her mind.
- Two evenings later I was eating dinner with the owners of a hotel at an archaeological site in Tabasco. The man suddenly pulled out 400 pesos to give me so I could rent his 18 year old daughter for the night at the local brothel then bring her back to the hotel for drinks, dancing and a comfortable hotel room. I declined the offer. Her parents never forgave me for the insult.
- The following day around noon, I was in the arms of Alicia again. There was two days R and R with Alicia then I was flying again, this time to Guatemala. It rained most of the time. The bus to Tikal was a nightmare, because the air conditioning was not working, plus we could not open the windows due to the driving rain. Then I took an even more miserable ride in a second class bus to get as close as I could to a Maryknoll Mission Station, which was also a guerilla base camp.
Weapons and military supplies were being flown in from the Irish Republican Army, but were labeled medical supplies so the boxes were not being opened by Guatemala customs officials. Actually, the country was in chaos with five separate armies floating around the countryside killing Indians and poor mestizos.
The two nuns from Canada were living together. Apparently, in order to keep their nursing students from ratting on them, they allowed the girl nursing student to sleep with their solider boyfriends. The two priests were married to Maya women and had children. I suspect that the reason they encouraged the girls and young men to break Catholic doctrine was so they would keep quiet about the lifestyles of the priests and nuns.
- The girl picked out for me spoke some English, but clearly had a boyfriend. They were looking at each other with a helpless expression on their faces. I told her that I understood the situation and would not bother her that night. One of the nuns offered to assign me a girl with no boyfriend, but I declined the offer. I slept with the soldiers so everyone would know that I was not going to sneak off during the night . . . yep, and run through a jungle full of jaguars!
- When I returned to Mexico City, I had one week to study the Totonac cities in northern Vera Cruz and sort the artifacts that I picked off the ground then get them approved by Dr. Román Piña Chán. I was being allowed to ship 50 kg (120 pound) of artifacts that were not significant to the cultural heritage of Mexico. They were mostly potsherds, obsidian blades, obsidian atlatl points and crude ceramic sculptures. Once Dr. Piña Chán approved the items, they would be placed in a government container, sealed with a diplomatic bond and the shipped to the Mexican Consulate in Atlanta for me to pick up. I also had to furnish proof that I had visited all of the archaeological sites, which Dr. Piña Chán had assigned me.
There was a big surprise for me, when I arrived at the Museo Nacional de Antropologia. While I was in Yucatan, the new authoritarian president, Luis Echeverria, had fired Piña Chán. He was being replaced by a mediocre crony of the new president. My friend’s crime had been that he was too friendly with some of the student leaders at the university.
Dr. Piña Chán was still in his office, when I arrived, but most of the furnishings, books and artifacts were gone. He would be gone in a few days, but had no responsibilities. At this point, he did not give a damn. He approved all the artifacts, including a piece of a 1200 year old mural. He also excused the fact that it was too rainy to take photos in British Honduras.
Dr. Piña Chán, his graduate assistant, Alejandra and I enjoyed a long, long dinner at his expense in a pricey restaurant on the Paseo de la Reforma. It was followed by endless rounds of Mexican beer and wine. I told them all about my adventures in Mexico. Dr. Piña Chán had thrown the syllabus, made by Georgia Tech professors, in the trash can. Alejandra had prepared the new syllabus, which I followed. It’s one of those moments in life that you never forget.
Now that is the difference between Mexican senoritas and Gringas. Back then classy gals from wealthy families, like Alexandra, pretended to be ice queens, but she could not get enough of the lurid details of my romantic adventures . . . especially with Yvette and the Seven French Hippie Girls and Ana the Tour Guide with Benefits.
Both of them thought Alicia was a wus, because she did not just hop on the bus and see Mexico with me. Alejandra added that Yvette or Ana should have gotten on the bus with me. Nothing was stopping them. Alejandra took a sip of wine and looked at me seductively. “Ree-shard, I planned your journey. It was my dream vacation. Why didn’t you invite me? Your summer was better than any Mexican telenovela. Next time you call Alejandra!”
As for Alicia’s dilemma . . . Dr. Piña Chán said that he knew Mexican mothers. Most mothers would consider me a good catch, like Ana Rojas’s mother. Some would make daughters miserable before the fact, but as soon as the daughter broke her chains and became a woman, the mother will then start wanting grandchildren!