by Richard L. Thornton, Architect and City Planner
One Summer In Mexico ~ Part 68
A miracle occurred this morning, which is worthy of one more funny story from Yucatan. I have been searching for the color slide of the pigs, seen above, my entire adult life. They were our mascots, while Ana Rojas and I were based in an old Maya hut at the edge of the Labná archaeological zone. Well, there is much more to the story . . . much more. I found the slide, along with several slides of Maya milpas, in a slot in a slide tray that otherwise contained images of the Totonac city of El Tajin in northern Veracruz. I will explain later how they got there.
I still can’t figure out how Labná ended up in Yucatan. I checked my textbooks from way back then and they definitely say that Labná was in the northeastern tip of Campeche State. You go figure?
The two dancing pigs
We’ve told you the story of Ana the Trail Guide and future anthropologist, but never about the two dancing pigs. For those of you, who are just joining my journey through Mexico, there was no public bus that could transport me to the cluster of fascinating Maya cities in eastern Campeche State. Several of these archaeological zones, which back then were virtually unknown to North Americans, are now UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The owner of a company that furnished logistic support to university and INAH archaeological expeditions offered me his eldest daughter as a guide. Both of us had just turned 21. Ana was two weeks older than me and was about to enter her senior year at the University of Campeche. She initially became a high school history teacher, but went on to become a highly respected anthropologist, specializing in Maya ethnology.
The miniscule Maya lady, who rented out our love shack, kept a bunch of Maya pigs. They were much smaller than Gringo pigs and had long snouts like wild boars. They also seemed much more precocious than Gringo pigs, who are kept penned all of their lives . . . until butchered.
Two of the pigs followed the owner and us as we walked from her Maya hut to the one that were renting for a few days. She tried to get the two pigs to return to her house, but they wouldn’t. The pigs followed us to Ana’s Jeep, when we fetched our travel bags and picnic coolers. When it was time for us to go exploring, the pigs followed us back to the Jeep . . . and actually tried to get in, when we opened the doors. They were like pet dogs!
When we returned from our first adventure that afternoon, the pigs followed us back to our hut. They then followed us to the open shed, where our Maya hostess served a delicious dinner then followed us back to our hut again. At this point, both Ana and I were both exploding with hormones, but the pigs wouldn’t go away. Ana lit Sterno lamps around the interior of the hut and outside too. She turned on an 8-track tape of Strauss waltzes and we began to swirl around the hut in a magical dance of sudden love. The pigs squealed with delight and danced around with us. They didn’t actually stand up as in the cartoon below, but bounced around the floor of the hut like joyful puppies.
At the highly anticipated moment that came at the end of the waltz tape, the pigs decided to go to sleep on our two inflatable mattresses, apparently wanting ringside seats. That was the last straw for Ana. She beat the pigs with an old Maya broom and chased them out of the hut. I then closed the steel panel across the door opening, which kept jaguars from eating us.
The next morning, we found the two pigs asleep next to the broom that Ana had beaten them with. That scene broke her heart. I quickly snapped a color slide of the pigs before they awoke. From then on we tolerated the pigs presence . . . except when it was bedtime. They went out the doorway at that point. LOL Two star-crossed lovers jest can’t get no respect!
Two passionate nerds suddenly fell in love
Both Ana and I were tall and physically attractive . . . her more than me. However, neither of us were sufficiently good-looking to be models featured in beauty pageants . . . on magazine covers or TV stars. Well, actually I was a cover boy for Dairy Goat Journal once. We both are passionate about what ever we do and highly self-disciplined. The self-discipline, along with the lack of the internet, are the only reasons that Ana is not now sitting beside me at the computer desk, giggling about our first days of romance.
My story about Ana the Tour Guide with Benefits seemed racy, but actually we were perfect matches that the stars brought together. When we met, both of us were high on passion, but minimal in experience. Like all the other visits from Venus that August long ago, I was not looking for love. It just happened.
My mind had archived Ana, but once I saw her photo and the photos of Campeche, most of those magical moments came back . . . whereas my mind has intentionally erased most of the details of a later marriage to the wrong person.
This is how nerdy we were. Both of us only made one B in post-graduate level courses . . . the rest were A’s. It was the exact time that we should have figured out a way to live together, but always put our careers first, until it was too late.
The last phone call
A 20 minute phone call to Campeche cost $40 back then . . . the equivalent of $280 today . . . so there were very few phone conversations between us after the time in the Puuc Jungle. Eighteen months after first meeting, I was finishing up my Architectural thesis and Ana was starting her Anthropological thesis. Ana wrote me to ask if I could make prints of the color slides of Maya milpas (slash and burn agriculture in the jungle). She needed them for her thesis. NASA was regularly using digital imagery, but the technology was unavailable to consumers in the late 20th century. She also asked about the dancing pigs. I told her that I would make of print of the sleeping pigs and also mail it.
At the end of the letter, Ana asked my forgiveness for her looking for love in all the wrong places – namely Mexico. She gave me her father’s business telephone number and asked me to call them collect at night, when the business line was forwarded to their house.
Her father offered me a summer job, leading tours of architects and artists at Maya sites. It would pay the equivalent today of $5000 month with free use of a jeep, a suite at their new resort next to Uxmal and three meals a day from the resort restaurant. Ana got on the phone afterward and said that if I would still have her, I would also get her father’s oldest daughter free. She would be a tour guide, living at that resort during the summer.
Alas, I had to tell them that on the day after graduation, I would be flying to Sweden to start a job there. Ana immediately responded that I could cancel the job in Sweden and come to Campeche to be in her arms. I couldn’t tell anyone for 20 years that US Naval Intelligence had obtained that job for me in Sweden. I didn’t even apply for it. However, Ana interpreted my response to mean that I was no longer interested in her. Life is indeed a box of chocolates.
There are a few good things (but not many) that have originated at the University of Georgia. This is one of them! Alas, the South was a much happier place back in the 1990s, when joyous dancing and open displays of affection between women and men were considered a healthy thing.