The AeroMexico counter was already busy when I arrived. I was among the first ten people in line and found myself surrounded by a large group of Mexicans and (I later learned) Guatemalans, mostly men. A woman, whose first language did not seem to be Spanish, stopped at several points along the line and distributed tags to them. When I got to the check-in counter, I asked if I had missed something, as I did not have one of these tags. The clerk said that the woman probably assumed that I was not a seasonal agricultural worker, and smiled. He said that those who received the tags were all part of one group. I’m curious about how this work is organized. Is there a broker who acts as a liaison with the government, who finds the workers and does the paperwork, obtains the visas and does whatever else is required? Was the woman working for the government or, possibly, for the broker? I wondered if the men were happy to be going home to be with their families and friends for the holidays. With Quebec now in winter’s deep-freeze, are these workers looking forward to the spring planting season, the summer growing season and the fall harvest season? Or are they just glad to get away? Do they curse capitalism, as I do, for its use of people as if they are mere machines, in the case of these workers, just rentals, to be used when needed and then returned to the pool of surplus labour when the job is done? Or are they just happy to have work, hoping that their health holds out for a few more years.
The flight was wonderful. Of all the airlines I've flown on, AeroMexico is far and away the best. I had a window seat, 8F, just ahead of the wing. I've flown from Fort Lauderdale to Houston, and so have seen the northern slice of the Gulf of Mexico; but this is the first time I've flown over the expanse of it. It is incredibly beautiful from the air. In fact, it is being destroyed, along with the livelihoods and the way of life of those who fish in it. Profit before people and the living environment.
The hot meal offered by AeroMexico was, well, superb compared to other airline food I've had, which was mostly stuff I ate because I was really hungry, or simply because I had paid for it in the price of the ticket. The choice was chicken or pasta. I asked for the chicken, as did everyone else in row 8, across the plane, so I didn't get a chance to see what the pasta looked like. The chicken was delicious, and came with a fresh salad, a roll and butter, steamed veggies, coffee, a small glass of white wine and, for dessert, a brownie.
There were two movies. The first one was a strange one, “The Odd Life of Timothy Green,” about a little boy with leaves growing from his legs who turns up at the home of a childless couple. I took my opportunity to nap during that one. The second was “The Amazing Spiderman.” During that one, as I walked to the back of the plane, where the washrooms are located, I was wishing my eyes could film what they see. In row after row, faces were upturned toward the movie screens, their eyes rapt. If I hadn't known they were engrossed in a Spiderman movie, I might have thought they were witnessing the second coming of Christ.
The Villahermosa Airport is small. Still, there seemed to be no reason why it wouldn't have an ATM machine, which seemed to be the problem one young man was ranting about to the clerk at the taxi office. I’m glad that I changed Canadian dollars to Mexican pesos, enough for a few days, before I left Montreal. It was one less thing that could have turned into a major glitch. The taxi ride from the airport into town to the Best Western Maya Tabasco cost 200 pesos.
From the outside, the Best Western Maya Tabasco looks deceptively nice. My room-for-the-night smelled strongly of mildew. The WiFi connection was spotty. The restaurant vastly overcharged for their buffet breakfast and a waiter who seemed over-solicitously attentive to the table of businessmen beside me, while I had to ask for a coffee and a refill. All of that unpleasantness for a $60 per night room! Glad it was only one night.
I got the noon bus to Palenque and arrived at Hostel Yaxkin at 2:30 yesterday. I already love this place. Of course, it has its good and bad points ... after all, it's a hostel. The decor is Mayan-inspired, and the atmosphere is laid back. About 80% of the people here are young Rainbow people celebrating the Solstice in their own way. It can get a little noisy in the reception area. A couple of times the WiFi has failed. The eight-bed women's dormitorio where I'm staying is clean and quiet, and I slept better last night than I have in a long time. Two more nights of good rest will help to prepare me for the next steps on my journey.
I'm looking forward to meeting up with the Schools for Chiapas group on Sunday for "Zapatista Visions II: The Sixth Sun ~ Birthing a New and Better World." These are hopeful times.