This is a telephoto shot of the mountain with the cross at the very top. The picture was
taken from close to the church in La Esmeralda. If this had not been a telephoto shot,
the cross would hardly have appeared in the photo. In real life the cross is readily seen
from La Esmeralda for those with normal vision.
This vignette telling of erecting this cross on top of the mountain will also serve
as an opportunity for opening other small windows on some of the people and the life in
the small communities called La Esmeralda and Sierra Mojada. In other words, sort of
vignettes within a vignette.
Mexicans traditionally have a special devotion to La Santa Cruz, the Holy Cross.
This devotion is so old and traditional that in Mexico the liturgical celebration to honor
the cross falls on the third of May, an ancient date. In the liturgical calendar for the rest
of the Roman Catholic Church the celebration falls on the fourteenth of September.
A strong manifestation of this devotion is seen in the fact that almost every
community, be it a small little village or the largest cities, even sometimes on private
ranches, a conspicuous cross will be erected. If there is a nearby hill, a cross large
enough to be seen from the community will be erected. If the community is does not
have nearby hill, then somewhere within the community a pillar will be built, and a cross
will be erected atop the pillar. An exception to this custom would be very rare.
As an example, just outside of Sierra Mojada, at the lower end of the town,
there is on one side an area of elevated ground of easy access, and on the top of this
rise there is the traditional pillar with a wooden cross about ten feet tall. On the other
side there is a steep hill with another wooden cross about the same size. On the steeper
parts of this hill crude steps have been carved into the rock. On the third of May many
people will make a private visit, or join with a group, to come to the cross to leave
flowers and their prayers. Sometimes the cross will be draped with a long white cloth
hung over the traverse arms. These crosses were erected in the early times of Sierra
Mojada, and most likely needed to be replaced in the course of the years.
According to what I am told, the first time a cross, at least one visible from below,
was ever erected on the top of the mountain, was about 1945. Dr. Lupe García Guajardo
told me about the event: it was his father, José Manuel García, who organized and
directed this project. José Manuel García was a teacher in the grade school (the only
school) and was very deeply involved in the affairs of the community. Also he was a very
religious person, and the principal catechist in the parish. Even to this day he is highly
spoken of by the older people who knew him.
Dr. Lupe’s given name is José Guadalupe. This is a frequently used name, and
most of the time this name is shortened to ‘Lupe’. During the first years I was in La
Esmeralda, Dr. Lupe was the only doctor in town, and the fact is that he really did not
have a doctor’s diploma. The reason is that he studied medicine in Mexico City and was
in his year of internship when his father died. Dr. Lupe’s older brother, also named
Manuel, had already been ordained a priest and was assigned to a parish in Torreón, a
city about one hundred and twenty-five straight-line miles south of La Esmeralda. Lupe,
the second oldest son, now had to come back to La Esmeralda to take care of and
support the family. I am not sure, but it could be that still at this time there was another
doctor in town, but would be one contracted by the mine to first of all take care of those
employed by the mine. So there would have been room for Dr. Lupe to practice. And he
would have been very up to date. Dr. Lupe always kept up to date and was well
respected by everyone. If there were a case that was beyond his scope, he was quick to
inform the patient that he should seek help in Monclova or Torreón. He had a reputation
for correctly diagnosing the ailments of babies ---- who cannot say where it hurts. Only a
few years after I arrived in La Esmeralda the government built a fair sized clinic in La
Esmeralda, and staffed it with doctors just out of medical school and so were fulfilling the
obligatory one to two years of community service. In this clinic, both the consulting and
the medicine are free. (The medicines on the whole are cheaper and of an inferior
class.) Generally the people had more confidence in Dr. Lupe and so when it was
something more than an upset stomach, those who could afford it went to Dr. Lupe.
Around 1995 Dr. Lupe now widowed and living alone, retired from practice and
went to live in Saltillo where all of his children had gone to live. And where there were
many more conveniences than in remote La Esmeralda.
Dr. Lupe had an extreme fear of lightening. The desert storms can be fierce; and
the fact is that several people in the parish were killed by lightening while I was there. In
the center of an inside room of the house Dr. Lupe had a used tire lying on the floor, and
on the top of the tire was a wooden rocking chair. When a lightening storm developed,
the Doctor would sit in the chair for the duration of the storm. A year or so before retiring,
such a storm developed one night. Dr. Lupe got out of bed and took refuge in his safety
chair. A bolt of lightening fell on the outside of the adobe wall of the bedroom, blew a
small hole through the wall, and grounded itself through the old iron bedstead. Holes
were burned in the pillow and the sheets the doctor had just been using using.
Across the street from the Doctor’s house there was a young couple with two
children living in crowded fashion in the small house of the woman’s parents. On retiring
to Saltillo the Doctor invited the couple to live in his large house and take care of the
place. He reserved several rooms for himself for when he would come back to visit.
Dr. Lupe also is quite religious as was his father. At every morning mass when I
was in town, Dr. Lupe came to be both acolyte and reader. His residence and office
were cater-corner from the church.
Let us now put ourselves in the time frame of about 1979. By this time the
wooden cross erected by José Manuel Garcia had been there for thirty-five years. As
mentioned above, the mountain is raked with violent storms, and surely the cross had
been struck by lightening many times. Even though it had been repaired on occasion, it
was now in a very sad condition. One day someone brought me a note he had found
tacked to the cross. (The mountain top is frequently visited for one reason or the other,
but mostly by goat owners looking for animals that had gone astray. Anyway, the note
was left by a geologist who was spending some months in La Esmeralda making some
studies. The note stated that the cross was in a sorry state of disrepair, and as such it
was an accusation against the indolence of the community. The note was written on the
reverse side of the geologist’s business card in which the man asserts that he is of the
perito (highly expert) category. There were several misspelled words in the note! After
the new cross had been erected, the same geologist sent me another note saying that I
could make myself forever famous by building a set of steps up to the cross! Take
another look at that mountain! It would be nearly three thousand vertical feet of steps!
The thing that determined my decision to do something about the cross was
when a trusted friend and neighbor, Margarito Carlos Diab (sic), remarked to me that the
cross was in very bad condition and we really should think about replacing it. (Both
Carlos and Diab are family names; Carlos is the paternal, and Diab the maternal name.)
Margarito lived just across the street from the church next to his parent’s house. They
shared between them a courtyard in which grew the sole pear tree of all La Esmeralda.
Margarito’s father, Leonardo, was one of the principal leaders in the struggle to
unionize the miners, demanding increase in pay and benefits, and even retroactive pay.
Of course the owners resisted, saying that the good ore was depleted and if the miners
insisted on their demands, the companies would have to close the mines. The miners
thought this was a scarecrow tactic, and so insisted on their demands. The struggle
turned ugly. The owners agreed to the demands for retroactive pay, announced the day
of settlement and the closing of the mines. Still the miners thought this was a scarecrow
tactic. When the miners came back to work the day after the settlement was paid, the
mines were closed. This would have been in the late thirties.
Leonardo and his principal collaborator, Faustino Robles, formed the miners into
a cooperative and then rented the mines. That would be another long long story.
At the time of this story Leonardo was still, behind the scenes, very involved in
the interests of the Cooperative. But he was getting old and his health was failing.
Shortly after this he fell victim to cancer of the throat.
As it appeared to me, Leonardo was altruistic in his struggle for the miners;
Faustino, on the contrary, sought his own interests. He was known to brag that he had
more money than he could ever spend. He had been, as well as Leonardo, the president
of the Cooperative several times, a position which afforded ways of skimming off some
rich cream. There was no evidence that Leonardo had anything stashed away.
Faustino’s modus vivendi again became evident in his later years in the following way.
Adolfo García became, by political clout, County Commissioner (a position of
supreme power) in the eighties. Following common practice, he used his clout to provide
for himself when he would be out of the job after three years. Among other things, he
acquired a ranch of a few thousand acres and a starter herd. One of his last acts as
Commissioner was to cart off to his ranch the pump jack and diesel motor of the town
well of La Esmeralda. The well really was not in operation because the pipe with cylinder
had been dropped and lost once when maintenance was being done. But still! The
people were riled about this, and took the case to higher authority. But political clout is
Six years later, as permitted by law, Adolfo again runs for County Commissioner
and though for sure he did not get the votes, PRI declares him the winner. Now in Sierra
Mojada, where the county offices are located, there is also a small group of determined
women with a long history of vigilantism. It was not hard for these women to organize a
large group of protesters who, the night before the official taking of possession,
belligerently barricaded themselves in front of the entrance to the offices, and they even
blocked off the streets leading to the offices. The standoff continued for several months,
and finally Adolfo agreed to step aside on the condition that he could name the one who
would supplant him. Agreed. With the intent of exacting vengeance, Adolfo named
Faustino Robles! It is better not to say anything if one cannot say a least one good thing.
Now, an unexpected sequel: Some few years later Adolfo, who still had a lot of
political clout higher up, arranged for his son, Porfirio, to run for Commissioner. It is not
known whether Porfirio got the votes, but he got the job. Porfirio was self effacing, had
an engaging and generous disposition, got along well with everyone, and so was able to
obtain many state programs designed to provide work for the unemployed. With the
closing of the mines most of the men were unemployed. The wages paid for this work
was the minimum wage, which is really quite little, but it was at least something.
Porfirio was the best Commissioner ever and well liked by everyone.
The largest of the public works projects in Sierra Mojada and La Esmeralda was
the paving of streets. Until this time not a single street in either of the towns had been
paved. One or the other of the streets had rough field-stone cobble; when possible, we
avoided using them! In the course of a century many of the streets had been badly
eroded, and some buildings are now a foot or two above the level of the street.
This work of paving was parceled out a bit at a time; sometimes it was only one
block; at other times it was two or three. For the first two or so years all the work was
done by hand, even the mixing of the concrete. Anywhere from fifteen to twenty men
formed the work crews. Batches of concrete were prepared by first making a twelve foot
diameter ‘pancake’ right on the ground by shoveling together and mixing the aggregate.
The pancake would be about eighteen inches thick. Starting at an edge of the pancake
they would, part by part, mix in the cement and water to make the concrete. From there
it would be transported by wheel borrow for pouring. Rather labor intensive! The
screeding and the troweling were done by hand. Later on an entrepreneur bought a
gasoline powered mixer and rented it out to the crews.
Both Sierra Mojada and La Esmeralda are fortunate in having an ample supply of
good aggregate for making concrete. This comes from the wide dry wash that runs at the
very edge of both towns. The sand and the gravel in the dry wash is mostly silica even
though the mountain is Cretaceous limestone. The reason for this is because from the
start of the Triassic through the Jurassic and on to the beginning of the Cretaceous (from
230 million years to 140 million years ago) this area was en enduring volcano with silica
rich lavas. During the Cretaceous Period it was overlain with thousands of feet of
limestone. When the mountain of Sierra Mojada was thrust upward, it dragged along
with it the old volcanic basement rock, some of which is granitic. So the aggregate in the
arroyo, especially the sand, has a high percentage of silica.
There was the ever present temptation for the foreman of the paving job to sell
off a few bags of bags of cement. (Cement in La Esmeralda was even more expensive
because of the freight into the remote place.) In several instances the resulting concrete
was so poor that after a while it disintegrated and returned to sand and gravel.
Another sequel. Porfirio was so liked that when the six years had passed, he was
again elected and, at this writing, is again the Commissioner. (I was a close friend of
Porfirio and Zoila García, the grandparents of Porfirio whom I baptized and married.)
Leonardo was never much of a church goer; on the other hand, Margarito and
family never missed mass. As in many parts of Mexico, it is still the ordinary practice in
La Esmeralda for the women to sit on the left-hand side in the church, and the men on
the right. Margarito and his family always stayed together.
Margarito worked as a mechanic in the maintenance department of the mine. I
suspect that it was partly due to his father that he had this job instead of the hard work
down below. Whenever there was there was work to be done on the pickup that I could
not do, I took it up to Margarito. Margarito was always a peace-loving person, and in the
cooperative there was always much infighting. So after the death of his father he chose
to leave the Cooperative and take a job at the sodium sulfate plant in Química.
Margarito’s wife was the daughter of Honorio Moreno who had a shop in town
where he did work as a blacksmith, patched tires, and a general automotive mechanic.
He had a son by the same name that was an especially talented mechanic, and was
very clever at making improvisations. This was a great attribute in a place where for
many years it was a full day trip to the nearest auto parts store, plus the cost of the part.
The only negative thing about Honorio Jr was that most of the time you could not find
him sober enough to work. But he is an affable man to the extreme. Born with a smile.
Honorio Jr, In turn, had a son who even as a teenager exhibited great talents as
an artist. One could not distinguish his work from that of Disney. For those of you who
have the series Churches and Chapels, this is the one who drew the silhouette of the
Holy Family that was later cut from steel plate and is in front of the chapel in Zenzontle
Enough diversion; it is time to get on with the story of the Cross.
When I decided to write this article about putting the cross on the mountain, I
contacted several people in La Esmeralda asking for data. I could not remember for
certain the year we put it up there. Neither Dr. Lupe nor anyone else remembered the
year the first cross had been put up there. One of the easiest things for Time to erode is
memory. So to be sure that the date for this event would always be known, I asked Don
Chuy (see below) to scribe the year onto the base of cross with a bead of electric weld.
I had taken pictures of event and all who participated in it wanted prints. Many of
these would still be around. A lady in La Esmeralda gathered some of these pictures (or
it could be that she herself had originally gotten some). She brought them along when
she went to Dallas to visit some relatives. There she had one of the relatives scan them
into the computer and email them to me. These pictures had in the course of time
become soiled and discolored. Fortunately some of the color could be restored here on
the computer. Too, sharpness has been lost between scanning, emailing, touching up,
and finally pasting into this text. Maybe the obvious age of the pictures can contribute a
sense of time to this story of twenty-seven years ago.
At Margarito’s admonition I decided to have a new cross made
and erected. To avoid damage from lightening, and make it more
durable, it was decided to make it out of structural steel ‘C’ beams. The
beams would be of material about an eighth of an inch thick; the ‘C’
would be four inches thick and eight inches wide. Four of these beams
welded side by side and face to face would form a column 8” X 16”.
The cross would be close to sixteen feet tall.
The material was ordered through Peñoles in Química from a
supplier in Monterrey. It was shipped by rail to me in La Esmeralda.
The picture at the right is a zoom-in from a picture of the cross
right after it had been erected on the top of the mount. The picture is
from the very bottom of the cross as can be surmised from lechugilla
plant partly obstructing the lettering. The lettering is the shipping
information written on the beams. On the left can be seen “185 kg”.
That would be the entire weight of all the pieces in the shipment. 185
kg amounts to 408 lbs. The net weight of the cross is quite a bit more
than that because of the bolts and steel plate which were needed to
construct the cross and the heavy base which holds it upright. On the
right side can be seen my name: JAIME LIENERT and the shipping address: SIERRA
MOJADA. The railroad station for Sierra Mojada is actually in La Esmeralda!
Top – Right to left: don Chuy Hernández, Pedro Hernández
Bottom -Right to left: Ernesto González, Epitacio Tovar
Picture taken May 1, 1979 at a rest stop on the way to the top.
Don Chuy, in the picture above, was the chief mechanic in the maintenance shop
of the Dolomite Mine. This shop was much better equipped than the one at the
Cooperative mine, and the superintendents at the Dolomite mine agreed that the cross
would be fabricated in their shop, with don Chuy in charge. So it was don Chuy who
designed how the cross was to be made in such a way that it could be taken up to the
top of the mountain in manageable parts, and then assembled at the site. Prior to taking
the cross to the top, the base onto which the cross was to be bolted had already been
prepared and anchored to the bed rock by hand drilling deep holes into the rock and
securing the anchor bolts with molten lead. Once the cross was raised into place, it was
a simple matter of inserting the bolts through the pre-drilled holes in the plate above the
bed rock and the corresponding holes in the plate at the bottom of the cross, and then
tightening the nuts. The bolts that were used as anchor bolts were 1½” bolts that had
previously been used to anchor down the immense steam-driven air compressors in the
old mines. When I arrived in La Esmeralda much of this massive obsolete machinery
was still in place. When the mines closed in 1990 all of it was plundered and sold as
scrap. The price paid for the iron barely paid the cost of the long haul to the scrap
dealers. Much of what was sold as scrap could have been rare museum pieces.
The day chosen for transporting the cross to the top of the mountain was
Tuesday, the first of May, 1979. For one thing, it was close to the liturgical feast of the
Holy Cross which falls on the third of May in Mexico. Secondly, because of a strong
current of Communism in Mexico in past times, the first of May, May Day, or Workers
Day, was and still is a national holiday. Most all of those who participated in the project
of lugging the parts of the cross to the top of the mountain and assembling it worked in
the mines, and so they would have the day off from work, but with a catch. During the
early years when I was there May Day was taken very seriously. In the morning there
was always a lengthy parade which included civil officials, police, store owners, school
children, and of course the bulk of the parade was composed of the many miners. A live
band with drums set the pace of the march. The parade usually ended in the plaza
where short speeches were given. At night there would always be a dance. The
disillusion with Communism and the closing of the mines in La Esmeralda occurred at
the same time. May Day began to lose its luster, and by the time I left La Esmeralda in
2000 the celebration of May Day was now very low key.
Even though all the miners had the day off, it was expected that every last one
would be in the parade, and if they attended, they would receive the day’s wage. For a
good enough reason a miner could ask to be excused from the parade. And to help take
the cross to the top of the mountain, where it would become sort of a jewel for La
Esmeralda, was as good a reason as any.
Dr. Lupe told me that when his father had arranged to place the wooden cross on
the mountain, the crew took the route through Sierra Mojada where the mountain is a
few hundred feet lower, and the ascent is less steep. The terrain though, all along the
top of the mountain, is still rough and difficult, and is a traverse of about two miles which
takes several hours more of time. So it was decided to make a direct assault by a route
well known to almost everyone. The evening before the assent all the part of the cross
were taken in my 4x4 Jeep pickup to the highest point accessible. There was an old
abandoned trail to a shaft that had been used as a vent. This saved a couple hundred of
the nearly three thousand vertical feet to the top of the mountain.
I noticed that Margarito Carlos was not in the group for making the assault. I went
to see him, and he said he was not going along. It is true that his work as a mechanic is
not very demanding; the climb is. I told him that it was he who started the idea, and so
he was committed to seeing it through to the end. Margarito readily acceded.
We assembled at the point of departure at the break of day, each one with his
lunch and canteen of water. Everyone had already decided which piece of the cross he
was going to carry, or what tools he would carry to the top. I carried my lunch, water, and
camera. I do not remember if I had taken along a jacket.
At daybreak the sky was perfectly clear, but before sunrise a small little cloud
started to form at the very top of the mountain. This is not an unusual occurrence, but
still, it was fortuitous. This cloud grew quickly and spread downward. In a matter of an
hour it had spread and descended enough so that we were climbing in cool fog. So
much better than climbing under a hot sun. As were approaching the top, it was actually
chilly to the point of being uncomfortable. This can be seen in some of the pictures.
The picture above was taken at one of the rest stops. There were a number of
these rest stops. It can be seen how steep the climb is. Also note that there are no
shadows. By this time the cloud had expanded considerably.
Margarito, the one with the steel safety helmet, is seen in almost the center of the
picture. Almost for sure the second from the left is don Chuy. I cannot positively identify
any of the others.
The larger plants are creosote bushes. The smaller plants would include
lechugilla and resurrection plants. These latter are called ‘flor de peña’ = ‘rock flower’ in
Spanish. So called because when it rains and the plant unfurls, it resembles a flower. I
have never seen it bloom. Farther up there are stunted cedars; stunted because the
goats and deer nibble on them, and the people cut the branches for Christmas
decorations. On the top I have seen twenty inch cedar stumps. I surmised that the trees
had been cut long ago for timbering in the mines, but how could they have been
transported down the mountain!! I was told that they had been made into charcoal on the
spot, and the charcoal was used as fuel in the smelters.
We arrived at the top at about ten in the morning. It can be seen that the sky is
starting to clear, but it is still quite chilly on the top of the mountain.
The first thing to do was to take a rest and have breakfast. In many places in
Mexico they have the custom of desayuno and almuerzo. The literal translation of
desayuno is breaking the fast. This consists of a cup of coffee and something as light as
a sweet roll. That breaks the fast. Then the men go off to work, and about ten o’clock
they take a break, open their lunch pail and have what we call breakfast.
The man in the green jacket is Chino Aguilar. “Chino” is a nickname meaning
curly .He was the one who carried the base of the cross, the heaviest piece, up to the
top without letting it to the ground even once. He is sitting just to the right of the base
plate which had been anchored before hand onto the bedrock. The background in the
picture below is the low mountains to the north of La Esmeralda. The town, being close
to the mountain we are on, is not visible from the angle this picture was taken
It is seen from here that the cross is not on the highest point of the mountain.
Backwards from the brow of the mountain the terrain continues to rise for maybe another
hundred feet. If the cross were set at the very highest point it would be so far back that it
would not be visible form La Esmeralda which is close to the foot of the mountain. Also
is seen the old cross. This was taken down after bolting down the new cross. Part of the
old cross was carried back down and from that piece I made small wooden crosses
about eight inches tall and they were given to those who had erected the new one.
The first of the two pictures above was taken facing in the direction of La
Esmeralda; note that by now the sky was starting to clear toward the north. The second
picture was taken looking back on the mountain, and the sky was still overcast. Note the
lack of shadows. .
Once the cross
was bolted to the
base it was time for a
little rest. Don
Chuy, who was the
director of the
project, and the
principal worker, is
still busy with some
task. At this time he
was in his late fifties,
and still in very good
condition for climbing
The reason for this is
because he had a
small herd of several
dozen goats he took
care of. This was as a
supplement to his
were fairly good
because he worked for
the Peñoles Company
at the dolomite
mine, and the
household was small;
he and his wife, two
late teenage daughters
and his aged and infirm mother-in-law. The youngest daughter had gone on to study to
become a secretary, and was working in Monclova. Don Chuy was always available and
willing when there was some work to be done around the church.
Don Chuy left his goats to pasture during the day under the care of a herd dog,
but still every once in a while a goat or two would become separated from the herd, and
then don Chuy had to clamber around the mountain looking for them. Some times a goat
was never found; at other times someone else found it first.
To create a herd dog a puppy was taken from its mother before its eyes opened
and was set to nurse a nanny goat. On opening its eyes it became ‘imprinted’ as a
member of the herd. Its instinct of defending the group was translated to the herd of
goats. As a young dog he would accompany the herdsman taking out and bringing back
the herd, and so learn to do it on his own. On the whole, a herd dog was very efficient.
After the cross had been bolted to the base there was still the task of securing
the support cables. The winds at the top of the mountain can be of hurricane force. The
concern was not so much that the cross could be toppled; it was sturdily built and
anchored. The concern was rather that cross could be twisted back and forth, and after
repeated twisting it would suffer metal fatigue.
I had brought along a set of 3/8” alphabet dies, and nearly everyone, including
me, used them to stamp his name onto the base of the cross. This took quite some time.
A few weeks after the cross was in place it was painted with a thick light-reflecting paint;
the type that is often used to make road signs that reflects the light, especially at night.
This was very effective even though after a time it did lose its brilliance. One of the
results of the painting was that it obliterated the names. The painting was done by Pedro
Hernández who took along a couple of assistants. I do not think they took along a
ladder, and so somehow they substituted with ropes. The men in La Esmeralda are
fabulous in working with rope.
When the rains are good and the grass and weeds are green in town, the goats
will stay close to home to graze. For that reason everyone who has a yard or patio will
have it enclosed within a fence or wall.
The railroad tracks seen here end at the railroad station several hundred yards to
the right. La Esmeralda is the end of the line for these tracks which originated in
The above picture was the last picture of the day and it was taken around three
in the afternoon when the work had been finished. It can be seen that the sky is now
almost clear of clouds and there are shadows in the picture. Also, it was not as chilly.
Some of the men had already left. After all, it was a holiday, and there were
other family and group activities going on in town. It is now lamented that a list of the
participants was not made for the record, but at the time it did not seem to be that
important. The man to the far left, bottom row, is the son of Adolfo García. Shortly after
this picture was taken the group broke up and each, according to his agility, made his
way down again. For the most of us who were not accustomed to the mountain, the
decent took about two hours.
Several weeks later I served a merienda for all who had worked on the project of
putting up the cross. The word ‘merienda’ in general means a party in which the principal
thing is enjoying something to eat. This was a special occasion that merited something
special, something that in La Esmeralda is considered a treat, and this was carnitas and
chicharrones. The chicharrones are fried pork rinds; ‘carnitas’ are small pieces of fried
pork meat. But it is the way in which they are fried that makes them special. This is
usually done outdoors over open fire using large cast iron kettles, or kettles hand
fashioned from thick copper. This later type is the specialty of the Gypsy tinkers. While I
was there, frequently a small group of two or three Gypsy families traveling in large
closed trucks would come to town and then make the rounds of the small outlying
communities. During the day the women, gaudily dressed, would make the rounds telling
fortunes and selling salves and cure-all elixirs. The men usually had hardware to sell,
including at times their hand wrought copper utensils. Some of them were beautifully
made. Come night, they powered up their portable generator and showed a movie inside
a canvas enclosure.. People would sell chickens cheap to come up with the price of the
ticket. And the Gypsies would take chickens and goats in lieu of cash. In later years the
Gypsies came less frequently because TV was coming in and people had more
opportunity to travel to where they could occasionally see a movie.
So, for the merienda a medium size locally grown pig was bought and butchered.
As was the custom, the chicharrones and carnitas where deep fat fried in the lard of the
same animal. The delicacies were served along with corn and flour tortillas, sliced fresh
onions, pico de gallo, pickled jalapeños, beer and omni present coca cola.
Later on, because there was electricity to the top of the mountain for the TV
repeater station, a five hundred watt spotlight was installed. Because the cross had been
painted with the white reflecting paint, the cross could be seen at night from many miles
away. Of course the spotlight went out when the repeater station was discontinued.
In this picture, taken from La Esmeralda on August 1, 2004, the cross can be
seen as a tiny white speck at the very top of the mountain. Because of the very dry
climate, iron rusts very little in La Esmeralda. This cross should last many years.