Sunday, August 14, 2011

Maltrata, Veracruz

I was in Maltrata, Veracruz from Saturday July 23 - Friday August 5th and I loved the experience. I've put off writing about it because I didn't know how to adequately put into words my two weeks there (I'm still not sure -- but I'll do my best).
Former railroad station in Maltrata, Veracruz

The state of Veracruz is in Eastern Mexico, comprising a large part of the coastline on the Gulf of Mexico and surrounded by the states Tamaulipas, San Luis Potosi, Hidalgo, Puebla, Oaxaca, Chiapas and Tabasco. Maltrata is inland, close to the state of Puebla, in a valley surrounded by mountains. I don't think I could ever get tired of the view of the mountains (though the winding roads through the mountains to get to/from Maltrata and surrounding areas were still a bit unnerving to me!).

(A) Mexico City and (B) Maltrata, Veracruz
source: Google Maps
View of Maltrata, Veracruz

Maltrata is where I’ll be doing fieldwork for my thesis, studying the experience of migrants that have returned to Maltrata after having lived in the United States. Last semester I was still trying to identify a community, when a friend-of-a-friend, who is an UNAM archaeology student, recommended Maltrata. UNAM has an ongoing relationship with Maltrata because it is rich in archaeological remains. There are multiple earth-covered pyramids and prehispanic figures and even a mammoth bone have been discovered there. 

pre-hispanic figures found in Maltrata

in the distance an earth-covered pyramid with
a (shrine? chapel?) on top

this hill is actually an earth-covered pyramid

These two weeks were my preliminary visit to get an understanding of the town, the local culture and the context of migration as well as start making contacts for future interviews. I was definitely nervous going into the experience. I knew to take the bus to Orizaba, Veracruz (4 1/2- 5 hrs from the DF by bus) and from there ask for a bus going to Maltrata. Once I got to Maltrata, I was supposed to ask for the family/ where they lived -- and I wasn't even 100% sure they would be able to host me. 

Once I got to the house, everything was fine and I was quickly accepted into the (large) family. I stayed at the grandmother's house, so family was always coming and going. She has 10 children, 8 of whom live in Maltrata and 1 that lives in a nearby town -- and the family now spans 5 generations! The first few days I joked that the entire town was part of the family since I was introduced to so many family members! 

My visit was productive in terms of starting my research. I talked with people with a variety of perspectives and situations -- men and women, that went to the US legally or illegally, that came back on their own or were deported, that plan to stay in Maltrata or return to the US. I also talked with a man who was a Bracero from 1951-1953  in the US's Bracero Program -- not relevant to my research, but interesting to hear about his experiences.

Aside from research, I really enjoyed the experience of "becoming part of" a family and getting to know the culture of the town. It was a side of Mexico I hadn't experienced before -- different than my life in the DF or traveling as a tourist. I ate meals with the family. I learned how to throw a spinning top (an essential skill for all children in Maltrata). I went to a wedding, a first communion party and a viewing/funeral.  I cut avocados from the trees. I ate tacos in the park in the center of Maltrata. I hiked up to a small chapel/shrine on the mountain for a panoramic view of Maltrata. I socialized in the park/center while it was crowded on Sunday after mass.

view of Maltrata's Town Hall/Municipal building as seen
from the main plaza/park

Catholic Church

where bricks are made


park/ recreational space 


animals going down the street....

hike along the river to the waterfall

early morning view 

It was a great two weeks and I'm looking forward to going back again to continue my research.

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