Real de Catorce, mysteriously named "the royal fourteen" is a recovering ghost town (once larger than now prospering Monterrey), which, as our host suggested (only part in jest) owes its renaissance largely to Texans who have moved in, rebuilt ruined houses and invited their friends to visit. Since out first visit about 10 years ago, the town has visibly recovered walls and rooflines -- and a rather bad movie, The Mexican, brought some Hollydollars to bear on the water system, and some well-connected visitors (Julia Roberts and Johnny Dep). Technology has made its inroads -- when we first traveled over the cobblestone road and through the long tunnel that are still the best access to the village, there was one telephone, a total pesos-only economy, and most of the kids had to leave home to have schooling beyond the 6th grade. All the citizens seem better dressed and the horseback guide business is obviously flourishing.
Now, there's an ATM machine in the Municipal Building's Department of Tourism (when we were there first, a civil feud had closed the city offices and the doors were barricaded), some cell phones work, and the internet is weaving its web -- including an internet school for the teenagers.
But, Real avoids -- at least for now -- taking on too many overnight tourists, too much comfort, too many mod-cons. It still feels like time travel. The rocks, the dust, the dry high 9000 feet in the mountain air speak with ancient accents. The Huichol people from distant Nayarit still travel there to gather the sacred peyote from the nearby mountain deserts; a lively international group of ex-pats -- Italians, Swiss and Americans mostly -- have a parallel society (some of whom are also there for the peyote.) Thousands of devote pilgrims travel there in September and October in Mexico's second-largest religious pilgrimage, this one to the honor of a healing and peripatetic Saint Francis of Asissi, whose milagro covered robe and countless testaments of thanksgiving painted on tin, paper, box cardboard and wood, are evidence of the perceived holiness of this place that is sometimes called the Macchu Pichu of Mexico.
Most of my photos are on a laptop that isn't home at the moment, so check back here for more pictures later.