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The hunt for Mexico

Published:Friday | April 16, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Mexico in St Elizabeth. - Photos by Robert Lalah
Mexico in St Elizabeth. - Photos by Robert Lalah

Last year, a story was published in The Gleaner highlighting a community called Mexico, somewhere in St Catherine. News later came to us of a Mexico in St Elizabeth and there was also talk of a Mexico Mountain and Mexico Cave, all, apparently to be found in the same general area of the parish.

So, off our Gleaner team went to bring to you fine readers news from this little-known place. What were the concerns of the people, their way of life, their hopes and dreams? We wanted to know. The destination wasn't entirely clear at first, as the maps to Mexico we received from a reader were quite outdated - 1800s.

Based on more modern charts, the closest major town seemed to be Balaclava. So we figured we'd have to be real morons to miss.

We set off for St Elizabeth, zipping along the toll road, past Porus, up Winston Jones Highway, down Spur Tree, turned right off Goshen's main road, past Braes River and through Bogue.

It was when we got to Balaclava that we really started asking questions. The first young man we passed sitting just outside a small shop said "Mi know a Mexico but a nuh deh so unnuh waan go!" Visions of a God-forsaken place started to creep into the brain. He started to give directions ("jus' gwaan drive...") but some older gentlemen sitting nearby soon intervened. They told us to go back to the turn-off that leads to Balaclava High, which we had passed minutes earlier.

So it was back the way we came. We turned at the recommended school sign but would find out from a bus driver standing near the school gate that that road would lead us nowhere.

Back to Bogue

A vendor attending to student customers nearby then suggested that we go all the way back to an intersection at Bogue and take a right. "As you see a train line, tek di right!" she advised.

So back to Bogue we went. We passed the train line for sure, but saw no semblance of a road to our right. So we continued along until we got to Siloah. There, a man raking leaves outside a house directed us to go back along the road we were on and check there. So back the way we came, once more.

We passed the same train line area, again not seeing what we thought was a road that would lead to anywhere. After further futile inquiries of a bespectacled man on a sputtering Honda 50 motorbike, a kind shopkeeper finally pointed the way.

"A dat turn right deh so," she said. Sure enough it was the first right the vendor outside the school had told us about. But this wasn't a road or was it? As if sensing our hesitation, the shopkeeper immediately added "but di road bad though." Having come too far to turn back with the goal so close in sight, we ventured down and, about 50 metres into the drive, wished we had a Land Rover. We were right. This was no road. We inched our way down, rocking left and right, all the time hoping the rocks and brush wouldn't damage the vehicle. One gentleman on his way up the hill, pointed further down the rocky incline when asked about Mexico. "A jus' da part yah suh bad." Famous words. More stone and bumpiness and then we finally ran into an elderly gentleman pushing his bicycle up the hill. He told us his name was Odeon Swaby. He looked puzzled at first as we asked for Mexico, but then finally, the revelation.

"This is Mexico," he said, pointing towards the cane fields from which he was coming. "All a dis here so." The problem for us was that, "here so" was, by all indications and with no disrespect meant to anyone, bush! Don't get it wrong. This is good farm land for those who don't mind tilling the soil, and the area, by all indications, is quiet and untroubled. We were just looking for a little more, well, more. Regaining our equilibrium, we asked how the place got its name.

"Mi nuh know sah," came the honest reply. "Di ol' time people who used to live yah probably name it." He pointed up a hill where he said houses had been, owned by long-gone tenants. Apparently nobody lives in Mexico as the parents had (we assume) died and the children had moved on. We asked him about Mexico Mountain and completely lost him again. Mexico Cave perhaps? Nope. He assured us though that if we continued along the track, through the cane fields, we would come out at another town with better roads.

After dodging 'macka', two heavily muddy areas we were sure would sink the car into oblivion, and acres of young cane on all sides, we realised there was no one to ask about Mexico Cave or Mountain. The closest signs of life were a goat and its kid grazing not too far away. Having no idea where we were headed, and pretty certain we were on private property with the risk of getting shot-at very soon, we decided to turn back. Not the way we envisaged our Mexico adventure ending but at least we found the place. Right?

- Daviot Kelly and Robert Lalah