Waking up in Los Mochis, Sinaloa. I got here yesterday after about six hours of driving in which I didn’t get pulled over once. Actually, I did get pulled over once, but all they said was, “This car looks good. It should take you far.” They mostly wanted to see my Temporary Import Permit (TIP), aka were bored.
Now, when most people think of Sinaloa, they probably think about the city of Topolobampo, and the “-bampo” suffixes in the names of the cities in general. And this is forgivable. As a young boy I used to dream of Topolobampo. My father would come into my room at night when we lived in Chanhassen, Minnesota, to tuck me in, and I’d be sitting there with my hands behind me head, propping myself up on the pillow.
“What are you thinking about?” my dad would say.
“Oh, dad, you know what I’m thinking about.”
And now here I am, at the age of 37, with the unique opportunity to visit Topolobampo which, in the indigenous language, means, “The place where you get the ferry to La Paz, where you can go diving with sea lions and get good fish tacos at that one place on the boardwalk.”
And thing is: I don’t think I’m even gonna go to Topolobampo.
I’m kidding of course. When most people hear “Sinoloa” they either think: Nothing at all, or, drug cartels. This is probably just because they have a cursory interest in drug cartels or because they’ve watched the series Narcos Mexico. And I’m in the same boat. I was worried about driving through Sinaloa, because I know one of the most famous drug cartels comes from this region. I’m still worried about driving through Sinaloa. But there’s nothing like going to a place to assuage your fears. You get to Los Mochis and you realize it’s a town just like any other. You realize there’s a main park, and a cathedral, and hotels and restaurants. People walking around. Young people sitting outside cafes. Traffic. Noise. Pigeons. Neighbors stopping to talk to each other on the street.
This is Los Mochis.
Topolobampo, after a bit of investigation, actually means “Place where tigers drink water,” and the “-bampo” suffix means “place of water.” Driving through Sinaloa and Sonora you’ll see LOTS of places ending in “-bampo” or “-bempo”: Bachomobampo, Chinobampo, Huatabampo, Sirebampo, Huatabampo, and of course: Mazatlan. These names come from the Cahito or Mayo languages (if I’m off please correct me!), spoken in Sinaloa and Sonora. When I lived in Oaxaca in 2011 I had the opportunity to study the Zapotec indigenous language. The only thing I remember how to say now is, “My eye hurts,” which I can say perfectly. Many people don’t realize how many indigenous languages are spoken throughout Mexico. The Mexican government recognizes 63 indigenous langues, and about 350 dialects of said languages (Wikipedia). Indeed, one thing you’ll notice when talking to Mexicans is they often refer to full-fledged languages as “dialects,” which I find apalling. They’ll call Zapotec “dialect,” or Nahuatl, “dialect.” These are not dialects. These are full-fledged languages, which in turn have their own dialects, just like Spanish has its many dialects in different countries and regions. Over a million people still speak Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, so when you get out of bed tomorrow, ask yourself, “Why don’t I speak Nahautl?”
And then go back to bed.
OK, I don’t really have much else to say but I’m gonna keep writing anyway. I’m not sure what to do today. I COULD of course go to Topolobampo, which actually looks kind of cool. First I have to avoid the near panic attack that’s been brought on by the latte this morning. And then I probably have to get another latte.
Ah, yesterday! Yes, it was nice not to get stopped by cops wanting a bribe yesterday. It was nice to get further from the border. And my hotel! My hotel is beautiful! I’m staying at the Best Western Plus in Los Mochis, right across the street from a cathedral and one of the main plazas, both of which I have a view from my damn hotel room. This morning I got up, EXTENDED my stay another night (no way in hell I’m driving more today), and then walked around the park. And then got a latte. And then drank the latte by the pool. And then came up to my room and tried to watch episodes of Alone using a VPN. And then cursed Hulu when it denied me for using a VPN. And then started typing this post, causing the desk I’m writing on to vibrate wildly.
This blog got over 50 views the other day.
I’m almost famous.
The silence right now is beautiful. My neighbors must be out somewhere getting breakfast. It’s not too hot right now. The high down in San Pancho next week is only 70! 70 degrees in freaking Nayarit! It’s glorious. Not glorious if you want heat, but glorious if you’re me and just want sun but nothing too hot. Viva Mexico. It’s time for chilaquiles.