Pluma Hidalgo, Mexico: Mountaintop coffee plantations and self-actualization

Disclaimer: This trip occurred exactly one year ago.  Since Travelpod does not allow you to export blogs, I shall be bringing them to you in real time, just a year later.

August 4, 2010

(knock on wood) Nancy and I have had excellent luck with hiring private guides, and Mario Cobos (pictured above) did not disappoint. Although Mario has lived in the area for more than 20 years, he is originally from the Yucatan area and is a Mayan Indian, guide, yogi, massage therapist, artist, birdwatcher, adventure nut, and all-around nice guy.

The Dodge Attitude traverses mountainsMario, Nancy, me and our little Dodge Attitude travelled to the top of a mountain this morning to visit Pluma Hidalgo, a mystical town that is famous for it’s coffee. To visit the Mexican countryside unaccompanied is terrifying, but Mario took us through the town, arranged ahead for a meal, and lead us on a hike through the forest down the side of the mountain to a deserted coffee plantation and 76 meter-high waterfall. Apparently the Germans who tried to escape prosecution after WW II were pushed north from South America into this area of Mexico, where they built coffee plantations and drove the native workers like slaves. Eventually a cash flow problem dried up the plantation and it sits deserted today.
Mario: "wow, you're sweating"
Now, I consider myself to be a person of good health and fortitude, but that mountain kicked my ass. Mario turned around at one point and said “wow, you’re sweating.” No shit, Mario, thanks for pointing out the obvious. The thing about that kind of hiking is that you usually get exactly what you need when you need it. At one point walking back up I got pretty discouraged and downtrodden. You see, Mario is one of the fittest people I’ve ever seen and Nancy is also in much better shape than me. Half way up one of the switchbacks we passed a homestead and Mario greeted a woman standing at her fence about 15 feet above our heads. We made niceties and moved on, but then when we were about 25 feet up the road she called after us and offered us some fruit. The woman refused to accept payment. Even though we couldn’t eat it until later the gratitude I felt towards her kindness lifted my spirits and gave me the fortitude to go the next bit up the hill.

When we once again reached the top of the mountain and the central square of Pluma Hidalgo we were shrouded in a mystical fog and went into the only restaurant in town for homemade soup, mole, and a pepsi. Three meals and three drinks cost $160 pesos (about $14 USD) and Mario said we would be their only customers that day. As we were eating, a perfectly timed downpour washed the square and by the time we had finished the rain had passed.

roasting coffeeThe people of Pluma Hidalgo are poor. Extremely poor. But they are generous, kind, and friendly. They welcomed us not as tourists, but as friends, and appeared happy to share their way of life with us. I am humbled and grateful for the experience we had, and hope to some day see these smiling faces once more.

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Lauren Warnecke is the dance critic at the Chicago Tribune and editor/senior writer at See Chicago Dance. Her writing has appeared in Chicago Magazine, Milwaukee Magazine, St. Louis Magazine and Dance Media publications, among others. Lauren is an adjunct faculty member at Loyola University Chicago in the dance and exercise science programs. She has been a writer-in-residence at the Bates Dance Festival (Lewiston, ME) and the JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience (Durban, South Africa), and was part of the first low-res dance writing lab cohort at the National Center for Choreography in Akron, OH. Since 2009, Lauren has blogged about dance and performance in the American midwest at

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