Day 3: Batopilas – Paradise in Copper Canyon

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By Jonathan H

Here in Batopilas I’m in a dark room with no lights and no shower, but I couldn’t be happier. Only about 70 miles from Creel, but it seems to be a world away. I’m running out of cash. Every Tarahumara native I see, I feel compelled to buy something from them.

Tarahumaran girls selling crafts in creel.

Tarahumara women wear colorful dresses, and are often seen walking with their children in a multi-colored sling. Tarahumara men wear colorful shirts and loin cloths.

On the road to Batopilas, I spoke briefly with a Mexican landowner who needed a ride. I said yes, and all of a sudden a large group of eight people appeared and filled the bed of my pickup.

Before I knew it, my truck was full of locals. This is halfway down the Barranca Del Cobre canyon, near La Bufa – half of them had already hopped off.

The further I go into canyon country, the more friendly the people become. I haven’t seen a tourist for two days, and as the Mangoes hit the tin roof of my bedroom, I can’t help but love this place that simple fact of simplicity.

I spoke with mom today using a calling card in Creel before leaving for Batopilas. She seems to be in a completely different place than I have been for the past four days (I don’t even feel like myself). When I arrived in Batopilas, I was even further from civilization. There is only one phone in town apparently, many of the 1000 people who live here spend their Saturdays and Sundays getting “baracho” (drunk).

The Road to Satevo

Arturo, the kindhearted, barrel-chested guide of mine with golden caps on his teeth, tells me that the road to Satevo is dangerous. Many people have died because of drunk driving. As he carreened down the dusty road to Satevo, he told me bits and pieces about the history of the town. Mining companies sell the mountains like commodities; they drill prospect holes, denude the hills and sell it to the next mining company. I asked if the locals go mining in the river for gold and silver. He said no. Nobody here knows how to mine, “Viven in el pasado.” They live in the past.

In Satevo, there is a lost mission “El Ignacio Perdido.” It’s lost, because among all of the missions of the Jesuits, it is the only one that the Catholic Church has no record of. It’s as if this mission never existed, even though it’s a grand, beautiful mission sitting on the side of the crystal clear waters of the Batopilas River.

El Ignacio Perdido at Satevo (accent on the “o”). It is one of the most beautiful places at sunset that I have seen for a very long time.

As I arrived, the sun was setting, and locals walked up, asking me to buy a blanket. It was about the size of a table mat, but I bought it for the fortune of 50 pesos. To the people here, this is enough to live on for a very long time. She was ecstatic and left smiling.

Another local walked up and talked with me briefly until Arturo returned. He led me to the back of the church where they kept the keys to the door. I was given the keys and opened the large portico to reveal a magnificent interior. Even though this mission was lost, Arturo tells me it’s the second largest mission in the Sierra Madre. This is quite a feat, considering the stark surroundings and difficult trek.

An altar room inside the Satevó mission

Señora Monse

Señora Monse runs the boarding room here. I felt as if I was a part ofthe home – part of their family as we all sat around the table eatingfrijoles, arroz, y pollo. We were drinking real Tarahurmaran cafe -Monse calls it “cafe cafe,” and says the indigenous ones, theTarahumara take the beans, roast them with mesquite wood and grind them. It was good coffee. It was as if this place where the mountains meet the heavens (1 1/2 times deeper than the Grand Canyon) is a place where Manna falls from heaven in the form of coffee beans.

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Tomorrow, beginning at 6 a.m. I will see some of this land with a Tarahumaran guide who looks like Mel Gibson (just a bit more tanned).It should be a memorable trip; I can’t expect any less of this place.

2 comments on “Day 3: Batopilas – Paradise in Copper Canyon

  1. Pingback: Day 5: Batopilas to Cerro Colorado… and Back - Bearings

  2. Do not go to batopilas on said:

    DO NOT VISIT THIS TOWN!!!! The most scared I’ve EVER been in my life was here! The road was about the exact width of our vehicle with a thousand foot drop to our right!!! The “shrines” along the sides of the road (the few places there are sides) are markers to remember loved ones that died on the road. We met a car on the road and had to back up over a mile to a place that would allow the other driver to pass… more than once we got out of the vehicle and walked so if the van went over the side we wouldn’t be in it!!! The people that live there have food flown in via helicopter. There are drugs and chop shops everywhere. The river is more of a sewer lagoon, and the people that live there wash their clothes in it!!! There were animals roaming the streets. We visited the “lost church” and a man living next to it chanted something in Spanish (our driver said he put a hex on us) then wrung a chicken’s neck and threw the head at us. I would feel safer licking a back alley off of bourbon st than going here. I feel as though the church was not lost that the Christians abandoned it knowing there would never be any hope for Batopilas.

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