The dry season here in Jalisco provides us with two different worlds: sere peaks and dusty upland valleys contrasting with the relatively watered cities and lake shores.
Particularly at this time of year, those people with leisure and means take their ease in the easiest surroundings — where the water is. That makes the singed mountainsides ringing Guadalajara a place where the poor and the adventurous go — lean, hard-bodied farmers clearing off steeply slanted milpas for June planting, countrymen making their lonely way to isolated pueblos, occasional wood-cutter burro trains freighting down barrel-sized loads of leña. But not many others. Even the ubiquitous goatherds are gone now — there’s nothing left up there that a goat can eat or reach.
This is the countryside that gave Mexico such rough-and-tumble insurgents as Pedro Moreno and “Amo” Torres, such artists as Dr. Atl and Jose Clemente Orozco, such writers as Juan Rulfo and Agustin Yañez. And they all, at one time or another, had something to say about Jalisco’s hard dry season.
Going into these sizzling mountainsides in May with no more in mind than finding the hardest way up is probably a foolhardy thing for a grown man to do. Nonetheless, for some, it is an irresistible, fiercely exhilarating experience. Even relatively late in the morning, at eight o’clock, there’s a faint, fragrant breeze clattering the seed pods of gleaming-limbed guaje trees. Last year’s corn fields soon give way to purple-hued boulders, cracked clay and ground-down volcanic waste. But the high view down onto bruise-colored Lake Chapala, the vast blue of the sky echoing that stunning, silent cry, “infinity,” can hit your nerve endings like a charge of electricity.