It’s an (un)truth universally filmed or at the very least sitcomed that there’s someone for everyone. But a little over four hundred miles south of the Arizona border, hunting ghosts along the cobblestoned streets of the charming Alamos in Mexico’s Sonora we find there are people, leftover.
Every building in Alamos is haunted, they say: in the echoes of an emptying Plaza de Armas or buried in the thick adobe walls of secretive haciendas, the souls of those left behind reside.
There was once, the story goes, a silver baron’s daughter who, after navigating the restrictions of courting in a small town, when love was built on stolen glances and handshake barters, married her sweetheart in the town’s stone church. Her father, says the mayor, reputedly lined the street from the house to the church in silver.
After the ceremony, her mounted groom fell from his horse and died months later, his back broken. The widow bride, heart broken and head sick, took to the graveyard and was often seen clawing at the earth that separated her from her new husband.
Today, stories of sightings of a grieving and desperate widow are swapped like presents earmarked for re-gifting.
Alamos Mayor Dr Joaquin Navarro, en route to the funeral of a local plumber, walks us through the town’s cemetery where monuments are strewn, like dishes in a full sink.
He tells of a time when circles of light were seen floating above an earth-bound coffin, of a nearby road where the lights of cars mysteriously dim, of a night when he and his wife were called to see to a crying baby that nobody could find, of love stories that end in heartbreak and ghosts.
We visit La Aduana, a ghost town, with alamense guide Juan. He leads us past an old-time grocery store (where a man tries to sell us ten jumping beans for one peso), to a slag pile, a remnant of the silver mines for which Alamos was once renowned.
Alamos, or as it once was, Real de Minas de la Purisima Concepcion de la Alamos, was once one of the world’s highest silver producers. Juan rummages through the slag pile, which from a distance looks like a glittering coal heap, and finds us colorful stones to pocket.
When we return to town, the streets are noisy. Domestic and international tourists have descended on Alamos for its famed annual music festival, Festival Alfonso Ortiz Tirado. I show my bit of slag to a local schoolteacher and ask where I can get it turned into a ring. We struggle in translation (both life and language) and I explain that while it’s waste and byproduct, I think it beautiful. I do not mention, that growing up in Australia, slag was slang for a girl with loose morals.
As we look for a market jeweler, we walk through Kissing Alley (littered, of course, with secret clinches and borrowed tales of lost loves) and she talks of romance and divorce in a small town, avoids her ex-husband but points out his house. The stone, this bit of rubbish, now warm from my body, glows in the streetlights.
“People come to Alamos to recreate themselves,” says Kelley of the Hotel Colonial later that night. The hotel’s owner, then newly divorced, arrived in Alamos on the back of a Google typo and found love with her tennis partner, Kelley.
“It was love-all,” jokes Janet, well-trained in this punning rally.
“To this day we argue over who netted whom,” laughs Kelley, pulling Janet in for a hug.
As our laughter carries through the building, I think of the ghosts, quiet now, and wonder if perhaps it is us, noisy and replaceable, haunting them.
e-Travel Blackboard flew from San Francisco to Hermosillo via Phoenix. After a night in Hermosillo, we drove an easy (and scenic) five hours to Alamos.For more information, visit: www.visitmexico.com.
Source = e-Travel Blackboard: Gaya Avery