<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> Guide to Ojo Caliente Mexico
NOTE: While this is designated as an ARCHIVE FILE, it is retained despite the date of first publication because it offers information of continuing current interest and/or for its historical perspective. Please be guided accordingly.




By David Eidell (11/04)

The cryptic subject title can be translated to "American Gothic at a Mexican Hot Springs Resort".

Early in October I decided to "Cool My Heels" for awhile in the state of Chihuahua before plunging once again to mid and southern Mexico. It is so very tempting to race towards a popular destination year after year, which leaves the intervining hundreds of miles a constant mystery. So when I encountered a highway sign announcing "Ojo Caliente" I jammed on the brakes and turned off of Mex 54 at the north edge of Ciudad Camargo. A narrow paved lane winding it's way through walnut and pistachio orchards gave way to gravel road lying adjacent to a very wide irrigation canal. Any thought to bringing a fifth wheel or motorhome ended abruptly at the first of three dips that crossed the road. Vans and camper pickups would negotiate the dips but even the shortest motorhome would drag its tail. Occasional signage with arrows and distances made the jaunt carefree.
Ojo Caliente turned out to be a bit more upscale than it would appear from the highway sign. It consists of an unfinished waterpark slide and pool, a quite pretty motel with twenty units, a large indoor swimming pool and three outdoor pools. In addition there are a dozen private "tinajas" rooms with private hot springs pools, bathroom and freshwater shower.
Although English was not spoken at the office, I quickly determined that I could camp in a large parking lot overnight by paying a general admission fee of forty pesos (a per person basis). This allowed for not only a boondocking camping spot but the use of any of the swimming pools including the eighty degree indoor pool, the freshwater unheated showers, toilet facility, and the parklike picnic area adjacent to the indoor park. I could rent a private hotsprings room with pool and hot water shower for seventy pesos per day. The exchange rate made the 40 peso fee equal something like three dollars sixty cents and the upscale 70 peso fee, a mere six dollars and change.
Any doubt that I had about "splurging" six dollars a day for a parking spot, vanished when I submerged my road weary corpse into a hundred and two degree mineral bath. The sulfurous warm waters quickly untied the knots in my back and neck and a pesky cramping insole on my throttle foot was driven out by the mild parboiling excorcism of the bath. After a nice long soak and rinse I simply flowed my way back to my camper rig and drifted off to a deep untroubled sleep.
Over the next several weeks I began to look upon my extended stay as a genuine respite from society, crisis driven news reports, taxes, scandal, and other lurid journalistic diatribe. I concentrated on healthy eating, repeated soakings in the mineral baths, and a long delayed organization of my pickup´s utlity bed compartments.
The first Saturday arrived along with a handful of Mexican customers interested in the heated pool and a picnic. About mid-day the first of many pickup and suburban loads of Mennonites from Ciudad Cuauhtemoc, west of Chihuahua, began arriving. Mexicans favor Ford autos and pickups while the Mennonites seem to favor Chevrolet and GMC trucks. Many if not most Mexican vehicles have dark tinted windows and custom wheels. The Mennonite rigs were all factory stock.
The Mennonites arrived with extended family in tow (same as the Mexicans). But while the Mexicans favored modern wash and wear "stylish" western clothing, the Mennonites mostly were right out of "American Gothic". The women wore long ankle-length dresses had frilly (what do you call ém?) wing-thingies, on their shoulders, and wore bonnets. Many of the men sported denim coveralls and old-fashioned brimmed hats right-out-of-the-thirties. The painter of the popular painting "American Gothic" used his sister and dentist as models for the painting. He could have used any these folk as well, even seventy four years later.
I am totally unfamiliar with homelife of Mexican Mennonites, but smiles were pervasive and the squeals of delight from the younger children and laughter from the adults cannot help but dissuade me from any notion that these blue eyed and blond haired "Mexicans" are dour holy-roller types.
I couldn't stand it any longer --- I just had to strike up a conversation, so I ventured into the covered pool building and seated myself a polite distance away from an elder male member of an obvious extended family. I soon discerned that they spoke a peculiar Dutch-German dialect that was far beyond my ability. So I introduced myself in Spanish and sure enough the gentleman replied. The next thing I knew I (not they) was answering hundreds of polite questions about all things American. For soon after my introduction the male members of the family gathered round, and I found myself in the middle of a genuinely friendly and intellectual conversation. My gosh, we talked about agriculture (Mexican Mennonites are famous for their abundant crops, and white (Menonito) cheese). New diesel pickups, George Bush, Mexican politics, Costco Wholesale, American pioneers, the list became almost endless. The women and children kept their dietance but such a thing is true with Mexican ! women and children as well. Perhaps they don't care for boring conversations about metal halide lighting, genetic engineered corn, and diesel turbochargers.
So in the end I departed Ojo Caliente with a much different appreciation of the Mennonite culture and what I had "guessed" them to be like. Isn't that always the case and isn't it much the same reappreciation that I have for the Mexican culture and society. The culture and lifestyle in America isn't good for many young Mexicans for some reason; Too many adolescents and young adults seem to harden and become cynical and when they return to Mexico for a visit, they seem changed, standoffish, to brethren (By all means this "change for the worse" isn't universal but it is all to common). Snobbism is almost unknown to rural Mexicans, and even the Mennonites that I chatted with could identify with the phenomenon. Suffice it to say that on a whole Mexicans in Mexico are much different than Mexicans transplanted to the States.