Unscripted Journeys by R. R. Green - Read Online
Unscripted Journeys
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Unscripted Journeys is a true detailed account of perils, and adventures in the land of the Maya. It includes accounts of a year incarceration in a remote Mexican prison, exclusive access to Mayan village ceremonies and interesting discoveries in this mountainous region. It takes you on journeys into out-of-the-way destinations in areas of Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras. Includes photographs and paintings.

As an artist living in a small town near the border of Guatemala in the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico, the author and his wife bring to life details of the area and its diverse people. The account of life in a jungle prison is a unique feature of this book.

Published: Robert Green on


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Unscripted Journeys - R. R. Green

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Chapter 1


Journey to Chiapas, Mexico

I have thought a lot about how I might have escaped from Cerro Hueco, the Mexican prison where my wife Debra and I were incarcerated for a time in the early 70's. My plan never got further than the dirt road that ended in the parking lot of the prison.

It ended where the dark impenetrable rain forest formed a wall on one side of the road and the prison stone wall the other side. The road was the only escape route and at the same time, the obvious place where I would inevitably be recaptured.

How Debra and I, along with other Gringos happened to be in this remote prison is still a mystery that we will probably never solve. The motives for the round-up of most of the foreigners from around the town of San Cristobal de las Casas , Mexico, by the Federal police has never been explained. For us, it just started with a knock on the door.

In all, there were about 25 Americans and Canadians who were collected. Most were tourists but the rest were expats like myself; Americans living for various lengths of time in this remote region about 50 miles from the Guatemalan border in the State of Chiapas.

The expats included a wide range of types such as academics associated with the University of Chicago centered around Na Bolom, a large house run by the wife of the late, famous anthropologist Franz Bloom. Trudy Bloom presided over a revolving body of students coming from the US as well as a number of Lacandon Indians from the interior area near the border of Guatemala where they were discovered and studied by Franz.

The Lacandon were remnants of lost Mayan people who were living in extreme isolation in the low-land jungle south of Palenque. Recently, that area had become a disputed border between Mexico and Guatemala. Oil had been discovered there so possession was an issue when before, nobody gave it a thought. The Lacandon were ignored and even unknown, but now they were a problem.

The other expats were a diverse bunch that included missionaries, misfits, people on the lam, long vacationers, cowboys, artists, retirees, and what-have-you. They were in this particular place because of its beauty, weather, color, low cost of living and remoteness.

It was a very cheap place to live. I paid about $10 per month for a large hacienda style house with many rooms surrounding a center court yard and water well. The wide veranda provided ample shade in the day and shelter from rain when communicating between many separated rooms. Our hacienda had no amenities such as running water, bathroom, telephone or dependable electricity. As typical of these rural areas, toilets are non-existent. There were no septic systems or sewers. Semi-wild dogs clean up as they have done for thousands of years around human settlements. Nobody feeds the dogs because that would be counterproductive. The back door of the wall surrounding our compound lead to a field which served as our outhouse as well as pasture for horses that we rented.

One time Debra had a case of dysentery and got tired of running out to the back field. She just decided to lay down out there and sleep. She woke up to a circle of dogs and horses standing over her.

In other primitive places we have visited, they use pigs in a similar fashion. We were in Ecuador at a restaurant in a small village. We used the bathroom which was an outhouse with a pig hanging around the door that we had to chase away to get in. The toilet was a typical ceramic toilet but it was not hooked up to any plumbing in or out. When you leave the toilet, the pig runs in to flush the toilet. We found it better than Russian toilets. Before they returned to capitalism, there was no underclass that would clean toilets. They would get plugged up and that is how they would remain. Even in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg this was the case. At least the Ecuadorian toilets were licking clean.

The electricity in our Mexican house was occasional and sporadic. In some regards, it was not that different from the farm where I grew up in rural Wisconsin. We had no running water in the house, or telephone or dependable electricity. Our toilet was an outhouse. That was the difference. Was it better? I'm not sure.

At around 7,000 feet, the weather when not rainy is in the 70's to 80's F, but as soon as the sun goes down the temperature plunges to the 40's and in winter, sometimes to the 30's. This was not my first stay in San Cristobal. I had spent two previous winters here and used it to avoid the winters in Chicago. My contracting business was seasonal and I found Chiapas to be a good fit to do my art work and wait for Spring.

The town of San Cristobal is in a valley surrounded by pine and mahogany forest with foot and horse trails winding through the mountains leading to small hamlets and villages inhabited by different Mayan language groups. Each group could be identified by their distinctive costumes and customs.

San Cristobal is the market center for 9 distinct language groups that also includes Spanish speaking Ladinos. When I lived there, the town had a police force of 5 police and a broken down pickup that doubled as a garbage truck. Each police officer had to buy his own gun and uniform so they were not exactly uniform. They couldn't afford a new battery for their broken down truck, so every time they needed to go somewhere or pick up some garbage, all five of the cops would have to push the police/garbage vehicle to get it started.

If they stop you for a traffic violation, for example, wrong-way on a one way street, you would be taken to the police station on the town plaza (zocalo) and be asked to buy something off the shelves in the station. The items would be things like lost cameras,

an old typewriter, junk jewelry, a pen, etc. Drunken Indians were the standard guests in their establishment.

For the most part, the town was peaceful and quiet and the zocalo was filled up every night with promenading residents eating Lulu's hot cakes and chalupas. A mariachi band played on weekends and holidays. The town boasted a cinema that had wooden chairs. It ran mostly old Hollywood movies dubbed into Spanish. The air was heavy with the smell of popcorn, chili powder and smoke. The smoke was so thick that the movie could be seen projected on it. I can truthfully say that I saw Cabaret in 3D.

Until the knock on the door, Debra and I were busy with tasks that are time consuming when there is no refrigeration, clean water, gas stoves and normal facilities of the industrialized world. In addition, I painted on large canvases that I nailed to the adobe walls around the veranda. There are examples of some of the paintings throughout this account.

We lived on the outskirts of town and we would catch our horses from across the road and get them saddled for the daily trip to the market in town where we would buy our provisions such as tortillas, fresh fruit, vegetables, dried salted fish, corn for the horses and occasionally fresh eggs and meat. We also loved to eat breakfast in the market. The best eggs possible, especially, huevos al a Mexicano with fresh chilies and hand made tortillas.

The main market day was Sunday when all of the different Indian groups would descend on the market square with all of their crafts, wares, food, animals and festive adornments. At about four in the morning we would