Sunday, July 24, 2016

Chicken Bus Fever Part II: Sierra Madre High

 A Note on History: I've been enviously reading Paul Theroux's The Old Patagonia Express. I'm not envious because he went places I want to go; I'm envious because he fills a page so naturally, is not apologetic of his personality, and does not toss punchlines around casually. But he also includes historical backstory that I'm not accustomed to duplicate. I don't trust 'history'. One person says "Columbus discovered America'. Well, what does that mean? Who cares? I can write Guatemala was once the generic name for all of Central America. So what? I can research the years of founding and wars and earthquakes but these mean very little because I am taking someone else's word for the truth and passing it along as derived truth. I do not know what Cortez saw during his trip, if I can trust Cortex existed at all. I can stand before a plaque claiming Cortez was once on such and such peninsula, but the plaque is not a guarantee. I can guarantee the plaque exists, but not that Cortez was once standing there. See? It's merely words carved in iron. Furthermore, I vigorously doubt that the teaching of history prevents one from repeating it. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't. I'm even skeptical that it makes one more informed. Maybe a person using common sense and critical thinking is the difference, and the trivia they learned from history books is irrelevant. Maybe research needs to be done on the present, not the past. Consider this passage: "After 1,500 years of Canaanite rule over Palestine, the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea fell under the rule of numerous invaders, including the Philistines, the Israelites, the Phoenicians, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Macedonians, the Romans, the Arabs, the Crusaders, and then it was ruled by various Islamic Caliphates from 1291 until the British mandate in 1922."  Really? That's all indisputably true? If so, why does it matter today? I read that passage like I'm reading an ancient magical spell intended to defeat demons. Even if it is true, where are the demons I'm defeating? Since I can't embrace this kind of history-fetish I don't want to pass any history on about what I experienced. See? I suspect the main function of 'history' in modern times is to collect innocent children in a room, for instance, and tell them, "[Insert ethnicity here] murdered your great-great grandparents during [insert war date here], and this is why you must hate [insert ethnicity here]..." or "Back in [insert date from several centuries ago here] a [insert Race here] person defiled the grave of [insert another Race here] and this is why you must always distrust [insert Race here]." That is how I see history being applied today and it does more harm than good.
Maybe conflict is fueled by an overemphasis on the past. Maybe a disputed past is best forgotten because the present is where we live and the future is where we are going. The past is not trivial, but harboring grudges based on the past does no good. Honor and respect are earned on a day to day basis, cultures develop based on current accomplishments, not grudges and revenge.

Finally, better historical summaries have already been written so why am I going to edit them further to pretend I am well informed. My goal is to see and describe what is before my eyes, not justify why it is there and rationalize its existence. Once in a while I'll discuss history, but mostly for comic value or to advance my specific political agenda. End Note.

Quetzaltenango (shortened to Xela or Shay-La) is at an altitude of 7600 ft and the trip from the coastal town of Champerico is only 100 KM, or about 60 miles. Where else in North America are you going to climb 7600 ft from sea level in less than 60 miles? That is a geography question for the quizical. I believe the Sierra Madre Occidental in the Mexican state of Sonora and Chihuahua is the best place to look because the high peak is 10,000 ft and is around 60 miles inland of the Sea of Cortez, but you don't drive to that peak and you do drive to Quetzaltenango. A little research directs me toward island peaks such as Puncak Jaya in Indonesia and Manau Kea on Hawaii, which is barely 40 KM from the sea and is 13,000ft high. I don't want to argue about the specifics, but it's a dramatic change in climate although I was told June is winter in Champerico. 

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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.