April 18, Thursday

Torreón is a furnace. This day, it's over 40 degrees centigrade--that's over 104 degrees Fahrenheit. And while the humidity is non-existent--my sinuses were certainly feeling THAT--the hell with that "oh, it's a DRY heat" crap. It is just damn hot. This is a freakin' desert. There's no grass here, just pavement, houses made of concrete or concrete brick, and dirt lots void of vegetation. When the wind whips up, it takes the dirt with it--that or carcenogenic tailings from the huge Peñoles metals smelter on the south side of town. I was drinking lots of water. Eliot wasn't liking it too much, either--he had been cranky since we left Saltillo. His virus and fever were about gone, but now he was breaking out in a heat rash. He wanted nothing to do with all the new people wanting to give him attention, so he cried and pouted and only wanted to suck on his pacifier. He didn't want to eat much, either. Did I mention there was no air conditioning, either? I don't mean to sound like an ungrateful American, but dammit, I'm used to my creature comforts, and there weren't many here. Give me a swimming pool! Air conditioning! A motel! But, I was going to be a good, grateful guest and stick it out, maybe take an extra shower. Oh, did I mention that there was little to no water pressure in the evening? Scratch any chance of a cooling shower.

Never head of Torreón? It's just another one of those places anonymous to us Americans, which you'd never hear of unless the scene of some big disaster. I was amazed at the size of the place--over 500,000 residents, which makes it bigger than Fort Worth. It's a fairly new town, too, dating from the 1920s, right about the time Pancho Villa blew through and ran off the wealthy upper class. Because it is newer than, say, the colonial Saltillo, its streets are wider. There are boulevards with wide medians and fountains and statues.

But the pace of the town is faster, too--traffic is crazy, with at least half the vehicles being taxi cabs and buses. The taxis are usually green and white Volkswagen beetles, but there are quite a few Nissan Sentras and tiny but new and clean four-door things called "ATOS"--wider than a VW beetle but with 13 inch tires like the old LeCar. They're a joint venture of Dodge and Hyundai. Also seen are even smaller two-door "Ka"--I guess they couldn't justify naming it a "Kar". They're made by Ford, but against a determined bus driver with a patron saint riding along, the little Ka wouldn't have a chance. Torreón is part of a three-town area called "La Laguna," its residents referring to themselves as Lagunista. The Laguna refers to an irrigation project from where the Río Nazas was dammed up to create farmlands east of Torreón. The area is known for its agriculture, as well as being the major production area for denim used in the United States, as well as assembly plants for clothing and farm vehicles, a Pilgrim's Pride feed mill, and a large lead and mineral smelter operation owned by mineral giant Peñoles.

Did I mention it was hot? To seek refuge from the heat, Mary, Eliot, Mary's sister Verónica, their great-grandfather Antonio, and nephew Pedro Iván piled into the Honda with me and we headed downtown to visit an old museum in a home on a hill overlooking Torreón, where all sorts of old curios are on display. It's marginally interesting, but it WAS air conditioned.

After this, we went to the Torreón Railroad museum, the coolest part of which (for me) is the 1960s incarnation of the NdeM dispatcher's CTC board from Monterrey to Carenos, as well as a dandy telegraphy display. There an old NdeM steam engine on display, too, but it's out in the heat of day, and by the time we got to it, we really wanted to just get back into an air conditioned automobile.

Back home, we picked up Mary's father, Claudio, and took Eliot for his first haircut. Eliot didn't cry too much, and was probably relieved to be a little cooler in the heat. After that, it was a quick trip to the Galleria Mall on the northeast outskirts of town, past the airport (daily service from Houston on Continental) and the soccer stadium where Club Santos--two-time repeat champions in the Mexican soccer equivalent of the NFL--play. The mall was just like a fancy shopping mall in the United States, but with more guards. And the best thing: the air conditioning worked really well. The most curious thing about the mall was paying for the parking. . .you stick your ticket into an ATM-like thing that gives you the choice of three languages represented by the Mexican, US, and Canadian flag. Canadian? I can only assume choosing the Canadian flag would give you the menu in French.

That evening, we all drove up to the top of a hill overlooking Torreón, where a 90-foot Jesus statue with outspread arms stands watch over La Laguna. At night, this all looks quite beautiful and sparkly, and the evening is quite pleasant. The Jesus is supposedly the same size as the one over looking Rio de Janeiro. Behind Jesus is a sanctuary with a very beautiful white-glass and wrought-iron depiction of the Stations of the Cross recounting Jesus' death and resurrection. The grounds include several sanctuaries and lots of cut stone buildings, and are all first-rate. It was built with donations in the early 1970s.

We went back down the mountain for a late-night snack: Hamburgesas! Seriously, one of the best hamburgers I've had in years--and it was a monster! It was found at a place called Hamburger Taco on the north side of downtown. The burger was a good 7-8 inches across. A couple of cold cokes washed it down, then we drove home back to the furnace. Sleep was tough. Between the 100 degree lingering heat of the day upstairs in the bedroom and that giant hamburger festering in my stomach, it was hard to sleep.

April 15, Monday
April 16, Tuesday
April 17, Wednesday
April 18, Thursday
April 19, Friday
April 20, Saturday
April 21, Sunday
April 22, Monday