National Geographic : 1961 Oct
Mexico in Motion Mexicans everywhere revere education. For example, villagers in the Territory of Quintana Roo wanted a school so desperately that they built one for themselves, complete with desks, then begged the surprised school authorities for a teacher. And consider the experience of Dr. Agustin Arroyo-Damian, an eminent eve surgeon in the capital. A few years ago, he founded Mex ico's first eye bank when a dying woman from the United States bequeathed her eyes for corneal transplants. One cornea went to a charity patient in Celaya, Guanajuato, a blind little Indian girl with the naive name of Transito, a word meaning automobile traffic. "The child was so grateful for the gift of sight that she wanted to reward the whole community," says Dr. Arroyo-Damian. "Transito learned to read, and then-even though she is painfully shy-she organized a little school near Celava. Now still in her twenties, she teaches other Indian children to read." Mexico is heir to two flamboyant cultures, Spanish and Indian. The nation revels in both. This mixed- mestizo- nature of Mexi can life is aptly illustrated by two kinds of theater groups. The first is found near the center of the republic in the city of Guanajuato. The Spaniards built colonial Guanajuato in a steep trough of a valley because the region had more silver ore than arable land. Old Spanish traditions survive, particularly the coffeehouse as a meeting place of the arts. Amateurs Play to Standing Room Only One day seven years ago, a coffeehouse group began discussing the golden age of Spanish drama and how it had originated in the very streets of towns. The citizens took a new look at their own Spanish town, at its closely squeezed homes and tiny plazas. Guanajuato, they decided, resembled the stage set for a Cervantes drama. So they turned Guanajuato into just that. Tailors, engineers, doctors, students formed the cast and production crew. They mounted Spanish steamship glides into historic Veracruz harbor, where Spanish galleons put Hcrnan Cortes and his army ashore in 1519. From the seaside promenade at left, sight seers board ferries for the fortress of San Juan de Ulia across the bay, last stronghold of the Spaniards. Lighthouse atop Customs Building guides traffic in the port. KODACHROMESBY KIP ROSS. NATIONALGEOGRAPHIC STAFF @ N.G.S.