Sunday, June 14, 2009


Somewhere near the crossroads of the sun, the sea, the dust and a fiercely guarded isolation is the essence of this tiny Seri village on the Sonoran coast of Mexico.

Desemboque is a wild study in contradictions, both rich and subtle, starting with its thudding juxtapositon of desert and sea. As well as I know and love the Sonoran Desert, it seemed inconcievable to stand on the edge of a low-tide beach, staring at waves in one direction and saguaro in the other.

My visit was unexpected, a short-notice invitation from a linguist friend who studys the one-of-a-kind Seri language and how these indigenous people describe the landscape and the spatial relationships between its objects.

We left Tucson early Monday morning, speeding away in a Chevy Blazer before the day's heat could catch up with us. The road there, which was new teritory for me from the moment we crossed the border into Mexico, took us through Hermosillo before heading west. The final hour or so of dirt road was spent trying to sit tight despite the relentless washboard bumps.

We stayed in a decades old brick house that emphasized shelter over comfort. The electricity had been cut the week before we arrived, and an outhouse served for nature's business. We cooked with a camping stove - and actually ate very well.

The people of the village speak Seri - or cmiique iitom as they call it - and most speak Spanish as well. My friend and our hosts - a Mexican anthropologist and his wife - were the only people there who spoke any English. I speak - or rather, I understand - very little Spanish. So I just took it all in, making sense of some things along the way, but generally feeling a bit removed.

I took this picture late on Tuesday, the first of two full days in Desemboque. The setting sun created a tremendous bright orange glow in between the ocotillo branches that made the fence around the house. The landscape is absolutely beautiful and the sea breezes were a great respite during the day's peak.

I spent most of my time sitting in the shade outside the house, watching the coming and going of Seri visitors and the rhythm of the interactions. It was mostly women who came, dressed in colorful long skirts and usually bringing shell necklaces to sell. They talked with my linguist friend and the anthropologist, spreading news of the village and the upcoming Año Nuevo celebration.

I didn't have an agenda or expecations other than to see Desemboque, to tag along out of curiosity and just mainly for the experience. And it was like nothing else I'd seen or experienced before - and likely won't again.

Roger Clyne - Mexico (acoustic)
moe. - Mexico (live)

1 comment:

CICCI said...

My grandparents used to go every summer, they would stay for weeks with a local family they new and bring bags of clothing and toys. They always loved it there.
cool post.