Durango, Durango – The Wild Bunch, now with flashing blue lights

Victoria de Durango, capital of the Mexican state Durango, obtained some degree of fame as backdrop for numerous Hollywood productions, first and foremost late westerns like “The Wild Bunch” or “Pat Garret and Billy the Kid”. Stars of the golden age like Lillian Gish, John Wayne and Clark Gable as well as more recent actors like Jack Nicholson John Belushi and John Travolta shot movies here.

And yet Hollywood plays just a small role in Durango’s long history that goes back to its foundation in 1563. To its landmarks belongs the baroque cathedral with its twin towers where an affectionate nun is said to haunt in full moon nights. A mansion from the late 18th century, Casa del Conde de Suchil, houses a number of shops. A bank settled fantastically in the square inner courtyard. The waiting benches were put up under the new glass roof, and the counters are grouped around under the arcades. Unfortunately we are not allowed to take photos, but at least we succeed in getting a snapshot with the telephoto lens from outside. The government palace is mainly interesting for its inside. Well-known Mexican artists designed huge murals. A part of the palacio de gobierno is closed. The friendly guard gives us access to take some images after asking kindly.

Today’s agitation happens on our way south on MEX 45. For the time being clouds mount up in front of us, it seems to rain in the distance, but we only get few drops – heralds of the approaching rainy season. Just before Fresnillo we stop at the hard shoulder to examine a PEMEX station regarding its suitability as place to sleep. Suddenly there is a police car and two officers. The “speaker” talks in a terrible dialect from which I understand only half – maximum. Then two more squad cars arrive and four more police men from whom one speaks clear Spanish. From where we come, where we go, and what we transport, he desires to know. He allows us to continue driving as he finds out that it’s all about a camper.

But we are followed and we don’t get far. In Fresnillo one of the police cars passes and cuts us, two more are waiting on the hard shoulder, willing to violently stop us. They must have seen this in one of the movies. Or were they part of the film crew? We are suddenly surrounded by uniforms and flashing blue lights. What utter confusion about a single RV. I count five cars and ten officers. Isn’t that a little bit much for two tourists? This time they bring one English speaking civvies. The other nine stand along a wall like stuffed dummies, trying to maintain a non-binding smile – just in case we are really harmless tourists, and not to leave a too bad impression. They check passports and driver’s license, and then they ask again for the vehicle’s kind. Did we have weapons? No. Knifes? Yes, BIG kitchen knifes. The man doesn’t have a pronounced sense of humour, but he accepts my explanation. We carry out their request for a look into the cabin, but we don’t put the ladder. A single glance from outside convinces him, it is really a motor home. Who did expect that? Where is the problem, we want to know. They aren’t used to this kind of vehicle. And the slightly disproportionately large police presence? That’s how it is in the state of Zacatecas; this could happen to us in each village. I am looking forward to that! The city police officers remained all the time acceptably friendly with just a hint of arrogance. Anyway, we prefer to make some miles and look for another gas station.

It doesn’t take long, and a state police car circles around us, but we remain unplagued. If one day I come up with the idea to earn my money with drug trafficking or arms running, please remind me of taking the oldest and most inconspicuous car I can find, to dress in frilly blouse, cardigan, pleated skirt and lace-up shoes, and to put on horn-rimmed spectacles and a headscarf. That should work then. On the other hand, nobody ever searched our truck…

In the meanwhile the sky darkens alarmingly. A sandstorm rolls up and wraps us. We have to close all windows, not really funny with these temperatures. Then thundering and flashing starts, but again there are only drops of rain, just enough to bind the last eight rain-free weeks’ dust on the paint, unfortunately by far not nearly enough to wash it off.

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