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Looking out my Back Door: Tequila, pole dancing and more tequila


January 31, 2019

Yesterday John and Carol, Leo, our gardener, and I took a trip up to the top of the sacred Mountain, Volcan de Tequila.

Tequila Mountain dominates a huge section of Jalisco, can be seen from Guadalajara as well as from my own yard. We are aware of its majestic presence whenever we think to notice.

John had walked over the day before to ask if I would like to join them. I hesitated a few seconds, shook myself and said yes to a chance to see more of this country I have come to love.

Perhaps I might explain my slight hesitation. After my first run-about with John and Carol, I had said loudly that I would never ride with John again. He is a terrible driver. Carol, bless her and she is right, of course, says John is the best, safest driver she knows. And, of course, I have taken my life into John’s hands since then, mostly to nearby restaurants.

On one such trip, John asked me if I were afraid of his driving. “Scared” is the word he used. I gulped and said, “Yes, in certain situations,” and blathered it all out. Perhaps he had noticed me white knuckling the passenger door. Perhaps he’d caught me slam my foot on the passenger-side invisible brake. So, John knows. This is not secret stuff I’m revealing.

We left early in the morning, took sweaters, jackets, scarves, hats and gloves. It is cold on top of Tequila and the wind always blows. We drove into the city of Tequila, an hour drive from Etzatlan, through the center of town, on up the cobbled road to the top.

I made that sound so easy. Cobbled road. Narrow. Built around fifty years ago by the communications companies to service the towers atop the mountain, right at the edge of the caldera. Cobbled, not necessarily maintained. We bounced like b-bs in a pinball machine, over, around and through potholes, washouts, and gullies which interlaced the cobblestones like gaps in a first-grader’s teeth.

Straight up, the mountain tops out at 9,613 feet. Mountain roads do not run straight up. Our ascent took two hours, maybe longer. The scenery up the mountain is worth every bounce, jounce, and jerk.

We stood on the edge of the caldera and marveled at the tall rock stupa standing in the center, gaped at the sheer size of the bowl. When we turned our backs on the caldera, a huge Monopoly board of fields, cities, smaller pueblos, arroyos, highways and dirt roads spread before us like a skirt reaching across the valley to the mountains to our south.

What goes up must come down and so did we, so did we, down through the oak forests, through the pines, onto expanses of blue agave fields from which comes the drink which gives the town its fame today, and into the center of the city to find food.

Complaining of hunger, we followed Leo through the Plaza to a restaurant he had in mind. Five men in bright beaded regalia stopped us in our tracks while they prepard to re-enact the sacred Danza de Los Voladores (Dance of the Flyers), or as I call it, the pole dance. It is a spectacular sight. We watched with appropriate respect and awe. I’ve seen the flying pole dancers three times now and it seems more phenomenal each time.

Four men secured with rope halters dangle from the platform high atop a pole and swing upside down in ever-expanding circles until they reach the ground and upright themselves. While they are swinging, a man atop the pole plays a curious instrument combining the music of a pipe and drum.

On to the restaurant, we satisfied our appetites with a variety of delicious Mexican foods; my choice, shrimp in tamarind sauce. A duo serenaded us, singing in perfect harmony. Our waiter attempted to ply us with offerings of flavored tequilas: chocolate, coffee, mango and almond, oh my.

The town of Tequila is home of the Jose Cuervo distillery among many, many others. I suspect all that is needed to make tequila, like any home brew, is a few agave plants, a vat or two and copper pipes. Copper? I don’t know. I’ve heard home brew can be had.

After our day on the mountain, content with filled bellies, we headed home, happy. Despite my trepidation, perhaps aided by my silent vigilance, John drove us home safely, mouthing the instrumentals, shouting out the song with one word, “Tequila”.


Sondra Ashton grew up in Harlem but spent most of her adult life out of state. She returned to see the Hi-Line with a perspective of delight. After several years back in Harlem, Ashton is seeking new experiences in Etzatlan, Mexico. Once a Montanan, always. Read Ashton’s essays and other work at montanatumbleweed.blogspot.com. Email [email protected]


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