My first adventure to Alamos was in 1956. My mother, brother, and I had come to spend Christmas with my father who was doing mining exploration with a company in Colorado.
The Hotel Portales and Casa de los Tesoros were both new hotels in old buildings. There were many tourists here then so we could not get accommodations for all two weeks at one hotel. We spent Christmas week at the Hotel Portales and New Year’s week at Los Tesoros. I remember the inner courtyard of the Hotel Portales as being huge with a fireplace in the rear area. Now when I see the courtyard it looks much smaller and the many murals are faded, but just as interesting. Other American kids were there so I had friends to pal around with. One afternoon my father arranged for a mule ride. Mules arrived at the steps of the Portales and a small group of us rode along the dusty streets through town. I was reminded of it recently when my brother found an old photo of me getting on a mule. He had found it in our mother’s trunk of antique photos.
New Year’s Eve at the Los Tesoros was very elegant and festive. The tables were decorated and all the guests arrived dressed for the event. I do not remember what was served for dinner but I do remember I was allowed to have a small glass of champagne—my first. The day before I had celebrated my 14th birthday.
In the 1990s, when I was living in Tucson, my friend Margie and I came to Alamos. We had checked a cassette out of the library: “The Secrets of the Sierra Madre.” We listened to it all the way down the highway. The town had changed by then. The streets were paved with either cobblestones or cement pavers and the ruins had been restored, making the town even more beautiful. We stayed for a week with Statia and Rod Carey, at their Casa Encantada. Margie located an old friend, Merv Larsen, and we visited with him at his new Hotel Posada.
After that second visit I returned many times. My brother and his wife had bought a house here and I also started to look at real estate. Finally in 2003 I purchased a property: a new ruin that was only ten years old but had lost one roof (palapa – palm) to fire and the second (pine beams, bamboo, and red tile) to termites. Those little critters very much like pine. The owner, Hedwig, was the personal secretary of Carroll O’Conner and when he no longer came to Alamos, her house was abandoned. Because the land below the house had never been purchased by anyone, I was able to buy it from the Mexican government. That purchase gave me about ½ hectare of land.
Doug Riesborough, a friend of Hedwig’s, designed the house. It is a large oval. The center had the kitchen and bath, the back part of the oval was a bedroom and the front was open with a round cement table in the middle and a cement banquette. The house must have looked like Noah’s Ark.
My first project here was to hire a contractor who I located with Chela Alcorn’s help and we rebuilt a new roof of cement. Even termites cannot eat that. The same contractor, Don Lalo Estrada, has helped me over the years to make changes as they were needed. Now I live here full time and the house is very comfortable.
The first North Americans to come to Alamos lived mainly in central Alamos. Now more of us are living in the barrios. My home is in Barrio Rastro. Yes, my neighbor is the slaughterhouse just above the soldier’s garrison. We are a small barrio of about 15 or 20 houses. It is easy to know your neighbors when they are few. And my neighbors are very nice. They have accepted me and I believe they look out for me. I am still the only non-Mexican here. If you look down the backside of the Mirador you will see my barrio.
The first night I slept in the house, Stephanie Meyers took me down a dirt road in Barrio La Capilla to a carpenter’s house to buy a Sonoran cot. She lent me heavy wool blankets and I made a bed in the bedroom and locked myself in. I was awakened many times by different noises—burros braying, dogs barking, and roosters crowing—all with no concern for the time of night.
Living here full time, I have many friends. Some stay year around and some return north. Winter months are busy with lots of social activities, while summer months are much quieter.
Amigos de Educacion is a non-profit group that raises funds to give becas (scholarships) to students who would otherwise not be able to attend high school because of the tuition costs. An ongoing fund-raising project of Amigos is the succession of Saturday morning House and Garden Tours. I enjoy donating my time, leading tours, and answering questions about Alamos.
I also enjoy playing dominos with a group who stay active year around and with another group who play only in the winter months. We also have a book club that I enjoy. They get me reading books I would not have found on my own. And, of course, we end up talking about all kinds of things—some intellectual and some not.
My house and property are a great pleasure to me. At the house I have a woman who cleans a few hours a week and a gardener who works five mornings a week. They allow me to have the time to enjoy my friends and animals–two dogs and two burros, and work on ranch projects, design new construction projects, research travel options, and to travel.
Yes, life in Alamos is GREAT!!