TBT - "The Trouble With Donkey Brays and The Mulege Prison"

Last week I described our grand adventure in bringing a travel trailer down the Mexican Baja Trail back in '69. Our Baja California adventures continued for several months after settling down in the little village of Mulege - here are some of the highlights.

Of course there was one other major global event in July of that year - and thanks to a 250,000 watt radio station and radio personality Wolfman Jack in Tijuana, we were able to listen in on a live broadcast of that first moon landing after we arrived in Mulege. It seems that Astronaut Neil Armstrong accomplished a difficult journey to a distant place at the same time we did - just different locations.

Mulege in 1969 was a sleepy little oasis by the sea. Date palm groves lined the short river that ran into the Sea of Cortez - rocky hills covered in desert scrub vegetation fanned out beyond the village. We managed to secure a small parcel of land between the main village road to the sea and the river. Surrounded by date palms in a nice shady spot for our trailer home - we benefited from a pleasant breeze that flowed down from the hills and along the river.

Back then the village was just beginning to get popular with Gringos who could fly in with their private airplanes to spend a few days fishing or diving in the incredibly bountiful waters here. There was a couple small rustic hotels for them to stay - but no real tourist type accommodations in the area yet. We were here to explore the possibility of getting involved in tourism development, so over the next few months we made an effort to get to know the people and explore the business potential.

Most of our days were filled with diving and fishing - lots of adventure in and on the water in Bahia Conception, a 3x20 mile bay stretching south of Mulege. We had a 16 foot skiff that we filled with fish and conch every time we went out on the water. Spearfishing became the preferred method of getting what we wanted to eat - so many species and sizes to pick from! But the most delicious food the sea had to offer was Green Sea Turtle. Nothing I have ever ate before or since was as good as those turtles.

In the village I met an old man who was a taxidermist that preserved and stuffed beautiful Hawksbill Turtles - and of course made those big puffer fish lanterns you see hanging in the cantinas. We got to be friends and he told me that he spent each day with his family and working in his shop - but 6 PM each evening he had to return to the town's prison until 6 AM, when they let all the prisoners out to go to their jobs, farms, family, whatever. He was a convicted murderer - as were all the 24 prisoners in the Mulege prison. Mexico does not have the death penalty for murder, and those convicted of a murder of passion were sent here - a place difficult to reach or to leave!

Okay - I got that. These guys had not made a premeditated kill. They caught their wife in bed with another guy, someone raping their child, argument over paying the Tequila bill, etc. - lost it and killed someone. When asked if all of them had life sentences, he said the individual term of the prison sentence depended on the age of the person they killed. The older the victim, the longer the sentence, because you have destroyed someone with more memories and more to contribute in the way of knowledge and perhaps wisdom to the community. Like the difference between cutting down a young fruit tree that bears little or no fruit compared to destroying a fully mature and large bearing fruit tree?

We did not find the opportunity we were looking for there in Baja and Mulege - but it was a fantastic place to live for a few months and really got us into what skin diving in the tropics is all about. The village was a very pleasant and peaceful place - except at night when I would be awakened by the donkeys. Several times at night some donkey a mile up the river would bray for awhile, then a donkey one half mile away would then take up braying too, and then the one a bock away would start, and then the one across the street would join in . . . .

When in Baja - keep you ass away from the village.