May 21, 2007 Bonus Blog
In early March of 1996, my son Thomas Charles and I joined Ed Mell and his son Carson for a trip down into Old Mexico. My good friend Paul Northrop of El Paso led our group, along with a Chihuahuan native named Jorge, so we had a bit of wiggle room to visit out the way places. I wanted to visit the village of Janos, where Geronimo lost his wife and kids when a Sonoran military unit attacked his Apache encampment while he was away (the Chihuahuan municipalities in the 1800s often paid the Apaches not to attack them, giving them, clothing, food, etc. But, the warriors, Geronimo included, simply used the Chihuahuan safe houses to launch attacks into the neighboring state of Sonora, then come home to impunity. The residents of Sonora naturally got tired of this, and sent a military unit to wipe out the raiders). I had heard that the original Spanish church, built in 1830, was still there, and that Apaches often besieged it, with the frightened citizens of Janos hiding within its walls.
On the backend of our trip, we headed towards Janos, which sits on a high, desolate plain (below, left) and lies directly below New Mexico with Columbus being the nearest American town. When we got there, we had trouble finding the church, but eventually we stumbled onto the right, crooked street and pulled up to the crumbling church, just in time to see a cockfight in full progress in the dirt plaza that fronted the ruins. Two of the women on our tour were from Japan, and for some reason they thought I could stop the fight, and they pleaded with me to do something. As I got out of the van, I saw that the fight was over, one of the cocks was already quite dead and his benefactors were quite bummed, so I took a photo of them (top, right).
While the Japanese women were crying, I went inside the church to take photos. It was so amazing to be standing on the site where no doubt Geronimo, Cochise, Nana, Juh (pronounced Who) and Victorio raided and probably stood, wading through blood, no doubt, thicker than the chicken outside produced.
One of our group, I think it was Carson, said, there was some old Indian approaching on horseback. I ran out and shot off a series of photos as he rode up (see above). The cockfighters told me his name was Victorio, he was eighty (riding a horse!) and claimed lineage back to the first Victorio, who was killed about a hundred miles east of Janos in the 1880s. Needless to say, my neck hairs stood on end. I asked him to take off his cap and he oblidged. It was quite amazing to run into this link to the distant past when everyone in northern Mexico said:
"Aiy Chihuahua! Quantos Apaches? Quantos Indios Sin Huarachis?"
—Famous saying in Chihuahua
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