Hermosillo, Sonora: 6 Scenes to Remember It By
A small hill rises in the middle of the city where the people are as warm as the days. A river runs through it. The ocean is not far, along with the dunes that merge with the saltwater. This is the Hermosillo.
Hermosillo is full of kind people that leave visitors with a long list of memories. Here’s one list from our expert traveler.
A small hill rises in the middle of the city where the people are as warm as the days. A river runs through it. The ocean is not far, along with the dunes that merge with the saltwater. This is the Hermosillo I remember. It’s not the one I’m supposed to talk about. Rather, it’s the one I return to in my mind whenever I wish.
Cities don’t exist in the memory in their entirety. Just fragments one returns to. Here are six scenes in Hermosillo that have stuck with me. There feature beer, the night, and something of the sea and desert. There’s heat, naturally, but it’s a distant memory. I have a clearer vision of the faces of Juan Carlos and Ramsés, and the shop where I picked up my dream catcher.
I had only had experience finding my balance on a board one other time. It was in Huacachina, a wavy Peruvian desert broken up by an oasis. It wasn’t much, but it was something. With only that prior experience I came to the San Nicolás Dunes, near Kino Bay, for sandboarding.
In the hottest months in Sonora, the sun doesn’t give you much chance to be in the sand. At ten o’clock in the morning my feet were starting to burn with every sinking step. I was wearing socks. Before that, I had peacefully ridden the mountains of sand with my board in hand.
Juan Carlos Tostado was my guide. I remember how his silhouette was cast on the peak of our chosen dune. I would slide down and his shadow would disappear while the distant ocean would appear closer. I’m still a beginner, but now I can slide with more confidence. I slid down time after time, without flipping or tumbling, on the gentlest, shortest slope. I want to go back.
Reflection and Foam
Midnight. I’m sitting on a stool with my elbows on the bar looking at my reflection in the window across from me. Out of focus, the lights outside sync up with the noises of the street I no longer hear now that I’m surrounded by the voices and glasses and quiet ceremonies taking place inside.
Alone or in pairs, shadows pass by on the other side of the glass. I imagine that they’re looking for places like the one I’m at. Espuma Artesenal is small and it’s already full. By this time, there are fewer families roaming downtown Hermosillo, though they still pass through the nearby main square as if trying to squeeze every last drop out of the evening with a final look at the cathedral.
I take another sip of the beer in my hand. Without realizing it, I’m yearning for a similar experience. It’s a craft beer, like all the beers here are. A tall chalkboard lists the available drafts. I’m interested in the regional ones. So, I take my time watching the foam settle on an IPA called Trigonométrica from Venado Brewery. A feeling of contentment comes over me. Relaxed, I savor the evening in each bitter sip.
My Dream Catcher
It was made by the Kikapú people and now hangs in a corner of my living room. It’s practically weightless. Its five limp feathers move if the window’s left open. The net in the center has a small blue stone that I always end up gazing at. It came with me from Hermosillo. It was yet another of many wonders I found and I took my time finding it. Now, it’s my dream catcher.
I can still remember the handicraft shop I found it at. It was on the second floor, in Plaza Bicentario. They had a collection of items made by the eight indigenous groups of Sonora. I found them all by stepping inside Lutisuc (lutisuc.org).
A few square yards contain things a single traveler would take weeks or months to collect. Now spared the arduous labor of tracking down those items hand-crafted in the desert, the mountains, and the valleys, I made my way through the shop in constant awe. I could see the Pápagos’ wood-carving skills, the time-consuming elephant bark baskets made by the Seri, ritual masks and instruments of the Mayo and Yaqui peoples, the bead decorations used by the Cucapá, and the embroidered universe of the Pimas and Guarijíos. And so much more.
On the Other Side of the River
My eyes follow the short flight of the dough circles. A second earlier they were little balls of wheat flour that a woman presses into circles. The wheels spin from her fingers to the table, ready to receive a plop of piloncillo (raw sugar, known as panocha in Mexico’s north). This is the filling and the beginning of the coyotas, the Sonoran people’s dessert. Vegetable fat, salt, and sugar round out the recipe.
It’s been done this way since 1954. That’s when María Ochoa González opened the factory that bears her name: Doña María (coyotasdonamaria.com). It’s the same set up and here I am, on the other side of the Sonora River, in the old Villa de Seris neighborhood.
Other companies have popped up around it. I approach the wood-fired oven, watching the coyotas start to cook in orderly rows on a bake sheet. They say that the smell’s the same despite all the kinds of sweet fillings that have been used over the years. Now, biting into the baked tradition of Hermosillo, I can perceive the different flavors: milk caramel, fig, quince, guava, apple, chocolate, and perhaps pineapple.
An Afternoon at Kino Bay
From the car window I see bursts of green and an intermittent line of blue. We’re going so fast it’s all a blur. The giant cardon cacti disappear behind us along with Kino Bay. As the tires roll along, the Sea of Cortez becomes just a memory. Night falls. The low sun slices across the giant prickly cacti, turning them a golden color. That’s when it’s time to photograph them. And I did.
I think of what Father Kino would have seen. If the Jesuit missionary had had a camera he would have been able to capture images of bay in the 17th century for posterity. I don’t imagine it was very different. The landscape hasn’t changed, just how we live in it.
Two things that would have been unthinkable for the missionary tickled my fancy here in the future: I took a paddleboard out on the Old Kino Estuary and saw the Seri Museum in New Kino. In the water, I learned to lean just the right amount to happily move my feet across the board.
At the museum, I learned about the Comcáac, the indigenous people living in two coastal towns: Punta Chueca and El Desemboque. I read about the legends passed on from another time, the objects they make, and how they paint their faces during their festivals. The Italian priest crossed their path many generations ago, when their customs were far from becoming museum content.
The Hole in the Hamburger
A board with a small rectangular paper placemat is set on the table. On it, served with seasoned French fries, there’s a hamburger. It’s called Mamut, and the bun has a hole in the middle. Inside, there’s a world on the run: ground beef wrapped in bacon and stuffed with jalapeño cheddar cheese, a mozzarella crust, caramelized onion, and avocado sauce.
I take my time with each mouthful. I’ve come to Mastodonte, a gastropub run by Ramsés Rodríguez, a friend I made a few days ago at a fair in downtown Hermosillo. Seated along with me are the brew masters of four local beers: Bandido, Venado, Buqui Buqui, and Velódromo.
They’re all also acquaintances of Ramsés, though they’ve known him a lot longer than I have. They laugh with him about the past. Their conversations are like islands coming in and out of view. I get distracted. At times, I look at the beers they’ve made. They’re served draft here, along with others from Baja California and the U.S. They all float from the bar to the tables to the animated faces of the diners. In the back, a band gets their instruments set up. Any moment now, they’ll start to play.
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