08 September 2008

Presa la Purísima

A friend of mine named José Luis Lee had been riding his ATV (All Terrain Vehicle) with a group of amigos on the dirt roads that surround a local reservoir called “Presa La Purísima”. He told me that they ate lunch under a “palapa” at a place called “Molineros” (Millers) on the shore of the reservoir. This was enough to pique my interest and I could immediately feel the urge for another adventure coming on. Yesterday afternoon I loaded up the car with my wife Gina and her mother Carmelita and off we went in search of “Molineros” singing:

“Somos Exploradores”...“We are Explorers”

Presa La Purísima was completed in 1979 and it is the biggest body of water in the State of Guanajuato. That isn't saying much because it is only about four kilometers long and a little more than a kilometer wide. To the people who live here though it is a big deal, especially for those who have never been anywhere else. I thought that having been born and raised in Chicago on the shores of Lake Michigan the site of a little “pond” like this shouldn't move me but when Gina and Carmelita saw the water they were so delighted, I couldn't help thinking that it looked pretty good to me too.

The word “presa” means “prey” as in “a tiger eating his prey”. It signifies a “catch” of something. In the case of a reservoir it means a “catch” of water which comes from the basin of a river which is called a “cuenca”. The word “presa” in the name “Presa La Purísima” refers to the whole reservoir in general including the dam. They call the structure of concrete and steel that holds back the water “la cortina” (the curtain) which is what in English we refer to as "the dam”. A more technical name for “dam” in Spanish would be “embalse” but I hardly ever encounter that word. The word “purísima” means “most pure” and comes from the title “La Purísima Concepción de María Santísima”, one of the titles for the Blessed Virgin Mary. I wouldn't say that the water from “Presa La Purísima” is pure though. The reservoir is fed by two rivers. At the end where you find “la cortina” it is fed by the Rio Del Cubo and at the opposite end it is fed by the Rio Guanajuato which drains the mining district where all the silver is found. Therefore the water contains a lot of minerals and for this reason it is used mostly for irrigation purposes.

To get to Molineros we first took the dirt roads that led to the “cortina” and followed the contour of the reservoir but we found out that the reservoir is very full and we were cut off by high water. We retraced our steps and attempted a different route and this time we were successful. From Irapuato we took the main highway towards Silao and León and we turned off onto another road called the “Guanajuato Libre”. It is called “libre” which means “free” because there is no toll. About halfway between the Irapuato - León highway and the community of SantaTeresa we turned off towards Cuevas at the restaurant with the big red Coca-Cola sign. Just before we got to Cuevas we turned right at the big green sign that says “Molineros” and followed the dirt road to the edge of the reservoir. I put together a little map (with the aid of Google and Paint Shop Pro) which you can see below. Why did I do this? Because I want you to go there.

When we arrived at Molineros we encountered several “plapas”. A palapa is normally a roof structure of some sort that is covered with palm fronds. Here they call any kind of structure with a roof but no sides that provides protection from sun and rain a “palapa”. We stopped at one palapa at random because it had an inviting looking parking spot and went in to see what we could find to eat. We weren't disappointed. The menu included things like ceviche, filete de moharra, pescado dorado, caldo de camarón, and coctel de camarón. Carmelita and I ordered fillets of Moharra wich is a good tasting fish that the men catch fresh from the reservoir using nets. Gina ordered pescado dorado which is Moharra that has been scored on the sides and deep fried whole. The fish plates were served with salads and rice and saltine crackers. There were soft drinks or beer to wash it all down and “pay de queso” (cheese pie) for desert. We found all to be very tasty and satisfying.

The highlight of the afternoon was meeting Doña Eulalia. She definitely the lady in charge. She will be 84 years old next December 3rd and is as spry as a sixteen year old. Her full name is Señora Eulalia López Luna and she is a widow. She had twelve children and three of them operate palapas at Molineros. We ate in the palapa called “Pescados Pau” which is operated by her daughter Paulina García López. She is helped by her sister Emilia García López and you can see a picture of all three ladies below. There is another palapa operated by a daughter named Guadalupe and called “Pescados Lupita”. Her son Miguel García López runs the palapa “Buena Vista”. All I can say is that we had a wonderful time and it was a pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Now, I have something else to tell you. If you go you will receive a special surprise. When you leave to go back home you will first top a rise on the way back to the highway and when you top that rise the view will take your breath away. You will have a wonderful view of the Sierra Guanajuato including a stunning view of Cubilete and Cerro de la Bufa . In between the two you will see the whole Rio Guanajuato river valley leading up to and including the cities of Marfil and Guanajuato. I didn't stop to take a picture because it was overcast and the light was fading. Besides that, the corn grows very close to the sides of the dirt road and it would have been a dangerous place to stop. I will wait until after harvest when I can pull off the road and I will be sure to go back on a bright sunny day. In the meantime, I encourage anyone who likes fried fish and pleasant company to give Molineros a try. ¡Buen Provecho!

(Click on the map to see a larger image.)


YayaOrchid said...

Boy, your description of the menu made my mouth water. It sounds so good. Imagine fresh fish! Doesn't get better than that.

It seems there are lots of interesting little places to discover if you know where to look. Someday I'd like to travel to those areas. I am interested in visiting Leon. What is it, the shoe making capital of Mexico? My Grandmother's family was from there, and they were shoemakers by trade. Of course, all contact was lost with her family, but it would be nice to visit places that she might have seen as a very young child.

Anonymous said...

Am in the process of learning Spanish. Not to be picky (but maybe trying to show off a little),would SOMOS (permanent) be better stated ESTAMOS (temporary). Have only recently found your site & appreciate it a great deal.

Anonymous said...

Come on down! We are not very far from León which is still struggling with the Chinese to be the shoe capital of the world :)

If you are talking about "Somos Exploradores" then "somos" would be more appropriate. If you want to say "We are exploring" then you would say "Estamos explorando" and in that case "estamos" would be more appropriate. Don't get too wrapped up in the rules. In my opinion it is best to just jump in and hang on. It will all come natural after awhile. By the way, I am by no means an expert on Spanish. I just record what I hear on the street and pass it on. If I can help someone else by doing so then I will be happy. If someone is looking for rules then this isn't a good place to find them :)

GlorV1 said...

I finally had a little time to check on blogs and here I find myself travelling to distant lands via Mexico Bob. I really liked the ladies, Pauline, Eulalia, Emilia because they totally represent women. I love that they are all wearing those aprons. It reminds me of my grandma's aprons, of which I have a few.
Fresh fish, the scenery, and the people have made my day. I now feel relaxed and ready to go back to the textbooks. Thank you Bob for this outing, I really enjoyed it.

Steve Cotton said...

Bob -- I am now ready to start getting serious about my Spanish. Please keep up the great posts. I added your blog to my list to ensure that I do not miss a single one of your adventures -- or your great lessons in learning Spanish.

Zac said...

Hey Bob, I'm coming down to Guanajuato this summer to study law for a month in the city. This post really got me excited about the area. Are there any watersports on the lake and what other activities would be worth while during my visit?

Bob Mrotek said...

We are not very big on water sports in this part of the country but if you are going to live in the City of Guanajuato for a month you will find that there are so many neat things to do that after your stay you are going to be so exhausted that you will need a vacation just to recover and rest up from having all that fun :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Bob,
Met Dona Eulalia, Paulina, and Emilia today, as a result of attending a community meeting about the presa. Found your description while looking for more information about la Purisima, and you nailed it. REally enjoyed the pictures of these wonderful women and of the presa itself. Thanks!

Rochelle said...

I've been living in Guanajuato for 12 years and now with the heavy rains have finally become curious about where the water flowing through Pastita (Rio Guanajuato goes. Yesterday my friend engineer Tomas Lopez gave me lesson 1, mentioning La Purisima. Googling it I came to your wonderful account. I don't know if I'll get there without a car but I look forward to checking in at your blog.

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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.