Boquillas seems to echo rather than perform. Chase and I struggle to keep up with her brisk steps around town. Whenever we come within 300 feet of someone’s adobe house, Cynta mildly whistles as a polite warning. It is a cultural tradition in this part of Mexico since there are no phones. Most everyone seems happy to see her, bringing over some new work and urging that it be taken back to Terlingua for sale. There is almost always some discussion about getting more of the solar panels for electricity to run sewing machines. Cynta says that most of the material the town’s women desire is Dacron or polyester because it lasts longer, but adjusting to the new market, women have started taking special orders from the U.S., and cotton is preferred. After a day’s worth of picking up quilts and crafts from people in town, I can’t help but wonder if the time will come when Cynta cannot fulfill this great need anymore. She knows how difficult the trip can be and that willing volunteers will eventually drift away. “When the river was low this past summer,” Cynta tells me, “I would throw them a pouch full of cash [to a helper on the Mexican side] from the river’s edge. That’s how they got their money, but now that the river is high, I don’t have that kind of strength to throw hard enough.” She tells people in Boquillas at each stop that come April 2007, she wants them to have figured out their own system for selling these items. A big part of that is working cooperatively, she says repeatedly. Maria Ignacia Ureste, the mother of five children, the youngest four years old, is not thrilled about working cooperatively with neighbors to make these quilts, even though her husband, Gerardo, is converting an adobe house to a quilt shop for the women in town. At the beginning of this process in 2002, many families didn’t see the point in gathering for a quilting bee and preferred working in their own homes. There was much competition and anger about who was getting more work. Cynta blames the extreme economic distress. She doesn’t want to come across as a Terlingua hippie telling people what to do, trying to impose an idealistic cooperative system on a society of tight-knit family clans. But she is committed to helping them, so fostering healthy competition and the capitalist model seems the best bet for now. “You’ll see,” she tells them. “Don’t you want to make more money for less work?” Speaking with anyone in Boquillas today, you’ll find little hope that the tourist economy will return, and much fear of what will take its place. I was surprised to discover near-universal dismay at the continued on page 16 12 THE TEXAS OBSERVER DECEMBER 1, 2006
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