Backcountry Mexico

[ Latin American Studies ]

Backcountry Mexico

A Traveler's Guide and Phrase Book

By Bob Burleson and David H. Riskind

If you've always longed to strike out through the open country of northern Mexico armed with frying pan and bedroll, then this guide to the people, culture, folkways, landscape, and language of rural Mexico is for you.



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6 x 9 | 335 pp.

ISBN: 978-0-292-70755-9

If you've always longed to strike out through the open country of northern Mexico armed with frying pan and bedroll, then this guide to the people, culture, folkways, landscape, and language of rural Mexico is for you. Out of twenty years of travel in backcountry Mexico, authors Bob Burleson and David Riskind have produced perhaps the most practical and accurate guide available for the unconventional tourist—the man or woman who prefers to get off the beaten path by foot, burro, mule, canoe, raft, or vehicle.

Going well beyond the usual tourist guidebook entries, Backcountry Mexico will help you hire a guide and burro, navigate rural roads and trails, and communicate with the friendly and, sometimes, unfriendly folks you are likely to meet in a rural setting.

In addition to English-Spanish and Spanish-English vocabulary lists containing both standard words and numerous terms relating to people, conditions, land, and situations not ordinarily encountered in tourists' lists, the authors have provided literally hundreds of helpful phrases and short conversations in easy-to-use sections arranged according to topics. Experienced unconventional travelers themselves, Burleson and Riskind have become experts in such subjects as "Eating and Staying Well on the Road, " "Camping in Mexico, " "Rural Mexican Village Life," and many more. Their experience, and the resultant wealth of language and cultural information contained in this guide, will help you to enjoy your trip ancd to better understand and appreciate the people and the land you visit.

Throughout the book, the language examples are interwoven with beautifully illustrated anecdotes about culture and lifeways, so that the traveler is equipped with practical knowledge as well as appropriate behavior and speech. Fascinating in its treatment of a culture that is little known and unique in its coverage of rural-style Mexican Spanish, Backcountry Mexico will prove invaluable to anyone who ventures forth into northern Mexico.

  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • Tanque la Mula
  • Part I. Culture
    • 1. Getting through Town and into the Campo
      • La Mordida
    • 2. Culture and Lifeways in Northern Mexico
    • 3. Speaking Spanish
      • Greetings, Good Manners, and Polite Expressions
      • Getting to Know Each Other and the Territory
    • 4. In Your Vehicle
      • Where Am I?
      • Finding Your Way
      • Road Conditions
      • Driving at Night
      • If You Have an Accident
      • Vehicle Trouble Phrases
      • Basic Auto Parts
      • Hitching a Ride
    • 5. Travel by Foot, Mule, Horse, Burro, or with a Guide
      • Burro or Mule Commands
      • Basic Communication with Your Guide
      • Hiker's Terms
      • Archaeological Terms
      • Trails, Routes, Springs, and Water Holes
      • Guides and Directions
    • 6. Entering Private Land
      • Leaving Your Vehicle
      • Avoiding Ripoffs
    • 7. Camping in Mexico
      • Some Products of Interest
      • A Warning
      • Firewood and Fires
    • 8. Canoeing the Rio Grande, Rio Conchos, and Other Mexican Streams
      • Scouting Rivers and Mountains by Air
    • 9. Rural Mexican Village Life
      • Some Village Terms
      • Water Sources
      • Local Industries
      • Markets
      • Slash-and-Burn Agriculture
      • Villages Reached Only by Trails
      • Building Techniques
      • Rural Housing
      • Household Customs, Foods, and Terms
      • Household, Jungle, and Village Pests and Other Varmints
      • Food Prejudices to Overcome
      • Ejidos
      • Personal and Community History
      • Photographs
      • Respect for the Dead
    • 10. Work, Building, and Processes in Northern Mexico
      • Two Northern Mexico Cottage Industries
      • Farm Work and Life
      • Ranch Work and Life
      • Ranch and Farm Terms
      • The Goatherd
      • The Trucker
      • Tools and Equipment
      • Work and Burdens
      • Mining
    • 11. Eating and Staying Well on the Road and Trail
      • Cooking
      • Cabrito
      • The Comal
      • Staying Healthy
    • 12. Entertainment
      • Game Vocabulary
      • Singing
      • Popcorn
      • Soap Bubbles
      • Tape Recordings
    • 13. Adaptability to the Environment
  • Part II. Language
    • 14. A Brief Guide to Spanish Grammar and Pronunciation
      • Pronunciation
      • Accentuation
    • 15. Specific Vocabulary, Phrases, and Conversations
      • Buying and Bargaining
      • Clothing
      • Coming, Going, and Travel
      • Commands
      • Emotions and Feelings
      • Fault and Blame
      • Hunting and Predators
      • Idiomatic and Slang Expressions
      • Marital and Family Relations
      • Observations (General)
      • Ownership and Property
      • Parts of the Body and Health
      • Problem Solving
      • Sayings
      • Simple Ideas, Concepts, and Wants
      • Time and Dates
      • Warnings and Cautions
      • Weather
      • The World
    • 16. References
      • Maps
      • Natural History
      • General Guides
      • Personal Health in the Tropics
      • Language Aids
    • 17. Glossaries
      • Spanish to English
      • English to Spanish

We are not linguists, but we have had much experience in backcountry travel in Mexico over a period of many years. David Riskind was born on the Texas side of the border but spoke Spanish before he spoke English. Bob Burleson learned his Spanish by exposure and from necessity. Our combined experience has shown us a need for a phrase book of rural Mexican-style Spanish, an explanation of some of the industries and aspects of rural Mexican culture, and some hints on how to get along. As far as we are aware, there is no such book now available commercially that is oriented toward helping the English-speaking traveler in Mexico's backcountry, where restaurants, hotels, taxis, banks, nightclubs, tours, and so forth, are simply not encountered. What you do find are rural folk who speak simple Spanish and who will gladly communicate with someone from another culture who tries to communicate with them. This book is intended to help the user understand the people and lifeways of rural Mexico. This greater understanding will result in more effective communication.

This book assumes that the user has some basic understanding of Spanish pronunciation and grammar. If you don't have this basic understanding, however, you can get it from the brief guide presented here in Part II or from traveler's guides to Spanish available on record or tape almost anywhere in the United States or from the introduction to a Spanish-English dictionary (see chapter 16 for many valuable references and study aids).

This is a first effort. The grammar may not be the best, but that is true of the rural Mexican's grammar also. If you have suggestions for additions, or comments on how to improve this work, please send them to Bob Burleson, Box 844, Temple, Texas 76503. We hope this book will prove useful to everyone from social workers to scientists to just plain hikers and climbers who hit the Mexican deserts and mountains on foot (a pie).