|La Brecha del Maiz is a road connecting Catemaco to the Sierra Santa Marta in Los Tuxtlas in southern Veracruz.
The name means Corn Trail in English and has the same meaning in Mexican Spanish. In other Spanishes though, it
would translate to Corn Gap.
Popoluca Indians are alleged to be descendants of the Olmec culture of the Sierra Santa Marta and have historically
considered the western shores of Laguna Catemaco as part of their hunting grounds. As of 2010 almost all of the
Popolucas, except my Popoluca, have disappeared from Catemaco and retreated into their communities high up into
the Sierra Santa Marta.
The municipality of Soteapan is the center of Popoluca culture. As of 2005, the municipio had a population of 28104.
Of that number, 83.5% speak an indigenous language, primarily Popoluca. The municipio is one of the poorest in
Veracruz and numbers 158 of 2300+ on the poverty scale of Mexico.
That poverty is also expressed in its road system.
Horse and walking trails have always connected Soteapan and Catemaco, but it has only been a few decades that a
32 km long all weather road joined the neighboring counties. In 2004 the first 28 km long paved highway reached
Soteapan, connecting it with the municipio Acayucan and the coastal highway.
The closest physical contact with Catemaco is the community of La Magdalena, about 2 miles above Laguna
Catemaco, near Benito Juarez, on the way to Las Margaritas.
Many streams cross the road and in the last few years many bridges have been built to cross them. But because of
shoddy construction, during heavy storms in the rainy season, the road usually becomes impassable.
In 2007 the Mexican government initiated the paving of the road with proclamations that it would provide "a strong
impetus to the regional economy, allowing trade and tourism development in the region of Los Tuxtlas".
82.5 million pesos were budgeted to be spent in 3 stages. By June 2010, less than 50% had been paved, with early
sections by now already having reverted themselves into pot holed nightmares, and affected neighbors regularly
protesting delays to the state government.
Aside from good photo opportunities, there is nothing touristic on the Brecha del Maiz.
|Soteapan is the gateway for a visit to the high altitudes of the Sierra, plus passage to the other municipalities of the
Sierra, plus access to a large stretch of the almost unpopulated southern Los Tuxtlas coast.
I have seen three major road closing of the Catemaco to Acayucan highway over the last 8 years. The completed
"Brecha del Maiz" would be a very useful alternate route to the south of Mexico.
Of course the ballyhooed Laguna Catemaco circumference road would also have to be completed.
From Catemaco to the Minatitlan airport is roughly 65 kilometers by air, and currently 3 hours on 125 kilometers of road.
If there were a functional road between Catemaco and the Minatitlan airport, the need for a regional airport in San Andrés
Tuxtla would temporarily be satisfied.
|The roads ascends from Laguna Catemaco, at the turnoff to Las Margaritas (340 m altitude) then climbs very
steeply for about 5 km through Benito Juarez and then to La Magdalena (740 m altitude). Some nice views of
Laguna Catemaco will be in your rear view mirror.
Just before La Magdalena, a turnoff leads west to Barossa and Zapoapan de Cabañas to meet the Catemaco to
La Magdalena was one of the first and major deforestation schemes in Los Tuxtlas. In the 1960's the Mexican
government provided land grants to impoverished peasants mostly from Puebla, who arrived and converted the
jungle into pastures and maize fields. Soon they were followed by thousands of others to numerous other locales
in Los Tuxtlas. At present the area is a hilly wasteland barely supporting straggling cattle.
From Magdalena the road then meanders fairly straight through primarily cattle ranches with few trees, but with
magnificent views of the Sierra Santa Marta to the north. For the first view miles, the road forms the border of the
Los Tuxtlas Biosphere reserve, but then descends below that.
Near El Tulin the road should be paved by now. (2010) Here there is a turnoff to the battlefield of Cuilonia where
the Popolucas defeated the Aztecs in the late 1400's. Is is not worthwhile visiting, even the locals do not seem to
know about it.
The road then continues through several larger towns, Buena Vista, another pueblo named Benito Juarez and
Ocozotepec. On the way you will have a chance to see some typical Popoluca dwellings, constructed of thatched
palm and hardwood walls.
There are no road signs and it easy to get lost in Ocozotepec. Ask for directions!
The town is famous as the killing field of Hilario C. Salas, a forerunner of the Mexican revolution, and for being the
hometown of a man who burned himself alive in 2008, to protest local land distribution.
A few miles further a turnoff leads to El Platanillo, a series of springs and waterworks, which provide drinking
water, and opportunities to shut it off for political reasons, to the city of Acayucan. From there the road hiccups
through hilly terrain to its intersection with the Soteapan - Acayucan highway, just a few miles from Soteapan's
best known attractions, the Jem Taxxi waterfall and the Huazuntlan river spas.
|La Brecha del Maíz
|The end of the Brecha del Maiz
|photos of the road
|Exit from the Catemaco - La Margarita road
|Often these are the only users of the road
|The road crosses the proverbial hills and vales
|Newly built road after three years
|A few segments of the road pass through greenery
|Preparing the new road
|Locals convert rivers into laundries and entertainment centers.
|Typical indigenous dwelling. They are fast disappearing.
|Photo opportunity for the state road department.
|End of the Brecha del Maiz.
|A side trip to the waterworks at el Platanillo is interesting.
|visit the Jem Takxi waterfall nearby
The north shore of Laguna Catemaco
|map - click to enlarge