If you leave downtown Valle de Angeles in a southernly direction (no street names around here), walk a mile through pastures past the cemetery and church, maybe take a left, cross a river, and climb a hill, you will find yourself in the neighborhood of Carmelo. Above, soldiers in uniform with machine guns patrol the neighborhood. They are also always present while trucks unload goods in the valley, even if the protected cargoes are Doritos.
Almost all homes in Carmelo were constructed in the same manner after a forest was leveled and a lottery created to select new homeowners. The pastors of the local church and their families live on our block. Notice the uninhabited grey home on the right. The houses in Carmelo start out unfinished and are personalized by the homeowner with pastel paint jobs, colorful tiles, porch columns, ornate iron gratings over the windows, etc. Only the tin roofs and the size appear to be similar in the end.
Barbed wire surrounds the richer families’ homes, but most homes in Carmelo use towers for their primary source of water. For drinking and brushing teeth, however, we use bottled water. Thankfully, the new service on the block is a trash container at the bottom of the hill to enclose the trash. Dogs are everywhere, and you can hear them throughout the night. They compete with the megaphone-toting vegetable vendor for waking me up in the morning. Surprisingly, the neighbor’s rooster has his times mixed up and crows at night instead.