On the lost village of San José

The village was wreathed in the ankle-high fog of a Hammer House of Horror film.

By the side of the road, I glimpsed a waist-high sculpture resembling a giant mushroom. The gentle ebb and flow of the fog revealed similar structures dotted about. The village was failing to win its battle with nature – held in the cloying grip of churned up clay and encroaching mountain meadows. The road was the capillary to which the village clung. It connected with Mexico proper – the trickle of lifeblood that gave it existence. Simple wooden bungalows littered patches of the street randomly, but there was no sign of human activity. But when we rounded a bend, a curious sight befell us.

‘Find the Italian woman in the house on the hill,’ Giovanni had been told by a compatriot, when buying weed in Oaxaca. This tip supported the myth and the reality of the village’s existence. Reality often disappoints for being more prosaic than the infinite horizons of the imagination. In this respect, the hill we found was unusual.

Like a pimple of magma erupted from an adolescent volcano, it was small, dark and perfectly formed. To complete the cartoon picture, its earthy whole needed a black Hitchcockian house etched against the night sky.

And funnily enough, it did.

Its slanting wooden silhouette burned with the blaze of human life from windows gazing down at the two grinning figures at its foot. It was the kind of hill whose summit undoubtedly holds an Italian lady.