It’s a misnomer. When I looked down I definitely saw them, covering my lower legs, munching away.
No-see-ums, they call them. Little black bugs, or big ones, relatively speaking, in the no-see-um family tree. Not that I’m an entomologist or anything. They may not have even been midges. But they were hungry, they were sneaky, and they’d already had their first course and were moving onto a second when I finally noticed something was amiss.
We were en route from Puebla, Mexico to Vera Cruz and had stopped for lunch at a boutique coffee plantation called Hacienda de Pacho. It’s actually quite a charming place, with grounds lovely enough that they also use it as a wedding venue.
The original hacienda was built in 1592, commissioned by Don Juan de Quiroz and Don Sebastian Diaz, with the purpose of growing and grinding sugar cane. The estate was acquired in the 17th century by Mr. D. Luis Pacho y Mexia, from whence it gets the name of Hacienda de Pacho.
Since then, it has had many owners and co-owners including the church, local landowners, nationals and foreigners.
The original property was quite large, with as many as 1200 acres, and contains a number of outbuildings that were used for production, storage, and housing for the crew. These days it’s much reduced to about 35 acres and has just one acre for coffee plants.
There are courtyards large and small, with ponds, fountains, and plants throughout.
The hacienda still has a live-in owner, and there are still workers who live on site.
The owner, Marisa Moolick, is a Mexican with a doctorate from Yale.
She’s married to an artist who has won an Emmy and has a favorite aunt, Amparito, the daughter of the only Mexican who boarded and died on the Titanic. The Emmy is actually on the left side of the mantel, but I forgot about it amongst the many datum spilled in the tour and failed to get a close-up.
The tour took us around parts of the property, including a chapel (not pictured) and an aqueduct.
And finally, to a small section that contained coffee plants.
It was while standing along the path, photographing the coffee machines, that the sneak attack occurred. There was only a tiny hint something was going on, akin to a zephyr of a breeze, or brushing past a tall stalk of grass. But when I looked down, yikes!
I immediately gave them the brush-off, but the damage was done. Another member of the tour had been hit even harder, she didn’t notice the attack. I counted 60 welts on my right leg and 40 on my left. She had over 100 on each leg.
Within the next couple of days, the itch factor had become pronounced. What to do, what to do?
Finally, we stopped at a pharmacy. The plan was to ask for an antibiotic cream, as the welts had taken on a not so lovely shade of red and I was concerned about infection. But asking the pharmacist for “crema antibiótica” wasn’t cutting it, and my Spanish was not sufficient to get the idea across. Finally, I just pointed at my legs.
When she saw the welts, her eyes got big. With nary a word more, she headed into her back room and brought back a tube of – something. I couldn’t understand the package text and saw nothing about antibiotics, but it did say something about insectos. So I went with it.
As it turned out, it worked really well. Within a couple days the itch was gone, within a week most of the welts had disappeared. A semi-miracle cure. The “something” is called Andantol, and I eventually saw it on sale in kiosks in Cancun.
But for some reason, you can’t get it in the USA. At least not over the counter. Its active ingredient is isothipendyl hydrochloride, which apparently is a potent, first generation antihistamine. Maybe a doctor could prescribe it. For now, I’ll just hang onto what’s left of my tube like it’s some rare, hard to get drug smuggled across the border from Mexico…