Florida Fishing Jaunt Goes South

Very excited to tell you about the book Gauntlet in the Gulf, published this month by editor Claude Clayton Smith. The story is based on the 20th century travel diary that a doctor named William Lorenz kept about a shipwreck in a storm and his subsequent time in prison abroad. The supporting material contains translations from my research in Mérida about the Mexican viewpoint on the events!

I first heard of the story in 2003, when I met Bill Lorenz. He recounted that while on a fishing excursion that began in Pensacola, Florida, his grandfather’s boat went down in rough seas off the coast of Mexico in 1925. Dr. Lorenz and the crew then spent time in a Mexican prison for espionage. Why were the Mexican officials so suspicious of their motives? US intervention in Mexico was already a tradition at that time (land that became Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California, for example) May have looked surprising that a doctor was in the Gulf with fishermen. Bill asked me to look into the Mexican side of the story. My husband and I traveled to the newspaper archives in Mérida during our sunny getaway in Cancún March of 2005,

The first day we got lost looking for the address and finally found the archives, 15 minutes before it closed. I spoke with the clerk in Spanish at the door, begging to be let in. That was a near fatal mistake while researching South of the border. I was so excited, I pushed verbally to get inside instead of bowing my head with a friendly, “Gracias, hasta mañana.”

I paid penance for that the next day. We arrived at ten. I checked the index for the January 1925 local newspaper that might tell the story. I found the folio numbers and rushed up to the official archive desk. I presented my request in Spanish, the clerk went back to the stacks and returned to tell me the folio I desired was not available. She apologized, said they had the one before and the one after. I was disappointed, but I accepted the outcome of my search. I sat down at an empty desk in the common area to write about the day in my journal. After ten minutes, the clerk waved me over. “We found the folio.”
“¡Gracias! ¡Muchas gracias!”

She handed me a large book of Mérida newspapers from 1925. I took the heavy tome back to the desk, to look at the stories from enero 1925. After I read three pages, I found one about a Dr. Yorens and a shipwreck! I hustled up to the desk in search of a copy machine. The clerk shook her head. She gave me an ironic look and mimed copying with a pencil. I had no cell phone, so that’s what I did. Writing the news item took about an hour. I turned the folio page and found another about the suspicious folks from the US. Pangs of hunger, hand cramp, time for a break to celebrate the successful first step of the mission.

We returned the next day, no more trouble finding the folio in the stacks, and I was able to locate and hand copy three more stories. I translated them for Bill and his wife once we returned to Madison.

The tone of the articles from Mérida made me think. Why would people from Mexico be suspicious of the intentions of people from the US? Is it related to the fact we took 55% of their territory?

To be continued…

Please drop a line, great to talk with you.

¡Olé! –Rebecca

Penitenciaria Juarez (Juarez Prison) Photo: R. Cuningham
Rebecca Cuningham

47 thoughts on “Florida Fishing Jaunt Goes South

    1. Very true, Sadje. The military interventions of the US in Mexico have affected their government and the size of their territory. We might forget the history, but our southern neighbors won’t. It was an educational adventure in the archives!

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Your rigorous labors to translate history and be part of the book project are amazing accomplishments. Congratulations!!
    Yes, the relationship between these two nations are at best, strained and historically tumultuous.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks, Suzette! I enjoyed working on the translations very much. What I’d like my compatriots to come away with is gratitude for the debt we owe Mexico and recognition that the riches we obtained were not always freely given.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. First, I thought ‘oh no, she had to copy the articles by hand, that would have taken ages’, then, of course I realized that this would have been a great preparation to translating the words. I always find I ‘absorb’ a text so much more, when I copy it out by hand. Takes forever, but has a completely different quality compared with using a copy machine or even typing it on a computer. There’s a lot to be said about ‘manual’ work. Time consuming, but thorough.

    Liked by 1 person

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