Alejandro "Alex" Villagomez

   

From: Ron Fieseler, 28 April 2000
Real de Catorce, SLP

Saturday night, April 22, 2000, Katherine and Alex were to have dinner with Franz and Maria.  Katherine went to their home to get them while Alex waited at the plaza.  Upon returning to the plaza, they could not find Alex.  They searched for him to no avail and finally went to dinner hoping he would show up.  After dinner, Katherine continued the search, again with no results.  Sunday morning, while eating breakfast at the Abundancia, there was talk about someone who had fallen from the cliff west of town and was killed.  Franz soon arrived and told her it was Alex.  Franz, Arturo, and other friends of Alex recovered the body.  It was transported by ambulance to a funeral home in Matehuala. Alex's family was notified and they began to arrive from Mexico City early Monday.  They graciously allowed Katherine to arrange the funeral and burial.

Alex was buried late Monday afternoon, April 24, 2000.  Tony and I arrived too late to attend, but Katherine described the services to us.  It was a traditional Mexican funeral service and was held at the church in Catorce. Virtually the entire town was present at the services.  Alex's coffin was then carried on the shoulders of the men all the way to the cemetery at the old church.  As men tired during this arduous trek, others would step in to relieve them and carry on.  Women and children followed behind carrying flowers and praying.  He was lowered by hand-held ropes in to the hand-dug grave, which was then filled by hand.  A local friend and artisan is preparing a cross, and in a few months, after the grave site settles, a concrete covering will be constructed, again by his friends in town. Alex's family was very touched by this outpouring of love and support.

Beginning Tuesday night, Katherine and her gringo contingent attended and participated in Rosary services conducted by some of Alex's friends.  These services occur once a day for the 9 days following the funeral and are a traditional Catholic ceremony.  It was heart-warming and touching to see this level of love and concern by the local community over Alex's death.

His gravesite is in a prominent location and is easily found.  In Catorce, go to the old church and walk in the gate.  Walk toward the church doors until you get to the steps.  Look to your right and you will see a small tree about 50-60 feet away.  Alex is buried next to this tree.

During the next couple of days we began to piece together some more details surrounding the accident.  These details only resolve WHAT happened that night and do little to clarify the questions we all had as to WHY it happened.  Even those of us who were there to talk with people, view the scene of the fall, and discuss the accident were unable to come to any real conclusions on why the accident occurred.  All we really know is that Alex had fallen and died.  Any attempt to analyze the "why" of the accident is pure speculation.  I suppose it is human nature to want to know why something happens.  I know that I always do.  However, I have personally been involved in other accidental deaths and have found that trying to reason out the "why" of an accident as opposed to the "what", is not only frustrating and futile, but generally counter-productive.  Accidents are just that...accidents...and often confound, confuse, and defy our need for logic and order in events effecting us.

The time-line varies in minor details depending on who is describing it, but apparently, after Katherine had gone for Franz and Maria, Alex went to the Cafe Eucalipto.  The singer there reported seeing Alex having a drink, singing along, and appearing to be in good spirits.  At some time after the singer left, Alex went to the cantina/pool hall on the north side of the plaza where he had a couple of beers with some of his friends.  No one noticed anything out of the ordinary.  Alex was just his normal self, doing his normal Catorce thing.  After he left the pool hall, no one saw him again.

Those of you who have been to Catorce will probably recall the cliff on the west side of town not far from Ed Alexander's house.  A short stretch of chain link fence offers a small bit of protection from the precipice.  I don't know how far the drop is, but I would guess a couple of hundred feet at least.  If you follow the trails through the cactus to the right of this fence, you can walk out on a finger-like ridge extending west from town. The accident site is on the south side of this ridge and is approximately 100 yards west of the chain link fence.

Franz took us out there Wednesday to show the scene to us.  The ridge drops off on the south side in a combination of very steep slopes, rocky outcrops, small ledges, and sheer drops.  Franz found skid marks of Alex's feet in the loose dirt and gravel on a steep slope leading to the site of the fall.  There was also some broken sticks and a damaged prickly pear pad to mark the route of the fall.  A pair of scissors which Alex carried was found on a small ledge about 20 feet down.  Alex hit several times before coming to a rest.  The medical report indicated he died sometime between 10:00pm and 11:00pm. and listed severe head trauma, broken neck, and other bone and tissue injuries.  The doctor told Katherine that he probably died instantly with no pain.

It appears from these observations that Alex died an accidental death after he slipped, lost his balance on this steep slope, and was never able to recover. We do not think he purposely jumped or he would not have hit the rocks on his way down, nor would his scissors have fallen out on the small ledge.  There is no reason to consider foul play.  Alex had several hundred dollars in his pockets and all his personal effects with him so robbery was not indicated.  There had been no altercations with anyone in any of the places where Alex had been so a fight or violence is ruled out.  In fact, there is no evidence that anyone else was on the ridge with him.

There you have the basic facts surrounding this tragic accident and they are reasonably clear.  What is not clear and what we question is why he was wandering out there alone, but we have no answer.  With no witnesses, we will probably never know.  In the final analysis, why he was out there really doesn't matter all that much.  What does matter is that Alex is gone...and we will all miss him.

Alex loved Real de Catorce and its people.  He enjoyed having a beer, shooting pool, laughing and joking with his friends.  He was a caver, climber, and adventurer and always felt at home in wild, dark, high, and exposed places.  His last few hours were filled with what he loved.  It is appropriate that now, buried in Real de Catorce, he will continue to be with the people and places that he loved.

Adios, amigo mio.

Ron Fieseler
Austin, Texas
Friday, April 28, 2000