Wednesday, September 17, 2014


Several days ago I took a picture of an iconic decoration on a building. It attracted me but I didn't understand the words or the image. Google Translate later told me the words meant "the cry" but still I didn't pay much attention to it. The past two days have brought that image into focus and made me think about history and life in a different way.

The San Miguel area has been designated the cradle of the Mexican Independence from Spain, which began at 11 pm on September 15, 1810, giving people a chance to celebrate for two days … the 15th and the 16th … and celebrate they do. It's impossible to be here at this time without being reminded of the history of this place.
La Parroquia on the night
when the celebration

The action that became the war of independence started with a shout … which is a better translation of "el grito" … when a firebrand priest in the small, nearby village of Dolores Hildalgo convinced the locals to take action. 

Father Michael Hildalgo was later honored by the village which adopted his name. San Miguel also honored Ignacio Allende, another leader of independence, by adding de Allende to its name.

I spent a lot of yesterday and today in the central plaza watching parades and re-enactments, listening to music and people watching.

 At one point, someone led the crowd in a series of chants … "Arriba! Arriba Hidalgo! Arriba Allende! Arriba Mexico!" and so on.

This started a conversation about what "arriba" means. The simple answer is "up." However, searching the internet didn't reveal a good answer so why it is used as a chant is much more murky.
Many of the parade participants seemed
very serious and children were an important
part of the celebration.

 I began to wonder if the word is related to the revolution … perhaps that's what riders said to their horses as they charged … perhaps it was their way of saying "Up with Mexico!"

This re-enactment is a reminder
that much of the battle for freedom
was waged by peasants with machetes
and a few rifles.

Anyway, all of this has made me think about how many things start with a shout, words said with emotion and power, to ourselves and to others. Perhaps we need a word like "Arriba!" to energize ourselves to take action, to do the things we know want … and need … to do.  What is our shout?

Other pics from the day:

Everyone wanted their
picture taken with this
woman ... perhaps a
The very important clean up crew.
How would you like to wear these stilettos
on the cobblestone streets.  Ahh ... beauty!
Dramatic face paint
Old and new -
vendadoras on cellular

How about this bag?

Puppet figures wandering
the streets

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Callejon del Beso

There is a charming, narrow alley in Guanajuato (Gto) where the legend is that if lovers kiss on that street, they will be blessed forever. (The actual Mexican folktale is much more like Romeo and Juliet's.) Yesterday I went to Guanajuato with a young couple from Australia (Lionel and Donna) and was delighted to help them capture their love in this sweet spot.

Gto is a bustling college town … more piercings, tattoos, dreadlocks and young activities than San Miguel.  

If you sit in el jardin, you can listen to a costumed harpist 
or watch impromptu plays as well as a passing parade of young-old, rich-poor, happy-sad.

And, all around you, things are being sold … from the huge Mercado Hildalgo,

to children selling Chiclets en la calle.

At home, you can go to the mall; aqui, the mall comes to you in a movable feast of food, jewelry, flowers, clothes, art and otras cosas.

Fried bananas … I don't know how they taste but they are beautiful.

Mexico may be poor economically but it is rich in color and texture … in life. 

For some reason, this image captures my feelings about Mexico at this point … appealing, messy, mysterious, ancient … it calls to me to touch it and relax into its many contradictions. Perhaps that's the message: Mexico is like life, filled with contradictions, a tangle that will never be a straight line no matter how much you push and pull or weep and wail.

Other images from Gto:

A high point for me was touring the house where Diego Rivera lived for the first few years of his life and which has been turned into a museum.  I'm familiar with his mural work but was surprised to see the wide range of his art work. I couldn't take pictures inside the house but was delighted to find this painting of him and Frida in a nearby coffee shop.

Lionel told me that he heard that Mexico is one of the world's biggest users of bottled waters. Yay!

A city of stairs!

However, the view is worth it!

If you peek into enough alleys, doorways, restaurants, hotels and corners, you're bound to find unexpected bits of beauty.

People and their animals live on rooftops.

Contradictions in Mexico.

The culture here has great reverence for family and ancestors. One of my instructors explained to me that people living alone are pitied (pobrecitos) and considered unsuccessful … as if the reason they live alone is because they cannot afford a family. This emphasis on family includes revering the dead. We wandered into a cemetery which was a continuation of flower and life.

However, the oddest thing we saw was the Museo de las Momias (museum of the mummies). Because of the lack of oxygen in the way corpses are buried, they mummify and Gto has created a museum to display them.  There is much I do not understand about how and why but it was definitely not one of my favorite places.  One example only. For some reason she looks like someone I would have liked in life.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Scrambled Eggs

One street
Todo es diferente aqui.  

The streets are bumpy pathways (charmingly called cobblestones) where cars and pedestrians weave in and out in a dance that would be a US lawyer's dream come true … although I've yet to see bodily injury or a fender bent. 

Walking down one of these paths is like playing peek-a-boo … a door opens and a tienda appears … it could be a panderia displaying breads and pastries - be sure to use the trays and tongs to select the mysterious, unlabeled choices.  Or it could be a "grocery" store about the size of one of your closets with room for one, maybe two, customers at a time if the second customer is small … or a large gallery of copper pots and kitchen delights … or the flowering green-and-well-manicured courtyard of an obviously well-to-do homeowner. 
View through one open door

Life is more visible here, concentrated, amalgamated, syncopated: rich and poor. elegant and common. flowers and dog poop. the old ones and the babies. the wounded and the athletes. On one of my walks today I passed a pick-up truck outside a meat market. The bed of the truck was filled … completely filled … with offal: guts, fat, blood and bone, covered with buzzing flies. Inside the meat market was probably antiseptic. I didn't look.

A "safe" place - I'm a sucker for
brightly colored table cloths
Food has been an issue. There are hundreds of places to eat in the historic district of San Miguel … from street vendors, to food carts, to buffets to up-scale restaurants. However, there's no user's manual. I'm not opposed to eating off the streets but I don't know what to ask for … or what I'd get if I did. I've wound up in a couple of mid-level, safe-looking places and the food has been satisfactory. Breakfast for the past several days has been a peanut butter and banana sandwich that I made at home. 

Finally, today I decided I was going to have lunch at the Mercado where there are a dozen or so kiosks selling food that looked good and smelled delicious. I circled the kiosks once trying to find "the one." Circled again and realized menus were missing or pretty non-informative. Finally, I stood at one kiosk watching a woman fix a torta for a guy. When she was done, I said, "Me, too" and wound up with a pretty good chicken sandwich even if it was fried.

Window: Old and New
After that I decided what I really wanted was vegetables … and eggs … all scrambled together with cheese.  Sounds easy, no? First, I had to find the eggs.  Not all the small tiendas have eggs and when I did find the right tienda, the eggs didn't come in nice neat, cardboard cartons.  They're all stacked on top of each other.  When I asked for a dozen, they were put in a plastic bag and handed to me. (All but one got home safely.)

Buying the veggies was easy … the Mercado has the most amazing displays of fruits and vegetables … I don't know who buys them because I've never seen anyone else buying but the displays are gorgeous. Of course, then I realized I needed butter which meant a different tienda. I'm sure it's just me, but it seems like one could spend an awful lot of time just meeting basic needs here. 

I'll talk about money mas tarde.  It should be easy but when everything is different, even common things become baffling ... at least that's how it seems at this point.

Maybe all of this just makes it easier to strip away the non-essential stuff and truly appreciate the beauty of "sencilla" (simple) ... like scrambled eggs even when getting all the ingredients didn't seem so simple. My bonus is that I have a large cup of pomegranate seeds for dessert.  Life is good.