Monday, September 19, 2011

Meanwhile....Back in Ajijic

Some final thoughts on our Mexico City trip…

I must say, I had some reluctance to plan this trip.  Although we knew there were some beautiful and important things to see in Mexico City, I was prepared to “endure” the huge megalopolis, its pollution, the unsafe traffic, and the security concerns.  We knew we wanted to see Mexico City, but we did not anticipate such a pleasant experience. 

Visiting the city was very much like visiting any world class city.  We’ve been to London, Paris, Rome, New York, Chicago, and Mexico City was, frankly, very similar in many ways.  There were marvelous museums, restaurants of all ethnic cuisine and price ranges, and generally a vibrant and interesting citizenry.  We encountered many young, professional, beautiful Mexican people.  The DF, (District Federal) as the Mexicans call it, is exceptionally politically liberal, and we saw evidence of labor demonstrations, gay rights, and abortion rights. The pollution was not noticeable, and seemed much less than what we’ve seen in Guadalajara.  We felt completely safe walking the streets in the centro historico area, as well as in all the other districts we visited.  Only one night, when we walked several blocks and got lost looking for a restaurant, and we passed a community of homeless people sleeping in the street were we a bit uncomfortable, but they were fine and did nothing to make us feel unsafe.  We would not hesitate to visit the city again by ourselves. 

Now, back in Ajijic, we are enjoying the climate as the rainy season is ending, slowly.  The mountains are still a brilliant green, the air is clear, and the evening temperatures cool.  Our Great Books conversation series started last week with a discussion of Iris Murdoch’s novel, The Bell.  Pixie is back teaching English at the orphanage.  My student, Francisco, is enrolled in Level 2 English, and I am still working with him on Saturdays. 

We had a wonderful surprise a week or so ago when we reconnected with our first friends we met in Mexico, Ron and Jan.  Ron was an Air Canada pilot, and Jan a nurse.  We originally met in the B&B when we were visiting Mexico in June 2006.  We had lost touch with them, but they contacted us and asked us to dinner.  They live out in the country, East of Chapala, in a small town, San Nicholas, along with just a handful of other gringos.  Like me, Ron took a fall and had a serious head injury, but he is recovering well. We are looking forward to seeing them more regularly.   Here are some photos of them on their new property where they are building a home and at their rental house with their six (yes, six!) dogs at feeding time:

It was our turn to host the Maine-New Hampshire-Massachusetts get together this month.  We met down by our pool area for drinks and appetizers then went to a local Mexican eatery.  We happened to meet a new couple who had just arrived, that day, from Hawaii to live here permanently.  So we invited them along even though they hardly met the “New England” membership requirement.  Here are some photos:

Yesterday, Pixie and her good friend, Jan Steinbright, conducted the service at our Unitarian Fellowship.  It included rituals to celebrate the fall equinox.  they did a wonderful job making everyone feel comfortable and included.  It was a great success.  Here are photos:

We had our annual awards banquet hosted by the publisher of our English-language magazine El Ojo del Lago.  I was fortunate to win the award again or best poem of the year.  It is a poem about the history of Mexico using the metaphor of a Mexican woman to represent the country itself.  It is called “Mother Mexico” and is included here:


She is a beautiful dama.
Her dark tragic eyes call to us.
Her dark smooth hair flows
over her face, down her back,
reminding me of every mother’s love.
Her red lips sing
the songs of the Indio,
songs of hope, songs of loss.
She lulls me with her stunning beauty,
but her allure hides the pain,
hides the tears
hides the bood,
all spilled
over the murder
over the pride
over the cruelty,
over her lost sons. 

For she was young
and full of hope
and her beauty was plundered
and her chastity stolen
by craven men
who could never embrace
her native radiance.
She was enslaved and used
in the name of fealty and faith,
but she was left naked
to bake in the sun. 

But she was strong. 
She survived to love again.
Wrapped in her new colors,
she danced and she sang
late into the night.
Her sons swore their solemn oath
to stand with her always.

Yet, her sons were proud
and they fought to protect her
and they bled in her name
and they held her up
as innocent as Guadalupe,
but they slay one another
in her name.

And more tears and more blood
flowed into the dust,
down from the mountains
and into the hearts
of all her children.

And now, as the music of the Mariachi
echoes in her ears,
and the smell of the pork in chili
saturates the air,
the bitter taste of love lost
and promises unkept
quickens her tongue.
The tears and blood
which blur her vision
drip slowly onto her brown feet,
as she walks slowly
through her fragrant garden
under the mango tree
into her small cocina
to roll the masa,
to burn her fingertips
on the hot griddle
as she makes the tortillas
to sustain her grandchildren,
who watch her with love
and with fresh eyes, unclouded
by betrayal,
by the sins of man.

And she serves comida
in the cool shadows
as she looks over the garden wall
at the blood red sun. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Mexico City-- Part 2

Probably the most spiritual place we visited on our trip was Teotihuacan, about 25 miles outside of Mexico City.  This is an ancient settlement which was settled between 100 BC to 700 AD.  Its name is Nahuatl meaning "place of the gods."  There is some disagreement about which ancient tribes lived in this area, perhaps the Nahua-Chichimecs or the Otomis.  It is believed that, at its height, up to 200,000 inhabitants lived in Teotihuacan.  Like other Mesoamerican cultures, they worshiped several gods including the god of fire, the god of water, and Quetzalcoatl, the plumed serpent.  They built structures for living, for trading, and for their religious rites.  The pyramid, 60 meters high, is the largest, and most magnificent: 

  The pyramid of the moon, down the Avenue of the Dead from the Sun pyramid, is smaller but also spectacular.  Below Pixie is calling the spirit of the Goddess in front of the Pyramid of the moon.

 The other major structure, at the south end of the settlement is the Citadel which contains the temple of Quetzalcoatl, pictured below: 

 Here are some of the artifacts archaeologists have found at the Teotihuacan site:

On the way home from the Teotihuacan site, we stopped at the Basilica of Guadalupe.  Guadalupe is the dark-skinned Madonna figure who is revered throughout Latin America, and the Basilica is said to be the most sacred, and most visited Catholic site, second only to St. Peter's in the Vatican.    The legend of Guadalupe is that an Indian peasant, Juan Diego, witnessed the image of Guadalupe in 1531, who told him to build a church for her on this Mexican City site. He told his priest who refused to believe him.  He returned to Guadalupe who burned her image into his serape.  When he returned to the priest with the serape, he finally believed him, and erected a church to honor Guadalupe.  Below is the original church on the hill which was built to Guadalupe: 
Today, a modern, huge, Basilica has been built to accommodate the pilgrims who come, many on their knees to pay tribute to Guadalupe. 

 And finally, what I came to see, Juan Diego's serape, miraculously imprinted with Guadalupe's image, is displayed behind the altar, above a Mexican flag.  I wanted to see this "miracle" for myself, but, I have to say, I remain skeptical.  Here is the framed serape:
Oh well, I don't know what I was expecting.  The serape looks like every other image of Guadalupe, precisely because  every other image is take from the serape!

The site I most wanted to see in Mexico City was the Convent of St.Jerome where Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz lived, wrote her poetry and feminist philosophy, and eventually died.  She  was a prodigal girl who read at age three and wanted more than anything to study and write.  In 17th century New Spain, that was difficult for a young girl, so she eventually entered the convent where she was able to pursue her writing.  She has been hailed as the most important Hispanic poet to have written in the Americas.  She was eventually silenced by a new Archbishop, gave up her writing, and lived out the rest of her 47 years in the convent with he other nuns, but not until she wrote a scathing feminist response, her "Response to Sr. Fioleta."  Here is a link if you're interested in learning more about Sor. Juana:

We visited the ruins of the convent, which is now incorporated in to a university, the Unversidad de Cloister de Sor Juana, a fine tribute to Sor Juana who devoted her life to learning.  Unfortunately, we could not take photos inside the University, but I did take these from outside the wall:

In addition to sight seeing, we enjoyed just walking around Mexico City, seeing the different neighborhoods, and watching the artists, the young people with their contemporary looks and endless energy, and the interesting and eclectic architecture.  Bob brought us to an old hacienda in the San Angel section of the city for drinks, and he found a superb Italian restaurant in the Roma district, and an incredibly good Chinese restaurant adjacent to the small Chinatown area in the Centro area.  It was a memorable trip, especially fun with all our friends.