Tzararacua Falls & Red Mud Re-visited
Saturday, August 12, 2006
When Rosemary, Ale and I visited Tzararacua Falls, in the State of Michoacán, 32 years ago, we faced Michocán red dirt. It was all mud and we slipped and fell many times. Rosemary seems to remember more of what happened. I notice that in my photo I am using some new-fangled camera case. It was supposed to be easy to use but it never worked out. Many would object to my assertion that caves, falls and fireworks are exciting the first time you see a cave, a fall or fireworks. After that they are all the same to me. I will not put down here my opinion on sun sets.
Today we went with Hector and Caroline in their van to Tzintzuntzan. It was in the courtyard of the local, and very beautiful, church that I photographed Rebecca in one of the 500-year-old olive trees planted, so they say, by Bishop Vasco de Quiroga himself. I had photographed Ale there 32 years ago. When we got to Patzcuaro it began to pour. Hector pointed out that it was pouring so hard that one drop could thoroughly wet you. We ate at a restaurant at the portales and watched some children with old men´s masks dance the very famous local Danza de los Viejos
. Hector complained of the lack of contrast in the rainy day light. It is no good for photographs of the beautiful old churches. My fave was the one associated with the Company of Jesus ( the Jesuits). We plan to return to Patzcuaro tomorrow, very early to see if we can get some contrasty sunlight. Somehow in our trip Rebecca found crickets and tadpoles to play with. We almost had a scene when she told us she wanted to take them home.
Homero's Monarch Pays Us A Visit
Friday, August 11, 2006
Homero Aridjis has been in my thoughts since I arrived in Morelia. He was born, not too far, in the town of Contepec. Contepec, in a higher sierra than the 7200 ft of Morelia, is home to Abies religiosa
a Mexican fir tree. This tree is being logged for its excellent wood which makes fine furniture. It also happens to be the winter homes of the monarch butterflies who fly all the way from Canada. It was Don Homero who first pressed and finally convinced Mexican President Lopez Portillo to create ¨santuarios¨
where logging would be prohibited. It is due to this poet and novelist that children in Ontario can wonder at the fluttering of Monarchs in the garden. Perhaps one less, as one fluttered by the swimming pool today. Was she lost? Was she sent by Don Homero to greet a bunch of Canadians? More likely she is back early from Canada escaping what could be a very cold and early winter.
Mexico - Las Momias & Homero´s Ghosts
Thursday, August 10, 2006
My Argentine heritage is constantly in conflict with my love and fascination for Mexico. Unlike most Argentines, I appreciate very hot Mexican food, particularly chiles toreados
which I discovered only last year in our trip to Guanajuato. The hot chiles are fried very quickly (they jump like angry bulls!) with some onion and served as a side dish. I have always admired a Mexican's acceptance of impending death and if I could only adopt fully their "ni modo" attitude of not worrying about things one cannot control, I would suffer less stress.
Not long after we arrived to Vancouver in 1975 I decided to send this photo of Guanajuato mummies that I took sometime in 1970 as our Christmas card. The idea was that these four represented our family with our two daughters Ale and Hilary. My wife was only mildly shocked at the idea. She, too, appreciates the richness and diversity of Mexican culture. When our Christmas card arrived I never got one comment from any of the Canadian recipients. I wonder what they must have thought?
My friend Ian Bateson used to object to my reply when he would call me to find out if I were available for lunch on a coming week. I always answered, "If am alive, I will be delighted." I am happy to report that Ian has now accepted his inevitable fate and he is no longer bothered when I repeat my proviso.
Re-visiting Morelia, after 32 years, with Rosemary and Rebecca I realize I remember little of that trip that we did with Ale (my eldest daughter and Rebecca´s aunt) when she was 5 or 6. In many ways both Ale and Rebecca are the same. Rebecca, without thinking twice had a sleep-over with Estibaliz last night. We missed her lots but we understand that Rebecca had a great night as the other little girl, Mari Fer came back from Guadalajara with her parents. The three little girls played until midnight and all slept together in Nora´s bed. I don´t have any idea where Nora may have slept. After three days Rebecca´s Spanish is excellent. I am sure that if Ale had had the opportunity she, too, would have taken advantage of the situation. Rebecca has learned from my stories of Michocan-born poet Homero Aridjis as she asked me yesterday as we walked under the portales of the Plaza Mayor
if we could be walking through the ghosts of ourselves that we left in that very same place all those years ago. Perhaps in some far off future, Rebecca and Estibaliz might walk againg through those ghosts. Would that not be grand?
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Rebecca has a face that she has perfected with lots of practice. It is a serious- looking-into-space look that seems to penetrate the soul of those that look into it. Rebecca has made friends with Estibaliz who is a year older. Estibaliz has delightful freckles on her nose and greyish green eyes. She is from San Juan del Rio, Queretaro. Yesterday she and Rebecca played all day and swam in the hotel pool. While they swam Rosemary and Nora, Etibaliz´s grandmother chatted. I could not help but noticing that Estibaliz kept asking Rebecca for ¨la cara¨.
It didn´t take long before Estibaliz could do it to perfection. It is a pity that I will have to wait until my return to Vancouver before I can see how my pictures of both of them making the face will look like.
There is some irony in that Rebecca bought a plush toy beaver she calls Chippy at Sanborns here in Morelia. Chippy, a version of Canada´s national animal was made in Indonesia. She carries Chippy everywhere and it remains to be seen when she will cross into Estibaliz´s age. Estibaliz would not be caught running around with a plush toy but she has that rare adult quality of not making fun or Rebecca and accepting Rebecca exactly as she is.
Morelia In The Rain and Michoacan Dirt
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Thirty two years ago Rosemary, Ale and I went to Morelia. We are making the same trip and will probably see the same places this August. This time we are taking Ale's niece, Rebecca. Rebecca's mom, Hilary we left behind as she must have been around three. Through Morelia in the rainy season all it does is evident. Rosemary insisted on wearing white jeans. Morelia, in the state of Michocan, has dirt the colour of Atlanta dirt. I cite Atlanta, as years later in the mid 90s when Rosemary and I flew to Atlanta to a American Hosta Society National Convention, we were struck that Atlanta was red from the air. Morelia and Michoacán dirt stays on white clothing forever. When we returned to our home in Mexico City there was nothing even the state-of-the-art detergent FAB with enzymes could do.
But it is because of the rainy season in Mexico that mountains are either green or ochre and brown. The eternal rains of Vancouver keep our mountains mostly green. While the mountains will be green in Morelia at least the dirt will be red. There is nothing like a warm colour to lift up one's spirits.
The rain has been most evident in Morelia this time around. Yesterday we went to meet the precocious little girl that befriended Rebecca at the zoo. Her name is Estibaliz. Her grandmother Nora and her little friend Maria Fernanda were waiting for us at Park 150. We wondered about the name and what kind of a park it would be. When we arrived we had to pay a 50 cent entrance fee and the girls played in all kinds of games including a trampoline. There was a slight chipi-chipi
rain so we waited under a merry-go-round until the rain stopped. The girls played with a tan-coloured cat they immediately called Flan
. We took a taxi to Sanborns which is the ultimate drug store, even beyond the very good American ones. Consider that every Sanborns, besides having an excellent restaurant, it also has one of the best variety of books in Spanish. While we were having our lunch it poured. It poured all night and Santiago, our friendly PR man at our hotel (Villa Montaña), explained that there have been recent floods because so many trees have been cut in the upper valley and on the mountains. The rain stopped this morning. Nora, Estibaliz and Mari Fer will arrive around 11 and if we are lucky they might swim in the hotel swimming pool. No matter what happens it has been a delight to listen to Rebecca speak in her very good Spanish. She has to, as blond, freckled-faced Estibaliz speaks no English.
Last night I was pointing out to Rebecca the fine scent of rain falling on the pink Morelia stone. Coincidentally Santiago mentioned his delight at the smell of rain on dry stone and dirt. Walking from our room to the hotel office is a walk through a complex combination of scents. My favourite comes from the trumpet-shaped brugmansia but only at night. Our hotel specimen is double flowered.
Galloping Ostriches & White Siberian Tigers
Monday, August 07, 2006
Coming into Morelia the other day we saw on one side of the road the cheerful tent of Circo Atayde y Hermanos. I went to this circus when I was 12 in Mexico City. I was keenly aware that this circus, unlike its American counterparts, only had one ring. But it had elephants, tiger, lions and clowns. It was a real circus. As a boy of 8, in Buenos Aires, I had gone to a local circus with a bad circus band (the wind instruments were all out of tune). But the little circus featured a boxing kangaroo.
My granddaughter Rebecca represents a little girl in a strange minority. She is a little girl who was splashed by a killer whale at the Vancouver Aquarium. Her sister Lauren will never experience that. So I wonder if I should press Rebecca to go to the circus ( a real one) and in spite of the fact that the animals are in captivity she will live an event that she can explain to her peers. She can point out to them that circuses are bad by having seen the real thing.
While Rebecca will not go to a circus, she does accept the importance of zoos and does enjoy going to them. Yesterday, Sunday, we attended the local and huge (600 acres) zoo that features a white Siberian tiger and a couple of albino lionesses. The zoo was spotless and the animals had to compete for attention with countless eating places. Some even featured mole poblano
. We experienced one sight that will serve Rebecca for many years. We saw a couple of giraffes, a male and a female, gallop (as giraffes gallop,with their necks resembling the undulations of a swimming whale). They did this for ten wonderful minutes as African ostriches scurried to be out of the way. There is no way a National Geographic Channel giraffe could possibly compete.
The Hotel Dick
Sunday, August 06, 2006
When you travel you often get the advice to consult taxi drivers. This is good advice. Our driver from the airport clued us in on the current electoral impasse in Mexico while driving through town on the way to our hotel explaining the lay of the land. Equally useful is to converse with the hotel dick. His name is Hugo and he told me of all the nearby stores where I can buy food so as not to be at the mercy of expensive hotel food. the best way to break the ice at a hotel is to wear my Rebecca T shirts. At breakfast, our waiter Julio kept staring at my chest and finally he asked me if the little girl with the yellow rose printed on it was my daughter. I had to tell him that while I may look well preserved the young girl on my chest is my granddaughter Rebecca.
For breakfast I had huevos divorciados
. Divorced eggs are two fried eggs each one separated by re-fried beans with totopo
s (triangular shaped fried tortillas). One egg is smothered in green tomatillo sauce while the other is a spicy red sauce.
I had planned to insert photographs in these Morelia blogs but the hotel computer refuses to comply with my requests, alas!