Well, the fact that we have not found time to do weekly posts on this blog is indictive of the very busy lives we are leading here. As I am sitting here next to our big arched window, I am witnessing the "fourth of July" in Mexico, a fireworks display par excellance with reds, golds, blues, all colors of the rainbow and the popping sounds which accompany it. Sounds of the mariachis in the streets below us, waft up our hill and the celebration is on. We are not sure for what but, as we said last year, every day in San Miguel is a fiesta. We do know that Monday is a holiday celebrating the birthday of Bonito Juarez, the much loved past president of Mexico who brought changes for the poor and working classes and also passed a law separating Church and State. He was the first and only, we think, indigenous (i.e. indio) to become President.
We are staying in tonight despite the temptation to join the festivities as we have had a very active week since last Saturday, when we left for the Sierra Gordo ("fat mountains") of the neighboring state of Queretero, for a three day car trip. We shared the rental car with our friends, Rosalie and Jack, from Denver Colorado. Rosalie and I researched the area on the internet and with questions to our local Mexicana friends and it sounded too good to pass up.
We left early Saturday morning and by 9 o'clock we were in the charming town of Tequisiapan with a lovely walking street and large central plaza surrounded by an arcade and the usual focal point, a large church with bell tower and decorative coral orange and white facade. We found a cute restaurant and ate breakfast outside under the arcade. Chiliquillias, fresh squeesed orange juice and coffee came to about $4.00 each. After exploring more of the town, we headed for the hills. As we climbed higher up into the beautiful mountains which rose from dry, mesquite and cactus covered "cerros" to a height of 7,500ft. we found ourselves above the "cloud forest" known as "La Puerta de Cielito" ---"The Door to Heaven". As we rose in altitude we were surrounded by a richly vegetated forest of pines, deciduous trees reminding us of autumn with some turning light gold and orange and others covered with pink and magenta blossoms which we later learned were peach trees. Believe it or not, this was mixed with pre-historic looking palms all in bloom with pendulums of white flowers and lower down were a mix of cactus. The area is know for its biodiversity and one can see why. It is actually about 4000 acres of protected biosphere. .We visited several small pueblos and stayed in one the first night by the name of San Joaquin (brings back memories of my high school days in the San Joaquin valley of California when my dad was transferred to Bakersfield---believe me, this San Joaquin was far more picturesque!) We found two clean rooms with baths to rent from Senor Casas (means "houses" appropriately)for only $20 for the night! Senor Casas seemed to be the most entrepreneurial man in town, owning the local Abarrotes (small grocery store) and the lodgings as well as having an interest in the two restaurants, one he recommended for dinner and the other for breakfast. While in SJ we explored the nearby archeological site of Las Ranas, just unearthed in the late 1980's, The ruins were in a beautiful "bosque" which means forest, but were not as dramatic as Monte Alben or Mixla which we visited in Qaxaca last year.
The second day we went on to Jalpan which is the center of a region known for its five famous missions designed by the famous Father Junipera Sera. We remember his many missions in California. We visited two of the five here, which was enough---they are each very differenct with beautiful decorated (almost rococco) facades containing reliefs of the saints and an interesting symbol on each, of the crossed arms and hands of the Dominicans and the Franciscans, apparently representing the "joint venture" in converting the "savage" indios. I must say after the two, and thinking about the suffering of the native peoples building these glorious icons to the church, we had had enough. We were tired and hungry and drove back into Jalpan for dinner at the hotel we had found earlier in the day. We had a rather restless night with a strange noise waking us up which we later found out was some kind of vibrating water pipes just outside our room. After breakfast the next day we headed back towards the big city of Queretero stopping for a couple of hours at Bernal which Rosalie and Jack hadn't seen yet. We described this pretty Mexican town in a former post. After a delicious late lunch there we returned to San Miguel just in time to turn our car in and say Buenos Noches!
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I went to the sculpture studio of Mario, the best artists' secret in town which I learned about from a gringo friend last year. I am having a wax sculpture cast here at Mario's foundry, as the cost is so much less than in the US. I started the sculpture 30 years ago at a workshop in Mendocino California and have had fun finally finishing it here. I am now working on a second sculpture. We had guests for dinner on Tuesday night with drinks before on our terrace from where we have a vista of beautiful sunsets and the city below us. Being up high on the hill is a real advantage except when we climb it everyday coming home from our activities in town. It's great exercise. Gary has been doing some woodcarving and vsited with a local wood sculptor, who he hopes to visit more next week when I am in El Salvador. I leave on Thursday, March 18th and will return via Mexico City on the 26th. I will be joining the Romero Delegation sponsored by the foundation we have donated our energies and some money to for the past ten years, FSSCA, soon to have the new name of Eco-Vida. We assist 86 small rural villages in El Salvador with microfinanced chicken farms and agricultural and reforestation projects to name a few. It is the 30th anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero, a real hero to the people of El Salvador. I will be helping our leader as we have a large group this time, 22 people from around the states and happily Portland has a nice contingency of 5 people joining the delegation.
Gary is not at all worried about feeling lonely in San Miguel. We have made lots of friends here and he loves going to the Bibliotecha where he not only checks out books but enjoys partaking of the many lectures and films offered on a full gamut of subject matters. He will also attend the annual Spring Equinox ceremonies up at the beautiful botanical gardens on a higher hill above us with friends. I regret I am going to miss that this year.
Hope this finds you all healthy and happy enjoying the approaching Spring. We hear cold weather is still upon you and feel very appreciative of our lovely warm 75-80 degree days. Nights are still somewhat chlly but it's great to awake to blue skies and sunshine.
P.S. Here's a book tip. I am just finishing Barbara Kingsolver's wonderful new novel, La Lacuna, and have enjoyed it immensely. The plot, much of which takes place in Mexico of the 20's and 30's amongst a host of interesting characters such as Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, and Trotsky to name a few, is fascinating and the main character, Harrison Sheppard of both Mexican and Gringo heritage, is intriguing. An important segment of the book takes place in the US as well, during the pivotal time of WWII and the aftermath "fear mongering" of press and government alike known as the McCarthy Era. Kingsolver makes her politicl points cleverly using actual newslippings of the era which earmark similarities to our time and its "politics of fear". I suggest you read the book.