Monday, March 1, 2010

Continuation of Our San Miguel Story

Hola, or perhaps I should say 'buenes Noches": We just arrived home from a wonderful dinner out at "Mama Mia's" a good restaurent in the center of town about ten minutes from our casita. Now I must tell you about the others around the table and the story of how it happened that we were having dinner with 2 Mexicans and a Salvadoreno.

Last night we came home after a wonderful Sunday starting with brunch with friends, Rosalie and Jack, who we met in Lake Patzcuaro last year and who visited us in Portland last summer.
After brunch Gary and I dashed off to buy our "verduras and frutas" at the mercado to replenish our food supply. About 4 o'clock we went to the opening of the Baroque Music Festival in the Central square in commemoration of Mexico's bi-centennial and Centenario of the Revolution and the War of Independence. It will continue all week with performances every night, each with its own special theme representing pre-hispanic times to the present. We spent two hours outside in the central plaza, known as El Jardin,where a special stage was erected for the spectacle. We watched a theatrical threesom and a marionette act out a scene with Louis the 14th and Marie Antoinette and a friend lamenting that they could not return to the past (it was a satire, of course, and very "Molieresque" with many laughs). They introduced a baroque quartet who played Vivaldi, Bach, and others from the period (a flute, violincello, violin and harpsichord). The whole preformance was quite wonderful and Free!

Now, here is where our incredible story really begins: We walked home entering the main casa where we were greeted by our hostess, Maria Elena who invited us to join her on the patio with a visiting friend. It turns out that the friend was Father Eustaquio Martinez Pena, a priest from El Salvador---she remembered I had been to El Salvador and thought I would like to meet him. Of course, it was delightful and more so when we both realized we knew the same person, Jose "Chencho" Alas, our friend and the man who inspired Gary and I to work with the Foundaton for Self Sufficiency in Central America ten years ago. Eustaquio's nickname is "Tacho" and he knew Chencho very well, as during the war they were priests under the tutelage of Archbishop Romero, the hero of El Salvador who was assasinated in 1980 because he spoke out for the poor. Tacho and Chencho were both tortured by the right wing paramilitary. Chencho escaped to the USA and Tacho was one of only two who made it to Mexico for they had to find families that would sponsor or, as they say, adopt them. He was a young priest of 21 years old. Of all the families and people in San Miguel. would you believe that my friend, Francisca (mother of Maria Elena)was the mother of that family who took him in. She is the one who I lived with nine years ago when I came to San Miguel to study Spanish. I remembered that,at that time she told me she had an adopted son there", but I never understood the full story until now. Tacho is now a priest in San Salvador, after completeing his semenary studies in Morelia, Mexico and returning to his country of origin after the Peace Accords were signed in 1992, when my friend Chencho also returned and started the Foundation to which Gary and I contribute. He was quite anxious to know how Chencho is and what he is doing and we had much to talk about. What a miracle this is. He is a delightful man of 51 years old (Chencho was his elder, now being 74 years old). It has been a very rewarding experience, the least of which is that I was able to converse for an hour in Spanish (he speaks no English and Marie Elena doesn't speak much English either). Once we met he decided to spend an extra day here and Gary and I were invited to go to dinner with him, Maria Elena and her brother, Salvador, this evening. My head is full of new Spanish words and expressions that I have learned, and I think Gary's is, too. Luckily, Salvador speaks a little more English and between the two of us we were able to translate for Gary. Well, I know this is a long story but I think it is quite remarkable and I just wanted to share it with you, friends, who, for so long, have witnessed my passion for the people of El Salvador and Nicaragua. We met our first Salvadorenos in Nicaragua as they were refugees from the war there. It's been a type of "odyssey" since our time working in the hospital in Nicaragua in 1987.

Well, as they say in espanol, "esta suficiente"---this is sufficient to show a little of why we say magical things happen in San Miguel.

To go on with other happenings and entertainments, Gary and I enjoyed a wonderful classical guitar concert last Sunday with a renowned guitarist Maestro Enrique Florez who once studied with Andreas Segovia in Spain. He played the ten string classical guitar, which was quite amazing to hear and to watch.

The Sunday before that, we went out to La Gruta, a hot springs spa and grotto about fifteen minutes out of town. Farrel and Joe joined us and we had a very relaxing time bathing in the hot springs pool and having lunch at the small restaurant there on a lovely lawn at a table under an umbrella. It was one of our first really warm and lovely days. Since then the weather has been increasingly warmer with cool mornings and evenings.

Our guests left last Wednesdayand since then I have been trying to get back to a routine of writing daily---this has been a challenge with my Spanish studies, daily activities like films and lectures at the Bibliotecha and invitations to join new friends for "bebidas"--drinks, lunches, etc.

Our next post will be about our adventure coming up this weekend, March 6,7 and 8th, when we are going with our friends, Rosalie and Jack to what sounds like a fascinating area in the high mountains of the Sierra Gordo, outside of Queretero in the state of Quereterro where we will see Toltec archiological sites in Ranas, and near San Juaquin,a group of five missions designed by Fray Junipero Serra, si, the same one who built or rather had built by the indios, missions in California. they are supposed to be quite spectacular and in excellent condition in spite of the fact that they were built in the mid 1700's. We will also visit several interesting villages along the way on Hwy 120. and then stop in Bernal on the way home on Monday, the 8th. We are sharing a car rental with our friends so we will be free to go at our own pace. It is an area where it would be hard to go by bus. On one of the high and very winding roads we will go along a place called "La Puerta del Cielo"(Door to the Sky) which is apt because the guidebooks say you are at such an altitude in an area of mists where you can actually look down on the clouds. Sounds interestng doesn't it?
So, amigos, we will continue to share our adventures upon our return from our weekend trip. We send warm "abrazos" to you all and hope you are experiencing good health and the beginning of Springtime wherever you are. Que te vayas bien!

Sher and Gary

More News from Magical San Miguel

Hola familia y amigos,

Lo siento (translated: I am sorry!) for not getting back to you since the 17th of February. Needless to say, our time is filled with continuing adventures, new acquaintances, studies in Spanish and one discovery after another. There is certainly never a dull momentito in this
magical colonia city. It is like "peeling back the layers of an onion---only to discover a new layer", more meating and pungent than the last---legrimas (tears) flow with the joy and excitement of it all. Oh, that's corny but you know me!

Since I last wrote you, the Writers' Conference came and went, our guests Farrel and Joe, from
Sonoma California, came and went and I have almost completed my 2 1/2 week Spanish course which has been the best one yet---an in depth exploration of the 7 major and minor tenses of the Spanish verbs most used! I know that must sound very dry to those of you who do not consider yourselves linguists but it has been fascinating for me and especially when I have been able to apply what I learn daily on the streets of San Miguel, in converstions with taxi drivers and shop owners and most importantly with our lovely house hosts, mi amiga Francisca's daughter and son, Maria Elena and Salvador as well as sweet Araceli, the maid who comes about 4 times a week and is always ready to help me with my Spanish or with anything else I might need, like an extra plate for dinner guests, a tray to take a pot luck fruit platter to our Spanish Class pot luck (must tell you about that!), etc. Was that one long, runny sentence? A "no, no" for writers.

The Writers's conference (Feb. 19-23) was fabulous. One of many highlights was the keynote address by reknowned US author, Barbara Kingsolver whose new book , La Lacuna, takes place in Mexico of the 30's and 40"s . She was articulate, humorous and adept in answering the audience's questions which were many. The next morning there was a detailed Q&A time also for many questions to be answered and then a wonderful panel discussion with several other authors both from North America and here, including most importantly, a Mexican authoress who was wonderful and actually criticized one aspect of Kingsolver's book, the inaccuracies in the translations of Spanish words in the text. Ms. Kingsolver quickly responded that she was well aware of them and because the Publisher assiged a copy writer who did not speak Spanish(not so smart) and in their haste to get the first edition published did not correct. Kingsolver said she has insisted the next edition be corrected. I guess we shall see. The critic, otherwise, loved the book and said Kingsolver accurately portrayed the levels of Mexico's caste system and she found it "rich in detail" and spellbinding!

Lucky for me, I was able to be a voluntary door monitor for some of the events so was offered a chance to attend two of the mini workshops, one on "character development" with writer from Eugene, Oregon, John Reed author of several books, and one on fiction writing with author, Elizabeth Powell, from Vermont. Both workshops were extremely interesting and helpful to my process of trying to write my first novel.

In the meantime, we had a great time with our guests, Farrel and Joe who were low maintenance guests, joining us for the writers conference main events, the keynote and a wonderful play, "Jamaica Farewell", the closing event. Check it out on the web---the playwrite, a beautiful and talented writer and actress, immigrated from Jamaica, tells her harrowing story of her migration in her superb one woman show which will be made into a movie and played on Off Broadway to rave reviews. She was here and acted in her play and shared anecdotal stories with the audience at the end. Farrel and Joe also enjoyed joining us for another fabulous concert with Richard Dowling, famed pianist, who did a concert of Chopins music in honor of the anniversary of his birth. Our visitors got an insider's view of San Miguel de Allende with our frequent invitations to friend's casas and casitas, dinner out at some fun restaurants, shopping in the mercado and preparing meals in our small apartment kitchen with many laughs as we bumped into each other!

Oops---just looked at the clock and we have a dinner date with Maria Elena, Salvador and the mystery guest, who is now not a mystery but a wonderful coincidental, serendipitous new acquaintance from El Salvador who is staying with them for two days---a marvelous story to tell you---but you must wait. To be continued in my next post later tonight or tomorrow morning!

Hasta luego, amigos,