Friday, December 18, 2009

Photos from Day of the Dead

Some more photos: I think the real problem is that I just have a lot of stuff running on this computer.

I love the top photo because you can see that this is a current activity shared by the whole family - even the muchacho with the sunglasses!

The bottom picture is a shot of the altar at Sarah Murillo's Centro Bilingue. Chris and Mary Alice helped to build and decorate this altar in 2006. Some people will build their altars in a front window of their homes.

Day of the Dead is a spectacular event. I'll be here every year if I have the opportunity.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Day of the Dead

Very tardily I wanted to write a little about the Day of the Dead. I went first a few years ago, and I am totally done with Halloween now. What a marvelous celebration! It is an Aztec ceremony with a very thin veneer of Christianity applied to the top. If you would like to read more about the ceremony itself, you can click here or here.

I took the photos I have attached at the main cemetary in San Miguel. It was completely packed with families who had come out to clean and decorate the graves of their relatives. They bring a picnic along and spend the day. It was quite a scene!

The whole town has an intoxicating smell of marigolds and incense. The marigolds are a traditional flower for the Day of the Dead, and incense is burned on the altars that dot the town.

Families make altars to their dead. The altars range from simple to extremely extravagant. Most are in homes, but some are in the Jardin and in other public spots around town. The Spanish School my children have attended, the Centro Bilingue, turned its entire courtyard into the most elaborate altar I have ever seen. They invited my kids to help in its construction. The folks at Centro Bilingue are a great group.

I am trying to put on a few more photos but I'm having no luck. I'll cut this post short and post more photos on another post.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I am so thrilled people are reading my blog! Plus dancing!

I have gotten a few comments on the blog from people I didn't know were reading it. This is such great news to me! I am always a little taken aback when I realize how my reactions to praise are still really the same as they were at 10 years old.

Anyway, I have a few Experiences from this summer I hadn't written about, so here is one.

Holly (you have read about her) took me (and all of our kids) to this great Mexican dance spot called Bovedas. For the uninitiated, a boveda is a type of arched brick ceiling where the ceiling supports itself. I have quite a few bovedas at my house (CasaColina), and there were quite a few at this dance spot.

However, the dance spot is not about the ceiling! We went there after a lovely party at the fabulous home (seriously, fabulous) of our friend CeCe Hetherington. Read that as we were looking very cute.

You probably know that Latino men are wonderful dancers. I would like to reference my friend Miguel Cortez from Colombia as proof of this. At any rate, we got quite a lot of dancing action at Bovedas. You won't see me, as I was taking the pictures. I would like you to take a moment to see how many different ages are represented in the photos. I love cross-generational parties!

The other thing that I feel compelled to mention is that I danced with the best lead of my entire life. Sorry, Miguel - you have been usurped. This man was a fabulous dancer, and really let me knew what we were going to do next. We were quite the pair!

Another very, very fun part of San Miguel. Where gringo and Mexican life overlap and coexist peacefully, and we can each experience the other culture. Which is pretty special.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


My friend Holly and I have been exercising every morning with a method called Zumba. I have included a few pictures, which really don't do the whole thing justice. Zumba is a dance exercise based on Latin dancing - mostly salsa. Click here to see an example of the class.

If you want a dose in humility, take a Zumba class! Especially a Zumba class in Mexico. Holly and I are two of the maybe five gringas in the room (out of about 80 women). We have noticed that the average Latina in the class seems to have a pivot in her body that Holly and I don't have. We can move our torsos and hips separately, but the women in the class can move their legs completely independently of their hips, also! Plus, they can do some fancy shoulder and arm movements.

Our instructor, Cesar, is a lithe and talented dancer. He is, shall we say, fit and handsome and uses a lot of hair gel. He puts lots of flourishes into the steps. These flourishes are completely beyond Holly and me, so we have to look to someone in the class to figure out the steps. Here's a tip. That stout older woman in front of you is NOT going to be the one to watch. She will be able to wiggle her body like a 19 year old senorita. We have found our best bet is to find someone currently injured - we look for an ace bandage around the knee. That woman will be eliminating the extra foot twists and little hops that everyone else is doing. Once we get the basic steps down we can watch (and admire) the rhythm and style of the able-bodied women.

One of the other challenges I find is that some of the suggestive wiggles, bumps and grinds are gestures I was not permitted to make during my youth. I have been trying to get into the swing of them. Take a moment and imagine how ridiculous a middle-aged gringa looks trying to figure out how to do a whole series of rapid pelvic thrusts to music!

Oh, and one other thing. This workout costs us 20 pesos - about $1.50! By the end of the hour class, everyone is literally dripping sweat. It is a lot of fun, and we feel quite virtuous.

Monday, August 3, 2009


As we have spent more time in Mexico, we have begun to take care of more and more everyday things here. For example, I now get my dogs' annual exam by their vet here. I get my shoes repaired, have furniture made and car repaired.

Last week, Mary Alice got a haircut and had highlights put in her hair at our local Estetica. The husband and wife who own the shop are very nice. One of the things I absolutely love is that she got her hair cut and highlit for 160 pesos - that's $12 at today's exchange rate. The boys get very nice haircuts for 45 pesos, or $3.50. I think I'm even going to get a trim this week, before we head back to Colorado.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Shoes, shoes, shoes

Yesterday we finally made the trek to Leon to check out the shoe scene. Leon is the center of the shoe industry in Mexico. If you have shoes that are "hecho en Mexico" they were probably made in Leon.

We had a driver take us - what a luxury! The disappointing part of the trip was that the fabled Cole Haan outlet is no more. The excellent part of the trip is that we hit a lot of shoe stores and had someone to do all of the schlepping!

This first photo is from the Plaza de los Zapatos. It is an entire mall of shoe stores.

We found that the selection of quality shoes for men was larger than that for women. There was also a very broad selection of cowboy boots.

My fashionisto (19 year old boy, Brad) swooned over the selection of shoes in exotic leathers. He is now the proud owner of a pair of shoes made of stingray skin. The shoes with the white eye-shaped spot on them or the white stripe down the middle are made of stingray. It is an interesting glittery skin.

I was able to find two pairs of loafers acceptable to my non-fashionisto Chris (15). One brown, one black, both Brad-approved and acceptable to Chris. Score.

Mary Alice now has two new pairs of shoes and some very fashionable boots. All of these shoes were (relatively) reasonably priced. I say (relatively) because I think stingray shoes are never going to be cheap. But for all the others, we did not spend more than $50 US, and generally less.

My friend, Holly, found several pairs of shoes for her daughter, but neither one of us was really in the market for shoes - unless we had found Cole Haans for really cheap! But, alas.

We also found that we could buy a skin and have a wallet made in very little time. Maybe next trip. Or ostrich and/or lizard cowboy boots?

Monday, July 27, 2009

The wildlife in San Miguel can be muy guapo

Muy guapo is the Spanish term for very handsome. And let me tell you that there are some guapo waiters in San Miguel. Guapo others, also, but this gentleman happens to be a waiter at my (current) favorite watering hole, La Azotea. That means "the roof," and it is a wonderful spot to watch the sun set.

La Azotea can be pretty crowded with beautiful young people from Mexico City (or the DF, as we totally cool folks call it). However, with the slowdown in the economy and the swine flu hysteria, business is slower this summer than it has been. But there is no cloud without a silver lining, and the silver lining here is that La Azotea has an Hora Feliz every weeknight. And at Dos por Uno (two for one) on margaritas and mojitos, that is one feliz hora!

So, I haven't posted for a while because I was getting discouraged at only having two followers (a big shout out to Sue and Suzanne. Must be something excellent in the S). But maybe some others are reading, too. Hoo noze?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Monday - ahhhhhhhhh

Well, the idea of getting a post published before the guests arrived didn't work out very well yesterday. We had a Welcome! party for Holly, who arrived with her daughter Tricia in the afternoon.

This weekend, while we were hanging out on the outdoor sala, a funeral procession walked by the house. I think it was walking from the church at Valle de Maiz, just up the street from us, down to the cemetery on the Ancha de San Antonio. Because San Miguel is compact, the funeral processions take place on foot. Somehow it seems more respectful to me.

You can see in the photo that the coffin is being carried on the pallbearers' shoulders. The car is filled with flowers. People have umbrellas to protect themselves from the sun.

Umbrellas are paraguas (for water) here. I realized that parasol is a word from Spanish - for sun.

At any rate, things are back to normal around here. The kids are off at Casa de los Angeles, I am on the computer and my maid, Amalia, is upstairs cleaning up the mess!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

I'm falling behind!

There has been just too much fun around here! "They" tell me I should post every day, and I am just trying to squeeze this one in before the Welcome party starts.

Yesterday we had a "Farewell" party for Jody, which was very sad. She's off to LA, Boston and Aspen. Which, if one has to leave San Miguel, is a pretty good set of places to go. It turned into a very fun afternoon of food, beer and kids kids kids in the pool. My pool isn't very large, but the water slide is a big attraction.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The English-language newspaper is out!

Friday is a big day here - the Atencion, the English-language newspaper - comes out today. Mary Alice and I took a walk into Centro, to the Jardin. On the way, we stopped by the Virgins, Saints and Angels office. I asked them what they were closing out, and I may have bought one or two things.

When we got to the Jardin, we bought a newspaper and some ice cream cones. The Jardin is sometimes called San Miguel's living room. Many Sanmiguelenses and visitors alike stop here some time during the day to sit and watch the town go by.

I haven't read the newspaper yet, but there was a teaser on the front page about many art openings this week. That should be fun to check out!

We have been making plans for the weekend. We are going to have people over both Saturday and Sunday for a casual meal and a swim. While one friend is leaving (boo!) another is arriving Sunday. Of course, both need to be honored. Plus, the kids love the water slide!

A New Take on Fast Food

While JJ and I were leaving Leon (late - so much to see!) we were stopped at a stoplight. A joven (teenager/youth) next to the car was selling mangoes. The windows were open, as the day was lovely, and JJ passed the boy 20 pesos and we received a huge plastic cup full of peeled and sliced mango pieces. A few blocks later we bought a few packets of the flat, brown-edged wafer cookies the same way. I don't know the name of those.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Leon, Spanish and Dining

A busy day yesterday - there is so much to do that sometimes the challenge in San Miguel is to remember to relax! Leon is an industrial city about 2 hours from San Miguel by car, and the shoe capital of Mexico. I decided that after 9 years of coming to this beautiful place, it was time to check out the shoes.

My friend JJ Anderson (the portrait and travel photographer) and I drove to Leon yesterday. Some people have expressed surprise that I drive in Mexico. Let me reiterate what I say to them. Guanajuato, our state, is very safe. I drive all over the place. I love exploring Mexico!

JJ was looking for skins. She found a couple that she really liked. In the process, we stopped at several shops. A couple of the shops sold exotic skins - wow! One can go and pick out the skins one wants, and then have some shoes or boots custom made. I saw caiman, ostrich and stingray skins, as well as a whole bunch of others I didn't recognize.

I'll have to make another trip to explore the goods that are already made. I saw a lot of those types of shops on the way out of town - too much to see and too little time!

Back in San Miguel - Chris, Mary Alice and I are continuing to work on our Spanish. We have a lovely and excellent tutor I have worked with for years. Her name is Elvira Sierra and I met her when I studied at the Instituto Allende years ago. I find that for me, speaking Spanish is NOT like riding a bicycle. I need to use it, or I lose it. I am having to re-learn the compound tenses (I had spoken, etc.).

Finally, out to dinner with my friends Ed and Sarah Clancey (Ed is the US Consul, Sarah is a totally cool artist/designer type) and Jody and Conor Feagan. I won't name the restaurant, because although the decor was stunning, the food was so-so. I'll post it if the kitchen improves.

Did I mention that sometimes it is tough to kick back? So much to do!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Hot Springs!

Yesterday, while my children were doing good works (as outlined in the last post) I took off for La Gruta, a natural hot spring a few miles out of town. The area around San Miguel is dotted with hot springs, and there are about half a dozen that are developed and open to the public. "Developed" is still pretty funky in Mexico, so each hot spring has its own personality and advantages.

La Gruta has several pools and a long, underground tunnel that leads to a man-made cavern lit only by sunlight through a small opening in the ceiling. The water in the cavern is quite warm, so one tends to cycle from the cavern (or grotto, thus La Gruta) out to the outdoor pools.

The pools and grotto are fed directly from the hot spring. Because of this, there are no chemicals in the water. In addition, La Gruta has a restaurant and bar, plus table service. Always handy!

I went to La Gruta with four friends. I mention them as they are typical of the very interesting friends I have made during my time in San Miguel. Jody Feagan is the founder and director of the San Miguel Writers' Workshops, co-founder of the San Miguel Literary Society and produced the play we went to see last weekend. Her teenage son, Conor, also came with us. Debra Ehrhardt is both writer and performer of the play, Jamaica, Farewell. Although I had only met Debra this past weekend, her Jamaican exhuberence was infectious. JJ Anderson is a professional portrait and travel photographer who has lived in Jamaica and is married to a Jamaican. As with my friends from my Bi-Cultural Evening post, I have met each of these four in San Miguel.

After we were thoroughly soaked and relaxed, it was back to San Miguel for comida, tennis, Spanish study and an evening out at our favorite bar, La Azotea. But that will have to be another post.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Work at the Casa de los Angeles

Brad, Chris and Mary Alice are volunteering each day at the Casa de los Angeles, a day care center for economically deprived children of single mothers. The children range from newborns to four year olds, and are absolutely adorable. My kids tell me that they are also very, very lively. Brad has learned a few words in Spanish. Caballo! Basta! No! (The caballo part is when he is playing with them. The basta and no is when they stick their shod feet into the sink, under the running water, when he is brushing their teeth in the morning.)

Brad and Chris are volunteering a total of 25 hours a week, mas or menos. Mary Alice goes about 15 hours per week, but may work more this week. As the summer goes by they may do some construction or repairs, but right now they are playing with the children only.

The center is wonderful because it treats all of its clientele, for want of a better word, with respect. Most of the mothers sell items on the street or in the markets. Although these children are economically poor, they arrive each day scrubbed and brushed - and full of energy!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A peaceful Sunday

Today was a peaceful day. I hauled the kids out of bed and we went to church. I am no proselytizer, but I will say that the Anglican church here in San Miguel is lovely. The priest, Michael Long, has been extremely helpful in connecting the kids with needs in the community.

Afterwards, I took the boys home (where they went back to sleep) and Mary Alice and I went out for the post-church treat. Not that I am trying to influence their spiritual development, but what's wrong with a little positive reinforcement? We went to a spot officially called something like Cafe San Agustin (I looked it up) but everyone just calls "Churros y Chocolate." The excellent, although sinful, part of this little restaurant is that if one orders a cup of hot chocolate it is accompanied by three fresh churros. Think doughnuts without all of the pesky healthy part. We ran into a casual friend, Jane, and met her friend, Ruth. We all ended up having brunch together.

Next, the family reassembled at home. We spent some quiet time reading, and then got to work and re-hung a lot of photos. It can be challenging to hang pictures on masonary walls, but my friends Ed and Sarah Clancy clued us in to a great system - drill a 1/4 inch hole, plug it with a dowel and put a picture hanger into the wood. Nothing like some virtuous work to make a lazy Sunday worthwhile.

Later, Mary Alice and I hung out on the outdoor sala while Brad and Chris wallowed in a movie fest. Although there are a lot of English-language stations available, my kids make do with the basic cable package. Sunday afternoon movies (in English, largely, but subtitled in Spanish) are a big treat.

Tomorrow it's back to the whirl of volunteering, tennis and Spanish study. What a lovely day!

Jamaica, Farewell

Last night we attended the one-woman play, Jamaica, Farewell at the Santa Ana Theater. The tiny theater is part of the Biblioteca Publica in San Miguel. It is a very intimate experience, as there are maybe 6 or 7 rows of seats in all.

It's a typical San Miguel experience - this sort of amazing thing happens all the time. Debra Ehrhardt is an award-winning actor and writer, and I was close enough to hit her with a spitwad. Not that I did, of course. Afterwards, I went to a private party and talked to her about her experiences getting out of Jamaica during its period of political unrest.

I took my kids (19, 15 and 10) to the play. One never knows how this will work out, but all of them enjoyed the play, too. The whole evening was fabulous.

While I was at the party, my two boys (19 and 15) went out to get a bite to eat. They ran into some other kids with whom they had done some volunteer work, and off they went for the rest of the night. Chris (15) came home with us around midnight, but Brad was out late. San Miguel is such a safe town that he can do that.

Only here!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A bi-cultural evening

We spent a lovely evening with my friend Sue and her family. Sue is a writer and spa owner I met here in San Miguel. (You can check out HER blog). She is married to Carlos Ortega, and they have two great girls, Carla and Sean. Anyway, they came over, and later Carlos' brother Hector, his wife and two adorable boys came over also.

The total of 7 kids had a blast sliding down the water slide into the swimming pool, while we adults hung out on the outdoor sala having a couple of cocktails. We grilled arrechera (yum!) and marinated chicken from the grocery store, plus threw together some nachos. Sue brought over some fabulous salty olives (something else to bring back to the US when we leave in August) and vegetable munchies. Later, we adults went up to the azotea, or rooftop terrace. The kids drifted up, and we all played a dice-rolling game. The evening was a mixture of English and Spanish speaking.

This evening highlights many of the things I love about San Miguel. We met every one of these people here in San Miguel. Sue and Carlos and their girls are bilingual, and the rest of us can converse in both languages. In my case not very elegantly, but I am still trying! The indigenous inhabitants are gracious and friendly in accepting those of us from north of the Rio Grande (or Rio Bravo, if you are here). My children are growing up in two different cultures, and becoming at ease in both of them.