Monday, November 17, 2008

Enjoying nature in good company

Peña de Bernal (November 16. 2008)

The blog is finally up-to-date! Yesterday, Osiris, Liliana, Wendy, Christian, and I took a day trip to Bernal, a tiny town overshadowed by a big rock (the third largest “peña” in the world, according to the sign at the base of the rock!). As the legend goes, if you climb the peña during the equinox, a surge of supernatural energy revitalizes you. - We weren’t the only people to apparently made the hike at the wrong time of the year. Even though you wouldn’t think so by looking at the photographs, there were lots of people on the trail and at the top of the peña, including a grandmotherly woman who hiked in a suit skirt and jacket, pumps, and nylons . . . and ventured out onto the very edge of the precipice! Between humoring Osiris’s dreams of being a cowboy and Liliana’s photographic whims, we had fun playing tourist.


Every October the city of Guanajuato hosts the Festival Cervantino that highlights theater and music and art from all over Mexico. Liliana and I decided to catch the closing concert by Café Ta Cuba. After waiting for over three hours in a line that snaked through the city center, we arrived at the entrance right as the guards were closing the gates. I learned a new word: portazo; definition: what a crowd of angry people shouts in front of a closed door; an attempt to incite enough emotion to break down the door / gate. With images of tear gas and trampled concert-goers in my mind, I was relieved to get away from the crowd and out of the concert zone . . . everything ended peacefully, but I realized that big crowds make me uncomfortable, and I was disappointed by not hearing Café Ta Cuba. The next morning, the streets of Guanajuato were eerily empty as though the crazy concert-goers and the mile-long line had been swept up in the wee hours of the morning along with the crushed cans and taco trays discarded on the cobble stones.

Coffee and cena with housemates

José and Naomi are the other Fulbright people in Querétaro. They kindly invited Abel and Erika and I for dinner (cena) and gave us a tour of their impossibly tall house: it has five floors, and there’s basically a room on each floor!
The center of Querétaro is magical at night - - I should take more photos.
Ceci, a friend from school and my neighbor, earned her “título” about a month ago. In Mexico, you can graduate from college without earning a “título,” which requires a thesis and a lot of extra paperwork and dedication. The “titulación” ceremony is when the professors who worked with you personally recognize your hard work in front of friends and family. – I was expecting an American graduation ceremony with caps and gowns and tons of people, so I was surprised to find only Ceci and her family! I learned that the big graduation ceremony takes place separately.

People Watching in Dolores

Of course one of the most fun parts of exploring a new place is people watching (and trying to be discreet). My tactics for discretion obviously failed when I surprised the musicians tuning their violins.
I always thought the throne-like seats surrounding plazas and parks were only for shoe polishing – not boot painting! Imagine donning sky-blue boots!! I was seduced by the proud artistry and attention in the painter’s brush strokes.

Architecture in Dolores Hidalgo

It’s easy to forget the injustice and destruction caused by the Spanish conquest of Mexico because the visible remnants of the conquest – Mexico’s colonial architecture- are beautiful.

Dolores Hidalgo

About two months ago (I know I’ve neglected this blog for too long!), Liliana – a friend from school – and I took a day trip to Dolores Hidalgo, a little town in the state of Guanajuato that is famous for two things: 1) unexpected icecream flavors (pig skin and avocado for example); 2) the cry of independence (el grito de Dolores) that began Mexico’s fight for independence. (The icecream – nieve – is really good; cheese was the most “exotic” flavor that I tried.) In addition to admiring all of the food with tempting colors and textures, we window-shopped in stores selling ceramics – talavería – with colors and designs so brilliant that the flowers or food filling them become adornments!