Saturday, July 26, 2008

Only in Mexico

As I wander around the streets here
Every day is an adventure of sorts
Today, I was on a local bus
Heading home from the farm
Where I have just purchased
The week's vegetables.

I arrange myself on the seat,

With my three large bags of food
A local man wearing jeans
White shirt, vest and a cowboy hat
Carrying an ornately made,
Well worn twelve string guitar
Entered the bus, stood at the front
And began singing.

Rustling around in my bag
I find my camera
And take a little video of the event:


The locals stare straight ahead
Don't look at him when he asks for money afterward
But I am happy to pay because I am always amazed
At the lack of self consciousness that eople have here
When it comes to playing music in public.
Plus it was really nice.

You don't need to have a gig,
You just go out on the bus
Or walk the streets and ask people if they would like a song
Then sing like there's no tomorrow,
Or no rest of today for that matter.
You don't even have to be good, you just do it
For that, I am appreciative every day I live here
And see things like this.

Besides all the auditory pleasures here
(And Mexico is cacophonous at times)
There are visual delights and wonders as well
Such as this delightful house, which I discovered
Several weeks ago while walking to town.

The colors are just fantastic,
A rich blue wall
Bright yellow door, trimmed in red
Red iron work around the meter box

A Virgin of Guadalupe tile mural
Is punctuated with muliticolored glass beads
Making a frame around her
Then colored plastic papel picado,
Cut paper party decorations
Strung across the front of the house.

Notice that the door is not to the ground
But dropped right into the wall

The walkway in front of the house...
Was artfully redone this week

A simple round doorstep
Made with a collection of talavera tiles
And a winding trail of tiles on either side
Going up and down the sidewalk
With little trees, made out of flowering tiles
Beneath the oval arches above them.

Further down the street
Inside a tin work studio
A rusted iguana
is hanging out in the window

And another outrageously painted wall
In bright turquoise blue
With rosa Mexicana pink in the brick inlay
Flowering trees and shrubs hanging off it

And hand written sign on the door

Everyone is out on the streets here

While waiting for the bus
On a very busy street
On the median strip
Sits a man with no legs
On a four wheel cart
Covered in a yellow and white shade cloth
Selling almonds for 10 pesos a bag
Cars are whizzing by
He is unfazed
Here's a little 3 second video
For the full effect


You see everyone out on the streets here
Mothers with young babies wrapped in rebozos, held close
The old, the infirm, the disabled, children selling 'chicle'
Mariachis, singers, and young people arm in arm
No one is hiding away
Everyone has something to offer
It is gritty and real and affirming at the same time

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Atotonilco - New World Heritage Site

Last Sunday we thought it was the weekend for the Feria de Atotonilco, and decided to go. Our neighbors Marta, Aron and their son Ariel went with us. Upon arrival, we discovered that the fair was not this weekend, but next - however, it was the weekly market day, and the arrival of a large group of pilgrims who are here to pray, do pennance and repent for the week.
Photo above: Aron (in black) Marta and Ariel

We entered town from the El Cotijo side, near the entrance to La Gruta hot springs along the back side of the town. There were many cars parked along the stone fence going into town. We walked along into town. Booths began appearing, covered in colorful plastic 'lona' tarps - the Sunday market day.

Atotonilco is known for it's beautiful frescoes in the church, and this last week, along with San Miguel de Allende, Atotonilco was awarded the honor of becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a great honor which will give international heritage status as well as much needed funding for restoration. Use this link to go to our tales from the road blog to see photos of the town, church and frescos.

The ceiling, walls and doors of this church are adorned with beautiful old paintings depicting religious and Hispanic scenes. The church also attracts about two million pilgrims a year, who we were told come weekly by bus, foot or car to be locked indoors for a week to pray, flagellate themselves (really) and do penance for their sins here on earth.

Atotonilco is locally famous for it's statue of Senor de las Columnas, depicted below as Christ leaning over an urn, with disciplinas (for flagellating) wrapped around his waist and neck, bloody and tired with three gold rays, his halo.

The statue of 'el senor' makes the annual pilgrimage of about 10 km to San Miguel de Allende, overnight, every Easter for the Semana Santa Processions, arriving two weeks before the event and enters the town on a mile long flower filled street. To see photos of this, follow this link

Outside in the market, you'll find religious paraphernalia - disciplinas, large, small and in key chains, hand made by local artisans, and worn by all the pilgrims -

Along with Cd's that have images under resin of the Virgin of Guadalupe, Sagrado Corazon de Jesus, San Judas Tadeo to name a few - plus rosaries, gilded plastic frames with images of santos, religious cards --

Crowns of thorns
made of wood and thorny spines from the bisnaga cactus - and hand made veils made of net and flowers which the women pilgrims, young and old wear during the week of prayer.
Everything you need for the passion play.

And you can also buy an array of items for daily use -
dishes, plastic goods, food, plants or a beautiful sequined purse like John is showing here.
The food booths are selling botanas - Enchiladas, tortillas half dipped in chili salsa, fried rolled and filled with chicken and fresh cheese - gorditas, big fat tortillas rolled into a ball, cheese and chili inside, patted into a disc that is fried, then cut open and filled with meat, potatoes and corn - tacos with meat or nopales and cheese and carmelized onions. Down the way you can buy a nieve - iced milk or fruit in a variety of flavors, mango, chocolate or vanilla, zapote, limon, fresa or sandia.
Musicians wander in groups, find an area to stand or sit and play typical Mexican music with guitars and accordians.

Most of the crowd are pilgrims from ranchos and villages all over Mexico who still wear traditional clothing -

Women in colorful satin dresses, some wearing capes with crosses sewn on them and many wearing a mixture of traditional and modern clothing and hats - all of them wearing disciplinas, ready for their week of prayer and pennance.
I have to say, that coming into town, was like going back in time to another world of people, still steeped in traditional values, clothing and reverence for god. We were unaware upon arrival, that Atotonilco, while being famous for it's beautiful church, is also a pilgrimage site for two million pilgrims per year, many of whom come from villages that still maintain traditional ways of living, and who you see here.

At 5PM the pilgrims will go to the back of the church where the doors will be shut to the outside world for a week. They will be fed and basic needs taken care of while they reflect.

The windows and doors of the church are all open today
, shedding light throughout. Groups take turns kneeling at the altar to cross themselves and pray. Women are crying as they pray. Tourists wander about with cameras taking pictures of the frescoes, statues and architecture. The wood floors are mosaic designs, and the wood entrance to the doorway worn down from years of footsteps passing through.

There are retablos of the stations of the cross and other religious stories painted into the doors and walls of the church and vestibules contain Santos to pray to. We were told that because of the new UNESCO World Heritage status that the market booths which surround the church in the center of town, and which have probably been a tradition for as long as the church has been standing, will no longer be allowed in front of the site after this year. The fair, which is a local event, will most likely be flooded with tourists. The status comes as a mixed blessing, bringing restoration, money and tourism to the town, but will surely change it's nature in the coming years.

Photo below: Ariel & me

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Walking the Camino de Santiago, Spain 2008

Not exactly one of our usual stories about Mexican Folk Art,
but another type of quest and a really long walk!

The Camino de Santiago

Follows the ancient pilgrimage route starting in the Pyrennes in France,
and ending at the other end of Spain in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain.
It passes through many of the oldest villages and cities in Europe
and gorgeous countryside. We've included a few photos from our last walk
in September 2003 in this tales from the road.

If you would like to view our blog, please email us for the link.

The blog also has the emails we sent home on our last visit,
which will give you an idea of the complexity and wonder of a long walk like this.
Below are photos from our first trip and there are many more on our blog site.

© All rights reserved, 2007, Dos Mujeres Mexican Folk Art