Welcome to the Adventure

Living in Mexico is often indescribable...you just have to live here. I have been journaling experiences for a while, and I hope you can get a feel for stupid-ass gringos trying to get it. But I am still here, and that says a lot for those of us sticking it out, as the payback is what makes life so good here.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Oaxaca living....PEMEX, baby Jesus, and such

Living in Mexico is like getting a gift, that takes years to unwrap. Evidence the photo to the left. An altar, with baby Jesus dressed in a PEMEX uniform (we think they used a girl doll), on the lawn of maybe 2 PEMEX (the only gas stations in Mexico, as the oil/gas is a federal government operation) stops before you hit a reasonable bathroom (one that has a seat, although not mandatory in an emergency, and one does not have to carry in a bucket of water to flush or your own TP....). What can I say, most travelers plan their stops around known PEMEX locations. We have them down from here to Veracruz, and of course to Oaxaca. But, by far, my favorite is the PEMEX located about an hour and half out of Oaxaca. We always stop. Always. This is also the only PEMEX on the road that charges you to use their bathrooms. The two peso charge is reasonable, I’m thinking considering everyone, truckers, collectivos, the army, stop by here for gas, and junk food. I'm even thinking of doing a PEMEX guide for southern Mexico.

But it would be so wrong not to stop by PEMEX baby Jesus, just to pay respects. As you go to the bathrooms, there is a little piece of “park” bordering the open, utter wildness of the mountains. Whatever, in the middle of the lawn is the altar, and baby Jesus is there in the PEMEX suit. Immaculate. Everyone wanders over to the altar... tourists and nationals alike. But it does say a lot about Mexican culture, and their sense of humor, and their spirituality and maybe more stuff than I can come to right now, but it is a holy site. It is respected. No one messes with it, it’s been there for as long as we have been driving the road.

One of Oaxaca’s major events, the Guelaguetza, begins next weekend (July 25), (see the website, you can change it to English, but it will give you an idea (http://www.viveoaxaca.org/2011/04/guelaguetza-2011-25-de-julio-y-1-de.html). This is almost like a Pow Wow, at home, as 16 + “ethnolinguistic” groups or “tribes” come together and dance, up on the hill above Oaxaca city, in a stadium dedicated to this event, period. It’s an act of solidarity that is tourist and national oriented alike, and the town parties, and every artisan comes, and it is an amazing few days in Oaxaca. Which I will miss again, as I pound my head, because it just never works out. Just like the Radish Festival in December, where the zocalo is filled with carved radishes of all sorts (not your salad radishes, but radishes on hormones, 3-4 ft tall and lbs, yet still red and white), but mostly of the Virgin de Guadalupe, because December belongs to her here, until the arrival of the baby Jesus.

Huatulco locals/those born and raised here, (pre-Fonatur and development, just about 30 years ago it all started) reflect the dual spiritualty part of Oaxaca, as seen in things like altars and dances. I know I’ve mentioned this book before, The Edge of Enchantment: Sovereignty and Ceremony in Huatulco, Mexico, Alicia Maria Gonzalez, author; Roberto Ysais, photographer, produced an amazing book, a history of this area and it’s people. People who live here usually have a copy around, and I see on Amazon that it is running $139. and I almost choked (like maybe we spent $20 new). It is a wonderful, articulate, beautifully illustrated book that looks at some of those ethnolinguistic groups, centered in the Huatulco area. When you visit, glance through it, you will get a sense of a spiritualness that reflects European POV with native sensibilities. Let's just say it isn’t the Catholicism some of us were raised with. Mingled with the beliefs of local Indian groups, it all makes perfect sense, and certainly showed the canniness of those Catholic missionaries who came and oppressed people who were perfectly happy in their belief system if not their lives, I’m sure. (It’s that history teacher thing that tweaks my view by the way). So it isn’t lost, but has been infused with indigenous symbols and beliefs.

The Guelaquetza, like the shrines along the highways, like Jesus in a PEMEX suit, blend two cultures. We have watched altars put up on a road, then seen elderly women burning herbs, saying prayers and moving about the altars, in a tradition long in place here before the Spaniards had their way. In traditional clothing, you see a reflection of the Spanish culture of the 1800’s, a combination of a baroque, almost Victorian tinge, mingled with indigenous designs and handiwork. The dances reflect the cultures as well, with European courtly styles of dance, woven into traditional dance and music. Layers and layers to unwrap.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Huatulco rain

They're back and hungry

We don’t get those wonderful White-fronted or Lilac-Crowned Parrots all year round, but June here is different. One day you hear them coming, as they are the loudest, most talkative birds out there. I just read an article about how only a couple of species have that talk gene down: humans and a few birds! The parrots are born in April, and the parents literally kick them out in June. They sweep into Conejos, and our trees, already a rich lush green, come alive with brilliant red wings, yellow or purple head tops, glistening green bodies. They are big! No doubt! We had a great show for about 2 weeks, although some are still lingering, the rest have moved on. I didn’t remember it being this intense in Conejos before, whereas we would see 30-50 together, we are talking hundreds these last two weeks, flying together. Friend Kathy was properly dazzled. You couldn’t have had a more spectacular bird watching time than this.

It is as if mother nature decided this is the year for profound fecundity, as we have been over run with baby iguanas (sparkling green and so cute), red and blue land crabs (all over the house, clicking and scooting sideways as fast as claws will allow, they are fast littler suckers), baby flickers trying to peck their way through a bit of cactus for that delicious something, flowers blooming we haven’t seen before, butterflies drawn by the lantana plants, and the hummingbird babies the lantana seem to also draw. I have a new respect for lantana.

We have been busy with guests, Adriana, Rene and their two little ones, Renecito, 6, and Diego, 2, just left. The pool was a hit with Diego and little Rene. Diego would go to it first thing in the morning, diapers and all, and Adriana would pick him up out of the pool with diapers that exploded to an unbelievable size (just goes to show how much water they can hold), and we watched as he tried to waddle around before we took mercy and relieved him of his burden. On the morning they left for the drive back to Oaxaca, there he was again, sitting in the pool, all dressed in his traveling outfit..... It was a lovely time, and we so enjoyed them, as well as Kathy, and even Scott and Marian (old Krazy Kraut friends), stayed by us for a week, while they settled in.

I have been keeping busy with Huatulco Eye (huatulcoeye.com) magazine, in between guests, but now have time to go back to blog for a few entries before we head up to Wisconsin and Canada, and the East Coast. We have made so many Canadian friends here (because that is all who seem to be able to afford to take a vacation these days), that we actually have places to visit, with friends to show us around. Of course, they will all be heading down here come November anyway, but I am looking forward to seeing them in their home turf.

Reading, a passion, has led me to two fab books, The Map of Time, Felix J Palma (translated from the Spanish), where the hero, H. G. Wells and his “time machine”, in this fantastical novel save the world so to speak, with mystery and fun. I had to follow it up with Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, and brief so it is (there’s a mercy), although in terms of understanding what you are reading is a different matter. I manage a chapter every few days, because after you read a chapter, it takes a few days to process... Thank God I’m retired. Even when I was trying to teach this stuff to Jr High kids, it was a tough sell, from a history teacher no less. But together, these books give one plenty of food for thought, and makes me wish I had paid more attention in my Physics and Astronomy classes from 40 years ago... of course that was the dark ages in science anyway, so it goes.

The rain is what has kept me at the reading. Tropical rain is different from Northern California rain. The thunder and lightening alone differentiate the experience.... but it is the 5 inches in two hours that does one in. We have had drenching rains since last week, and today is the first day of sun. It gets down right cold, like 70 degrees, we are putting bedspreads back on the bed, to keep warm. I had to dig out long sleeve shirts and long pants. I know you in California laugh, but when you are used to 85-87, almost all the time, this is cold. Centa, as you notice is no slouch in the rain, this is power nap time. Larry has been running around clearing gutters seemingly hourly, as the water can back up, then flood, in minutes. The potholes are astounding, and the workers cannot keep up. La Crucecita has streets where they are just dumping in stones in the holes until they can get to it. Ah, nothing like the rainy season in tropical Mexico.

The morning glories are starting to climb the trees though, and we expect an explosion of blue flowers, like Christmas ornaments, any day now. The ocean has been very rough, and fishing has slowed considerably, oh how we suffer.... But it is back to being lush, green, and colorful, once again. Oaxaca is truly lovely in the rainy season.