Tuesday, September 7, 2010

September 7

It feels so good to feel good again!  I don't have all my energy back yet -- long walks in town are still a problem -- but I feel like myself again, finally, and am once again living the wonderful life here.  How terrific it is to be healthy!  And I have had some superb days since I last wrote to you.

By the way, the technology gods are smiling upon me today.  Here's the picture Rick took of me getting the IV fluids at La Clinica on Friday.

On Saturday Rick and I had breakfast with our friend Natalie at Café Monet, our favorite local restaurant, and then he and I took a long drive, a way to get out in the world without much exertion given my low energy level.  We went to Atotonilco, a nearby historic town, and found it preparing for a religious festival later that day.  There were stalls upon stalls upon stalls selling religious items -- rosaries, crucifixes, crosses, holy statues and bric-a-brac, and all manner of stuff I didn't recognize.  Most of it was cheap plastic and plaster.

The church itself dates from the mid 1700s and from the outside is beautiful and huge.  I loved the windows in the shape of crosses.

Much of the inside, however, is off limits, so the church and its side chapels were rather small.

As you can see, every possible surface is either painted or gilded.  In a side chapel there were many paintings of various religious subjects, and every one had an enormous gilded frame.  Rick and I debated whether that could possibly be real gold, and decided that it really could be.  Folks here take their religion mighty seriously and money is definitely a religious currency.

What is odder, to me, is that blood is too.  There was a statue of Jesus that is the bloodiest one I have ever seen anywhere.

Blood dripping on his forehead from the crown of thorns.  Blood covering his back from whipping.  Blood sliding down his legs.  Blood soaking his hands as well as his feet.  Can any of you explain this bloody predilection to me?  I just don't understand it.

(By the way, I recently finished a fascinating book about the cultural collision between colonizing and missionarizing whites and tribal Africans, The Lonely African by Colin Turnbull.  One African was quoted as being puzzled by the missionaries' horror at cannibalism:  how can that be when they themselves drink the blood and eat the body of their god?)

After stopping for dinner at a superb hamburger restaurant 7 km. out of town, one that I'd heard about on the San Miguel listserv -- when you visit we must take you there -- we went to the Jardin for the evening's festivities.  Remember, we're in full Bicentennial hoopla now.  The main event was the crowning of the Bicentennial Queen from contestants representing nearby towns.  The gowns were gorgeous!  They walked up on the stage with all the ceremony of a Miss America pageant, and the stage was something to behold.  Tall white columns topped with big bouquets of white Diego Rivera calla lilies, and backdrops of flowing gauzy white fabric.  Each contestant sat demurely in an upholstered armchair while the ceremony droned on endlessly.   I am sorry that I couldn't take a picture for you, but there were about a hundred million people there and damned if I was going to jeopardize my bench seat.  At the conclusion there were fireworks right smack overhead.  Natalie and her friend Carl, with whom we spent the evening, said fireworks like that are a mixed blessing:  gorgeous but there's a risk of burning cinders settling in your hair.

Then there was a fire dance performance by several young men with flaming bars, not flaming torches.  And finally there was the sound and light show on the Parroquia, a Bicentennial event being shown every weekend for the next couple of years.  It's been going on most of the time we've been here but this is the first time we've been able to see it.  Designed by a French designer of sound and light shows on historic buildings ("Mommy, when I grow up I want to be a sound and light show designer!") it was something to stir the national pride of every Mexican there.  And I'm not being snooty, either:  I loved it too.  We left when the next act of the evening was a band of Mexican rock music with speakers that projected sound, especially bass, to be heard 200 miles away.  That plus the rain cleared out the plaza in a hurry.

It did make me wonder, though, what proportion of the municipal budget is allocated to fiestas.

Yesterday we met Megan and Harry, a couple who were here for dinner a few weeks ago, for breakfast at 9:30 at Café Monet.  After talking there for a couple of hours they invited us to walk to their house and continue our visit there.  A beautiful house, small but perfect, with art that's been collected for years.  We sat on the roof terrace under a palapa (a small roof on a terrace for shade, either of palm fronds or something more durable, pronounced paLApa) and talked some more.  We only left because I was feeling pretty tired sitting up all this time, and were astonished to realize that the conversation had flowed effortlessly for over six hours.  Now, how special is that???

In the early evening I had my chorus rehearsal at the Biblioteca and noticed, towards the end of it, Rick in the café outside the rehearsal room (the Sala Quetzal, with the astonishing murals I posted pictures of on August 5) with a woman I didn't recognize.  Theresa is a gynecologist visiting from Vera Cruz, frankly the first educated Mexican with dark skin I've spoken with, visiting in San Miguel and determined to learn English.  Rick told me he was reading and she approached him:  "I talk with you?"  I joined them after rehearsal.  Her English is a little worse than our Spanish, and it was dueling languages as each of us tried to practice the other's language.  Lovely woman, bubbling away like an uncorked bottle of champagne.  We'll see her again later this week.

And tonight Natalie invited us to her house for dinner, along with Carl and another friend, Richard.  She is a gourmet cook and dinner was an utter delight, for the food, the company, and the beautiful house.  She will give me her recipe for carrots (yes, carrots!) soon, and if you like I'll pass it along to you -- you wouldn't believe carrots could be so spectacular.  She also made risotto, a treat for me and for Rick since that is something I will not make married to a diabetic.  Naturally I brought a cobbler for dessert, but since mango season has pretty much drawn to a close I put other fruit in it this time.  I keep making cobblers because they're easy and I don't trust this oven, with good reason, but soon I must start making other things to take to dinner.

How lucky we are to be here, with such wonderful people, in such beautiful surroundings, and in such good health!


  1. Spanish and the colonized locals both had serious bloody traditions. I don't know why some cultures are so kind and gentle and some so bloody. One of the things I don't care for in Mexican culture, actually.

    Church is gorgeous. Definitely real gold.

  2. And I still think it's wacky you'll make desserts and not rice dishes. But whatever works for you two.

  3. Good segue from the bloody Christ to the hamburger restaurant! LOL