Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Prospero Año Nuevo

HAPPY NEW YEAR! This photo actually wasn't from New Years Eve, but was taken at one of the dozens of fireworks shows we've seen over the illuminated cathedral in Morelia. Amazing to us, but the folks who have lived in the city all their lives don't even bother to look up, fireworks are so common. I think this (and the stiltwalkers below) was for Morelia's birthday celebration-- which is in May. Now, that's a street party. But every Saturday night they close Avenida Madero, the main street that fronts the cathedral, and put on an
lumination ceremony with fireworks.
A must-see, which I still love to do every time I am in town. I went during Semana Santa this past year, surrounded by the throngs of Mexican tourists who flock to Morelia during vacation weeks. It was amazing. I commented to my friend Ramses, who has lived in Morelia his whole life, except when he is traveling to Europe, how incredible it is to be at a free public event at night where people politely maneuver through such a huge crowd. No one shoves, no one gets out of a line, and there's not a cop in sight.

As we prepare to say good-bye to 2008, an incredible year, I recall my New Years five years ago, when the family and I left Morelia for a road trip all the way to Guatemala. We spent Jan. 1st, 2004 visiting some small Mayan villages near San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas. We also visited the ruins of Palenque that trip, and swam in the gorgeous waters of Agua Azul and the waterfalls at Misol-Ha which are nearby. Highly recommended.

So as I reminisce about adventures of past years, I look forward with great anticipation to future travels and discoveries. What will 2009 bring? Best wishes and happy trails.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Yes, it's a Menorah, made by a Purepecha artist in San Jose de Gracia-- the same village where they make the clay pineapples.
I had looked for years before I found this one with the correct number of candle holders. And I easily found candles here to use with it to celebrate Chanukah this year.
Several people have coveted this piece, and everyone has the same question: was the artist intentionally making a menorah? Though there are Mexican Jews, I have yet to find any in Michoacán. I will work on finding the answer to this question.

Should I order more from this artisan?
Happy Hanukah!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

New Beginnings

As the year winds down and we look forward to a brighter 2009, I am full of hope for the future. I am excited for the inauguration of the new U.S. president, and for the Mexico By Hand Art and Culture Tour in the summer of '09. And so I begin this blog with "New beginnings"...my desire to share my love of Mexico: the art, culture and the people. I hope to share information, provide encouragement, and maybe offer a bit of inspiration to those who are curious about getting to know what I call "real Mexico". Perhaps the election of President Obama will not only bring hope to those immigrants struggling in the U.S. but move us towards improved relations with Mexico. Perhaps this multicultural man who is now our leader will be a role model for many Americans to visit the Third World, or maybe even learn another language. How is it that so many in this country-- even those just a few hours drive away-- never consider visiting our neighbor to the south? Or if they do, it's only to the gringo-filled resorts where everyone they see, including those who serve them, speak English so that they are spared the discomfort of having to negotiate a different culture and language. Why is it that so many of my fellow travelers will spend thousands of dollars to travel half-way around the world to "exotic" destinations, where they are one of a zillion tourists to visit that country that year, when they have never even considered venturing beyond the usual packaged tour locations in Mexico. You want exotic? Check out Michoacán, baby. It's got it all: natural beauty (mountains, beaches, lakes, volcanoes) indigenous people who still speak their native language, the most beautiful traditional crafts in all of Mexico, the amazing colonial architecture, nightlife, restaurants, and culture of Morelia its capital city, plus the warm and generous people who live there.
It starts with the people, and especially those who make the art. After living in Michoacán for a year, I became hooked. I go back twice a year-- to buy crafts and folk art and to lead small tours in the summer. I know the best places to eat, the nicest hotels, and the must-see historical sites. But I REALLY know a lot about the amazing art in Michoacán...so I'll be talking a lot about that here. I've worked as a journalist, love photography, and because I am a teacher by profession, I am compelled to share my knowledge with those who are curious.
I hope that's you.