Friday, December 31, 2010

Virgin of Guadalupe Day

Calle Rosal (Rosal Street)

Another story. Before the Christmas season began, Mexicans join together for the festivities of the Virgin of the Guadalupe, the most venerated and important day of the year. Celebrations abound all over the country, beginning In the early morning hours (starting at about 4am) with fireworks, which is something we never quite understand. They can’t wait until let’s say 8:00 am? Over the years we have learned that the Mexicans do love their fireworks no matter what time of day.

Lunch tables
Like the rest of Mexico, the people of San Miguel celebrate this day with local neighborhood posadas (celebrations), religious masses, building altars, and gathering with friends and family to share comida. (lunch).

We were home that particular Sunday morning, watching CBS Sunday morning news, having a nice breakfast, and just enjoying the quiet when we heard what sounded like a marching band coming down our street. Grabbing the camera and our curiosity, we followed the 15 or so young people who were in full dress marching band costumes. Quite a crowd of people followed the procession, many of whom were older women carrying individual statues of Guadalupe. At the top of the hill, all stopped before an enormous altar with a very large portrait of the Virgin, decorated with large paper flowers in glorious colors, candles, additional flowers and plants, small statues, oranges, and greens. 

It was spectacular to see it on the street. As we were the only gringos, I asked permission (a courtesy) to take a few pictures. The people were both pleased and eager to have their photos taken.

Aurora (to right)
As I was stumbling through my conversations with “my better than what it used to be but still not so great” Spanish, an older Mexican woman came over and introduced herself to me as Aurora Gutierriez in English. 

She told me the story of this particular posada, that it had been a tradition for 15 years between a group of friends, expanding each year with more extended families and friends. Each of the small group of women who were the organizers had their roles: one ran services, one created the altar, others cooked for the comida (lunch), etc. Aurora asked me to take a photograph of the group of women who were the organizers, and after a few minutes, insisted that we be part of the photograph too (including Bella!). Other families asked me in turn to take their photographs. As an added bonus, we were invited as special guests to their comida, which was a great honor.

While they were conducting the service, we went back to our casa and made about 30 prints, and returned to the celebration with photos in hand. 

By this time, prayers were almost over, so I presented the envelope with the photos to Aurora. As everyone gathered about to see the pictures, I realized another reason why we are here in Mexico. It is opportunities like this that remind us of our own humanity, that giving something back to the community with a simple thing as taking a photograph can give us the greatest sense of joy. We were included as part of this group, no matter who we were, what religion we were, what was the color of our skin. As we were welcomed into our neighborhood posada, this was indeed “un regalo”, a gift for all of us.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Back to San Miguel!

Dear Friends, Family and Blog Readers,
Our drive to San Miguel was long but uneventful. We listened to books on tape and lots of podcasts so the long day's driving weren't difficult or boring. We ate at interesting and/or unusual restaurants, some found at Gus's Fried Chicken in Memphis. Yummy! The best fried green tomatoes I've ever had!

...and some found when we were just plain hungry, like the Catfish King, where a table of policemen were also lunching.

Our friends, Hope and Dirk, caravanned with us - waving to one another as we passed on the highways and meeting up at night for dinner and hotel. Of course Bella was the usual terrific traveler, and happy to be with us.

We stopped in Houston 

to visit our friend Wendy from San Miguel, who is undergoing special treatment at MD Anderson. It was wonderful to be able to spend special time with her and Tashi, her dog. Bella agrees!


We also took advantage of our time there to visit a few of Houston's museums, such as the the Menil Collection, below....

But mostly it was good to spend time with Wendy.

Our crossing over to Mexico was a cinch! No problems at all! 

About four hours across the border, we stopped overnight in an old mining town called Real de Catorce. Situated about 8000 feet above sea level, the only main access is to wind up the mountain and then go through a tunnel of 2300 meters (over a mile)!

Inside the mile and a half long tunnel!

Tunnel entrance - one lane only!
 You can just imagine the thoughts going through our heads (ok, mine) (most notably, are we crazy?). We stayed at a bed and breakfast, Refugio Romano, which was perched on the top of the town, another harrowing drive up narrow cobblestone streets. (Another "woe is me" sigh)

View of mountains from Refugion Romano

Our hosts Mayra and Lucio (he's Italian) greeted us warmly with a home cooked dinner at their bed & breakfast, Refugio Romano.

Mayra, our host

Our welcome dinner with friends Dirk Bakker and Hope Palmer

The kitchen at Refugio Romano

Other images from Real de Catorce....

18th Century Church interior

Robe with metal "milagros" (miracles) inside church

Closeup of milagros

A vendors sourvenirs

Dirk, Carlos & a vendor watch Linda and Hope shopping

We left the next morning after exploring the town and arrived in San Miguel late Monday afternoon. Mari, our housekeeper, was waiting for us with open arms to help us unpack.  We were so happy to finally be out of the car, and sleep in our own bed.

The weather here is beautiful, warm and sunny. I know some of you are not having the best of weather up north (sorry!).
We are spending Thanksgiving with friends and are having a typical American dinner of turkey and all the fixings.

Wishing you health, happiness, and good food on this day of thanks (Dia de Gracias).

Write soon, or call us! 
We miss you all and send our love.
Linda y Carlos

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Detroit at a Crossroads

We live in suburban Detroit, but were raised in the city proper. It was a great place to grow up.

Frequently, I go to into the city because I own some property, or for meetings.

It's more than scary. It's more than frightening. It's just plain sad.

For people my age (61), it's difficult to imagine a renaissance of Detroit. They tell me that young people are moving here for the cheap housing, artists' studios, etc. I just don't see it. Maybe it's me.

Two out of three of my kids have left town. I don't see them returning...ever. Most of my friends are in the same situation with their children.

Is Detroit at a crossroads? Can it be the model of an urban revival? Or is it simply a dead end place, destined to die a slow, painful death?

We are likely not going to find out for a long time;  in the meantime watch this trailer for a film being produced about firefighting in Detroit.

BURN Trailer from Tremolo Productions on Vimeo.

and here's another video done by the BBC...."Requiem for Detroit?"

Not very encouraging, are they?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Montevideo, Uruguay or, well, at least we visited another country

I looked forward to a trip to Uruguay. It sounded interesting and even perhaps a bit exotic. A welcome change of pace from the hustle and bustle of Buenos Aires.
 The huge Buquebus boat station...with Linda waiting for me. If she looks annoyed, remember that it's about 6:30 am!

It was all of those things...and less. But it did start with a three hour boat ride on a huge hovercraft. It was so smooth it felt like we weren't moving at all. The River Plata was a huge lake or ocean.

 Upon arrival, we taxied to the Hotel Ibis and checked our bags. It was a typical business hotel, slightly off the tourist track. However, it had been difficult to find any hotel, due to the presidential inauguration on Monday. Note the price - $65 US (breakfast not included).

Then back to the big market, which sounded more interesting than it was. There was a big warehouse full of small roasted meat dishes (not that appealing to Linda), and most of the restaurants were packed.

We wandered around for a while, taking in the sites. Also turned out that Montevideo was a big cruise ship destination, so the streets were full of tacky souvenir shops. Oh boy!
 We did like the well organized fruit stores with carefully stacked fruit.

Then we happened upon this guy with a steering wheel. Took us a minute to figure out that it was attached to a video camera, and was some kind of stabilizing device.
 The streets were lined with old buildings in disrepair. Reminded us of photos of Havana. Also lots of graffiti.

As in Buenos Aires, there was tango dancing in the street.

and stores with funny names (Carlos' gifts)

and funny pants...more about these later.

See the tacky souvenirs. Who buys this s..t?

So instead we ate at a fancier (i.e., white tablecloths and expensive) outdoor restaurant. Turned out to be pretty good. I had steak and Linda had a salad. We relaxed and watched the world go by. And actually, it was quite pleasant.

After lunch we set out to explore Montevideo. There were supposed to be a few interesting museums. Not true.

There were some lovely buildings...

such as the Teatro Solis...

but basically everything was closed in anticipation of the inauguration...

In desperation, we found our favorite ice cream store from Buenos Aires, Freddo, had branches in Montevideo.
and even more interesting, the ice cream was Kosher (how appropriate, since it was the Sabbath). But it was just as delicious as in BA.
Note the first photo of strolling mate drinkers...more to follow
Tattoos and piercings are ubiquitous
and I loved the name of this store - tiempofunky
But, as you can see, virtually everything was closed.

By the way, although we did not do much investigation, we did find out that the newly elected president, Jose Mujica, was the first "man of the people" ever elected. He is also called the flower president and a former guerrilla fighter. We saw Mujica books and posters everywhere.

Back to the hotel for a siesta. I went out for a walk along the boardwalk. Montevideo is surrounded by water and lovely beaches, such as this one.

 Some bathers were out, but I saw no one I would describe as a beach bunny.

What I did see was the ubiquitous mate drinker!
Honestly, these people need three hands - one for the thermos, one for the cup, and a third for ?

Then back to the hotel to pick up Linda for dinner. We had heard about good food and good shopping in Montevideo, and asked the clerk where to go. He sent us to a mall, which he said was full of shops and restaurants. NOT! We were the oldest people there, and there was nothing to buy and no food, except for fast food. In desperation we went outside the mall and finally found a restaurant called Don Pepperoni, serving, you guessed it, pizza. But not just any pizza. The worst pizza in the western world.

Somehow we ended up with pizza without tomato sauce. 
and we asked them to bring some sauce, which made the pizza (barely) palatable.
All in all, a miserable evening. We taxied back to the hotel in silence, having decided to go to the (supposedly) wonderful street market in the morning, and then to go to our next stop a day early.