January 31, 2014

The Town of Patzcuaro is so enchanting we have decided to come back in March, from the street artist and teacher Arturo who sits at the Iturbe Hotel square at his table, commenting on the theory of sketching and painting and teaching (for a price) and somewhat like a water sprite and something like porkpie hat to the retired teacher reading Bankei and the chess player (from British columbia and who notes the cartel war in Michoacan is less about drugs than economic justice …) who has given me two very good games to the retired professor who taught Spanish literature, to the traveling dutchman who plays American blues and folk, take a load off Fanny, etc all in an afternoon and evening under the portals with the local childrens band and drum core competing in the Vasco de Quiroga square. Quiroga was a contemporary of Bankei in a different world and continent. then the traveling Indian lawyer who succeeded in representing the tribes and legalizing Peyote for them in US by 1994 legislation (interestingly suppoted by DEA) overturning Scalia Supreme Court decision that said it was a luxury we could not afford met today at breakfast at Adelbert Eduardo Luis … call me Pietr who runs the soulful Mexcaleria and has become fast friends. Americans seem to be buying property down here. Wonderful pizza tonight Mexican style with thin bread covred with cheese, black olives, tomatoes and a sauce of garlic, peppers, and oil. A Spanish Breakfast I cannot desribe at Eduardos but very good. And of course we have suffered the flu for the past ten days not sleeping much. Tomorrow we leave to travel South not sure where.

Mariachis

Wonderful music from Mariachi to Mexican Ballet and group guitar performances with incredible signing by one traditional performer in Morellia. Songs of love and oppression and liberty all in the traditiona of Mexico.. Probably out of respect for my white hair, they came out and gave us two tickets.in Morellia. Then in the Plazas always some spirited rock group amidst the chaos of traffic sound. Many artists or local painters and finally also chess players. Fresh bread and vegetables at local market. Friendly conversations and almost everyone I see is smiling or responds with a smile. The paper is full of the occupation of some of the towns by the military in response to self defense groups who have organized to fight the Knights Templar cartel which controls the Tierra Caliente region mountains around Lazaro Cardinez, Mexicos gateway to the Pacific per the paper and where the local priest Lopez wears a bullet proof vest and iron ore is traded to China for chemicals used in producing methamphetamines. The News writes about Self Defense Groups and the Rule of Law and Restoring the Peace,

Mihcoacan

Here’s for Morelia in Michoacan! the Knights Templar Cartel under seige in Apatzingan has not as far as we can figure had much effect on life at large in Morelia, capital of Morelia, which seems akin to a small Paris of Mexico so far to us. The State Department is warning us not to be here where we already are. We are not looking for trouble but we have also seen none as of this time, anything but.

Christmas 2014

San Antonio.  2000 miles.  Big job to learn to use laptop, cell phone,  I phone, too many codes.   four days on road.  easy going.  People dont drive anymore.  We are.  Maine to Mexico. Big lube job on car. 120,000 miles on ole cherokee.  Like 72 year old body needs some care. Everybody has beards these days so I cut mine off and sport a  handlebar. Narcissistic enough.  Highways, motels, stores all same across US, not different as in 60s.  Owner of motel in Hattiesburg Miss noted Duck Family controversy where old guy put off air for antigay comments.  He and I much less had been in South 50s and 60s. People got along better then he reminisced.  His grandfather was a sharecropper.  He was on the Constitution in Boston Harbor 1976, sailor first time out of south.  African guy at New Orleans bazaar extolling how if you work at whatever small thing you like in US you can make it, best place in world.  And Indian owner of motel here going back to India, new highways, modern not like it used to be, even when I visited in 70s, elephants and cows in road, people sleeping outside in Delhi at night where beds put outside too. French Quarter off season OK, iron grilled porches, tourists, small houses.  But just outside Melbas has great shrimp po boy long sandwiches, 30 shrimp in one of them.  Tomorrow off to ‘Arizona on way to go down west coast of Mexico.  Have met quite a few people who travel, make that their life . . .

Morelia

It is not inexpensive to keep an old car on the road but if one does the Jeep Cherokee 2002 is a good one it seems to keep. Also travelling six or seven thousand miles does not seem too bad if one does not put too many miles on in a day.

Still in Morelia province, it is endlessly interesting. Psychologically sometimes being in a foreign country and not speaking the language well feels a bit like being a prisoner in a different class from the others around one, not a particularly respectable one, and dependent for advice and help. Sometimes one gets shortchanged where change is given on the five hundred peso note as if it was a fifteen peso charge and amid all the translation and talk one misses it. Best to write out the figure like 15 or 500 in the currency given then the cost in numbers. Mostly everyone is honest we have dealt with and indeed on dropping something on the street, including money, they have rushed to return it. On the other hand there are quite a few begging. At times, the subtle but temporary sense of alienation as traveler comes on but it is pretty hard to hold onto (if one wanted to) because people surrounding one by and large act so happy. There is more laughing and smiles here in an hour than in a week most anywhere I can remember. Many young lovers in the streets, plazas… Many attractive young men and women with a distinctive carriage in general. Many grandmothers wrapped with blankets or serapes and their grand daughters, dressed straight out of Hollywood, walking together, and many elder men respectable in Sombreros, jean jackets, sometimes boots, darkened faces, faces of harbiten character. The large Cathedral Square in Centro historical, Morellia, two towers glowing orange at night with light, is lined by old hotels with cafes under their portals that would match any in Paris, where one can have dinner and second beer free. A three person rock band at one belting out 1960s songs, a wandering guitar player quick to play you romantic songs at another, against the chorus of traffic, cabs, police occasionally with their trucks and stand up guys with it looks like AK47s, ambulances alarms at full blast, cars dodging buses, and always sounds of song, be it radio or live, and conversation. There are so many plazas or squares each with a large church in close proximity it is hard to keep them straight. Nearby a square lined by a upscale restaurant with some of the very many impressive bronze statues, here of the novelist Cervantes and at the other end Quiroga, the famous Spanish priest who unsuccessfully attempted to persuade Charles V, Emporer of the neither Holy, Roman nor Empire, during the Council of Trent (about 1520s plus) (where he also had to deal with Martin Luther) that treating the noble Perhepeche natives as slaves and animals which Charles justified because Spain’s invasion of Mexico by Cortes was “a just war”. What seem like the higher educated class the same the world over are lunching here and students seem to hang out. The site of pyramids near the village of Ixhuatia (if I can remember nameor pronunciation) near also to the town of Quiroga where further round pyramids are to be found, all a short drive from Pazcuara, are remarkable and one can see why they were a ceremonial site. In addition to café sitting and people watching, eating tortillas, Quesiladas, tacos of various blends, molles (sauces with everything in them including hot chile peppers and garlic and …) and other Mexican meals I am just catching onto, all flavored with hot pepper sauces, for us seems a very full meal may cost around five dollars. Mezcal at the local Mezcaleria (?) has led to interesting conversations with adventurers of the world recently. The proprietor displays a copy of a famous self portrait by Freda Kaylo if I remember her name right, the famous Mexican painter, with two monkeys in it and says he is the third monkey.

Patzquaro

This may have been posted twice or thrice.  Getting used to computer, to posting, to blogs, to the internet itself as a septuagenarian is more difficult than one might imagine in ones forties. The whole digital world makes one identify with the savage in I guess it was 1984 or the heroes or antiheroes in Brave New World.  Nevertheless … It must have been quite a shock for the P’uetpecha to have to face the Amazons and then the Spaniards.  We were in Ihuitza today where in a broad ie acre field nestled in and looking down from the mountains the ceremonials were conducted on two great pyramids by which even the jaded eye cannot easily be unimpressed for this second largest empire in Mexico.  Although they had the nasty habit of human sacrifice,of their enemies and an occasional virgin, these brave people fought off even the Aztecs and ruled from the modern State of Sonora down to Guadalahara and below. Known as Tarascans, literally I read Son in Laws, because Spaniards married so many, the  P’uer pecha are the indiginous peoples of this area today.

At night the Mexican dogs, who as wandering burros, horses, steers pass by, sleep on the side of the road, raise their howls to the chorus of church bells that toll for almost anything it seems,  of car horns occasionally and the local band I think playing down the way not infrequently during the earlier evening.  We sleep well during these cold nights having eaten at the Tacquerias (often tents with a plastic table and chairs, a cooler, and a big oven of some sort, perhaps half a metal barrel split with a grill over it, that line the highways and cook up great tortillas, tacos or rond pieces of recently made bread, with Mola, a sauce of chocolate, almonds, peanut butter, fresh cropped onions and chile pepper and corn, all with variations depending where you are.  Enough to fill a person with all needed nutrients for a long time.

All this gives one thought, as does the commitment to travel for any extended period of time and doing it to some deeper questions and the literary works of Durrell- bitter lemons and Alexandria Quarter and also of just deceased Colin Wilson, author of the Outsider.  One’s place in the larger picture … the city, the slow land, of which all more later.

 

Pyramids

Inhuitza two pyramids of the P’uepecha representing sun and moon on a large walled level field of some five acres or so, The P’uerpecha ruled an empire stretching from the present day State of Sonora through Michoacan to Jalasco, the second biggest empire in Mexico and could not be defeated even by the Aztec. I read are related to Peruvian indigenous people and the Zuni of SW US. They shared the nasty habit of human sacrifice in ritual ceremonies reportedly but were brave and fierce warriors of whom little is reported as there is no written record. Known as Tarascons or sons in law literally because so many Spaniards married or coupled with these indigenous people. Also well known in these parts, Jose Maria Morellos who lived fifty years to 1803 mixed blood led major battles for Independence against the Spanish and freed the slaves, both a religiously and militarily educated man, much revered hero. The bug of history and the cultural patrimony is hard not to be bitten by amid these old towns and names, streets, people … I think of the writing of Lawrence Durrell in the Alexandria Quartet and how the city in his descriptions has a life of its own. .. During the cold evenings there is a chorus of dogs making themselves known. They wander the roads freely and as far as I can see masters of their own streets, oblivious of the pinball machine speeding traffic, sunning themselves in a self contented manner. In the fields nearby burros, untethered horses, steers and cows wander about. The dogs of Mexico however most seem to constituted a society of their own.
The shock absorber industry must thrive here because topos or big bumps are very frequent in the nontoll roads, big bumps of which warning is only sometimes given ahead. By many topos and by the tolls on toll roads and at any place anyone might stop vendors in the middle of the street selling anything one could possibly use, like oranges, water, shrimp, religious curiosities, and by the road Tacqaueritas where Tacos and Quesilladas and other eats are sold. I am informed where you seem them cooking them by the side of the road (which is often) they are the best. If one stops, many tacos fried with corn and Salsa and with hot sauces, all forms of meat, and vegetable are for sale. When seated, they bring you the hot sauces and tacos, flat just made often round pieces of bread, which are really good. Mole a kind of sauce made depending on where you are of chocolat almonds peanut butter, tomatoes and Garlic, fresh chopped onions, and chile pepper. (OK Bourdain you are way ahead of me in this game but remember the story of the tortoise and the hare!)
Amid this also in Patzcuaro a large Shambala (Tibetan Buddhist) retreat, perhaps not as well received in a City predominantly Roman Catholic as could be, of which more later. So just the commitment to travel for any extended period of time in a foreign land in addition to planning requires some dealing with fundamental questions about life and self in the larger picture. Maybe, maybe too seeing in the slower lanes what is not so visible in the fast lane of which Colin Wilson recently deceased British writer of “The Outsider” referred to as “the St. Neot Margin.”