Monday, December 31, 2012

Xmas 2012


 Puerto Vallarta

Artesania Vendor Full Of Color 
Our Xmas present this year was to visit with our dear, dear friends from Los Angeles, CA....Nichole and Thiago.  As fate would have it, Thiago y Nichole were visiting Puerto Vallarta for a destination wedding, and we being a short van drive away jumped at the opportunity. 
Thiago y Fco. Happy As Clams 
Although we were housed across town from each other (Thiago y Nichole in Nuevo Vallarta & Brad and I in Viejo Vallarta) we were able to see and visit as often as our time allowed.  Our initial visit brought gifts galore!  And so after a sumptous breakfast we were off to explore Viejo Vallarta.
 Brad y Nichole at Blue Shrimp Restaurant 
At the same time modern Vallarta seeps seen by this sculptural structure.  To this day I still don't know what its purpose is...but it loomed large on the Malecon.

 Brad y Nichole Shopping
Brad had noted a Tianguis, or makeshift market on the way into town, so we headed towards the artesania center of town.  A wide array of folkart was shown and available for our pleasure...and of course, we needed to appreciate the work and find some lovely souvenirs for our collections.
 Huichol Artesanias
We spent quite a bit of time at the Tianguis...and then realized we were hungry...again!  So off toward the Malecon we headed to stroll, engulfed by ocean winds, sparkling sunshine and surrounded by amazing public art.
"Sutil Comepiedras"
This sculpture is entitled "Sutil Comepiedras" or The Subtle Rock Eater in English. It is by Jonas Gutierrez and was placed on the Malecon October 14, 2006. It is constructed of bronze and obsidian and depicts a rather rag-tag hobo-type character with an enlarged belly swallowing a rock.
“The Millenium”
“The Millenium” was created by sculptor Mathis Lídice. It was dedicated November 2001 and symbolizes the passage of time through the millenniums. The lower portion suggests the millennium before Christ, linked by life that evolved from the sea with different symbols of Christ appearing farther up. The first millennium is represented by Charlemagne, the Aztec king Nezahualcoyoti evokes the second millennium and finally the third millennium is symbolized by a woman holding a dove.
At Gran Velas in Nuevo Vallarta
We actually did contemplate a siesta, but just for a moment.  We realized there was much to do and see and so little time.  Before we knew it we were in "post siesta" mode, headed to Nichole's and Thiago's crib for a spot of dinner.  We dined in grand style and took in our beautiful surroundings.
 Nichole on Alejandro Colunga's bronze sculptural chair
The moon was almost full and illuminated the grounds and ocean perfectly.  We headed for the ocean adjacent/pool cabanas, guitar in hand.  A lovely staff member brought us sheet sized towels, water and juice boxes for our concert, then discreetly disappeared.
 Cabana Singing
Could life get any better than this?

 What A Little Moonlight Can Do...
We broke out the "Rise Up Singing" books and got to it.  We channeled our Music Group a bit, altered from our regular song path and tried a few new tunes...always returning to our heartfelt standards.
As the ground and pool lights were being turned off, we decided to call it a night and bid our lovely friends a pleasant slumber.

Our next day brought us a lag in our touring schedule.  We were all recuperating from the annual cold to some extent, and Nichole and Thiago decided to stay in to rest.  Brad and I had read about the P.V. Botanical Gardens and decide to make the trek.  We were both very glad we did.
The creation of Vallarta Botanical Gardens has provided an unprecedented opportunity for our community to share the wonder of the vast diversity of Mexico’s plant species with the world. We have assembled botanical collections in a safe environment with viewing trails and have already built the most-visited public collection of orchids in the country of Mexico.

And the trails were stunning.  We started off by heading down to the rio, which ran at the base of the mountain upon which the Botanical Gardens' Hacienda de Oro building was perched.  The trails have been lovingly maintained, yet left somewhat raw, enough to allow them to embrace their beautiful natural surroundings.

Fco. Coolin' The Ole' Tootsies

 Local Aves
 River Brad
Our trek back out of the jungle, emerging from the rio was nothing less than Indiana Jones-ish.  Now we were ready for some lunch and the Hacienda de Oro promised local, delicious fare.  Set on a mountaintop, surrounded by lush jungle, our table and view were breathtaking.
Botanical Garden Entrance
Jungle View
We dined on Seafood Stuffed Avocados and Blue Corn Fish Tacos.  All the food was fresh and tasty.  We couldn't imagine what efforts it took to cart the staff and numerous items to this jungle top Xanadu to create such a delicious experience.
One of the culinary quirks we experienced was the ceramic, hand crafted taco warmer presented to us for our lunch.  The jungle has a tendency toward cooling winds and the restaurant has fashioned these taco cozies to keep the food warm...ingenious and beautiful.
 Blue Corn Fish Tacos
 Mary y Rodney Commemorative Plaques
The Puerto Vallarta Botanical Gardens are a (501) c3 organization, reliant on donations.  They have a main staircase covered in commemorative tiles, honoring the donors.  Mary and Rodney apparently supported the gardens, and their Dos Amigos Side By Side plaques caught my heart and eye.
 For One Minute
So did this One Minute graffitti on one of the side streets of Puerto Vallarta.
 Para sailing Spidey 
And this para sailing Spidey seemed to echo childhood laughter, still resonating in my soul.

Los Amigos
So from our home to yours we wish you the happiest of seasons and new year.

Thursday, December 20, 2012


Antonio's Pastorela
Part of our extended familia lives right up the street at the corner, and the youngest member of the family is Anotnio, all of 5 years of age.  I usually greet Antonio in the mornings as he is rushing out the door to attend kindergarten.  He is a beautifully polite and sensitive child.  His parents Ana Maria y Luis are very proud of their youngest.  The entire family is a shining example of how a caring, functional familia can live happily in Mexico.
So when I was told that Antonio was to perform in his school Pastorela, I immediately jumped at the chance to attend.  I had been to a few Xmas plays and pageants in my day, but was looking forward to seeing a Mexican version...the Pastorela.
In Mexico Pastorelas are plays that evolved to recreate the biblical passage where the shepherds follow the Star of Bethlehem to find the Christ Child. In order to reach the birth place of the Redeemer, they have to experience a series of changes in fortune and confront the Devil, who will do everything possible to prevent them from completing their mission. It is at that moment that the Archangel Michael intervenes to defend the shepherds on their journey.

Pastorela Prep 
The pastorela (Occitan: [pastuˈɾɛlɔ], Catalan: [pəstuˈɾɛɫə, pastoˈɾɛla]; "little/young shepherdess", diminutive of pastora, feminine of pastor, meaning "shepherd") was an Occitan lyric genre used by the troubadours. It gave rise to the Old French pastourelle. The central topic was always meeting of a knight with a shepherdess, which may lead to any of a number of possible conclusions. They are usually humorous pieces. The genre was invented by Marcabru, a chronic moraliser, who portrayed the "courtly" knight as a bumbling fool and the witty shepherdess as successfully blocking his advances.  - Wikipedia.

 Waiting To Perform
 Pastorela Panorama
 In The Wings
The indigenous people were much taken by the story of the shepherds who followed a shining star, perhaps because they identified it with their own legend in which a great comet announced the end of one empire and the birth of a new one, but above all, because when they rendered “adoration” to the Christ Child, the actors playing the shepherds introduced their own prehispanic dances that concluded in a mitote with leaps of joy.
The first formal record of the pastorela we know of dates from 1536. It is called “El Auto de Adoración de los Reyes Magos’ (The Adoration of the Three Kings). Written in Nahuatl, dancing and music were added to it. It had thirteen actors: the Baby Jesus, the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, The Three Kings, their messenger, an angel, King Herod, his chief steward, and three Jewish priests.
 Tio Jim, Antonio y Tia Mary Kay

La Familia, (left to right) Luis, Antonio, sister Miriam, Ana Maria y sister Lili
Ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille

His work done, fotos taken, Antonio is ready to go home....all in a day's work for a little boy.

Dia De La Virgen de Guadalupe

 Emperatriz de Latino America

Christmas season "officially" begins on December 16, day when the first Posada takes place, Mexicans join together for the festivities of La Virgen de Guadalupe, Our Lady of Guadalupe, on December 12. This is one of the most important dates in the Mexican calendar. 

On this date, thousands of the faithful to Our Lady of Guadalupe, from all over the country make the most important pilgrimage of all those undertaken during the year to the Basílica of Guadalupe, in Mexico City, where the miraculous image of la Virgen Morena is kept.

 Brad Walks Thru San Juan Cosala
We decided to make our pilgrimage to the Virgen of Guadalupe in the small town of San Juan Cosala, where the cobble stoned streets were adorned with homemade altars in honor of the Virgen, and where I remembered seeing a large mural painted on the old church wall.
The key figure in acceptance of the Catholic religion by the indigenous peoples of Mexico was the Virgin of Guadalupe, whose story goes back to 1531, just twelve years after Hernan Cortes first set foot on Mexican soil.
On December 12, 1531, as the story goes, a poor Indian named Juan Diego was walking along in a desolate area north of Mexico City, seeking water for his uncle. Suddenly, on a hillside, he saw a vision of a beautiful woman, who directed him to a spring of fresh, cool water. A few days later, in the same spot, the vision appeared again to Juan Diego. This time, she instructed him to go to Mexico City to tell the high church officials to build a church in her name on that site. Of course, the ecclesiastical officials did not believe the poor Indian. Why would the Virgin Mary appear to someone so lowly? They asked for proof. When Juan Diego returned to the hillside and the Virgin appeared again, he asked her for a sign. Suddenly he saw some beautiful red roses, even though roses did not normally bloom in that area in December. He gathered them into his rough Indian tilma (blanket) and took them to Mexico City. When he opened his tilma for the high church officials, they fell to their knees in veneration and amazement. There, imprinted on the humble Indian blanket of Juan Diego, was the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, exactly as Juan Diego had seen her. It is said that the image is so perfect in detail that one sees in the pupil of the Virgin's eye the image of Juan Diego.

 The Old Church
San Juan Cosala
Mariachi Men
San Juan Street 

San Juan Cosala is a small town of approximately 12,000 people located on the North shore of Lake Chapala, known for its hot spring mineral waters and natural steam baths called temazcalli. It is the oldest town in the area and was originally a fishing village established by the Cocas Indians, a Nahuatl-speaking people, related to the Aztecs.

The exact foundation of San Juan Cosala is not precise. According to a type of ceramics found in the region, it is clear that the area was already inhabited during the Preclassic Period, prior to the Spanish Conquest. The name 'Cosala' is derived from the indigenous name spelled Cuzala, Cuzalan or Cozala-Cuzalan and has been given many different interpretations, including 'place of many warm springs', 'place of clean water' or 'place full of serpents'. Some authors believe it came from the spelling Cutzalan or Cotzalan which means 'between pots.' The indigenous peoples were ruled by Tlatoani and worshipped many different gods, including their main god, Ixlacateotl, Tlaloc, goddess of rain, Ehecatl-Quetzacoatl, god of wind, and Michicihuatl, the mermaid goddess and guardian of Lake Chapala. The village contained ceremonial centers at the four cardinal points where human sacrifices took place. Small clay pots containing blood collected from the earlobes of the indigenous people were thrown into the lake as offerings.
Grazin' On The Lake's Shore
 Malecon Man
In 1523 or 1524, the Spanish conquistador Captain Alonso de Avalos arrived in Cuzalan and conquered the region. Chief Xitomatl who controlled the area from Ajijic to San Luis Soyatlan surrendered peacefully. In 1531 the first missionary, Fray Martin de Jesus of the Franciscan order, arrived in the region and ordered the construction of a small chapel and the Hospital of the Conception next door. He converted Tlatoani and baptized him as Don Andres Carlos, in honor of the King of Spain. St. John the Baptist was declared to be the patron saint of the region and the name of the town was changed to San Juan Cosala.

 Malecon Men
Following the Spanish Conquest in 1519–21, a temple of the mother-goddess Tonantzin at Tepeyac outside Mexico City, was destroyed and a chapel dedicated to the Virgin built on the site. Newly converted Indians continued to come from afar to worship there. The object of their worship, however, was equivocal, as they continued to address the Virgin Mary as Tonantzin.

 No Es Lo Que Ves, Si No Lo Que Sientes
Fco. Gonzalez
 Guadalupe Fresco
As we head into the holday season, we wish for you and yours
Paz, Prosperidad, y Un Mundo Mas Balanciado 
Fco. y Brad

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Mercado de Abastos

Flor De Calabaza Wreath
Mr friend, Santiago the farmer, phoned early one morning to say his ride to Guadalajara had flaked on him and Santiago was in need of a ride to the Mercado de Abastos in 10 a.m.!  I quickly rearranged my appointments and 15 mins. later we were on the highway to the big city.
The Mercado de Abastos is the local distribution, wholesale market in the city of Guadalajara, made up of approximate 60 hectares and over 2000 food and grain stalls.

The food stalls are made up of fruit, legume, dairy product, cereals and grain, and various sundry products (abarrotes).

The number of families that are dependent on the general activities of the Mercado de Abastos numbers in the 10,000's and there are approximately 45,000 people who act as commercial and transport agents effected by the daily activity in this is huge!

Food from this market is distributed daily throughout most of Mexico (see distribution map below).

Influencia comercial del Mercado de Abastos de Guadalajara

The Mercado de Abastos extends its reach to most of the country.  40% of the product that moves through this market is done in national territories, with exportation making up most of the pie.

The Mercado De Abastos looms large on the Guadalajara skyline
As luck and traffic would have it, we made the food delivery deadline.  Santiago specializes in unusual foods, foods that you cannot find easily in Mexico...and his freshly harvested snap peas were a prize that needed to be at the Mercado to a new buyer's stall on time in order to cement this first sale and the provider/buyer relationship.
Our work done, we decided to stroll the market to buy our own produce, check competitor's prices and make a morning of our outing. Santiago's wife Marisela and his son Ivan were with us that day and this was their very first visit to the Mercado.  The first thing we noticed was that the Xmas craze had struck....most of the vendor's stalls were decorated in holiday garb.

Ivan Finds His Tree

And the Xmas tree vendors were out enforce...the trees we examined came from Oregon...and make the trek via railroad.  We noticed they were surprising fresh.
Sorting Oranges
You have to understand that for a grower of food and lover of nature and its product, the Mercado de Abastos is like being in Disneyland.
Ivan Plays
And like with most things in our lives, my good friend Ivan showed me just how much fun this market could be.
We were struck with the variety of foods here, with their freshness and low prices.  Apparently this is the place to come to purchase beautiful abundance. 
Along with food, any product related to or needed for the sales and movement of the food could be found.  We were taken with the rapidity and ease this box maker exhibited in his work.
Box Makin'

$1,800.00 Pesos Per Kilo!

We were also struck with the effect that technology has on the food.  These small round chiles were priced at $1,800.00 pesos per kilo!  Apparently they are grown from genetically modified seed and will not reproduce in the wild after the first harvest.  Only by having a certain bird eat the seed, passing it through its system can the seeds be replanted and the new plant produce new chiles.  Because of this odd symbiotic relationship, the price is astronomical.
After a bit of shopping we were hungry...and Santiago knew just the stall for breakfast.  On the way, delicious delicacies tempted our hunger.


We feasted on traditional Mexican breakfast items complete with freshly handmade tortillas and were even treated to a strolling serenade during the meal....ah, life is good!

Post Halloween Pumpkin
As in any retail world, the past items were on sale, such as this post Halloween pumpkin.  Ivan hoisted the beauty, just barely able to lift it.  I thought it would make a heck of a pie!

Pipe Scorpion
As our shopping trip came to an end we happened upon a pipe cleaner sculptor.  His figures were beautifully crafted that he captured the essence of the animals he was modeling.  Art and craft are part of our everyday world here.  These skills are never taken for granted.
 Pipe Cleaner Artisan
And so Ivan and I chose a red and black tarantula as our take home treasure.  It sat on the dashboard for the ride home to the lake...and now adorns Ivan's bedroom, a beautiful reminder of our enjoyable day together.  Ivan says I can borrow the tarantula anytime I want.  I like knowing we can share the world's gifts.
One is wise to cultivate the tree that bears fruit in our soul
- Henry David Thoreau
With Love