Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Symbol of Mexican Independence

El Grito de la Independencia, a fierce cry for freedom, has its origins in the small town of Dolores, near Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende, in 1810. It  marks the beginning of the Mexican revolution against Spanish colonial rule.

A revered symbol but shrouded in myth, the cry for freedom is attributed to a Catholic priest, Miguel Hildago y Costilla.  His supporters included Ignacio Allende, Mariano Abasta and Juan Allende.  These are revolutionary names, familiar names, all firmly implanted here in San Miguel, in its architecture, statues, street names, artistic expressions, folklore traditions.  The El Grito below graces, if that can be the word, the magnificent entrance to the El Grito bar and restaurant.  I've always passed it with fascination, thinking it must be a Mexican version of the devil.

The Battle of Guanajauto was the first revolt against Spain. Independence wasn't declared until September 27, 1821, after a decade of fierce fighting  The mountainous regions of San Miguel de Allende remain sacred territory, the terrain of freedom.  El Grito remains the Patrick Henry of Mexico, the Cry from Dolores.   "Give me Liberty, or give me death!"  Like the 4th of July in the USA,  27 September is celebrated every year, the  most important national holiday in Mexico.  

Monday, February 27, 2012

Passages: The Class of 1917

My Aunt Loretta, my mom's younger sister, with first cousin Bill, Columbus, Ohio, August 2011.With my mom, this would be “the class of 1915-1917.”

I let my mom’s first cousin Bill know that my mom’s 94-year-old sister, my dear feisty Aunt Loretta (photo right), was not doing well. She’s got a large tumor that’s spread around her stomach and area. She's getting some radiation, to shrink the tumor, but that's about all that can be done.  It seems that all of a sudden she is at the end of life. Hospice is coming.

"We didn’t want it to happen," I emailed Bill and his wife Joan. Bill emailed back:

"This is not good news but it is not surprising. Loretta is the youngest of  the class of 1917, made up of Josephine (23 February), then of me, 2 June, and Loretta, the youngest. No matter how you cut it, we are all due sooner if not later. We pray for a...recovery, and if not, a quick and painless good-bye.”

I'm not ready for this, my mom's sister, our remaining link. So many memories. How lucky that we made a special trip to see Bill and his wife Joan, both retired Sociology professors at Ohio State University, when my Aunt and her granddaughter Roz visited Sylvania in August 2011.

It was a wonderful visit, a Luchetti family reunion (Roz's photo album cover below). For Bill and Loretta, it was a warm and nostalgic reunion after many years apart.  They shared memories and love.

But these passings, these "good-byes," are sad.  I hope "the class of 1917" stays with us a while longer. 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Movies, Music and San Miguel: A Nice Trio

Christopher Plummer& Ewen MacEwen; Atwood cover, Yahoo photos.

I'm going to lots of movies and concerts here in San Miguel.  Or I should say I am walking to them.  Maybe that’s why I’m going to so many.  This town has something going every day and night, all enticing, and easy to get to.  Like the literary festival held at the Hotel de Minas, featuring Margaret Atwood, which was sold out so I couldn't get in; art exhibits just about every night; daily film series and lectures at the Biblioteca and the tiny Puppet Theatre; jazz at the Peralta Theatre and other venues, including restaurants and cafes.

I’m going to an Oscar party on 29 February, so I’m catching up on the movies.  My favorites have been  Beginners, with outstanding acting by Christopher Plummer and Ewan MacKwen;  Jose Reneyos, a wonderful documentary about a Latino judge and his civil  rights struggles and triumphs from the Caesar Chavez years in California to the Gore election nightmare in Florida;  In the Wake of the Flood, a documentary about an environmental book tour designed and undertaken by Margarat Atwood, a great writer but the documentary seemed a bit dowdy; and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, nice photography, some great acting but way too long and a bit overwrought, I thought.  I’m glad I had read the book first.  Some of these movies are up for Oscars in various categories, so I’ll go to the Oscar party more informed than when I got to SMA.  Estelle, from NYC, a SMA regular for some 15 years, who has seen every Oscar- nominated movie and more, says forget about seeing the films.  Just don’t forget a bottle of wine and something to eat! 

One of the best events was a fantastic concert by three accomplished musicians:  Qing Li, violin; Richard Fowling, piano; and Jeffry Solow, cello. Saint-Saens, Maurice Ravel, Handal and Dvorak filled St. Paul’s Church, where these ”Pro Musica” concerts take place.  The musicians played together flawlessly, brilliantly, as if they had played together all their lives, or had practiced a lot before this performance.  But really they were all in San Miguel for a rare trio, and the cellist was a substitute.  The very difficult contrapuntal and disharmonious Ravel was mesmerizing and moving.  The well-informed audience jumped to its feet at the last note with spontaneous wows and bravos for the musicians.  Waves of gratitude and appreciation.  This trio could cut CDs that would sell really well, anywhere.    

Music, movies and San Miguel. This is one of the best trios of all!   

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ola Mexico!

Street scenes, the colors of SMA, crafts, doors and windows.
I did buy the Lupercio painting in the center!
Below, the flag, churches, a woman doll maker.  

Some things are unigue to a place, define it and the culture.  Like the Taj Mahal in Agra, India; the Pyramids in Egypt and the Valley of the Kings near Luxor; the Blue Mosque and Saint Sophia's in Istanbul;  the Vatican in Rome and the Duomo in Florence;  Wenseslas Square with its magical clock in Prague;  St Mary's church in Krakow; the Opera House in Sydney, Australia.    

Beyond the landmarks are the scenes of daily life, the history, the folklife of a place, which evoke such interest and joy. Watching craftspeople and artists at work, women embroidering, men digging and plastering, rug makers and sellers, ubiquitous hawkers, children coming from school, holiday parades and celebrations, families gathering on their sabbaths, evidence of conquests and triumphs, friends greeting one another on the street, musicians playing on street corners and at cafes.      

Here are some scenes, above photos, that say "Mexico" to me.  The bright colors of buildings and nature;  the elderly women who make traditional dolls; the architecture; the cobbled stone streets; the intricately carved doors, painted windows and bountiful crafts; and in San Miguel, the elegant Parroquia, catching the sun during the day, lit up like a heavenly star at night.  It centers this place.  It says San Miguel.  Ola, Mexico!     

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mind Game for the Aging Brain

Painting (donated by Maria Louise Cohen)
on wall of the Bridge Room,
Hotel de Minas. 
I'm taking bridge lessons in San Miguel with Gary Mitchell, a master player and outstanding teacher. Gary and his wife live here year round and love it.  "It's paradise!"  he says, in the same enthusiastic voice with which he teaches his favorite card game.  

I bought his book, which he says we should study, and study and study.  What about Goren and others, I ask. He laughs.  Forget it. Terribly outdated, he says. Toss those old bridge books out.  The rules of the game have changed tremendously, become more refined.

So now I'm learning the game a la Gary Mitchell.  It's fun, and it's hard. But what a great way to keep one's mind agile.  Focus, logic, memory.  All basic requirements to play bridge.  I  can see that it will take years to learn to play the game well.

I will give you the basics, Gary says, but the best way to learn is to memorize the fundamentals, know the rules, apply the lessons and play.   Keep playing. "So we can play contract bridge soon," another learner says with a smile.  "Oh no. No way!" he says.  "You'll be beginners for at least two years."  What? "beginners" for two years?

Okay, I'm resigned.  I probably won't continue playing with my friend Phyllis and her lovely bridge group back in Sylvania (with great thanks for steering me back to the game), but I'll be open to practice games with learners, keeping my brain going, and knowing I'll be a beginner for quite a while.  A beginner to the end!

Friday, February 17, 2012

My San Miguel B&B es Mi Casa

A Jaime Jimenez Lupercio painting I'm considering. So Mexican!
Entrance to El Jardin de Don Quijote B&B, 
and Don Quijote in the garden, below

I've stayed at some great hostels and B&B's in my travels, like the funky Lavender Circus in Budapest and Egyptian Nights in Cairo.  But El Jardin de Don Quijote is one of the prettiest.  It's the home of Maria and Javier Soccoro Barrera, with rooms built around the Spanish-style main house and the copiously flowering courtyard garden watched over by Don Quijote himself.   It's $25 a night, including breakfast.  It's a few blocks from the main street going into and out of town, Ancho de San Antonio, and near the famous Instituto, now an art and language school.  It's a 10-minute walk to the central square, the Jardin, and in walking distance to shops and restaurants;  tailors, shoe repair, watch repair and laundry; the wonderful Juarez Park and other little parks and green spaces; the Biblioteca and the Artisans' Mercado;  several small hotels like Posada de Aldea, where you can have a fantastic Sunday brunch, and a new luxurious hotel, the Rosewood (overly sumptuous and expensive, for the very wealthy, mostly Mexicans, I'm told).

My rooms at B&B & SMA scenes. A David Leonardo at Hecho en Mexico right.


David Leonardo at Hecho en Mexico
Since being back in San Miguel, I remember why my apartment in Sylvania, Ohio, looks the way it does: It's my Mexican casita, mi casa.  After two years in Ukraine, all my stuff in storage, and three years away from Mexico, I had forgotten.  But my apartment is full of Mexican arts and crafts, paintings and decorations. It has tiled, painted and tin mirrors; art on the walls by David Leonardo, Roz Farbush, Vermillion and other well-known artists--still painting, still exhibiting, still featured at galleries, the library, restaurants like Hecho en Mexico.   Mi casa is brightly painted.  It's definitely more of a Mexican apartment than a Ukrainian pysansky Easter egg.  It has a Mexican feeling and spirit.  My Ukrainian friend Tamila said it when she was in Ohio visiting from Cherkasy, Ukraine over New Year's:  so much color and light, so bright and Spanish!

So I'm back in San Miguel, in a lovely B&B, in a Mexican frame of mind.  And I've seen another painting that I think would look great in my living room.  It's by Jaime Jimenez Lupercio (first photo above), a highly acclaimed artists from Mexico City, a new artist for me but not for afficianados and collectors around the world.   I've said no more art. I've got enough.  My walls are full.  But can I resist this piece?

So, when I'm in my San Miguel B&B I feel at home, and when I'm at home in Sylvania, well, I feel like I'm in San Miguel. Mi Casa es tu Casa es Case de San Miguel es mi casa.    

Monday, February 13, 2012

Meeting people in SMA

I'm having a cafe con leche and biscotti at La Mesa Grande on the corner of Zacateros and Pila Seca.  It's a rare grey rainy day, chilly, and it's been a busy morning here.  We're all visitors, helping the Mexican economy. Americans and Canadians come here to be warm, so the weather is a big topic of conversation.  A good conversation starter.

This is how photo of the Cafe uploaded! 
I'm sitting at a long wooden table with a woman and her two kids who have lived here for 10 years, formerly from Portland, Oregon; a retired ice hockey player from Vancouver, originally from Ireland;  a couple from San Franciso;  a woman, Nancy, who moved to San Miguel to have horses; a couple from New York City who have been coming for over 20 years;  a gay couple from 'Detroit, Canada,' as one of them, who just bought a house here, put it; and a handsome naturalized Mexican man originally from Indiana, an architect and builder   Some of us are here for coffee, a snack or lunch; others with our computers, catching up on email, facebook, blogging.  I've been here the longest, so people come and go and I get to meet them all.  A friendly "hola" and "where are you from," and we have a nice conversation.

It's one of the best things about being in San Miguel.  

Friday, February 10, 2012

In San Miguel, Mexico


Don Quijote B&B, San Francisco Church, Andy enjoying, a David Leonardo nural, Street scenes.

I'm in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, kicking back, enjoying the beauty and the pace.  I read about the bitter cold in Ukraine and think of my friends.  I get emails from my daughters saying things are okay in Sylvania,  normal, kids okay.  My friends post updates on facebook.  I miss them all, and feel blessed to be here in the mountains of Mexico where the sun shines and the flowers bloom and, for a while, American politics seem frivilous and far away.