Saturday, September 22, 2012
federico -- you are needed on the set
My hosts -- formal and informal -- reminded me yesterday how lucky I have been with the weather in Pátzcuaro.
They are correct. The weather has been perfect. Delightfully cool mornings. And days are warm with just enough sun. Best of all, there has been no rain.
Just perfect for spending leisurely lunches at Lupita’s. Enchiladas (with a subtle salsa verde) and internet. For me, that is paradise.
Earlier in the day, I took a walk through the second floor of the cultural center. I had never been up there. The walls are lined with a series of pictures depicting Indian life.
This is a detail from one of my favorites.
It shows an aristocrat sitting down to a nice bowl of ceremonial pozole -- containing the original meat ingredient. Parts of sacrificed warriors. What the south islanders call “long pork.”
I chuckled while I ate my enchiladas. Hoping that the chicken was simply unusually tender.
Pátzcuaro continues to celebrate its birthday. Today it was two concerts.
I knew the first would be small because it was in the auditorium of the cultural center. A very unforgiving acoustical room. Tile floors. Concrete walls. Wooden seats. Long and very narrow.
But it turned out to be more unusual than I expected. The quartet of younger women (flute, guitar, piano, and French horn) call themselves Petitie Mousse-ik. I initially missed that little pun.
And not until I arrived did I notice the concert was “para tod@s l@s niñ@s” -- including those playful little vowel movements.
A children’s concert it was. Centering around a story-teller dressed as a goat. And no children’s concert would be worth its strings and bows if it did not include long descriptions from each of the players concerning their respective instruments.
But most of all, it was just fun. The pan acted as a foil to keep the children interested. Pulling them up on stage. Leading them in dances. Mugging when the musicians crossed the border into the Land of Boredom.
The music was nothing great. Excerpts from mainly-familiar Baroque, Classical, and Romantic pieces played a bit indifferently by the musicians. But it was exactly what it was supposed to be -- a children’s concert. What did I expect Phillip Glass?
With the exception of one little boy, who sat in front of me and seemed to know more about music than Leonard Bernstein, everyone seemed to have a pleasant two hours of diversion.
And then I was off to my second concert. Hold onto your sombreros. It was billed as Mexican FOLKLORIC dance. That word again.
But this time I had a new tool of interest. The group performed primarily Mexican frontier dances.
An American can easily identify with the steps and costumes. It is basically a combination of square dancing and hoe-down. Agnes De Mille would have been thrilled. For all I know, these dances may have been the inspiration for her Oklahoma work.
And it was a frontier tradition Americans and Mexicans celebrated as being the best part of their respective countries. That is, until a large number of Americans decided it was better to be a European carbon copy than a frontier original.
I recently discovered what we consider to be the American cowboy culture was incubated in northern Mexico. And that culture is probably what saved Mexico from an early social collapse in the mid-eighteenth century.
The frontier needed men. Mestizos and Indians,who could not find work in the core of New Spain, drifted north to the horse and cattle culture of the Mexican frontier.
Not only were they allowed to ride horses and carry weapons (something forbidden to mestizos and Indians in New Spain), some of the mestizos actually became land owners. Again, something that was forbidden in New Spain.
These dances celebrate that way of life. A lifestyle that was to seep north across the border into John Ford movies.
I have to confess, though, after about an hour and a half, my historical context waned and tedium set in.
That is, until the stage was suddenly overtaken by Jalisco women, Durango cowboys, calypso dancers, two clowns, a couple of young Aztecs, two harem girls, and a Disney princess. I suspect the choreographer sketched this out based on a nightmare after too much pozole.
It was almost as if Fellini was filming my day -- based on a Kafka script.
And that was just fine with me. It is why I moved to Mexico.