Friday, September 07, 2012
something old, something new
Thursday was one of those days I have come to expect on my trips to Mexico's highlands. A true mixture of modern and colonial.
The day began with a coffee meeting of expatriates and a Mexican citizen at the Starbucks in the artistic mall I wrote about in the jundland wastes are not to be traveled lightly.
I am not a coffee drinker -- as a rule. But I decided to get into the spirit of community. Both by drinking coffee and actively participating in the conversation. The latter was far more in character for me than the former.
Being Starbucks, the coffee was good. But the conversation was better. I always learn a lot about being an expatriate in Mexico from these small gatherings of people who have chosen to leave the land of their birth.
That was the first chapter of "something new."
We then headed off into the hills east of Morelia. One positive aspect of living in Morelia is that even though it is a large city, the bucolic life is only a few minutes away.
I was so entranced with the beauty of the green hills, I neglected to take any photographs.
That is, until we came across the little village church at the top of this post -- Jesus del Monte. (There will be 10 points deducted for any canned fruit references.)
Even though the church was closed, the small yard was open. So, we took a look around and enjoyed a few of the details of construction.
The most surprising is the age of the little church. It is nearly 500 years old -- making it one of the oldest churches in this area.
I always find it amazing that Hernán Cortés defeated the Aztecs in 1520 and churches around Morelia were being founded only a few years later.
When I first looked at one side of the church, I thought it had suffered some sort of collapse that had not yet been repaired.
That open space is the belfry. Instead of a tower, the builders simply left some space for the bells to peal their toll.
I am a fan of stained glass in European churches. I miss it in Mexico. But even this little church fills the void.
The window is obviously contemporary -- probably late twentieth century. If not this century.
What I like best is the quirky placement of the lectern in front of Jesus. What could be more appropriate -- and anachronistic -- for the rabbi on the mount? It gives him a certain Sunday School teacher flair.
If you enlarge the photograph at the top of this post, you will see what looks like an olive tree on the left. There are several in the yard.
You may recall last year I wrote about the rigid restrictions of the Spanish crown on the cultivation of olive trees in its colonies. It was prohibited in a short-sighted attempt to preserve the Spanish mainland's monopoly on olive oil production. One exception was the convent at Tzintzuntzan (tale of two towns).
But why are these olive trees here? Did Don Vasco travel into these hills to spread his agricultural gospel? Or did some local priest simply decide the crown was not going to tell the church what to grow?
I am still not certain what to make of this little oddity. A wall of stone blocks surrounds the church yard. The stones are plain. With the exception of one with a carved cross.
There is some writing etched into the cross, but it is no longer legible. I doubt you could see it even if you enlarge the photograph.
But what is it? A memorial? A dedication? A secret code from the Masons? (Dan Brown does not own the monopoly on silly conspiracy theories.)
We were then off to lunch. And a reprise of "something new."
You may remember my lunch at Parrilla y Canilla last year (morelia impromptu). I have eaten there twice on this trip.
On the first visit, I had a braised romaine salad and half of a crisp-crust pepperoni and onion pizza. Both were delicious.
But the specialty of Parrilla y Canilla is steak. And mine was 500 grams of rib eye accompanied by a baked potato and some perfectly steamed vegetables. It looked so good I forgot to take a photograph before I had sliced a tender piece off of the end.
I have not had many good steaks in Mexico. But the steaks at Parrilla y Canilla have been consistently tender and grilled to my taste.
So, there it is. My Thursday in Morelia. A bit more soothing than student demonstrations.
And far more educational.