Thursday, January 22, 2015

land of contrasts

Mexico has taught us the lesson over and over this past month.  Mexico is not one country; it is a multitude of countries wrapped in one big serape.

The three of us commented several times on our drive yesterday from Atlacomulco to Guadalajara that a traveler could spend a lifetime trying to see everything Mexico has to offer. 

The words were still hanging in the air when we encountered a new experience.  A political road block.

The people who live in the state of Michoacán are far too familiar with the drill.  A group of teaching college teachers and their students board commandeered buses or set off in cars to congregate at some busy intersection where they hold traffic hostage to ideas they cannot otherwise convince people to adopt.  And, I suspect, build more political enemies than friends.

This particular "protest" was on the toll road just north of Morelia.  The protesters had liberated the toll booth and forced all traffic to stop to honor 15 minutes of "justice." 

To reward our participation in their otherwise meaningless act, we were allowed to proceed without paying a toll.  In other words, we were asked to show solidarity for the theft of our time and the theft of revenue from the company that runs the toll roads.

This little bit of street theater nonsense was played out at three toll booths along our route.  I am not the least bit sympathetic to the vested interests of teachers who are opposing any reform that will require them to -- well, teach -- rather than to agitate.

At the second toll booth, federal police had stopped a driver of an SUV for a traffic violation.  In the background, the police ignored the protesters.  I would call it ironic.  But that would give the absurdity of it all far too much credit.

In contrast, further down the road, I caught this shot of a fisherman on Lake Cuitzeo.

Due to a heavy mist, the lake looked as if it had been painted on a Japanese screen.  The lake.  The egrets.  The reeds.  The fisherman.  All added to the Oriental motif.

It was certainly a contrast to the protest louts.

But the contrasts did not end there.  Our first stop in Guadalajara was
Tlaquepaque.  Once a town unto itself, it has been absorbed by the Guadalajara Borg.  But, like most absorbed towns, it has retained a character of its own.

Part of that is due to its heritage as an artists' village.  Admittedly, the image has been diminished a bit by the number of vendor stalls selling popular versions of fine goods.

I am not being critical here.  I know plenty of people who have furnished their homes with pottery and glassware from these stalls.

But the artists in town offer much more.  And our visit gave me some idea for my new house -- the house with no name.

Take this horse, for example.

The simple (almost Chinese) lines and witty representation would fit in well with Ed Gilliam's paintings in what will soon be my dining pavilion.  That is, if I ever buy a dining table, rather than filling the place with art.

And for the living room pavilion, I thought this Sergio Bustamante piece would fit right in.

As some of you know, I am very fond of Octavio Paz's allegorical use of masks to describe the Mexican personality.  Matching philosophy and the plastic arts is difficult.  But Bustamante has the touch.

Patty came to
Tlaquepaque with one primary mission.  To hear mariachi music.

We had been told they performed in a large restaurant surrounding a gazebo.  They do.  But not yesterday.  That left us with the unsettling option that the only mariachi we would bag were portrayed in this sculpture.

But life has a way of handing out contradictions.  While art browsing, we stumbled upon the sounds of mariachi music coming from a restaurant.  So, in we went.

You probably have a favorite place where you eat and find entertainment.  There is something in the atmosphere that makes it inviting.  Something that cannot be easily analyzed.

The Patio was one of those places.  The big surprise was the sex of the mariachis.  They were all women -- in an historically man's world.  And they were good.  Really good.

We did not stop our search, though.  We are staying in a hotel in the central area of Guadalajara.  The desk clerk told us that the mariachi perform in an alleyway a few blocks away.

Indeed, when we arrived, there were mariachi.  Sullingly milling about.  Some eating.  Some chatting.  But none singing.

But, remember, it was a day of contradictions.  We settled for snapping photographs of ourselves looking very festive.

And a bit goofy.

Who says I never publish photographs of myself?

At the end of the day, we may not have found everything we were looking for in life.  But we certainly learned to live in the moment offered to us.  For such a fun day, that was joy enough for us.


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