Someone once told me Pátzcuaro was not a friendly town.
Of course, someone says that about each town. Whoever it was, was definitely wrong.
I have always felt part of Pátzcuaro whenever I visit. On this trip, I have been greeted by name each day by people I have not seen in well over a year.
And people on the street are always free with greetings. Even those who do not want to sell me a woven straw fan.
Today’s celebrations started with a bike race. Seeing all of those bicycles in one spot felt a little bit odd. The day before I had noted the complete lack of bicycle traffic in the centro area. And, considering the erratic traffic, I understand why.
I was merely walking through the waiting cyclists with my camera and several participants started mugging to have their photograph taken. My favorite was the guy wearing the green shirt at the top of this post.
Saturday seems to be wedding day in Pátzcuaro. As it is in many towns. I ran into several. But I want to save all that for a post of its own.
Instead, I headed back to the cultural center. Having discovered the second floor, I wanted to take a look at exhibits I missed last week.
But, even before I got to the door, I found an exhibit of its own on the center’s lawn.
For a moment, I thought a road show of Hair was passing through town. I think this group is attempting to perform a Purépecha ceremony. Even though their rhythm abilities were distinctly Andover white boy.
Before I headed upstairs, I visited the mask exhibit again. They fascinate me. Probably because it touches that primordial human urge to have the power to remake oneself merely by donning a magic mask. Even though it didn’t work very well for Don Juan.
I like to give the masks nicknames. This one is Pinocchio meets Ziggy.
As for this guy, I will let you guess what Steve Cotton may call him. I can be discreet in my writing. At times.
It turns out there is a large exhibition room for local paintings. Unfortunately, they are all covered with glass, and the room is ablaze with sunlight. As a result, it is impossible to view any of the paintings in their totality.
The reason the lighting does not complement the art is easy to deduce. This center probably runs on an annual budget less than the daily lighting bill for one room in the Louvre. If that.
I was just happy to see that good art is available to the public in this small town.
The festival had scheduled three traditional dances in various plazas in the afternoon. Even though I could not avoid stopping to see to watch the very essence of touristy stops in town -- the old men dance. The contrast between the young dressed as the old entertaining the young and beautiful summed up how my day was going.
Having partially filled my festival tank, I decided to play cultural hooky and headed off to a late lunch at a restaurant that was highly recommended by Felipe. He told me the chicken pot pie was excellent.
And that would have been a shame. The chicken pot pie was the best I have ever eaten.
It is baked fresh in a bowl with a paper thin crust on top. The gravy was rich and creamy. With a mixture of diced vegetables -– each with a small burst of flavor freshness that makes you wonder why frozen vegetables exist.
The pot pie came with a choice of lentil or chicken soup. I had the chicken. It was perfectly light. Again with barely crisp fresh vegetables.
The owner (from Arkansas) and a local couple from Nicaragua (by way of San Francisco, Miami,and Mexico City) easily met the local friendliness standard. We cosmopolitan four spent our time chatting and laughing as if we had known one another for years. So much for unfriendly Pátzcuaro.
I could have ended the day right there. But there was another concert tonight. This time a trio. A pianist. A violinist. And a soprano. From Zamora.
There was nothing folkloric about them. Their ballads were as sophisticated as a Cole Porter house party.
It was the type of latino music that you imagine being performed in a 1950s Manhattan night club. With Chanel-draped and Fabergé-bejeweled socialites syncopating their way across the dance floor.
Happily, there was no amplification to interfere with the performance. Merely pure voice, piano, and violin. Melting the soul on an avenue through the mind.
And, for me, the best part of the concert was the fact that all of the songs were new to me with the exception of Bésame Mucho and Granada. Two standards everyone knows.
I realize Pátzcuaro is in the middle of one of its big festivals. But I think I could enjoy spending more time here. A town that has retained some of its Indian heritage mixed with Midwestern congeniality.
And culture that is accessible.
Not a bad mix.