Sunday, December 8, 2019

Join me in celebrating the Alborada in San Miguel de Allende next October

October 2 is the day that honors the patron saint of San Miguel de Allende, Saint Michael Archangel.  According to the Bible, Saint Michael (San Miguel) Archangel defeated Lucifer and he then became the symbol of good over evil and life over death.   And how appropriate that San Miguel de Allende is where the fight for freedom from Spain was fought.

In my opinion, this weekend, the Alborado, is the most colorful and celebrated.   You will see the wild dancing Mojigangas (giant paper mache figures) and parades featuring the Conchero dancers and the Chino dancers.  There will be religious processions with beautifully designed Xuchiles, the offerings of flowers built upon platforms made of reeds and sticks, then decorated with flowers, mostly marigolds, and cucharillas, the interior of a cactus meaning little spoon.  You will never encounter a weekend as extravagant as this! 

One of the Xuchiles with San Miguel Archangel at the top is propped up to create an decorative archway leading to the Parroquia, the main parish church, right in the center of town.
The interior of the Parroquia is lavishly decorated with floral arrangements.
The beautifully costumed Conchero dancers performing in front of the Parroquia.  This dance represents the conflict between the Spaniards and the indigenous people.
What a striking young lady in her feathered and beaded outfit.
And music...
 Along with the Chinos representing the Spanish Moors.
You will see the the Volvadores de Papantla (the flying pole dance). It is a centuries old tradition, one that the Aztecs performed.  A tall pole is set up in the middle of a plaza, fitted with a small (and I mean small!) revolving platform on top.   Four fliers and a musician climb to the top. The flyers wear a hat with a crest of feathers which give reference to eagles or macaws, the birds dedicated to the sun.
A ceremony is performed at the top on a small platform.  The musician (the captain) faces each direction and leans back, arching his back as he plays his flute and drum. 
The other four men tie the ropes around themselves and fly down.  Making 13 revolutions around the pole and turning a somersault to land lightly on their feet as they reach the ground.  The captain increases the tempo of the music as they near the bottom.  They do not free themselves from the rope until the captain has joined them.  The captain slides down one of the ropes, reaching the ground at the same time as the flyers, without having stopped playing his instruments. Then they all take leave of the rope and dance around the pole.  The crowd goes crazy with applause and admiration.
Numerous Castillos, wooden towers covered with fireworks and rocket-propelled pinwheels,
erected right in front of the Parroquia.
And one of my all time favorite ceremonies is the blessing of the cowboys and their horses.  Riders from all over ride into town from the surrounding pueblos and congregate in front of the Parroquia to be blessed by the priest.  

Please join me October 2 - 8, 2020 for a wonderful week in 
San Miguel de Allende.   
Experience the exceptional treasures of San Miguel; 

its beautiful colonial architecture, delicious cuisine, native culture, comfortable climate, elegant accommodations, endless shopping and outstanding service. 

A walking tour on Day Two with lunch at one of my favorite restaurants.  We will take a few side trips.  One will be a day over in Dolores Hidalgo and
Guanajuato where we will experience the elegant architecture,
the Opera House, Diego Rivera Museum, ceramic studios and a sublime, gourmet meal.  Another day we will dine at a superb Italian restaurant in the countryside 
and visit the Sanctuary of Atotonilco (often referred to as the Sistine Chapel of Mexico).  

A market tour and cooking class by Chef Paco that will be one of the highlights of the trip.  And much, much more!

For more information, contact me at  
Please include your full name, phone number and mailing address.     

October 2 - 8, 2020

Friday, November 15, 2019

An afternoon on our own Trajinera in Xochimilco

After spending the morning at the Museo Dolores Olmedo, a beautiful 16th century hacienda with gorgeous grounds and an extensive collection of works by Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, we headed to the chinampas, also located in Xochimilco, a southern borough of Mexico City.  Xochimilco, meaning the "Place of the Flowers" in Nahuatl, is famous for its waterways surrounding the ancient city of Tenochtitlan which is now Mexico City.
What a wonderful experience we had when we climbed onto our own private, flat-bottomed boat, a trajinera, to spend a few hours leisurely floating around the chinampas.
 These trajineras are so colorful.
At one point in time, the trajineras were decorated with real flowers.
The Aztecs built fertile riverbeds called chinampas for most of Tenochtitlan was a large lake.  They were able to grow their crops on these chinampas.   Chinampas were made with sticks and old trees woven together to form a huge raft and then anchored to the bottom of the lake.  Then piled with mud and soil to create large garden plots.  To stabilize the the plots, willows were planted around the perimeter.  Over time, the willow's dense route system helped anchor the retaining walls and reduce erosion.   Many times they are referred to as the "floating gardens" of Xochimilco but they are neither floating nor gardens but intensively cultivated farm plots.
The first historical record of the chinampas was by Hernan Cortes, when he arrived into the ancient capital in 1519.  But the Aztecs were not the first to use the chinampa technology.  Earlier ones were found in the Basin of Mexico dating back to 1250.  That is more than 150 years before the beginning of the Aztec empire in 1431.
 The Great Tenochtitlan, Tlatelolco's Market View
Diego Rivera - 1945
At the National Palace 
This reproduction of the market in Ttateloco shows the multi culture of ancient Mexico City, Tenochtitlan, with its chinampas, roads, neighborhoods and temples built over the lake with the volcanoes and mountains surrounding the valley.
We saw Diego Rivera's murals earlier in the week when we visited the National Palace.  The murals, the buildings and the grounds were all so spectacular.
Our young man did a wonderful job maneuvering the trajinera through the canals. 
The scenery was so lush
and full of different birds.
We only encountered one or two other trajineras that day.
At the back of the trajinera, our comida, lunch, was being heated up in several clay cazuelas.
An occasional trajinera would go by selling antojitos (snacks)....
Along with a group of mariachis ready to entertain us.
Suzy and Betty waiting for comida to be served.
Bonnie, Al and Ursula.
We had a cooler full of cold cervezas and a big bottle of Jose Cuervo Traditional Tequila to enjoy with our comida.  We started with a some Queso Fresco, guacamole and chips, a plate of sliced cucumbers, carrots and celery served with some special salt from the area.
The meal was outstanding!  Black beans, achiote seasoning and pork along with some sweet potatoes, a delicious red mole with chicken (Mole Coloradito de Pollo), rice and a very interesting dish that I had never had before, pork rind in green sauce (Chicharron sudado en salsa verde).  I just found the recipe for the chicharron in one of my Mexican cookbooks, The Taste of Mexico by Patricia Quitana.  She was a well known chef from Mexico city who had a famous restaurant in the city for years and had published two outstanding cookbooks on traditional Mexican cuisine which I have in my library.
After polishing off a perfect meal, we toured one of the garden plots.
Me with my wonderful group. 
The chinampas are very productive because of the mixture of mud and vegetation that makes the soil very fertile.  The water in the canals also contain fish which add nitrogen-rich manure to the water, which in turn fertilizes the plants.  Not only are flowers grown here, it has become quite the industry, farm to table.  Many restaurants buy their produce here along with other products such as chicken, pork...

Two and half hours later, we had come full circle to where we had started.
It was our last day in Mexico City and I can not think of a more relaxing, enjoyable way but to spend the afternoon on our own trajinera!

Monday, November 11, 2019

Great Masters of Mexican Popular Art at the Iturbide Palace in Mexico City

I just recently got back from leading a tour in Oaxaca and the surrounding area for over a week followed by five days in Mexico City.  Every day was a phenomenal adventure, not to mention the unbelievable cuisine!
A special treat was the exhibition of Great Masters of Mexican Popular Art that had just opened.   An exceptional collection over the span of twenty years put together by Banamex.  Housed in the beautiful Iturbide Palace, there are over 5,000 pieces of folk art created by more than 500 "Grand Masters" from all 32 states of Mexico. 
It was exciting for me, since I have traveled to many of the various states and villages, met with the artisans and have bought numerous pieces of folk art directly from the artisan over the years.
You will find all kinds of works made of clay, natural fibers, metals, wood, textiles, stone...
Works by the Aguilar family in Ocotlan de Morelos.  I always like to add a figure or two to my collection every time I am in Oaxaca.
I was just in Ocotlan de Morelos with my group and this is a photo of the actual church.
Ceramics from Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato and Dolores Hidalgo.

An intricate Tree of Life made of clay from Metepec in the state of Mexico.
A Catrina from Capula, Michoacan.  I love the that she is a nun.
Jose Guadalupe Posada was a famous illustrator in Mexico and a friend of Diego Rivera.  He reached the peak of his artistic skills with the creation of the Calavera, the skeleton, as part of a political satire. 
This well known image of La Calavera Catrina is an etching that he did in 1913. The Catrina, a conceited female dandy, mocks the European-influenced ruling, upper class during the reign of Porfirio Diaz. The word Catrina is the feminine form of the word catrin, which means elegant. Today, the Catrina is one of the most popular figures of the Day of the Dead celebrations and a symbol that has been mass produced.
The show is so beautifully displayed.
The tower of beautifully painted and burnished clay pots from Chilchota, Huancito and Patamban in the state of Michoacan.  Both places I have visited.  This is a technique brought from the old world, influenced by Don Vasco de Quiroga, the first bishop in Michoacan in 1531. 
Clay roosters from Amatenango del Valle, Chiapas.  Another area that I have frequented often, especially to visit the numerous Maya archaeological sites.
The pots above and Jaguars are also from Amatenango del Valle, Chiapas.
The black, burnished pots are from Oaxaca, from the villages of Oaxaca de Juarez and San Bartolo Coyotepec.  This black clay (Barro Negro) is achieved through its firing process.  During the firing process, more fuel is added to the kiln and all the pores in the clay are closed.  As a result, the smoke has no place to escape, thus seeping in the clay and staining it black.

Clay pieces from Colima depicting those from pre-Hispanic times.  Especially the hairless Mexican dog, the Xoloitzcuintli.  Xolo for short, DNA evidence has been found in Aztex, Maya, Colima, Toltec and Zapotec ruins dating back 3,500 years that these dogs were part of their culture.
Such a typical scene by the Linares family from Mexico City. 
Beautifully burnished ceramics from Tonala, Jalisco.
Carved and polished wood chests along with the striking spoons and holder from Patzcuaro, Michoacan.
The alabrijes, animals carved from the copal wood, sanded smooth and then intricately painted.  Mainly from the towns of Arrazola and San Martin Tilacajete in the state of Oaxaca created by some of the famous wood-carver masters such as Manual Jimenez Ramirez and Jacobo and Martin Melchor Angels.
I vividly remember the day, years ago, when I was with my parents when we were in this small village, Tamazulapan del Espiriua Santo in the state of Oaxaca when my mom bought a similar pot with the two mouths.  Such a simple but elegant pot.
The black burnished figures were made by Magedelena Pedro Martinez in San Bartolo Coyotepec, so striking, she is such an artist!.
And the bowl from Huejulta de Reyes, Hidalgo.  Fashioned after antique ones, the bottom is slightly indented so it can rest on top of ones head for transporting water.
A marimba from Chiapa de Corzo in Chiapas.  A charming small village that I take my groups to when in Chiapas.  We spend our first night there after arriving from the states and the next morning we venture up the Canon de Sumidero in our own private boat.  The scenery is breathtaking.
The guitars are from Jatipan and Tlacotalpan in Veracruz and Paracha in Michoacan.  I know Paracha well, for I used to work with a very talented woodworker who carved mantel surrounds from my full scale drawings for me for my design clients in Denver.  He also made quite a few pieces of furniture for me and my clients.
I have inherited my mom's love of baskets!  I have one identical to the top left that I use for picnics.  The ones on the bottom right are woven by the Tarahumara Indians in the state of Chihuahua.
Long ago, my parents bought a basket just like the one dead center, but larger, from an artisan in the town of Tenecingo, Mexico.  The basketry is just spectacular.
Such handsome saddles.  I can not remember where they are from.  Maybe Leon, Guanajuato which is known for its leather.
Talk about elegant table settings!
Such a detailed pieces by Dionisia Ferrer from Tenango de Doria.
The Otomi , an indigenous group from central Mexico, in Tenango de Doria, in the state of Hidalgo create some of the most colorful, creative embroidery.   The Otomi are believed to have lived in the Valley, way before the Nahuati speaking population that would later become the Aztec Empire.  The name Otomi comes from Nahuati word origins, Otoac (walk) and mitl (arrow).  When combined, forms "Ootomitl", later becoming Otomi meaning "those who hunt birds with bow and arrow.   Tenango, "stone neighborhood", is home to numerous caves with petroglyphs of animals, flora and fauna.  These images were inspirations to the Otomi's embroidery.
I have always loved the plain brown dishes from San Marcos Tlapazola, Oaxaca.  Just so handsome.
Up on the second floor, the textiles are unbelievable.  Another one of my favorites.  Many of the rebozos are from Tenancingo in the state of Mexico.
The center purse, in ivory and sage-green, is made by a lovey artist, Crispinia Navarro Gomez.  I just recently visited her and the rest of the Navarro family with my group when we were in Santo Tomas Jalietzo, Oaxaca.  And many in my group bought table runners and place mats that were woven by all the Navarro women.
A beautiful example of a tapestry that was dyed using Cochineal.
The Grana Cochinilla Fina, commonly known as simply Cochineal, is a vibrant red dye produced from the female scale insect (Dactylopius Coccus)  that lives on and feeds off the the pads of the Nopal cactus.  The dye is produced after the insects are dried and ground up.  It takes 70,000 insects to make one pound of dye!
From 1750 to 1810, Oaxaca was the world capital for its export of Cochineal to other areas of the world: Europe, Asia and Africa.   After gold and silver, this was the next valuable commodity.  It was first shipped to Spain in 1526, just after the conquest and soon became the most popular dye of choice.
Many of these rebozos are from the state of Michoacan.
I love wearing my Mexican Huipils!  Such craftsmanship, just beautiful.  This center Huipil is from San Bartolome Ayautla, Oaxaca.
More stunning Huipils from the states of Chiapas, Guerrero, Oaxaca and Yucatan.  Thank goodness the shop was not open when we were there, or I may have had to buy another suitcase.
Colorful Quechquemitles, cape-like poncho-like upper-body coverings.  One of the more unique traditional garments of pre-Hispanic Mexico.
The blue Quechquemitl is from the state of Puebla.  Next October, Puebla will be part of my Mexico City and Oaxaca tour...  Stay tuned, the itinerary will be on my Blog soon.
Blouses from the state of Puebla. 
A variety of serapes, mostly from Tlaxcala.
A close up of a serape from Saltillo, Coahuila.

I have barely touched on the collection at the Iturbide Palace.  I could have spent a few more hours there but we had more things to see and do when in Mexico City.  Such a vibrant, cosmopolitan city.
Not only was the collection phenomenal, the Palacio de Iturbide is one of the best colonial, Baroque buildings in the city.  Built around 1780, it was once the home of the first emperor, Augustin de Iturbide, to Mexico after Mexico's independence from Spain.  Later it was a convent, a college and then a hotel before Banamex purchased it.  It re-opened as the “Palacio de Cultura Banamex.” and today it hosts numerous temporary art exhibitions, as well as art workshops for adults and children.

Great Masters of Mexican Popular Art 
Through the end of May 2020.
Monday - Sunday
10am - 7pm
Admission is free.
Palacio de Cultura Banamex 
Calle Madero 17 
Centro Historico
Mexico City