Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Book Review: The Hidden Light of Mexico City By Carmen Amato

Print Length: 371 pages
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.

I loved this book. “Caught between Mexico's class system and the country's spiraling drug war, an attorney and a maid fight for their lives and each other in a political thriller torn from today's headlines.”

Read the book and you will learn something about the drug wars cost and the people who are determined to end the corruption. You’ll learn about the class system that divides the Mexican culture. Amato fills the pages with three-dimensional characters that you care about. You will be thrilled with the way Amato shares the dinner between Eduardo and Luz. I wanted to read that whole scene out loud to my wife.

 I look forward to reading other books by Carmen Amato.


The Eruption of Paricutin

David Haun writes on YAHOO group life-in-mexico that his hobby is collecting antique postcards of Michoacan and displaying them on his website.  For the February 20 anniversary of the Paricutin eruption, he displayed his Paricutin postcards in chronological order, beginning with Dr. Atl, the famous scientist and artist who traveled the world, studying and painting volcanoes.  

In this collection is the earliest known photograph of the Volcano Paracutin, also the second earliest, the obliteration of surrounding villages, and the partial submersion of the famous church at Parangaricutiro. 

The 1940's was the golden age of "real-photo" postcards in Mexico and many famous photographers were already in the area.  Because of that, the eruption of Paricutin became the most photographed, painted and publicized event in history.
Once at his website, check out his other "Postcard..." collections, including a large display of Feather Art Postcards from Tzintzuntzan.  Feliz viaje, David 

What was the eruption of Paricutin?

"On February 20, 1943 a farmer, Dionisio Pulido, and his wife Paula were burning shrubbery in their cornfield when they observed the earth in front of them swell upward and crack to form a fissure 2-2.5 m across. They heard hissing sounds and later described the rise of "smoke" from the fissure, which had the repugnant smell of rotten eggs."

"Within 24 hours the eruption had generated a 50-m-high scoria cone. Within a week, it had grown to a height of 100 m from the accumulation of bombs and lapilli, and finer fragments of ash were raining down on the village of Paricutin. The eruption became more powerful in March, generating eruptive columns several kilometers high. Occassionally, the volcano would exhibit vulcanian-type activity, with large canon-like explosions separated by short periods of silence. On June 12, a lobe of lava began to advance toward Paricutin village and people began to evacuate the village the following day. The larger village of San Juan Parangaricutiro was evacuated a few months later. By August 1944, most of the villages of Paricutin and San Juan were covered in lava and ash. All that remained of San Juan were two church towers that stood above a sea of rugged lava."

The eruption ceased in 1952. The final height of the scoria cone was 424 m.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Welcome to Lake Patzcuaro!

Over at the YAHOO group Life-In-Mexico I saw this piece about Patzcuaro:

A friend wanted to know the most important things a visitor to Patzcuaro must do.   She was spending the day and after much consideration, I thought of three things every visitor must do first. 

The top three things to do in Patzcuaro are in descending order and I begin with the THIRD:  Visit El Estribo and see most of Lake Patzcuaro from the highest point around the Lake.  Enjoy a gran vista of the Lake, along with the islands of Janitzio, Yunuen, Pacanda and most of the landmarks.  Not shown are the villages of Tzintzuntzan, on the other side of the land mass to the right, and the famous artist colony, on the left bank of Lake Patzcuaro, Erongaricuaro, “Eronga,” behind the landmass on the left.  Take Ponce de Leon from the Plaza Grande and head west! Straight up!  It's a nice walk. 

As for the number two thing to do in Patzcuaro, unfortunately there is a tie.  However, since it involves food, a tie is not the worse thing in the world.  Tarascan Soup is a specialty of this area and should be eaten with every meal.  While the only thing Tarascan is the name, the recipe was created by a local cook, using regional products and native ingredients.  Every restaurant offers it, every restaurant is different and every bowl is good to the last drop.   I was taught to never lick the bowl clean, at least in public.  
Some chefs use the beanie broth, while others use the corn-meal, mesa broth, but all have creamy slices of avocado, the crunchy snap of the crisp tortillas, the stringy cheese running down your chin, and the dark-roasted, mild, poblano peppers combine with a fiesta of flavors, textures, colors and sensory overload. 

Now that you have over-dosed on soup, for the next part of Number Two, stagger over to the Plaza Grande, crawl up to one of the portable ice cream stands and say one word: “Pasta!”  If you have a craving for macaroni flavored ice cream, you are at the wrong place. Here in Patzcuaro, the Tied-for-Number-Two-Award goes to the creamy ice cream mixture of ground almonds, cream and cinnamon, called “Pasta.” Order a small cup, so you can have seconds.

Be exuberant with your next selection of ice cream, preferably a fruit flavor. This area of Michoacan is known for giant zarzamoras, so try the Blackberry flavor next. The strawberries are now in season. My favorite.  Or, clear your palate with fresh lime sorbet and prepare for the main entree: CHOCOLATE, a Mesoamerican treat since 1900 BC.    
Now that you are getting used to Patzcuaro, you might as well relax with a cup of vanilla ice cream, from our own native Mexican vanilla beans. Remember, in many parts of the world, the word for “ice cream” is Michoacana. 

Now that you have seen Lake Patzcuaro, now that you have tasted the flavors of Patzcuaro, NOW it is time to understand Patzcuaro.
The very first, most important thing to do in Patzcuaro is:

#1 VISIT THE FOLK ART MUSEUM.   The history of Lake Patzcuaro is told in America’s first University, built with pre-Hispanic stones.  The story of its people is told in the crafts they created.  The Museo de Artes Populares is located at the corner of Arciga and Alcantarilla streets, one block south of the Basilica.  (Remember, in Patzcuaro, the Lake is to the north.)  The original building in Patzcuaro has been transformed into the Folk Art Museum and offers a concise history of the local Purepecha people in the Tarascan area of Michoacan. See the history of their work, their arts and their crafts. 
Follow the rooms through a story of the indigenous locals, showing their lives, from what they gathered and grew, to what they made.  See antique ceramics from Tzintzuntzan, Capula and Patamban. View the Tarascan art of Feather-craft, candle carving, antique musical instruments and priceless clothing and jewelry. Notice the many different Michoacan handicrafts made from wood, textiles, wheat, tule (a local reed), quarried stone, cane dough, wax, silver, copper, tin and iron.

Don’t miss the archaeological ruins in the back of the building, with an authentic “troje”, a typical building style used in the mountains of Michoacan. I know I got a little serious on you, but seriously,  don’t miss visiting this museum!

Whether you are first time visitors or thousandth-time, full-timers, here is Lake Patzcuaro in three easy steps:  See, taste and understand.   See the area from the highest Mirador on the Lake, taste local treats not found anywhere else and understand the people, their culture, their crafts and their lives through our museum. 
Feliz viaje, David 

David is David Haun who blogs at his wonderful and informative website Lake Patzvuaro.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Dining In Puerto vallarta

The Romantic Zone in Vallarta is teeming with restaurants all within walking distance to our hotel Playa Los Arcos. In our eight days we sampled a host of restaurants and some, we went back to on this our first ever visit to Puerto Vallarta.

Day one took us to Senor Mister Pepe's. Pepe's is away from the beach on Basilio Badillo(322) 222-0549. Food was plentiful, the marqueritas large and the Mariachi band was loud and fun. It was a party atmosphere.

Each night about 6:30, we would pause and watch the sunset. Sometimes we’d catch the show from the malecon heading for a restaurant. Other times we would grab a seat at Si Senor or La Palapa, order a drink and stick our toes in the sand.

Si Senor was our favorite in the evening to watch the sunset about 6:30. The tables sit on the sand, the waves roll in and the wait staff is attentive. And the menu...you could eat at Si Senor for a week and not duplicate and nights' offerings. My first night, I had Pork Pibil
 marinated in mirasol and axiote chile sauce, steamed in banana leaves and served with red onions, habanero salsa, refried beans, rice and tortillas

Joe Jacks Fish Shack. We dined here dinner and lunch. Their fish and chips were flakey and delicious. I had to buy a T-shirt with a buxom woman on the back. BTW, when you go ask for Jack to wait on you. It's a tourist joke. 

La Palapa  for breakfast. We couldn't beat the food or the location. Next door to Si Senor, on the beach, the breakfast: Playa del Sol considted of fresh fruit, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage or ham, hash browns and two pieces of french toast or pancakes.

Fajita Republic - never really got into fajitas, but tried them here and they were wonderful. The steak fajita was served on a sizzling platter with green peppers and onions with plenty of soft tacos, rice and beans. Combine the meal with home made taco chips and guacamole and you've experienced Mexico fajita style.

El Eden Jungle Restaurant - Don't miss the tour of the city that takes you past the site where "The Night of the Iguana" was filmed and then into the jungle where "Predator' was filmed. Be sure to bring your swimming suit. There's plenty of time to take a dip before returning to PV.

La Dolce Vita - here's a wonderful way to end your day. Dine at La Dolce Vita for Italian in Mexico. The food was wonderful. You sit right on the malecon and you can watch the tour boats on the water.

Fredy Toucan’s - you like American breakfasts? Here's where you go. Prepare to wait in line, but the food is good and the staff knows how to provide service.

Daiquiri Dicks - Our last evening was spent at Dauquiri Dicks. It's right on the malecon and a perfect place to see the sunset before heading home. I couldn't believe how tasty was theBBQ Prime Pork Short Ribs, charcoal-grilled with their homemade BBQ sauce served with mashed potatoes and veggies. My mouth is watering!

Andale - The perfect place to end an evening. The joint is lively, loud and if you are lucky, ride the burro through the bar.

We found great food in the restaurants. We enjoyed the mix of nationalities on the malecon along with many Mexican families enjoying the attractions. As opposed to Mazatlan’s malecon, we like the way traffic is separated from the ocean. I did miss the colorful buildings of Mazatlan’s Golden Zone. Buildings in the Romantic Zone tend to be painted white with red tile roofs. Not as colorful and white shows the grime and age much more. 
Would we live or vacation in Puerto Vallarta? In a heartbeat.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Book Review: Finding Devo: A Novel Adventure By Seve Verdad

Print Length: 585 pages
 Publisher: Devo's Diversiones, Inc. (December 9, 2013)

 “Finding Devo” has everything. If you like reading novels about or centered in Mexico (Puerto Vallarta in this case), you’ll love the intrigue, the corruption, the smart way this book was written.  Russell Martel is a reporter wrongfully arrested, tortured, and pursued after escape after a terrorist bombing devastates a major hotel in this city of beautiful sunsets and tourists.

 There’s a war between two opposing forces in the world and some of that war smatters on PV. There is a redux of Viet Nam on our borders, too, and this book may be a wake-up for some. The book is filled with great writing and great characters. I love some of these metaphors:
  • Brenda wrapped herself around me with the comfort of a cashmere sweater.
  • A clean shot glass shouted at me from under the bar like a guy hailing a cab.
  • …and a dimpled smile easy as an endless summer day,…
The book claims the author’s whereabouts is unknown and uses “Seve Verdad” as a pen name. He writes to bring attention to his plight. Seve Verdad could mean harsh truth in Spanish.


The Malecon In Puerto Vallarta

Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta have malecons that stretch for miles. Both are wonderful walks along the sea. You hear the waves, watch them build and then roll ashore. You can watch the young surf the waves and families frolic on the beach as young ladies on skates dodge the traffic on the concrete. The big difference between the two cities?

Mazatlan Malecon

Mazatlan's malecon is built between the sea and a four lane road, while the malecon in Puerto Vallarta is peaceful and no road. The road runs behind the buildings that border your walk.

Both have public art, yet PV's seems wider with trees and restaurants and shops.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Puerto Vallarta in January, 2014

Mexico! We made another trip to Mexico. This time to Puerto Vallarta for my 70th birthday. When I first visited Mazatlan, I said, "I'm falling in love with Mazatlan." Now, I could live here in PV.

Puerto Vallarta wraps around some say, “the largest bay in Mexico,” Banderas Bay, and is south of the airport. Prospective places to stay are listed as miles from the airport. There are four zones and each zone has its own vibe. The Marina is about 1½ miles from the airport and golfers love this area. The Hotel Zone is about 3 miles from the airport and caters to those who like all-inclusive.  The Centro/downtown Zone is about 4 miles from the airport and is more commercial. Last is the Romantic Zone, about 5½ miles from the airport. The last two zones are on the malecon. We wanted to be close to the tourist attractions, sample many different restaurants, and have a great place to walk and dine with no cars to grate on your ears, so we chose the romantic zone.

We booked Playa Los Arcos for eight days after reading many reviews. The price was $1,564 including airfare. In addition, the hotel charged us $24 for the shuttle from the airport and the cab ride back to the airport was 120 pesos or about $10. The hotel was on the beach near the beginning of the malecon and close to many restaurants. Each day we began the day sitting on chaise lounges in the sand under umbrellas or by the three pools at the hotel. Pretty hard to resist the ocean and the breaking waves of refreshing water. The air temperature hovered around 82 degrees. 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Mexico Booming?

Mexico's booming auto industry has reached a major milestone, claiming to have overtaken Japan as the second biggest car exporter to the United States in the past three months.
The Latin American nation now only trails Canada, but experts say Mexico could become the top exporter to its northern neighbor as soon as 2015, a potent symbol of its growing global clout in the sector.