Thursday, April 30, 2015

Labor of Love

Mexico calling has been a labor of love. It has gotten more attention from me the closer Bev and I were to moving to San Miguel. That decision was long in coming, the move to Mexico. We spent all of February in San Miguel, flew back to Portland, loaded a lot of stuff in the Clampett mobile (seen left fully loaded)  and drove back down to San Miguel - 3,300 miles, arriving on March 29th. Tomorrow marks a whole month at Casa Sundance. I have never been happier.

I want to thank you dear readers for following along. A year ago a total of 574 people visited Mexico Calling in April. This April we had record traffic; 2420 people checked in, almost a 400% increase in traffic. My hope is to keep you entertained so even more people come to see what I'm observing about places in Mexico and the culture.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Makech Jewelry

Victoria Jaggard at the SMITHSONIAN.COM writes, "...makech, a beautiful beetle from Central and South America...has been worn as a living pendant for centuries.

Today, vendors in Mexico sell the beetles covered in rhinestones, each one fixed with a gold chain and pin that serves as a leash, so that the bedazzled bug can walk around on the wearer's shirt.

"The novelty of a tethered jewel beetle on the lapel never fails to attract attention," former UCLA entomologist Charles Leonard Hogue writes in his 1993 field guide Latin American Insects and Entomology.

"...the makech, or maquech, is linked to a Yucatán legend involving an ancient princess—often identified as Maya nobility—and her lover. The story has several variations, but the most popular say that the pair's love was forbidden. The princess was heartbroken when they were discovered and her lover was sentenced to death, so a shaman changed the man into a shining beetle that could be decorated and worn over the princess's heart as a reminder of their eternal bond.

Jetsetter Award Goes to Belmond de Casa Sierra Nevada

Jetsetter, the world's go-to brand for travelers with discerning taste, announced its first annual Hotel Food Awards, which pay respect to the best restaurants, minibars, room service menus and turndown traditions at hotels worldwide.

The Jetsetter Hotel Food Awards celebrates hotels and resorts that make food an essential and integral part of their guest experience.

And the Awards Go To...In San Miguel

Favorite place to brush up on your cooking skills: The Belmond de Casa Sierra Nevada, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Sazon is the cooking school acquired by the 16th century Belmond de Casa Sierra Nevada in 2006. Coursework spans regional recipes and seasonal sopes. Instructors include local chefs as well as Michelin-starred toques from international restaurants and Belmond hotels.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Hacienda Jaral de Berrio

La Hacienda Jaral de Berrio

Jaral de Berrio (Ha ral de Berrio), the name just rolls off the tongue, much like the famed Jaral de Berrio mezcal must. Jaral de Berrio is the name of the hacienda. Hacienda, while imprecise, usually refers to landed estates of significant size. In fact, I’m told the haciendo of Jaral de Berrio was so large, you could ride from Durango to the outskirts of Mexico City and not leave the hacienda.

The Clock Tower

Haciendas originated as Spanish land grants, made to many conquistadors and crown officials. They were developed as profit-making, economic enterprises linked to regional or international markets. The system is considered to have started in present-day Mexico, when the Spanish Crown granted to Hernán Cortés the title of Marquis of the Valley of Oaxaca in 1529. It gave him a tract of land that included all of the present state of Morelos. Cortés was also granted Indian labor, encomiendas, which gave him access to the vast pool of indigenous labor.

The owner of a hacienda was termed a hacendado. The hacienda was like the feudal system of Europe. The labor force would work for the owner of the hacienda, cultivate crops such as sugar, wheat, fruits and vegetables and produce animal products such as meat, wool, leather, and tallow and in return the hacendado would provide safety. The encomienda system was not considered slavery which the Spanish monarch opposed, but the hacendado could work the Indians as hard as they wanted.

The first Berrio to reach this valley of Jaral was Andrés de Berrio, who married Josefa Teresa de Saldivar in 1694. La Hacienda Jaral de Berrio was so productive that its owners became some of the wealthiest men of the time. So wealthy that they were given the noble title of Marquis. Marquis Miguel de Berrio, in 1749 became owner of 99 estates, Jaral being the most important one and something like the capital of a "small" state. With Miguel de Berrio, sales of agricultural products of the estate began.

The years went by and the bonanza continued.  Juan Nepomuceno de Moncada a Berrio, third Marquis of Jaral de Berrio, became hacendado  and was the richest in Mexico in his time and one of the largest landowners in the world according to Henry George Ward, British Minister in 1827. It is said that the Marquis had 99 children and gave each one a hacienda.

Juan Nepomuceno fought in the War of Independence, and was promoted to colonel by the Viceroy Francisco Javier Venegas. He formed a military contingent of peasants of the estate known as "Dragons Moncada" and was the last owner who took the surname Berrio. Thereafter all Berrios were known as Moncadas. The "Dragons Moncada" survive today only as a video game.

Today, production of mezcal is an important part of Hacienda Jaral de Berrio, which dates back to the 18th century, when it was known as aguardiente criollo del Jaral. Jaral de Berrio mezcal is bottled at the main compound of Hacienda Jaral de Berrio, and forms part of an ambitious program aimed at rescuing the site.

The owner of the hacienda vows the original hacienda compound and what were once its magnificent interiors, including their French decor, are to be restored to their former glory and returned to the splendor for which they were known.

Inside the Hacienda

Gary Reid and I visited Jaral de Berrio in mid-April and were saddened by the deterioration of the once glorious hacienda and the recent graffiti and destruction. In addition birds have made a mess of the place. The ruins are open throughout to the weather and birds and bats. We hope the owners follow through on their plan to restore

I saw two main parts of the mansion: the first was the house of Don Francisco Cayo and has a clock, and two towers; the second was built of stone and quarry smooth, adorned only with a veranda on the second floor.

Our Lady of Mercy

The estate has a church dedicated to Our Lady of Mercy built in 1816 and a separate annex to it, where Juan Nepomuceno (Moncado) erected a burial chapel for him and his family. Today you can see the plaques of each Moncado dating back to at least 1854.

Moncado Burial Chapel

Crypts of Moncado Family

The following photos are just some of what I saw that saddened me.

Paper Mache panel at the Grand AStaircase 

Bird Guano

Nymph llamada La Bathroom, painted in 1891 by N. González

When I was about to leave, almost overcome by the smell of bird and bat guano, a sort of requiem played over the landscape. The Church across the square played Ave Maria. It seemed to mourn the fall of a great house and signal a determination to restore the mansion for future generations.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Sandra Cisneros Delights Crowd with Excerpts

Tahree Lane, Blade Staff Writer entertains us with a story about Sandra Cisneros, who entertained and soothed an audience of 450 on Wednesday evening, reading from several of her stories and books.

Adapting her high speaking voice to more than a dozen characters in the small, illustrated Have You Seen Marie?, she was, in turns, a river, a girl hanging upside down, a deaf Mexican grandmother, a cowboy, a woman "as pretty as a mermaid" — all part of her San Antonio neighborhood she encountered when searching for a lost cat named Marie. Ultimately, the story was about her own loss and how Ms. Cisneros learned to cope with being orphaned at 53 by the death of her mother.

"It's for people who have their hearts broken in two," she said. Enjoying being read to, an activity that never grows old, the audience responded with soft chuckles and occasional applause.

Ms. Cisneros' appearance at the Stranahan Theater was part of the Authors! Authors! series presented by The Blade and the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library.

"Every story is medicine, every book is medicine," she said, particularly if it's read when one needs its message. The afterword of Have You Seen Marie resonates with people learning to live with the loss of a loved one.

"A part of them is born in you, not immediately, but eventually, gradually," she said. "Even sadness has its place in the universe."

Ms. Cisneros, 60, read for nearly an hour. She was born in Chicago, became famous for The House on Mango Street (1984), followed by the inventive Caramelo, books of poetry and fiction, the award of a MacArthur Fellowship, and years of work promoting Latino writers. She lives with five dogs in San Miguel de Allende, a mountain town in Mexico, and is considering writing a novella. For her, writing is a spiritual mission to promote understanding between disparate groups.

She was recently invited to speak in Mexico City at a forum about teachers and others who have disappeared, but was required to limit her message to 200 words.

She wrote a poem in which she called on grandmothers to form a brigade against violence. "Who do we revere the most? Mothers. The only ones holier than mothers are grandmothers."

Her final reading was an exquisite story based on the later years of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, whose work Ms. Cisneros saw this week at the Detroit Institute of Arts, along with the big art of Diego Rivera, Ms. Kahlo's perennially unfaithful husband.

It was an ode to the everyday beauty Ms. Kahlo created out of love for Rivera, and to the animals who gave her unquestioned loyalty.

Goodyear Expected to Announce New Factory

A new US $550-million tire factory will be announced tomorrow in Mexico City, Reuters reported this morning.

Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company said last May it was planning a new consumer tire plant for North America to serve replacement and original equipment markets in North and Latin America. Initial production capacity was to be six million passenger and light truck/SUV tires per year.

The company declined to comment on the report of tomorrow’s announcement, which came from two sources familiar with the plans, Reuters said.

The factory is expected to be built in the state of San Luis Potosí and begin operating in 2017. It would be the company’s first in North America in 25 years, since it opened a factory in Napanee, Canada, in 1990.

Headquartered in Akron, Ohio, Goodyear has facilities in more than a dozen countries.

Tomorrow’s announcement would be the third in just over one week. Toyota Motor Corp. and Ford Motor Company last week announced assembly plants worth $1 billion and $2.5 billion, respectively.

Source: Reuters (en)

Monday, April 20, 2015

Magic Towns In Mexico

Valle de Bravo

Michelle Meyer intrigues us with "Mexico has so much to offer in terms of gastronomy and culture that it would take years to experience everything. One of the most beautiful parts of Mexico are its small towns scattered across the country, these towns are usually located a few hours away from big cities and each one of them has something unique. Each state has at least one of these magic towns; some of them include Malinalco, San Miguel de Allende, San Cristobal de las Casas and Valle de Bravo. Valle de Bravo is one of the closest ones to Mexico City making it one of the most popular within Mexicans. Many people from Mexico City have weekend homes here so it can get very crowded especially during holidays."


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Ford to Announce $2.5bn Investment

Mexico News Daily | Tuesday, April 14, 2015

It’s a week for big automotive announcements in Mexico should the “industry sources” and “insiders” have it right. v Today, Reuters reports that Ford Motor Co. is also set to announce two big investments of its own: a US $1.3-billion expansion of its plant in Chihuahua, and $1.2 billion for a transmission plant in Guanajuato.

The expansion of the Chihuahua engine plant, located in the city of the same name, will allow it to build two new diesel engines and likely create 4,000 jobs.

The announcement will be made Friday to celebrate the auto maker’s 90th anniversary in Mexico, and it, too, will be attended by the president, the report said.

Industry figures say Ford is the fourth-largest auto exporter in Mexico, producing 108,000 units that were shipped abroad, mostly to the U.S.

Its last investment here was $3 billion to update the Cuautitlan plant in 2008.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Walk to the Organic Market

Today Bev and I walk to the Organic market, down Zacateros to Ancha de San Antonio, and past the Instituto. The Organic market is similar to the Saturday Market or the Farmers's Market in Hollywood in Portland. We bought some very concentrated pesto sauce and a dish of Chipotle for dipping, and a paper mache chicken. Wandering back home we passed a poster shop filled with posters from the Poland of the 1930s to the 1980s. Some posters like this one of the movie The Thief of 1957 were arresting:

Apparently the movie was remade in the US as "To Catch A Thief." The Original Polish film was directed by Fiodor Filippov and poster was designed by Franciszek Starowieyski
On the way back, Bev made a new Mexican friend.

Friday, April 10, 2015

The People of the Corn

For Mexicans, maize is not a crop but a deep cultural symbol intrinsic to daily life. Corn was domesticated from a grass called teocintle by the peoples of Meso-America approximately 10,000 years ago. Often referred to as humanity’s greatest agronomic achievement, maize is now grown all over the world. The yellow corn commonly found in the United States pales in comparison to the shapes, sizes, and colors of the traditional maize varieties cultivated by the indigenous peoples of Mexico. The ears of corn may range from a couple of inches to a foot long, in colors that include white, red, yellow, blue, and black. Some varieties even have an assortment of colors on one ear.

Corn is inextricably tied to the quotidian lives of the peasants and indigenous peoples of Mexico. As the basic grain, it shapes daily meals, and it’s growing cycle influences the timing of festivals. The image and shape of maize is a ubiquitous component of architecture and crafts. Spiritually, physically, and economically, corn sustains indigenous peoples. In the words of one Indian woman, “Corn is so important because it allows us to live at peace. It’s our form of food security.” Corn is linked to survival: During rough economic times or in the face of natural disasters, families will produce more maize to feed themselves. A Tzotzil Maya elder recounts, “During the past five centuries, while our people have withstood suffering—enormous sufferings—our corn has allowed us to survive.”

Now the North American Free Trade Agreement threatens to change that history. NAFTA has allowed the Mexican market to be flooded with imported corn from the United States, the vast majority of which is genetically modified. Before NAFTA, more than a third of the corn produced by rural farmers was retained for consumption at home, and the rest was sold on local markets. Indigenous peoples and peasants were practicing true food sovereignty and protected themselves from natural disasters and price fluctuations. Most local maize is sold through DISCONSA, a network of rural food stores common in poor and remote regions. As multinationals entered the market, a few began to sell their corn through the DISCONSA network, a practice that artificially lowered prices, hurt local farmers’ income, and disrupted the usual pattern of retaining enough corn for contingencies. More importantly, some of the corn flowing into the network consisted of genetically modified organisms. Estimates of contamination vary according to locality, from 3 percent to 60 percent. Within the DISCONSA network, the Mexican government found 37 percent contamination.

“We have learned that agrochemical companies patented our maize,” said a Tzotzil statement published in 2002 in La Jornada. “They are putting in genes from other living beings and many chemicals to completely put an end to our natural maize, so we’ll have to buy nothing but transgenic maize. If these agrochemical companies try to do away with our maize, it will be like putting an end to part of the culture that our Mayan ancestors bequeathed to us. Our indigenous peasant grandparents gave their labor and their hearts; they cried as they asked protection from our Creator for their work to bear fruit.”

To address the threat to traditional corn, the Tzotzil people formed the Mother Seeds in Resistance project. Mother Seeds is based in an autonomous indigenous school in the Chiapas highlands. There the community is identifying seeds to be preserved and preparing them to be frozen (for preservation, the moisture content in the seeds must be below 6 percent; otherwise the water inside the seeds will freeze and then burst the cell membranes, destroying them).

Community members of all ages are involved in the identification process, and it has become a channel through which young are learning from their elders. “It’s good to talk about these things in Tzotzil,” said two teachers, “because it is our own language.” Aldo Gonzalez, an indigenous Zapotec who has been on the forefront of the campaign against genetically modified maize, says, “Native seeds are a very important part of our culture. The pyramids may have been destroyed, but a handful of maize seed is the legacy we can leave to our children and grandchildren.”

Christina Santini recently worked at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and currently works in urban planning and development at Harvard University. She is also a professional cook.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

In The Beginning: Corn

Corn as we know it today would not exist if it weren't for the humans that cultivated and developed it. It is a human invention, a plant that does not exist naturally in the wild. It can only survive if planted and protected by humans.

Scientists believe people living in central Mexico developed corn at least 7000 years ago. It was started from a wild grass called teosinte. Teosinte looked very different from our corn today. The kernels were small and were not placed close together like kernels on the husked ear of modern corn. Also known as maize Indians throughout North and South America, eventually depended upon this crop for much of their food.

Mural by Lowell Houser, The Development of Corn, Post Office, Ames, Iowa

From Mexico maize spread north into the Southwestern United States and south down the coast to Peru. About 1000 years ago, as Indian people migrated north to the eastern woodlands of present day North America, they brought corn with them.

When Europeans like Columbus made contact with people living in North and South America, corn was a major part of the diet of most native people. When Columbus "discovered" America, he also discovered corn. But up to this time, people living in Europe did not know about corn.

The first Thanksgiving was held in 1621. While sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie were not on the menu, Indian corn certainly would have been.

Vonage Introduces the Mexico Freedom Plan

Vonage, a leading provider of communications services for consumers and businesses, has launched the Mexico Freedom plan, providing flexible, easy and affordable communications between the U.S. and Mexico. The Mexico Freedom plan is the only residential calling plan offering unlimited1 calling both to and from Mexico for both landlines and mobile phones, and is available for $29.99 per month (plus taxes and fees) with a one-year agreement.

Staying in touch over the phone can be cost prohibitive for many with friends and family in Mexico. Since the cost of calls from Mexico to the U.S. can be expensive, the burden often falls to those living in the U.S. to call Mexico. The Mexico Freedom plan not only provides unlimited1 calling to address the increasing need and desire to call mobile phones throughout Mexico, it also offers Local Access Numbers in Mexico. Local Access Numbers are phone numbers in Mexico that friends and family can call to reach a Vonage customer, giving them the freedom to call a Vonage customer in U.S. for the price of a local call. taxes and fees) with a one-year agreement.

"We know that a big hurdle for those trying to stay in touch with friends and family in Mexico is the cost to call both to and from the country," said Vanessa Rodriguez, Director, Multicultural Marketing, Vonage. "The new Mexico Freedom plan breaks down these barriers by giving both those in the U.S. the flexibility to call Mexico easily and affordably while at the same time enabling family in Mexico to call Vonage customers in the U.S. for the price of a local call with our Local Access Numbers." taxes and fees) with a one-year agreement.

Customers can also use their home phone plan to make and receive calls on their iPhone® or Android™ smartphones2 anywhere there is a Wi-Fi or data3 connection with the Vonage® Extensions® App. Once installed, calls to a customer's home number will ring on the linked smartphones, ensuring customers never miss a call, can keep their mobile numbers private and can make low-cost international calls from virtually anywhere. With Wi-Fi calling, customers can use Vonage service on mobiles in areas with poor cellular coverage, including their homes. taxes and fees) with a one-year agreement.

In addition to unlimited1 calls to Mexico, the Vonage Mexico Freedom plan provides unlimited1 calling throughout the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more here. taxes and fees) with a one-year agreement.

"The Vonage Mexico Freedom plan provides customers with an inclusive calling experience, with the ability to make and receive calls from their smartphones using their home calling plan and providing local access numbers for friends and family in Mexico to call them in the U.S. for the cost of a local call. No other home phone service provider offers this level of versatility, convenience and value," Rodriguez said. taxes and fees) with a one-year agreement.

1Reasonable Use Policy applies. 2 Up to two mobile phones per line can be linked. 3 Data rates apply.

Vonage residential service ( for individuals and families, and Vonage Business Solutions service ( for small and medium businesses, run over the top of a customer's existing broadband connection. Through Telesphere (, Vonage offers service with carrier-grade performance over a private national MPLS broadband network, which is especially well suited to address the needs of larger businesses with multiple offices that require higher service level agreements (SLAs).

Javier Berrera Is An Artist in Brass

Tonight we ate dinner with Gary and Sue at Reconsita in San Antonio area of San Miguel. On the way back we walked by a small garage owned by a plumber Javier Berrera and his friend Marcos, What we saw amazed us all. Javier had spent three years making a scale model of the Perroquoia in brass.

Marcos and Javier in the red shirt

Parroquia San Miguel

Compare Javier's version to the photo of the real Parroquia.

We saw that Javier had also completed the statue in the square in Deloros Hidalgo.

Javier's current project is a scale model of the San Antonio Church

Look at the  detail and soon he will attach the brass pews.

Finally, for those of you who watch the Jardin from the web cam, the camera is mountred on the roof of La Terraza:
If you are in San Miguel, visit his garage on the corner of 28 de Abril and Pila Seca

Local Double Earthquakes On San Andreas Fault Rock Mexicali

The U.S. Geological Survey says two magnitude 4.0-plus earthquakes have struck the San Andreas fault on the California-Mexico border. The first one, a magnitude 4.2, struck at 12:30 p.m. PDT 7 miles southwest of Delta, B.C., Mexico at a depth of 16.1 miles. The second quake, measuring in at a magnitude of 4.5, struck the same area about three minutes later, but only at a depth of .44 miles.

Quakes just below the earth’s surface, in the 0 to 10 miles range, can cause even more damage at lower magnitudes. Several people reported feeling the quakes in Mexicali, Mexico and Calexico in California. There were no immediate reports of damage.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Patsy's Party (2)

I just love the plant life in Mexico and San Miguel. They inspire me to take pictures of the scenery. Here are some sights on Easter Sunday.

Ask a Realtor: Can Foreigners Own Property in Vallarta?

Michael Green – Boardwalk Realty

For nearly a century, foreigners have been unable to hold the deed to land near Mexico’s borders or shoreline. In this edition of ‘Ask a Realtor,’ Boardwalk Realty Broker Michael Green answers questions about foreign ownership of Puerto Vallarta real estate through the use of a Bank Trust.

Q: Can a USA or Canadian citizen own real estate in Puerto Vallarta? – Peter H. Seattle

A: Hi Peter, you sure can, by placing the property in a bank trust, which is called a “Fideicomiso.” Title of the property is transferred to a trust with a Mexican bank acting as Trustee. The Trust Agreement is formalized by the issuance of a permit from the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

There are three parties to the trust: The seller of the property is the Trustor, the bank is the Trustee (Fiduciario), and the buyer is the Beneficiary (Fideicomisario.) The buyer is designated as Beneficiary in the Trust and the beneficiary rights are recorded in the public record by a Notary Public. The Trust is currently for a term of 50 years and can be renewed for additional 50 year terms.

Many people have the mistaken belief that the trust is similar to renting, or a lease, this is NOT the case! The bank holds the property in trust and follows your instructions. The property is NOT an asset of the bank, it is your asset and the trust is for perpetuity. As Beneficiary, you have the same rights, use and enjoyment as a Mexican National, and can sell or rent your property without restriction, and keep the proceeds. You may also transfer your rights to a third party or pass it on to named heirs.The bank charges the person desiring the Fideicomiso an initial fee of approximately $500 USD for signing the agreement and establishing the Trust and a yearly fee of approximately $460 USD per year for administering the trust.

You are free to choose which bank you prefer to hold your bank trust. Your local AMPI Realtor will be able to coordinate all the paperwork involved in this process. You will just need to provide photo identification, and fill out a very basic bank form with your personal information and instructions on how you wish to hold the property and who you want to pass it to in the event of your death.

I recommend using a bank that will lock in the administration fee, and has a local English speaking representative. You can also request a clause be added to your trust allowing you to attend and vote at the Homeowners meetings without getting a proxy every year from the bank.

Some people complain about the trust process, but there are benefits: As part of the closing process, the bank’s attorneys review the deed and are able to sign on your behalf. It is always nice to have another set of trained eyes review your deed before signature.

Also, the trust separates the asset legally, much in the way a “living trust” does in the United States. Finally, in the event of the death of the buyer (beneficiary), the property automatically reverts to the substitute beneficiaries, avoiding lengthy and costly probate procedures. At some point, the law requiring a trust may be amended, allowing foreigners to own directly in their names and doing away with the trust. Last year, this bill passed in the Mexican House of Representatives and was sidetracked in the Senate.

Michael Green is the Broker of Boardwalk Realty. Active in local and national Real Estate boards; published author and acknowledged expert on Puerto Vallarta Real Estate, Mike moved here in 1997 to take advantage of the unsurpassed lifestyle PV offers. Email Mike at michael(at), or visit their website at


Over dinner last night with Kristine & John Scherber, John explained that those laws do not apply to San Miguel. You can own property in your name, by passing the trust. You can own the house and the land. There are no mineral rights, however. The state owns the mineral rights. He did suggest strongly getting a will. There is no right of survivor law in Mexico. If your will doesn't transfer the ownership to your spouse, then the property goes to the state.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Patsy's Place

Sunday was a fun day. A whole bunch of us got in cars and rode out into the country somewhere near Atotonilco for a Easter Lunch at Caterer Patsy. They served libations, pou pous, and then a Salmon and/or ham with salads, then a desert of ice cream, strawberries (fresca) and whipped cream. At the end of the evening, the winners of the best Easter hat were announced. It was a fun day and about 84 degrees.

We sat around the tables and introduced ourselves. There was Deb, a former tax attorney, who rode in the car I drove. I asked her a stupid question near the end. I turned to her and said, "Deb whose car do you come in? I met Norm and Nancy Karp who leave for New York on Tuesday this week. Norm was a jeweler. 

I met the stunning Terry Cameron Baldwin who wore a beautiful dress and hat to match. I learned she is a writer and has a book coming out this fall: ALL THE GHOSTS DANCE FREE"

Terry writes, "The book is a memoir inspired by the last years of my father’s life, spent with me in Mexico. It describes how a lifetime of easy compatibility cracks under the strain of living together again. Themes explored are aging and dying, alcoholism and suicide, generational patterns and the possibility of an authentic life."

I met the Kay, who lives San Miguel, and had a wealth of information about restaurants and places to exercise.

Gary and Sue Reid were the invitees. They organized their group of twenty or so.

It was a pleasure meeting Matthew and Kim Clifton owners of Tierra Antigua located in Tucson, one of the fastest growing realtors in the Southwest.

And now here is the winner of the Easter hat Contest:

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Road Trip to San Miguel (8)

We moved into Casa Sundance today. I figure this is the 13th place we spent time since Jan 1st. That is called living out of a suitcase.

Spent part of the evening at Gary and Sue's taking pictures of the parade featuring the 14 stations of the cross. When we got home we went up on the upper terrace to take in the city lights. We have a beautiful view.

Signs Preceding the End of the World

Jonathon Sturgeon reviews Signs Preceding the End of the World, in Flavorwire

What will we make of North American civilization, in the broad, continental sense, when it is gone? When its states have vanished or dissolved or slowly mutated into other states, how will we remember the borders that once existed between them? Or, for example: how will the war of attrition waged by the U.S. along the border of Mexico be understood in two or three centuries?

These are questions we could leave to congressman, television pundits, gun-toting ranchers, historians, whoever: there is no shortage of American conservatives who have made their reputations and livelihoods off borderland speculation and its attendant scaremongering. But, though we rarely do it, we could also turn to artists and novelists to understand how the state between states projects us into the future. Why shouldn’t we? The territory between the U.S. and Mexico is as much a zone of language as it is a disputed territory. And the novel, especially the poetic novel, is the best place we can turn to watch language morph between states.

In the hands of Yuri Herrera, who has been called Mexico’s greatest living novelist, the border between Mexico and the United States becomes an event horizon. Or at least in Signs Preceding the End of the World, his first and only novel to be translated into English — deftly, by Lisa Dillman — the perilous journey across the geographically and politically fraught borderland is as much about crossing a threshold of time and being as it is entering a dangerous new country. In Herrera’s novel, as in Andrei Tarkovsky’s Nostalghia, nation states are equivalent to states of being. Reading Signs Preceding the End of the World is like watching a living thing violently yet breathtakingly metamorphose in front of your eyes.

The novel begins, ends, and is carried through entirely on the shoulders of the Atlas-like Makina, a character, a young woman, who will be read, discussed, and emulated for decades to come. Wise but curious, tough but necessitous, resilient but not impervious to suicidal thoughts, Makina is tasked with delivering a note to her brother, who has foolishly absconded to the U.S. after he is tricked into believing there is land for him there. When we first meet her, she narrowly misses being swallowed into a sinkhole. When we leave her, she has been swallowed into a new existence.

Along the way, Makina meets a procession of figures, a dozen Virgils — crime lords, a coyote named Chucho, even a corpse — who usher her almost ceremoniously toward the border. And the nearer she is to the border, the more intensified the violence, literal and poetic, becomes. This accounts, too, for the novel’s noirish, hybridized prose and its strange-but-spare poetic interpolations, such as when Makina “verses” instead of exits or leaves a place. Not only does it feel as if she is transversing a terrain; it also implies, in the sense of Jean-Paul Sartre, that the novel contains no exit.

Given that they exist on a threshold, Herrera depicts the people on the border, toward whom Makina is naturally inclined, as transitional — not only between states, but between past, present, and future:

They are homegrown and they are anglo and both things with rabid intensity; with restrained fervor they can be the meekest and at the same time the most querulous of citizens, albeit grumbling under their breath. Their gestures and tastes reveal both ancient memory and the wonderment of new people. And they they speak. They speak an intermediary tongue that Makina instantly warms to because it’s like her: malleable, erasable, permeable; a hinge pivoting between two like but distant souls, and then two more, and then two more, never exactly the same ones; something that serves as a link. On the other side, in the United States, things are appropriately alien. (That is also to say: pompously Roman.) I can think of no recent novel, in fact, that alienates the U.S. so convincingly, as in the case of this explanation of baseball as military simulation:

Every week the anglos play a game to celebrate who they are. He stopped, raise his cane and fanned the air. One of them whacks it, then sets off like it was a trip around the world, to every one of the bases out there, you know the anglos have bases all over the world, right? Well the one who whacked it runs from one to the next while the others keep taking swings to distract their enemies, and if he doesn’t get caught he makes it home and his people welcome him with open arms and cheering. At little more than a hundred pages, Signs Preceding the End of the World has been called an odyssey, but I don’t buy it — its protagonist is not homeward bound. Either way, what Makina finds of her brother, of herself, on the other side of the event horizon, in the infinitely dense black hole called the United States, is a tragically common occurrence. But as Yuri Herrera proves: it has to be read to be believed.