After a month on the road, we finally settled in for two weeks in magical Guanajuato, a city surrounded by tall mountains with multi-coloured and multi-level houses built on steep hills of a ravine, mainly reached by foot through windy alleyways.
It was the site of the Spaniard’s major silver mines (worked by Indigenous slave labour), the historical independence battle led by Criolle rebel leader Miguel Hidalgo in 1810, tunnel passageways and monumental architecture. The birthplace of muralist Diego Rivera, Guanajuato hosts the international Cervantino Arts Festival for three weeks in October (we’d love to return for that and Day of the Dead later this year, John by bike, Deb by plane!).
Just strolling through the narrow cobblestone streets is a treat, with mimes and music on every corner, singing along with Los Estudiantes (roaming troubadours dressed in 19th century Spanish attire – listen below). One evening we took in an art history lecture at the massive University on Diego Rivera and his role in the Mexican left (understanding perhaps half of it, and relieved when there were images to look at!)
(View the city in the slide show below clicking on FS for full screen in lower right corner and by starting with first in the strip of images below)
We rented a house from Deborah’s cousin, Rachel and her partner, Adam, and shared many meals with them.
They live the summer months on an island in Nova Scotia and the winter months here, where they have created whimsical spaces in their home, Casa Rosa, and the rental, Casa Palma (highly recommended for our friends!) www.casapalmarosa.com
(Click on FS for full screen in lower right corner and tart with the first of the images in the strip below ; Find Rachel and Adam’s cream coloured house with blue trim the first two images; our aqua coloured house with avocado tree to the right and above a red house can be found later)
Part of the treat for us was reclaiming domestic tasks such as shopping in the immense Mercado Hidalgo and cooking for ourselves. We relished fresh tortillas, tropical fruits, octopus pozole and fish ceviche, helped down with John’s famous margaritas and any new local artisanal beer he could discover. We experimented with cooking with the Uitzi (solar oven) created by Adam, aiming the mirrors at just the right angle to sizzle our octopus with the hot sun. (website for solar oven).
(Relish our experiences in the market, cooking and eating in the slide show below clicking on FS for full screen in lower right corner and by starting with first image in the strip below)
We also immersed ourselves in other tasks, each according to our passions: John worked daily in the garden Rachel has cultivated (with mango, avocado, orange and peach trees, and wonderful beds of arugula and mustards), turned over and revived the compost, and spent hours fighting a massive infestation of sap-sucking insects that threatened the very life of the avocado tree.
Cyborg Deborah reconnected with her pilates class via internet, Skyped with family, friends and students she is still supervising, and worked on her evolving website, with long-distance tech assistance.
Exploring our barrio
We got to know Apollonia, the local storekeeper; Pepe, our neighbor who painted the mural that covered our wall, and exchanged “Buenas Tardes!” with folks we passed on our hikes up and down the hill.
One day while exploring the neighbourhood, we passed by one of the ubiquitous murals of the Virgin of Guadalupe, got a whiff of dope, and watched a group of local youth duck down to hide from Deborah’s camera. Jorge, the friendliest of the gang, offered to show us a local mural project in a garbage-strewn vacant lot they were reclaiming down the hill. There we met Leonardo, a regional coordinator with Pacto por el Pueblo, a project with “chavos banda” (local street youth into graffiti and hip hop). He and Ingacio, the local community leader, invited us back for the mural opening on the weekend. Ignacio himself offered a fascinating life history: sent for security training in arms around the world (including Canada), he was a bodyguard for federal politicians and witness to endless demonstrations of corruption; rejecting that life, he has now chosen to be a “generador de cambios”, or change agent, with local youth.
(View the slide showof the youth mural project by starting with first image in slide show and clicking on FS for full screen in lower right corner)
The first mural, a Mayan calendar, was flanked with the number 13, to represent the transformation of the youth and of the barrio hoped for from this project. As special guests, we were invited to pose with the youth for everyone’s cellphone cameras. We chatted with local women and enjoyed a community meal of chicharrón and a big birthday cake they had prepared. Deborah exchanged with the Pacto’s coordinators contacts with other youth mural projects in LA and Toronto.
See the next blog entry for our adventures around Guanajuato..!