Friday, January 10, 2014

Playing Catch-up


The last couple of months have been a bit of a blur so I am going to play a little catch-up and fill in some blanks. I arrived home on November 10th, after a wonderful week in Patzcuaro, just in time for the next big event in my life. The visit to San Miguel by author Francisco Jiménez.



Francisco Jiménez at the biblioteca in San Miguel


Many months of my Spanish conversation class last year were filled with the wonderful stories in Francisco Jiménez’s Circuit Trilogy. The Circuit, Breaking Through and Reaching out tell of the life of Jiménez from a four year old illegal Mexican immigrant to his graduation from university in California. He later translated the three books into Spanish which we read in our class. The titles are Cajas de cartón, Senderos fronterizos and Más allá de mí.

The stories are warm and funny, sometimes tragic, and offer a wonderful insight into Mexican culture and the struggle of immigrants to adapt to life in the USA. Needless to say by the time we were finished with the books we were all in love with “Panchito”. In our minds we had watched him grow up and felt as though we knew him.

Around this time a group of people from the biblioteca, our local library, began a project to bring reading to the children of the campos, the countryside, where many do not even attend school let alone read for pleasure. As one of the women on this project was from our classes, they decided that the Circuit Trilogy would be great place to start. They raised money for books and arranged to have Francisco Jiménez visit San Miguel de Allende. He was here only a few days and was on a pretty tight schedule but he did manage to address our class one day at the biblioteca as well as attending a great little party with us before his return to the States.

It was really wonderful to meet and talk with him and his wife. We found him to be kind, friendly and approachable in spite of the fact that he holds some pretty impressive credentials, including a PhD in Latin American literature from Columbia University under a Woodrow Wilson  Fellowship. In 2002, he was selected the U.S. Professor of the Year by CASE and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and in 2009 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, honoris causa, University of San Francisco. He is currently the Fay Boyle Professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at Santa Clara University. 

The project was wildly successful, with the campo kids loving the books and so excited to have the author visit them in their little towns. He worked tirelessly visiting, and inspiring, so many children during his short visit. If I sound a little awe-struck, I guess I really was, and probably still am.



Wednesday, January 8, 2014

January 8th 2014??????


Wow, how did that happen? Where did the last couple of months go? The last time I set fingers to keyboard for my blog was the end of October, 2013. It’s been a very busy couple of months, but there has also been time to fit in some fun. Like the only place to be for Day of the Dead… Patzcuaro!

In October my friends and ex-neighbours in Corazon de Durazno, near Patzcuaro told me that they were off to Playa del Carmen for a week to spend some time with friends from up north who would be vacationing there. While I was pleased for them that they were about to embark on a nice warm holiday, I didn’t really think that this would affect me much, until Kathy mentioned that they were looking for someone to stay in their house and look after their cat while they were gone. Whoopee! A week in my old stomping grounds, and at Day of the Dead, no less.

I arrived in Patzcuro on October 30th and immediately headed into town to view the tianguis, the huge market set up in the main plaza, and of course the concurso. The concurso is the competition among the best of the best of the artisans that produce the amazing array of Mexican art that we see at this time of year. People from all over North America, and actually a lot from Europe as well, come every year to Patzcuaro to view, admire and purchase these rare pieces.



Incredible pottery from Capula



The photos above and below are work from Zinapecuaro, probably my favourite Mexican ceramics.




In San José de Gracia the Hernandez and Alejos families have been creating piñas, pineapples, for 40 years.


A stunning Day of the Dead version of The Tree of Life



Above and below, the whimsical art of the town of Ocumicho




Patzcuaro truly went all out for Day of the Dead 2013. The concurso was very successful, making excellent sales from what we could see of the sold signs, the tianguis  was huge and well attended and the town of Patzcuaro was decked out like never before.






I loved this display built over the fountain in Plaza Don Quiroga. People from different walks of life are kneeling before Quiroga in thanks for his teaching them their crafts and bringing affluence to the towns of Michoacán.

Throughout the week I had time to visit with friends and have some great meals in some of my favourite haunts. One such afternoon was spent with my good friend David at Rancho La Mesa. The restaurant sits high on a hill above Patzcuro and has one of the best views of the area.


Beach 2013 009

Ostrich pens at Rancho La Mesa

Beach 2013 010

I think he knows he’s on the menu


View from the gardens of Rancho La Mesa


All in all it was a week I will remember for some time to come!