Monthly Archives: August 2010

Why do I live here?

September 1, 2010     

Why do I live here?

We have all asked ourselves this question from time to time (sometimes several times in the same day…) A succinct explanation is even more difficult to provide when it has been requested by someone who has no experience with “living abroad.” 

Lately, a few new followers of “Writing From Merida” have e-mailed me with this query; today I’ll attempt to compose a reply for them (and myself!)

I suppose that those of us who have chosen to live in Mexico were missing something where we came from. (I already hear a few protests but bear with me…) Most probably the lack we felt had little to do with the place we were living, and lots to do with the people we are. Maybe we need to think we’re different from our peers or at least appear to be more adventurous. Are we incurable romantics, and do we still retain some of that 60s idealism? Perhaps we think that living away from the countries of our birth makes some kind of individualistic “statement”? Or do we… flat out, simply love Mexico?

Does living in a different place satisfy our cultural inquisitiveness? Some of us have a mental image of ourselves as heartfelt (albeit untrained) sociologists, or anthropologists, or historians, or archaeologists? Painters or even, (yea gads!) writers?

Does living amongst people who have retained a sense of belonging to a place help us to feel likewise? Does osmosis occur when we put ourselves in close proximity to those who have the ability to feel intense joy, even in the face of dire need? Does the “ni modos”; “mey”; “¿Y que?” (What the Hell?) attitude strike a chord in us?

And do we admire traits like steadfast resilience, calm composure, quiet defiance and unshakable faith?

Or is it that we like the sun; feeling less structure; living with decreased social pressure; having help around the house and the ability to stretch the retirement check? Do we like the reality that familial responsibilities lie too far away to cause daily stress? Do we cherish the fact that we’re removed from a lot of mundane concerns?

So far I’ve answered no questions; in fact I’ve put more on the table…

What about my personal circumstances? I arrived in Merida nearly 35 years ago… with stars in my eyes. I was totally in love with the idea of “leaving it all for the man of my dreams.” That was naivety in the extreme but ¡Gracias a Dios!  it worked out for me; I’ve met many along the way who did not share my luck.

Now on to… “la neta”  (Let’s crack open the proverbial nutshell!) In my humble opinion, we live here because this is precisely what we want to do.  We don’t desire going through the paces and allowing one day to sullenly stretch into the next. We want to feel we are somehow masters or mistresses of our own destiny. Living away from the familiar world allows us the freedom to do this. In a sense we can re-invent ourselves.

Is this a bad thing? Is this running away? Is this being irresponsible? I don’t think so. We tread a fine line but we don’t have to cross it; we can live far away from “home” and still be caring children, parents, brothers, sisters, friends – and yes, grandmas…

We can do this by sharing our lives with those who still live where we come from…

Many years ago my sister was visiting me. It was January and we went for a walk along the beach. You know how the wind can blow during a “norte”… it was hard going I tell you. But it was a gorgeous day! Wise Barbara turned to me and said, “Joanna, this day is like your life – not always easy  but absolutely breath-taking!” I had to agree. Later she told me, “Our whole family has been enriched because you live in Mexico. We get to visit you, enjoy your world and learn!”

On that day, I feel my sister paid me one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received. I adore the fact that she feels that way.

Sometimes I find it hard to be away from her and other loved ones. I miss my “true north, strong and free” and I do wallow in nostalgia on a fairly frequent basis. But I pay out willingly (most days…) To summarize (I believe that’s what one should do at the end of an essay… or is this more of a discourse, a diatribe or a rant…)

We live here because we want to. It suits us for one reason… or another…  or many.

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Centro Cultural Carlos Acereto

August 31, 2010 

Centro Cultural Carlos Acereto

Today I went looking for a needle in a haystack…  AKA an attractive ensemble to wear to a Bicentennial costume party. I had criteria too; I wanted the outfit to be original, not too hot, and (if possible) it might make me look a little slimmer. Where does one go to find such a garment? To the “Centro Cultural Carlos Acereto”, of course!

It’s at the intersection of Calle 55 and Calle 38; the cultural center has a costume outlet that supplies many of the city’s dancers with their gorgeous stage clothes. Trajes regionales from all the states in the country can be rented.  They carry more than one selection from the states like Oaxaca and Chiapas that have more than one special outfit.

As well there are “period costumes” such as turn-of-the-20th Century gowns, wedding dresses and slinky Salsa outfits. I saw one black sheath that made me think of Tina Modotti (the famous Italian photographer who lived in Mexico City during the late 1920s and 1930s) There’s just one problem… the costumes are for dancers and so “Extra Grande” is about a size 8. Nonetheless, a lot of the styles are meant to be worn loose so there is something for every figure type.

My friend Cathy had a little more luck than I did… She got a fabulous white lace creation. Since I have a lot of full skirts and colorful peasant blouses, beads and hair ornaments at home… we were set! We made a final stop at a sewing goods store, bought some red cord and hurried home to see how we looked. Well, the hair color is a “few” shades to light and we figure a dark  pencil will take care of the lack of eyebrows.

If you’re guessing that we are going to attempt to disguise ourselves as Frida, you’d be right… but we’re taking it a step further and are going dressed as one of her paintings: “Las Dos Fridas.” So in two weeks time, Writing From Merida will post a picture of “las Dos Fridas Gueras” – “The Two Blonde Fridas”

If you too are looking to dress up for the Bicentennial… check out the “Centro Cultural Carlos Acereto”… I bet you’ll find something that’s just right for you.

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The Weekend

August 30, 2010

The Weekend…

A  delightful weekend it was indeed. I am enjoying my book editing but all work and no play makes for a pretty prescribed life! Finished early  on Friday evening, we spent most of our Saturday and Sunday with family and friends…  

I tied on my apron and pulled out the cutting boards and big knives. I coaxed Jorge to join me in the kitchen and we commenced our annual late August tradition… making “Chiles en Nogada! “ This signature dish from Puebla is not at all difficult to prepare but it is very time-consuming. There is much chop-chop-chop… then more chop-chop-chop! (See the recipe I posted a few days ago) A couple of hours later, we put the meat and fruit filled beauties into the fridge “to set.”  The next day we’d have company to share them with …

Our enjoyment of the food and our friends made us feel that the extra effort involved in making the complex regional specialty was time well-spent.

As margaritas, wine, and limoncello were also part of the evening, Sunday was a bit of a washout. We went for a drive through the nearly deserted Merida streets (almost all Méridanos were at the beach today) and we came across an uncommon sight:

Doesn’t it seem strange to see that sorghum plant growing through the sidewalk? Can you read what’s written on the wall – below the “Se Vende” sign? An unknown wannabe rancher has scrawled, “Esta es mi milpa, no cortar – This is my crop, don’t cut it down.” For some reason we found this charming, and Jorge insisted on having his picture taken in the “milpa”

Back home…  a swim and siesta – life is good!

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Sorry…

August 27,2010

Sorry…

I’m afraid there will be no new post until after the weekend. I am up to the (very red) eyeballs with editing. If the book is to be available before Christmas, I have to work at it like crazy…

It is a very interesting process and I’m learning a lot. I will write about the experience soon.

Remember that Saturday is Frida & Diego’s anniversay and it is also St. Augustine’s Day (the National Chiles en Nogada Day)

I’ll leave you with a photograph from a couple of years ago… this isn’t the first time we are celebrating this special anniversay.

Have a great weekend!

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A laugh for you today…

August 26, 2010

A laugh for you today…

I don’t often see jokes posted on blogs but this is a good one! And I can tell it because I have actually been to one of these “events”with my mom … (of course this did NOT happen at the one I went to…)

The Catholic Women’s Action League has an annual spiritual retreat. This event is usually attended by delegates from many parishes in the nation. Few of them know one another and at breakfast on the first morning, the spokeswoman says to all, “Come now Sisters in Christ, introduce yourselves to the others at your table.”

At one of the tables there were four wary women and no one wanted to speak first. Finally , one of the ladies addressed her three companions, “Well none of you know me but I am Mrs. Caplan and my son is a priest. Whenever he comes into a room the people all rise and say, “Oh Father!”

Everyone nodded and then a second lady said, “Pleased to meet you Mrs. Caplan; I am Mrs. Marshall and my son is a bishop; when he comes into a room, all the people rise and say, “Oh your Excellency!”

The third woman cut right in… Mrs. Caplan, Mrs. Marshall; I am Mrs Winslow and my son is a Cardinal. Whenever he comes into a room, all the people rise and say, “Oh Your Eminence!”

All eyes are on the fourth sister in Christ. Wanting to look her best, Sra García had tied her hair into a tight chignon and she put on the grey suit her mother-in-law had said was “appropriate.” Now though in the company of these three, she put  her elbows on the table and leaning forward she said, “my son is 6 foot- two… hard-bodied and he’s a stripper. When he comes into a room all the people rise and say, “Oh My God!”

” Image from Google Clip Art

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Amaro’s… a different kind of night spot

August 25, 2010

Amaro’s… a different kind of night spot

Last Saturday evening, Jorge and I went to one of our favorite night spots.

Amaros, located on Calle 59 between 60 and 62 is actually a vegetarian restaurant with live entertainment. The house trovador is an excellent guitarist with a charming bohemian style. He obviously enjoys singing  the music of Fernando Delgadillo, Silvio Rodriguez, Fito Paez, and Alejandro Filio but that’s fine with me… I enjoy listening. The songs are gentle and romantic.

The food and service at Amaros are not 5 star but they are pleasant and any omissions are certainly made up for by the ambiance. The seating is outside under a huge flowering tree where the evening breeze blows between the tables and the illumination is by candlelight. Many interesting old pieces of wrought iron, glass, pottery and wood are placed here and there, adding to the easy, eclectic atmosphere.

Local artists’ recent works are shown in the restaurant’s periphery gallery, so this too is a nice feature.

The clientele at Amaros is a good mix of locals and internationals. Tourists also go to Amaros but most of them do not spend a couple of hours with “one more glass of wine” , just listening to the music and smiling…

As we exited hand and in hand we were surprised by the sight of a blast from the past…

One of the waiters said, “It belongs to the musician,” I couldn’t resist taking a picture of “Gitana” and we smiled some more, remembering a similar VW van that in years long-past took us to many wonderful places, under both the sun and  the stars…

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Awesome News…

August 24, 2010

Awesome News…

A few weeks ago (July 9th) I posted a piece entitled, “Who’s Writing?”  It began,

Lately the posts on this blog have been about almost everything except my… a-hem writing.  Actually an email came in asking if I still planned to publish another book. If so, in what decade might that happen?

The fact is… I have been writing – a lot and have two books that are ready to go.  But those publishers are darn hard to pin down. Yes, sir-ee Bob!”

As often happens, I received several email comments one of which read,

Uh, publishing books with Mexican and Latin American ties is what we do :-)

The message was from the acquisitions director at Editoral Mazatlán (http://editorialmazatlan.com) … and they were willing to look at my manuscript!

It felt a little strange to e-mail my work off to them but I did so, and when Jorge and I returned from our vacation in Canada, I heard that YES, they might be interested in publishing the book. The editor and I have corresponded at length over the ensuing few weeks and yesterday, we signed a contract.

Editorial Mazatlán is a small independent publisher located in Mazatlán ,Sinaloa, specializing in English-language books on Mexican history and culture. This seems like the perfect publisher for me, don’t you think?

The book MAGIC MADE IN MEXICO is written for   the international community in Mexico. It tells the story of my thirty five years living in Mérida, gives an overview of the country’s history and anecdotal advice for recently arrived residents.

I self published a similar book in 2007 ( Tomando Agua de Pozo ). When all the copies were sold, many readers asked me to print a second edition. However as much of the information was out of date, I decided to write a new updated version. Some sections will be familiar to those who read my first book, yet the content of this book is quite different.

Before Christmas, MAGIC MADE IN MEXICO will be available to you in book stores, libraries and on Amazon. If you’d like to reserve a signed copy, let me know…

And how do I feel? Well, they say “a picture paints a thousand words”… I think the ones on this posting do precisely that!

* Photos taken by Aris Delgado

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