Monthly Archives: May 2011

Two remarkable women…

You can read many facts about Leonora Carrington, the recently deceased surrealist artist by checking Wikipedia or any of the hundreds of news sites that featured articles about her this past week. But if you’re driven to learn more intimate details about her life and art, you need to read Elena Poniatowska’s  award winning novel “Leonora.” To do so, Spanish is a must because there is not yet an English language version of the book… although I expect that one will come along fairly soon. Leonora Carrington was after all, British born.

Ms. Poniatowska begins the biography by describing Leonora’s early years in her emotionally distant home environment at Crookhey Hall in Lancashire. The family wanted her to become a gentile young lady. She said she wanted to be a horse!

Leonora set her sights on becoming a serious artist but was thwarted again and again by her conservative family. She would not conform and her behavior became more and more erratic.  Her art had a decidedly surrealistic bent and she caught the attention of Max Ernst, who at the time was a well known surrealist – twice her age. Nonetheless, the two became lovers and returned to Paris together. He was married to another woman but Leonora and Max lived together. Political (and other pressures) split the couple and this seemed to be the final straw for her fragile equilibrium…The family considered that she had gone mad and had her institutionalized. Yet, despite her drug therapy induced stupor, she managed to escape confinement. Eventually she sought refuge at the Mexican Embassy in Lisbon.                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Renato Leduc, a member of Mexico’s artistic community agreed to marry her, thus assuring her entrance into his country. Just prior to WW II the Mexican President Lazaro Cardenas and his wife were personally involved in the rescue of thousands of Spanish and other European artists, writers, philosophers,  other intellectuals and politicians, who with their families sought refuge in Mexico.  Once Leonora’s residence had been secured, she and Leduc parted.

Leonora Carrington said of this time in her life.”I didn’t have time to be anyone’s muse… I was too busy rebelling against my family and learning to be an artist.”

In Mexico, her artistic career flourished. In addition to her sculpture and painting, Leonora was a prolific writer. She later married Emericko Weisz. The couple had two sons. She has told many interviewers that the birth of her children was her life’s most significant and important event. It is to be noted that Elena Poniatowska has said the same thing. I would venture to say that this publically declared sentiment causes many ordinary women to feel an affinity with these two extraordinary female artists.

Leonora lived in New York City during part of the 1960s, but most of her life has been spent in Mexico City.

Hospitalized due to complications from pneumonia, Leonora Carrington died in Mexico’s Capital on Wednesday May 25, 2011. She was 94 years old.                                                                                                                                                                                                

In Merida, during the early part of this year, we were fortunate to have a visiting exhibition of her large bronze sculptures. Anyone who saw the pieces could not help but be impressed by her mythical beings – colossal but delicate – feminine and richly detailed. The elongated necks, limbs and beaks and hooves, featured on otherwise human forms, somehow reminded me of demi-deities of Mexican pre-Columbian imagery – feathered serpents, eagle and jaguar warriors, deer icons, and fertility goddesses Tonanzin and Ixel

Leonora Carrington is one of the many non-native-born Latinas who have enriched Mexico’s arts and literature during the past century. While Elena Poniatowska is the daughter of a Mexican national, Paula Amor, the family lived in France until political circumstances also caused them to flee to Mexico. Both women (along with “Yours truly” and a host of my friends) are heartfelt in saying, “It is an ill wind that brings no good.”

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Friendship

Where would we be without our friends? The following fictitious text about friendship could have been “written” by a famous person who is much in the news this week. Can you guess who?  Are you like this person?

???

“I enjoy my many friends and acquaintances and I thrive on warmth and companionship. I like adventure and play and am always ready for a good time. I always expect a better, brighter future and I often try to “cheer up” those who are hurting.

Friendship means a great deal to me but I also need a great deal of emotional freedom and mobility.

I get a lot of emotional fulfillment through my involvement in groups, clubs, organizations, community activities, and my net of close friends.  I feel a close affinity with people who share the ideals or beliefs that I hold dear. I need close relationships with people outside of my physical family.

I relate to others on an emotional level, because I feel emotions so strongly myself. I am sensitive to others’ needs and have the ability to create a pleasant atmosphere when I am with another person.

I enjoy socializing, bringing people together and having many friends.  I value friendship very highly but detest jealousy and possessiveness.

I show caring and affection concretely, and I love giving and receiving gifts. I value comfort and elegance very highly and appreciate beautiful things.”

******

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Romantic Campeche

I haven’t been in town the past couple of days… Jorge and I took a little trip to Campeche to celebrate our 34th anniversary.

We arrived into Yucatan’s neighboring state’s capital city on Tuesday evening and checked into the Hotel Balaurtes. This   locally owned property was built in the late 50s and has recently undergone major renovation and expansion. We stayed in one of the new rooms, overlooking the Bay of Campeche… v-e-r-y   n-i-c-e!

Heading to the main plaza, we found lots of life and beauty in the city that has the unfair rep as being “Mexico’s home for the newly-wed and nearly dead!”

During the colonial period, the city was often attacked by pirates. there were only two accesses to the city – one by land and one by sea. Both of these almost 500 year old gates still guard the city.                                                                                                                                   

It’s true that Campeche is laid back but to us this is refreshing… and the architecture is beautiful

Next day, we lazed around the pool, did a little shopping and…

We watched Oprah’s farewell show. I’m an unabashed fan and had hoped to attend the show. But as Oprah said, “You are where you are meant to be…” And certainly, being with Jorge on our 34th anniversary was where I was meant to be!

For our celebration dinner, we went to the beautifully appointed “Hotel Puerta de Campeche” and enjoyed a fabulous meal in totally romantic surroundings…

Just a two hour drive from Merida, Campeche makes for a delightful get-away…


Puerta del Mar – the gateway to theboardwalk that has been built fromreclaimed land.     It is a favorite gathering place…                             

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Just for fun…

When was the last time you spent the day just having fun?

I suspect that many of you, like me, get so busy you don’t do this often enough…

Yesterday my friends Carolina and Marsha came by and we spent the WHOLE day… that’s right… the WHOLE day playing with paints…

Carolina is actually quite accomplished but Marsha and I dabble. We both liked to paint when we were younger and have now gone back to it. We agreed that the skills, although very rusty, are still there. It will take time but a psychologist friend told me that once a skill has been learned, a person never “forgets” and it is possible to reclaim… FUN!

Marsha had never used acrylic paint before and enjoyed it so much. I did a colored pencil cartoon of Marsha at the easel… I drew her at an odd angle and with her torso elongated because she seemed to be dancing with her work. Carolina painted a still life we put together.

At lunch time, we ate one of the lasagna that Maggie and I made the other day… we talked and talked and while we didn’t quite solve the world’s problem, we had a good time trying.

We listened to music… a good earthy mix of Santana, Eros Ramazzotti, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Joe Cocker, Macy Gray and the Frida sound track (for inspiration…)

Yes, it took a bit of organization to clear the agenda for our day off… but not as much as you’d think. This morning I am still reaping the rewards… I feel light and ready to start the day!

It’s a special day too. Jorge and I will celebrate our 34th anniversary (can’t resist the joke…) “And they said it wouldn’t last!”

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Do you like Lasagne?

Today my daughter and I made a favorite dish for a luncheon Maggie will have tomorrow. This was done during the time I’d planned on blogging so… the recipe is what I’m writing about. If you try this lasagne, I think you’ll agree it’s a particularly delicious one, and more so when served with a fresh green salad, crusty French bread… and of course a robust tinto!

MAGGIE and JOANNA’S LASAGNE

Ingredients:

(I)

1k. ground chicken breast

1 white onion (chopped)                       1 tsp. dried oregano

6 cloves garlic (diced)                            1 tsp. dried basil

1 liter tomato sauce                                 ½ tsp. dried rosemary

1 cup tomato paste                                   2 Tbsp. fresh parsley (chopped)

1 cup red wine                                             1 tsp. salt

½ tsp. pepper                                              1 tsp. sugar

(II)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

2 cups steamed spinach

2 cups sauted mushrooms

500 grams fresh mozzarella (sliced)

(III)

720 grams cottage cheese    2 beaten eggs

1 Tbsp. lemon peel              4 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

½ tsp. nutmeg                       salt and pepper

(IV)

2 pkg. pre-cooked lasagna noodles

2 cups grated parmesan cheese

Directions:

In a large skillet sauté together the first 3 ingredients (I)

Add the spices, tomato sauce and paste, wine. Simmer for    1½ hours.

Meanwhile… sauté mushrooms, steam spinach, slice mozzarella. (II) Set to one side in individual bowls

Mix together all of ingredients (III)                                                                                                                                                                          

Ladle ½ cup sauce into each 9 X 13 baking dish . Place 1 layer of noodles to cover the bottom of the baking dishes. Add consecutive layers: ½ cup sauce, spinach, mushrooms, cottage cheese mixture, mozzarella and noodles. Add two more layers like the first. Then top the lasagna with grated parmesan.

Bake at 375 degrees F. for 45 minutes. Cool for ½ hour before serving. This recipe will serve 12 generously.

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A rant is a-comin’

I don’t do this too often but a rant is a-comin’…

How did I know there would be a full moon tonight?

A)  Did I read the astrological chart?

B)    Did I look at a calendar that shows little moon icons on certain days?

C)   Did someone tell me, “Hey Joanna… there will be a full moon tonight?”

None of the preceding scenarios is correct. I KNEW there would be a full moon tonight because the Mérida drivers were particularly CRAZY… starting at 6:45 this morning!

Picture this: It’s early…I’m coffee-deprived and half asleep. Enya is playing on the i-touch and I am gettin’ all psyched up for the 7 am Yoga class (you know the one where I am urged to bend my ample self into a pretzel shape…)

But part of me was alert (thank God!) because at the “La Iberica” intersection, while my head is turned to the left (the direction where the on-coming traffic would appear) a Kamikaze VW Combi filled with innocent school children comes careening up on my right, jumps the stop sign, cuts in front of me and screeches into the 3 centimeter space between himself, a great huge stone wall, and me and… charges up the road. Frightened children be damned!

I was about to have a heart attack! I pulled over to collect my wits and get myself back into that Yoga state of mind…

When my nerves had been sufficiently restored, I ventured back into the street and (¡Milagro!) made it without further incident to my destination.  I put in an hour of contortions that would make a Chinese circus promoter seriously consider me as their new headliner. I went out to my car…

I parked it across the street having left plenty of space to exit. But a horrible Honda had stuck himself  (almost UP) my rear and a malicious minivan had plunked herself (with the depraved driver still inside) in front of me. She had quite a bit of space in front of her so I made a little gesture with my hand, indicating that I would be greatly pleased if she could move up… just a tad.    (I’d get out and she’d have more room, right?) NOT! I think perhaps my little hand signal was misinterpreted and she thought I was telling her F-off… because she did not budge.

Crank the steering wheel to the right… inch forward… Straighten–up… inch forward… (Repeat the process six more times and finally… emerge from the middle of the sandwich.) And what did the minivan driver do… WELL, she backed into my spot – of course!

I cranked Enya way, way up and allowed her multi-track voiced-over sound to lull me into some semblance of calm. I saw my house  looming up ahead.

I was SO HAPPY to be home!

I did not venture out for the rest of the day. Now tell me, do normal every day upstanding citizens go crazy on “Full Moon + One?” I am going for a walk tomorrow morning but I think I’ll walk to the track… just to be on the safe side.

PS: Shortly after posting this, I checked out The Zapata Tales and saw Felipe’s gift of the day, “The Almond Tree.” Read it and see the other side of the coin… Days like he describes are why I live in Mexico… I guess in the grand scheme of things, dealing with the Merida drivers is a small price to pay.

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Creativity Abounds

This is our college, Tecnología Turística Total (TTT) located in downtown Mérida

Today I would like to share some pictures and observations about our college’s annual Gastronomy Fair.

For those who are new followers of this blog, I should tell you that my husband and I have a college in downtown Merida. Tecnología Turística Total is the complete name, but everyone calls it TTT.

We have two four year bachelor programs: Tourism Administration and Modern Languages, and throughout the year as part of their studies, the students plan and organize a number of exhibitions, debates, art shows… you name it, they’ve done it.

Today the fourth year Tourism students held their annual gastronomy display. They were asked to create a restaurant. The students started work on their ideass some time ago… But these kids are so very inventive. Once they got going, their imaginations know no bounds.

Other Mexican states’ cuisine was featured at many of the stands. Some students chose Oaxaca, and had chapulines – fried grasshoppers  available for the tasting ; Aguas Caliente, Veracruz, and Puebla were three of the other selected regions. Other groups of students elected to create their own concepts: coffee and snacks… vegetarian… and an Italian bistro. Yucatan was was also chosen for its fine culinary offerings. In fact the students who had the Yucatecan restaurant spoke Maya and wore their regional costumes.

Music played and laughter rang out… the TTT students unfailingly have a good time.

They were also reflective. This group will graduate at the end of June. How have four years passed so quickly?

They spoke about their plans for the future. Some will continue their studies, others already have jobs and will stay with them. A few have family businesses they’ll join. Many will travel to the Mexican Caribbean and take positions at the hotels, travel agencies ,and of course, restaurants located there.

“It isn’t an easy time to be starting my career,” said one young charmer. Then he gave a wink and a huge smile. “But I’ll convince someone to give me a job!” I have no doubt he will…

We will miss the graduating students but they often come back to visit. Last summer, the very first student who registered at our college came by. She lives in Los Angeles, California and said that she has run into classmates there.

It is amazing where the students end up! One of them is studying his Masters in China (in Chinese) Another is in Vienna, also in a Masters program. One thing we try to teach them is that when opportunity knocks, they need to embrace it.

Don’t we all…


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