Mexico City is chaotic, crowded, and confusing. The traffic is so congested that it can take hours to travel just a few kilometers by car. Frenetic drivers weave in and out, horns blare, and red lights are ignored in a desperate attempt to reach one’s destination.
But nonetheless I absolutely love this city. The energy is infectious and although I often think that I’m totally lost, I find myself swept along with the throng. Sooner or later I know I’ll get to wherever I need to be.
But yesterday I needed to be somewhere special and crawling through the traffic had my nerves on edge. My determined driver did his best, and finally delivered me to my destination just ten minutes late. My feet hurried over the cobblestones and I stood before a charming entranceway in Colonia Chimalistac. As soon as I rang the bell, the door opened and an energetic young dog rushed up. He gave me a good sniff, and then excitedly nosed me forward into a room filled with framed family photographs, Talavera vases, memorabilia and music.
I looked to my right and down the stairway came my hostess. She had dressed in a comfortable pink and mauve ensemble that set off her fluffy cap of silver hair, sparkling blue eyes and broad smile. Taking my hand, she ushered me into her living room. Hand-embroidered cushions and sunshine-yellow covered chairs invited me, artwork hung everywhere… “Sit over here so you can see the garden,” she said.
The view through a large bay window delighted me: orchids, hibiscus, green vines and blossom of all kinds. Truly, it looked lovely, and I wanted to pinch myself… sharing an afternoon with Elena Poniatowska is not something I ever dreamed I’d do. “Una tequilita?” she asked as she poured from a decorated bottle into a faceted shot glass. How could I say no? I sipped on the smooth fire and we talked about the “San Miguel Writers’ Conference.”
Elena had enjoyed it immensely, and seemed to be particularly impressed with the organization and quality of the event. She takes pleasure in the opportunity to meet other writers – the famous and the unknown… Elena is interested in what everyone has to say, and this quality sets her apart.
We moved into a sunroom for lunch, where we were served a wonderful creamy soup, picadillo with dried fruit and rice and an apple torte for dessert. Everything tasted delicious and I had fun talking about recipes with the accomplished home cook who had prepared the meal. She said she wanted me to send her my recipe for Pork Chops with Figs and Chipotle.
Several people had gathered ‘round for her autograph. One of the kitchen workers also wanted a remembrance of her visit but because he was working, he had no paper or pen…
Not wanting to miss his opportunity, the enterprising young fellow took a plate from the pile beside the buffet, and then borrowed a Sharpie pen. He passed both to Elena and she wrote a special message for him on the plate.
The preceding vignette perfectly illustrates why she is not only Mexico’s premier journalist, but also the most beloved. She cares about everyone and does her utmost to make them feel at ease.
Tomorrow I will write more about my memorable afternoon with Elena Poniatowska…