Monthly Archives: May 2012

Yo Soy # 132

When the federal electoral campaign began, most political analysts did not consider that Mexican youth would be major contenders in the upcoming presidential election. For the most part they believed that the kids were apathetic and apolitical…they would sit by and accept, with little grumbling, the results at the polls. But a growing protest movement — dubbed “Yo Soy # 132” — has flushed that opinion straight down the loo.

This past month students began protesting against the Establishment   (there’s a dusted-off term for you…) The main target is the Mexican media and their biased coverage of this election. The PRI candidate, Peña Nieto, is their choice for president.

On May 11th  an uncounted number of  students jeered at Peña Nieto when he addressed them at the Ibero University in Mexico City.  The Media tried to diminish the importance of their protest by reporting that there were only 131 students involved. There were many more than that… and so the students started to furiously spread the word:  “I am # 132” The slogan appeared on T shirts, banners, placards… Then a group of them made a You Tube video clip that went viral.

In such a short time, just 20 days, the whole momentum of the federal election campaign has shifted. That Peña Nieto will win is no longer a given. How could public opinion swing so quickly? Could it be that the citizens have never been convinced that the PRI candidate is “the Second Coming?” Now that another faction is making its views known – and very loudly – the rank and file citizens are stirring out of their own indifference.

The majority of Mexican families work extremely hard to keep their heads above water, and they have been cowered into submission. Theirs is an indifference born out of frustration, out of fear, out of experience with former regimes that dealt very harshly with opposition. Yet several thousand scruffy students are showing the country that protest is still alive and well. La Raza, the sleeping giant has been woken up from a long, long siesta.         

All the former protests come to mind, especially Tlatelolco, where students were mowed down by government troops. The older generation is understandably concerned that this bitter cup of poison could be forced on them again. But no, I don’t think so.

In 1968 there was no internet, cell phones belonged in Dick Tracey comic books, instant relaying of information via Twitter and Facbook? Nah… impossible! In 2012, everyone has access to this and more. Thanks to technology, there will be no unreported beating and carting away of the students.

The older generation of Mexicans needs to remember: THIS IS OUR WATCH… we have a responsibility to support our young, and when the hoopla dies down, we have to see they do not to get sucked into the system, as happened in 1968.

Some international residents may be feeling nervous. Don’t be. This is a good thing…. It’s been so long in coming, and no matter what the outcome on July 1st, our country will be stronger because of  “Yo soy # 132.”

¡Viva México!

Images: All images have come from Google.

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Writing Your Life

I received a call today from my friend Maricarmen Perez, of the Secretariat of Culture for the State of Yucatan. She wanted to tell me about a very interesting course in memoir writing that will be held every Tuesday for the next eight weeks.

The course is called “Writing Your Life” and is actually for Spanish language writers, but Maricarmen told me that even if you write in English as long as you have a good knowledge of Spanish, you can take the workshop.

The instructor will be Celia Pedrero. Ms. Pedrero was born in Mérida. She is a journalist and she also writes for radio. She is the founder of the Yucatecan Writers´Center.

The first day will be Tuesday June 5th, and as I mentioned, the workshop will be held every Tuesday for 8 weeks. There are both morning and afternoon classes. You can elect to go from 9 – 11 am or from 7 – 9 pm.

The cost is 350 pesos per month; 700 pesos for the whole course

The class will be held in the Writers’ School at the Bellas Artes complex on Avenida Itzaes.

You can reserve your place in the group by calling:  930-7449 extension: 54007 7 or  54017 7

I will be attending and I hope to see you there…

Images: Poster advertising the course. The instructor, the Bellas Artes complex

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The Cute Factor

This is what I saw in my pool this morning

A few years ago I watched a PBS documentary that talked about the “cute factor.” This is apparently one of Mother Nature’s wonders… The presenters claimed that all baby animals are born “cute” This is to say they have large eyes, innocent expressions, cuddly bodies… this is genetically programmed so that the mothers and others will be attracted to the defenseless infant and will take care of it.

The little guy needed a rescue

I certainly saw an example of this today. Look at what I found in my pool this morning. It is a baby opossum. The adult version is not even a bit cute… but this? Who could hurt it? I got the pool net, scooped Junior up, and sent him on his way.

I hope he knows the path home…

The Great Escape

UPDATE:

Have you read Mexfiles today?  http://mexfiles.net/2012/05/28/131plusxgreater50percent/
Very interesting… a must read…

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What kind of bread?

Usually culinary efforts that make it into the public eye are perfect or darn near so. Today I am going to give you a wonderful recipe for _ _ _ _ bread, but believe me, the results were not perfect.

My sister Barb, who is a chef gave me her “fail proof” formula, and my daughter Maggie, a young but talented baker was on hand to share the experience.

_ _ _ _ Bread

Attach the bread hook to your mixer, put the bowl in place and add 2 cups of luke warm water. Sprinkle 1 Tbsp. of active dry yeast on top and let it stand for 10 minutes.

(This was easy…)

Add ¼ cup of olive oil, ½ Tbsp. of salt and 4 cups of flour.  Turn on the mixer and let it run until the mixture starts sticking to the side of the bowl.

(Boy did it ever stick!)

Then add more flour, 1 Tbsp. at a time, until the mixture comes away from the sides.

(We ended up using an additional cup of flour)

Continue to let the dough kneed for 8 minutes.

(I don’t know what you do if you don’t have a strong mixer)

Remove the bread hook, cover the bowl of dough with plastic wrap and let it rise for 1 hour.

(At this point we took Nacho (Maggie’s dog) for a walk)

Now get the oven really hot (450 F) and place the rack on the lowest position.  Place a baking sheet on the rack to get it hot before you put the breads on it..

Shape the  breads.  Leave them on the counter for 10 minutes. Roll out as thin as possible, 6 – 8 inches in diameter and place them on the hot baking sheet. Bake for just 3 minutes

(Now… that doesn’t sound too hard does it? The problem was that our dough came out too sticky. We had to coat our hands in flour to even get “blobs.” No way could you roll them out, so we stretched them out as best we could. We then flopped the oddly-shaped breads onto to hot baking sheet… I managed to burn my arm a couple of times)

Repeat until all are baked. They will puff up

(Puff up? Ha, ha, ha…)

What kind of bread were we trying to make? Well, pita of course

 (Can’t you tell?)

Now, when you attempt this at home, let me know if you got the “Shape the breads” part a little better than we did

Nacho liked them!

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A pipe organ… Where?

Through the years I’ve met a few people who have accomplished singular, extraordinary feats. For example, one couple I know bicycled from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. But until a few weeks ago, I had never met anyone who did what Jim Smiley did…

At the age of 5, he announced to his parents that he wanted to play the pipe organ. They smiled at his childish ambition but he insisted… “But you’re not big enough to reach the floor pedals,” they reasoned, “why don’t you learn to play piano?” He did learn to play piano and he pursued his dream to play the pipe organ.

During his career in vintage costume design, Jim continued his interest in the organ but had little time to play. Upon retirement, he moved to Mérida and purchased a high-ceilinged residence – the perfect home  for a pipe organ!

On the Internet, he located one for sale, and traveled to Rome, NY where it languished, not played in more than 30 years. Nonetheless, it was in good condition, and Jim acquired the “Hinners & Albertsen” 1899 pipe organ. One problem: it was in New York and he wanted it for his home in Mérida.

Jim had no experience with organ building, but with the help of Internet forums for organ builders and organists he managed to dismantle, pack, ship and reassemble it in Mérida.

Last night Jim invited a group of 12 to meet his friend David McIntosh, a virtuoso organist.

David constantly tours and en route to a concert in Mexico City, he agreed to give a recital on the century-old pipe organ installed in Jim’s living room.

David McIntosh is Australian born, but he lives in Amsterdam… and as coincidence would have it… he has a home just one canal away from my 100 year-old aunt. My husband Jorge, David and I enjoyed talking about the cosmopolitan Dutch city, the people and places we enjoy there.

David played a selection 17th and 18th century pieces. When I closed my eyes, the music transported me to the nave of a European baroque cathedral. It was magnificent to see and hear such a unique performance.

David is actually “Dr. David;” he  has another career as a pediatrician – infectious diseases specialist and vaccinologist, and has received a medal and citation from the Queen of England for his service to Medicine and Music.  As well he is the founder and artistic director of the “GlebeMusic Festival”, now in its 23rd year.

Jim later talked about Oaxaca. He told us that this Mexican state has the largest collection of  baroque period pipe organs. Every two years he attends the “Oaxaca Organ Festival.” The next one will be in 2014.

He also told me that he is very willing to allow musicians to play and practice on the organ. If anyone reading this piece would like the opportunity, you can contact Jim through me. Just send an email: writingfrommerida@gmail.com

David and Jim entertained us further with their stories about the famous pipe organs of the world like the grand Parisian 8,000 pipe organ in Notre Dame Cathedral.

After the recital, we enjoyed a light dinner. The serviettes had musical notes printed on them; Jim picked one up and said, “Oh this is Chopin!”

I had to pinch myself … how often does one have the chance to hear a pipe organ played by a world class musician in a private home? The evening was indeed magical. Thank you David and Jim for including us.

  David McIntosh

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Calling all writers…

Our city has always been known as the cultural capital of south-eastern Mexico.  Mind you, until a few decades ago Mérida alone had a sizable population. Cancun could barely be called a ranchito, and Villa Hermosa looked like a frontier town if you ever saw one. Back in the day, Campeche (yawn-n-n-n) could not be described as a place you’d want to write home about.

Now Mérida is no longer the largest city on the peninsula  (it’s still bigger than Campeche) but culturally, it has them all beat – Hands down in my humble opinion.

Meeting other writers has become a common experience in la ciudad blanca. They write about everything. Mystery, romance, self help, history, memoir, travel and every other genre out there! There are bloggers, playwrights, and poets too.

I am compiling a list of Spanish language writers and English language writers living in the area (full or part time) I will share the names and contacts with the participants and we could use it to distribute information about upcoming conferences, workshops, book releases and signings, open mic locations and the like.

Most writers I know want two things: exposure and information. If you’d like to be in the directory, please send me:

Your full name

Your email address and blog address, if you have one

The language you write in

A short description of what you like to write about

My email is: writingfrommerida@gmail.com

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Check this out!

I have added a new link to my blogroll… Be sure to have a good, long look! “And Then They Were Gone” chronicles the travels (both physical and emotional) of Brian and Deya from Vancouver, BC, Canada who set out on their motorcycles two years ago. Destination: “Parts Unknown…”

What I’ve seen on the blog so far has caused the colors in my mind to shine with new verve and I feel like I too, am on the road again…   Their chronicle takes me back more than 40 years to my own South American adventure. I can still recall entire days: what I wore, who I was with, what we did, what we ate…

What fun! Reading “And Then They Were Gone” has sparked the spontaneous escape of so many fantastic feelings and    memories… of when I was too young to have any fear of the unknown and was not old enough to be concerned about anything other than my own freedom and self discovery.

In his latest post Brian expresses concern that their imminent arrival back to Vancouver will cause them to lose the sense of adventure they have lived these past two years… and his fears are well founded. But, even though we need to make concessions from time to time, our minds can remain free… we can shape our own destiny.

Many of you who are reading this post have done a similar thing. You left your homes wherever, and started new lives in Merida. You are living your own (albeit older) version of “And Then They Were Gone.” Experiencing life in another country opens a person’s eyes to new sights and opens the heart to new passion. I feel so fortunate that my life has remained an open road…

When Brian and Deya came through Merida they bought a house. So sometime in the near future they’ll be back… I look forward to seeing them again and in the meantime, I’ll be reading the follow-up chapters of their amazing journey.

Photo Credits: All images are from Brian and Deya’s blog

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