Excerpts from the ‘Round The World Blog
La Paz, Baja Mexico: Semana Santa & Easter
La Paz is a small tourist resort with 2/3 of visitors being from Mexico. Great way to start practicing/re-learning Spanish as most people don’t speak English. This past week was ‘Semana Santa’ so all the kids are out of school on vacation and so the beaches have been crowded as have most tourist areas. Tomorrow is Easter and everyone returns home today to get ready for both the holiday and the return to school on Monday.
So far, we have: seen great scenery all over the Baja California peninsula; eaten the best fish and crab tacos ever; swam in the Sea of Cortez and dipped our toes in the Pacific Ocean; and in general are having a great time. We have also been bitten by ‘la mordida’ (small bite in Spanish meaning bribe) for $160 by local police, ironically, in a city named Constitución, a small town on the Pacific Coast we are not likely to revisit.
Sonora State: Foreign Relations of a Different Kind
Started this week by taking the Chepe train from Barrancas-Divisidaro back to Los Mochis, a beautiful area well worth seeing.
On one of her morning walks, Doris was greeted by a trucker who had stopped his truck on the side of the road. Thinking he had stopped because she needed help, Doris signaled that no, she didn’t need him to stop. As he stepped down from the truck, Señor asks her where is heading. In her faulty Spanish, Doris replies “I’m just walking”. Señor then asks where are you staying? She replies at the Mission Hotel. He’s probably thinking she is nuts to be walking five miles away from the village as he checks her out and rests his eyes on her bra-less breasts (mistake that won’t be repeated). Doris, always polite and wanting to fill the silence, asks him the same questions: where does he live? He points to a house up the hill, she says “esta muy linda” (it is very nice), to which he replies ‘vamos’.
This is where a woman’s instinct becomes important. Doris replies: ‘no, no gracias’ and keeps walking without turning back to see whether Señor is still watching. While wondering whether he had just wanted to show her his house and maybe meet his family, Doris walks up to a sign that indicates that up the hill is a motel – the very one where Señor had invited her to join him.
Guanajuato: Learning (or re-learning) Spanish
Jacob & Doris are studying Spanish at the Don Quixote School in Guanajuato for 8 weeks. We are living with a Mexican family that hosts three other students who are at the University of Guanajuato. Two of the students are from the U.S. and one is from Paris, France. The rule at dinner time is that we can only speak Spanish.
The most rewarding experience thus far has been our volunteer work for Centro Las Libres (a women’s health center) in Guanajuato. We happened to be introduced to the leaders of this group by a student at school (thanks Jeanne) just when they needed someone with our skills and talents. Jacob and I created an English-language web site for them that is being translated into Spanish.
The rush for the web site was caused by the international organization Human Rights Watch which is honoring the executive director of Centro Las Libres as a defender of 2006 (only three such awards are given yearly word wide). Vero will be touring the US and Canada to speak about her work on behalf of Mexican women and Human Rights Watch said she needed a web site as part of her fundraising strategy.
San Miguel de Allende: Overrun by Americans!
We took a day trip to San Miguel de Allende to see why this spot is so popular with Americans and Canadians. For some 30 or 40 years, tourists have come here to visit this colonial city known for its many artists, schools and galleries. It is a cute town like most small cities in central Mexico but it is truly overrun by English-speaking residents and tourists, many of whom speak no Spanish! Ironically, the author of “On Mexican Time” predicted that his book could cause an upswing in popularity that would eliminate what made San Miguel a quaint Mexican city.
Mexico City: Too Much to See and Do
As far as accessible archeological ruins, it doesn’t get any easier than this. The Templo Mayor is within minutes from the Zocalo, the Palacio Nacional and the most important cathedral in the center of the city. A terrific museum on site provides the explanation and history needed to truly understand the importance of what you are seeing.
We visited Mexico City a few weeks before three bombs exploded near the Palacio Nacional and saw the tent city set up by supporters of the Oaxaca teachers strike which had been going on for five months. The movement had not been all that violent until the total of people killed by police and government troops reached 14. Increased attention, at least in the US, occurred after an American journalist was killed. Pressure on the national government to deal with the situation mounts daily; unfortunately, it is likely to be violent and unconstitutional.
Chichen Itza, Yucatan Peninsula
We visited Chichen Itza using as a base Valladolid, a small city in the middle of the jungle about 25 km from the ruins. The town was hot and humid with not much to recommend it except that it is off of the tourist track. Chichen Itza was great and disappointing at the same time. Great: was the immensity of the site as well as its importance. Unfortunately, the thousands of tourists have caused enough damage to the steps that these are now closed to traffic. The famous ‘castle’ is now closed — both the outside steps and the inside temple. None of the travel books or web sites we visited mentioned this.
Also, if your planned tour takes you there in the middle of the day — which is when most arrived — tell them forget it! it was approximately 35 degrees Celsius or 100 Fahrenheit at noon and there is no shade to be had!
Tulum: After all of the hard work of visiting cities and ruins, we decided to take a few days of in the Mexican Caribbean. Anyone who has visited the Caribe knows what I am about to write, but this was a first for Jacob and I. We have never seen bluer water, more white and powdery sand, and an incredibly beautiful atmosphere.
Mexico City: Aztec Floating Gardens & Diego Rivera Collection
Very few people, except perhaps aficionados of Diego Rivera, know of the incredible Museo Dolores Olmedo Patino. It is housed in the home of his patron and holds the biggest and most important collection of Rivera paintings in the world.
We had visited the museum in Guanajuato – housed in the home where Rivera was born – but it did not compare to the collection of 137 of his works held here. The museum includes a room of Frida Kahlo paintings, probably her most important and certainly most recognizable works.
We toured an hour of the 180 kilometers of canals created by the Aztecs some 400 to 500 years ago. These are now lined by small homes, gardens and nurseries. Because we went during the week, it was quite peaceful with a few barges carrying large groups celebrating family reunions, school groups and new romances. You could buy food, beer, toys and even music from passing barges and just relax watching the spectacle of diversity passing you by.