Saturday, August 30, 2014

"Why Mexico, Brad?"  you ask.  "And why, specifically, San Miguel de Allende?"

What insightful questions.  You are obviously a curious and intelligent reader.  Well, that's a bit of a story which might take me more than one post to fully flesh out, kids.

Taxco looks like this!
It all began back in 2005 when Tracy suggested we take a trip to some of the colonial towns she had visited when she was studying Spanish on a study abroad program several years back.  Like most Americans, Mexico for me at the time meant sitting on a beach with some kind of beverage, preferably with a little umbrella in it, Jimmy Buffet playing in the background.  I told Straussy I'd go to her inland hilltop town on the condition that we take the second leg of the trip in someplace I'd heard of with a beach and a bar.

We started off in Taxco, an amazing town famous for its fine silver work that reminded me of hilltop villages I'd crawled around with Tracy and other friends in Europe, with the particular aesthetic that every structure in town is painted white with a red portion on the bottom, like towns I'd been to in Europe and Israel.  The effect is that the entire city feels unified like a single work of art, and in the case of Taxco, with  nearly cubist space.  It was like Europe, except that we arrived right at the Festival of the Virgin of Guadalupe, just a couple of weeks before Christmas.

It was like this.
He knows if you've been bad
It turns out that during this trip Mexico both ruined and then saved (or at least began the process of saving) Christmas for me, and it all began with the bus ride from Mexico City to Cuernavaca, and then to Taxco.  What happened was: There was a movie on the bus, and it was called The Polar Express, dubbed into Spanish with the worst vocal talent Latin America has to offer.  The screen was directly in front of me, the too loud blown-out speaker right above my head, and there was no escape from the most messed up piece of film I have ever been subjected to.  I was literally strapped in (seat belt) and could not turn away from the horror of this film set entirely in the CGI Uncanny Valley, with wrinkly little evil elves monitoring every child in the world in the giant NSA-like complex of screens in the arctic, keeping track of who has been naughty and who has been nice.  I said to Tracy as we finally arrived at our destination, "I truly despise Christmas.  The whole jive plastic enterprise."

There followed several days of falling in love with a town filled with mask shops, open air markets that occupy a crazy rabbit warren space in the middle of town, a near constant stream of vintage-style Volkswagens puttering up and down the tiny one-way streets, little family-owned restaurants that served four different kinds of pozole, all of them awesome, and regular doses of Negra Modelo.  We took a hike up to the very top of the town, where there is a huge crucifix that looks down over the whole enterprise.

The weather was beautiful, and the people were incredibly kind, and the food was delicious.  It felt gritty and real and about as different a place from the incredibly domesticated city where I live as it is possible to be.

The light gleamed off the town and we both imagined stitching photos of the town together and working from them extensively when we returned.  Of course Tracy's the only one who actually did this, to great effect:

Then, a few days later, after we'd spent all day every day exploring the cobblestoned maze that is Taxco, filling our memory disks with pictures that Tracy would ultimately pick from for a series of drawings and paintings, we passed a huge structure in front of one of the churches that had been constructed with scaffolding, several paper maché people and animals, and many, many rockets.  Intrigued, we asked around and arrived with the rest of the town at the little square on the appointed night.  All the little girls were dressed as the Virgin, and all the little boys were dressed like Juan Diego with little beards and mustaches.  We were completely surrounded by the entire town when suddenly this happened:

Caballeros were standing underneath the structures with their families and slapping the sparks out with their cowboy hats.  It was very much exactly not like being anywhere in the United States.

I held a little kid up so he could see the action.  Neither of us burst into flames.

And then this happened.

It was super loud and super awesome.

And it made me think that Mexican Christmas might just be a whole lot more interesting than the jive parade of Chinese-made crap every store I'd been in had been assaulting my senses with since, like, August.

More research would clearly be necessary.

The beach portion of this trip hardly deserves a mention, other than to say that Acapulco is emphatically NOT like Neil Diamond says it is, which makes me also wonder just how Sweet Caroline really was.  Bomp bomp bomp.

More soon.


  1. What a great blogger you are! My last trip to Mexico was during the Festival of Guadalupe and your perfect description of everyone dressed up and he festivities brought back wonderful memories. I can wait to visit you guys Keep writing! Abrazos and Besos to you, Straussy, and Sof. We miss you!

  2. Thanks for sharing your experience. I look forward to reading more about your brave year of living the dream. I can't help but wonder if you will want to come back when the year is over.