Journey to Palenque - Part 1


I am in Palenque for two weeks, revisiting an amazing Mayan site. I was here twice in 1987.  I will be updating this blog post with new information. For now, there is a short video from my first visit the other day.

Game Changer - Move to Mexico and Change Your Life

La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel in San Miguel de Allende
"Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now." - William Hutchinson

I was so motivated to change my life by moving to Mexico that I did what many did - research, planning, then sold or gave away all of my "stuff". Books that had been on shelves for years were donated to Goodwill or given to friends as I knew that someone would enjoy reading them. Two tall bookshelves, once emptied, were sold along with other furniture. A fly fishing rod and vintage reel of my fathers were assembled and cast in the parking lot as the buyer tested the imaginary waters.


From the blog post
 "The Amazing Masks of Mexico"
My son saved the day as he needed a car and I was not able to sell my VW Passat. He got the loan and flew down from Chicago to drive the car back. He was able to take everything that I did not want to sell or give away. Family heirloom paintings of my father, family scrapbooks, a 4 ft tall Buddha statue, and other art and special things that I owned. The Buddha is now standing in his living room and he agreed that it created a whole different vibe :).

Each thing that I sold or gave away had its own story. How I obtained it, what purpose it served in my life, and how I sent it on its way and let it go. Then I created a  new chapter in my own story when I flew to Mexico with a one way ticket and a temporary residential visa stamp in my passport. My sole possessions were in a carry-on and a larger check-in bag. I became a "digital nomad".

So I started this blog - A Magical, Mystical Mexico Adventure? - even before I moved to Mexico, and the title reflects how I wanted to describe my experience. And this is at least partially what it has been. It was and continues to be a game changer.  

From the blog post
- A Sunday Morning Walk in Guanajuato
Hundreds of thousands have already done it. The resources of support on blogs, Facebook groups and websites are in place. Maybe you're at a point in your life where you are ready for the next adventure and it's not happening the way you thought, or it's not affordable, or not enough of a change because after the two week travel journey you're back in the same old same old routines.

Then the idea, or the dream in the middle of the night, or the epiphany while you are worried about your budget, or a friend's blog post, or a nudge from the "Universe" hits you, sometimes like a lightning bolt, and you decide to move to Mexico.

"Life is like a game of chess. Every move you make affects the rest." - these are the only two lines of a poem that I remember writing when I was fifteen.

If life is like a game, how are you playing it? What might cause you to do something that changes the rules? Something that is a "game changer"?

In 2013 I first starting researching the expat lifestyle and began entertaining the idea that there is a whole world out there, and since I have an Internet business (content marketing), that I would be able to do it anywhere, and why not consider the possibilities?  I was sixty two at that time and eligible to receive social security if I wanted to take it early, and between the two sources of income, then it might be doable.

I used to travel extensively in Mexico in my younger years and enjoyed the diversity and culture. I had no idea how I would experience it on such a deeper level after I moved here on December 30 2017.

Being a "digital nomad" appealed to me and I now have the flexibility of where I want to live, or travel to, and talk about minimizing...I don't even use items in my check-in bag. I can live out of my carry-on and have a reliable laptop that I use for business and fun.

From a blog post translated:
"Deep Roots - A History of Guanajuato 
by Jesús Cardiel" 
I have made new friends with expats as well as local Mexicans and can converse with locals in Spanish, enough to be understood.

After living in Mexico for over a year and counting, has it been a game changer? Yes, most definitely, on many levels. If you explore this blog you can read about some of these adventures. Yet there is so much more, such as sharing a moment of laughter with local Mexicans after making a joke in Spanish, sampling some of the exquisite cuisine here that I did not know of before, learning about the culture and practicing the "cortesia" or showing of respect with the language in greetings and compliments, even to strangers. On the welcome page (home page) of this blog is a video by a Mexican film director Willy Sousa. This stunning seven minute video captures the amazing diversity and beauty of this country and its people.

When you embrace this culture and show respect to Mexicans, it becomes a game changer. Your life just might change forever.


Deep Roots - A History of Guanajuato by Jesús Cardiel

Jesús Cardiel
This is a translated recorded interview that I did in May 2018 with  Jesús Cardiel, a resident of Guanajuato, friend, and master massage therapist, whose family roots go deep here. His mother's family has lived in Guanajuato for two hundred and thirty years, and on his father's side one hundred and ninety years. Stories have been passed down through generations. This history of Guanajuato combines some stories about his family as well as some history of the city.
-----------------------------------------------------
"For the people of Guanajuato, the foundation of their history is the family base. Our family base derives from the religious beliefs which is the main factor to the strength of many families. I believe this is how Guanajuato came to be, with strength, hard-work and union from many families that work together to create that family base.

“La Mama” the grandmother was that strong figure, she was the matriarch, she was the person in charge to keep the family together, she was the one to lead that family base.

Going back to the history of Guanajuato, in the time of the conquest when Spain invaded Mexico, the people of Guanajuato was extremely poor and were going through scarcity. The Europeans came and made the people work hard with low salaries, they governed us for a very long time. Going through all these encouraged the people of Guanajuato to work together to become the Mexican nation.

From 1902 to 1908, the King of Spain gave Guanajuato the name of La Ciudad Real de Santa Fe. In 1908, Guanajuato was proclaimed the Capital of the Mexican Republic because Guanajuato was the city that produced the most Silver, producing ¾ of Silver of the entire world. After this, people started thinking about freedom.  The Criollos (Creoles) helped the Mexican native people after seeing all the abuse they suffered from the Spaniards, and this is how the revolution started until we got our independence. Once we got our independence, small families unified and formed the Guanajuato City.

In Guanajuato there were 12 strong families that helped with the formation of the city. Everything was supervised and ran through those families. They helped to the growth of Guanajuato.

There many stories from our grandparents who used to tell us about the revolution, and all the abuse they had to go through. One of the stories my grandfather used to tell me was that the revolution helped many people, but it also affected many farmers. Farmers at that time suffered from looting, many of their wives were abused and raped, some were killed, and many lost their properties. That was the case of my Father’s Father, he was a farmer and he was stripped from his land. He ended up having to work as a miner for the Spaniards. Having said that, mining and ceramic production was strong in Guanajuato, it was the base of the economy.

Families built fortresses in their own houses, they built tunnels underground, hidden rooms, to protect their families. Currently, you can see in the tunnels around the city stairs coming from those houses above. Those tunnels used to be a river, so people would build those stairs underground to hide their families there. Those were years of terror, my grandfather told me once that any violation to the law or crime was punished by death (hang or shot).

My great grandmother died at 105. She was called a “FAVELITA” or guerrilla girl because she supported her husband with firearms, ammunition and things like that.

I can say that thanks to my great grandmother and grandfather, thanks to their hard-work, and their love to their family, I now enjoy a country of freedom and I don’t have to worry about the same things they had to worry about in the past, but I am able to do other things. Thanks to their sacrifices I am now a very happy person and I have a better quality of life. I also must thank the good intentions from the different governments we had in the past, we are now able to progress, and we have a much better justice system.

Let’s talk about our beautiful Guanajuato. We have 108 places to visit here in Guanajuato. We have many authors, poets, bullfighters. Closed around here, in Santa Teresa, the person who invented the Color Television was from there. Guanajuato is the cradle of many personalities such as Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Jorge Negrete (a famous Mexican singer), David Silveti (bullfighter) and many poets, who had helped Guanajuato become an important spot for art and culture. We also have important festivals such as the Festival Internacional Cervantino. The first festival cervantino arises from the Templo de Mineral de Cata, where Miguel Cervantes de Saavedra starts the “entremeses cervantinos” and the idea of creating a huge festival of culture.

Guanajuato is characterized for the customs and religious beliefs. Every year there many festivities celebrating different saints, and the Virgen de Guanajuato. We have many religious people, very devoted. Guanajuato is just a party all year long. Mexicans love to party.

Mexican people are very polite, kind and educated. Those are the main reasons why people from other states and countries love to visit Guanajuato. That is why Tourism has become the source of our economy nowadays. There many places people can visit in Guanajuato. Guanajuato is also the main connection between the Bajio and other cities and municipalities.

Another thing I would like to mention about our foundation is that we have El Cerro de la Bufa, this is where the Otomis (indigenous group) established themselves and helped formed Guanajuato. The term QUANASHUATO stands for Ciudad Montuosa de Ranas (A hilly city full of frogs), that’s the term given to Guanajuato.

There many stories about El Cerro de la Bufa, el ahorcado de Mexiamora, and many more stories. Another common story is La Llorona (the weeping woman). Long time ago, the clergy had vetoed things like exorcism, black magic, people who practiced those kinds of things were burned in Guanajuato in a places call Plaza San Roque. My grandfather told me this was a true story. The church was very strict in cases of witchcraft.

Another thing I can talk about is the origin of the jails. The Mercado Hidalgo was meant to be a train station, but it became a jail in times of the revolution. The museum Alhondiga de Granaditas (the name stands for grain storage), was called granaditas because in the center there is a pomegranate garden. It used to be a jail but the Spaniards thought it was too elegant to be a jail, so they converted into a storage for all types of grains. They used it to control the distribution of grains to the entire city. They loved to have the people under control. The street around the Alhondiga de Granaditas is called Calle de Positos, on that street there was houses that served as a storage for corn.

There were also places called Haciendas de Beneficios that served as pawn shops. They would give you food and other products and the way you pay for it was with labor. People had to work hard for these haciendas to pay for food. People was always in debt with this pawn shops, they were treated as slaves. Thanks to the revolution and the independence all those abuses started to disappear. People started to prosper.

Guanajuato is known as the old Quanashuato. My grandfather used to tell me there were 50 floods, the most important flood was in 1905. The houses were buried due to the flood. Later, people decided to build on top of those buried houses. For example; next to the Juarez’s Teather and the Temple they were doing an excavation to build a tunnel and while digging they found a buried convent of nuns. Part of the center of Guanajuato was built on top of ruins of the old Quanashuato. They have also found small treasures at the ruins, people in the past used to keep their money and gold hidden in their houses. The farmers used to have servers who would hide the gold for them and then the farmer would kill them to keep their fortunes secure. At that time they used Centenarios (gold or silver coins)." - Jesús Cardiel

Why Learn Spanish ?


When I did a firewalk with Tony Robbins about ten years ago, I walked across hot coals for fifteen feet without getting my feet burned. It was one of those defining moments that I will never forget.

Learning Spanish with two intensive courses for starters and starting to use the language every day  was also a defining moment in my expat life here in Mexico. And after both classes my feet are doing just fine, as well as my mind and heart.

The Amazing Cortesía

I decided to change my life by moving to Mexico in December 2017. In all the past years that I had traveled in Mexico I never knew about the social protocols, and did not use them. Then I started studying Spanish at the Warren Hardy School in San Miguel de Allende. One of the first things that is in the Warren Hardy Spanish Level 1 course is the importance of the cortesía, or social protocols. When I started using the phrases and courtesy greetings that I learned it was and continues to be one of the most rewarding experiences of being here in Mexico in addition to speaking more Spanish.

This has also been a defining moment for me, as not am I learning Spanish, I am "living the language" by using certain greetings in Spanish with local Mexicans here in San Miguel de Allende. The way that most respond with a return greeting shows me that they appreciate how I showed my respect for their culture by using these social protocols. They may have even been surprised as they may not have been used to being greeted by foreigners in this way. This was the "surprise" for me in learning the cortesía expressions in Spanish, using them in real life encounters with the Mexican people, and experiencing the culture on a whole different level. 



This cortesía is not only used in Mexico, it is a common courtesy in all Spanish speaking countries. So if you're traveling or moving to Costa Rica, or Peru, or Ecuador, or any Spanish speaking country, you will experience the culture on a deeper level by learning Spanish and practicing the cortesía..

For me the 
cortesía alone is worth the value of starting to study Spanish.The are just a few common phrases that you can use to connect with Mexicans and show respect for their language and culture. 

Buenos dias - good morning
Buenos tardes - good afternoon"
Buenos noches - good evening
Buen provecho - enjoy your meal
Con permiso - when you want to get around someone or pass by....asking permission to be able to get through
Gracias - thank you
De nada - you're welcome


Learning Spanish is an ongoing study of practicing, review, and building vocabulary and verb usage. It doesn't happen overnight. Yet after a year of living in Mexico, I would say that I am an "advanced beginner" or "beginner intermediate"...I can carry some basic conversations, ask for things needed, use the cortesia, and even use humor that makes people smile or laugh. My own ongoing study has not been consistent, and I could be more vigilant and disciplined in my studies.

The reward for learning Spanish is as I mentioned earlier - living the language - communicating with Mexicans in their own language is one way of showing respect for the culture. Respect is very important in Mexico. Mexicans use the cortesia with each other all the time.

Disfruta aprendiendo español a tu propio ritmo y nivel de motivación.
Comience a usar la cortesia con una sonrisa de inmediato y vea qué sucede
con las respuestas.

(Enjoy learning Spanish at your own pace and level of motivation. Start using the cortesia with a smile right away and see what happens with responses. )

Coco the Movie is a "Must Watch" if You Like Mexican Culture

I recently watched Coco and was so impressed with the animation, the screenplay, and the story that I can see why it won the Oscar and Golden Globe award for best animated film and best original song "Remember Me". If you have not watched it yet and like Mexican culture, it is worth a view.

The basic story as described on Amazon is "Aspiring musician Miguel, confronted with his family's ancestral ban on music, enters the Land of the Dead to find his great-great-grandfather, a legendary singer." The Land of the Dead is very educational with a deeper look into the meanings of Dia de Los Muertos, one of the most revered sacred days in Mexico.

The video is below.....however I suggest reading this excellent Amazon review from a Mexican-American before or after viewing the trailer - scroll down below the video to view it.



from Amazon reviews :

"Disney has always been synonymous with great story telling, powerful artwork and animation, and having heart in most of their major films. Some of the great Disney movies have transcended time and are loved by different generations for that very reason. But then in 2013, Disney attempted to trademark "Dia de los Muertos", or Day of the Dead for one of it's upcoming movies, a move met with much deserved resentment and criticism from Hispanic writers, critics, and the public. To say that the Day of the Dead is the Mexican version of Halloween is incorrect. It isn't a holiday as much as a tradition which is embedded into the heart of many Mexican families to honor loved ones who have passed away. Disney's trademark attempt was an insult to not only the day itself but to millions of people who honor that tradition. That being said, Disney dropped the trademark, and did everything right since then to fix their mistake. Many of the people hired to work on Coco were Hispanic, and after their blunder they also hired Lalo Alcaraz, a political cartoonist and Disney critic, along with Octavio Solis and Marcela Aviles as cultural consultants on the movie. They went from possibly being boycotted to having great international and domestic success, turning many into believers including myself. The end result being a culturally rich and emotional movie that left tears in everyone's eyes.

 Unlike past Disney/Pixar movies I've seen, there are three layers of meaning integrated into this movie. The first layer is what every Disney story requires which are the characters, plot, visuals, settings etc. The second layer are the morals that Coco teaches, which any person watching the movie can learn from. These two alone are enough to call Coco a great Pixar movie in my opinion. However the third layer, which involves the integration of Hispanic traditions and culture, is what makes this movie standout as special, memorable, and unique. As a Mexican-American, this movie holds a special place in my heart because so much of this movie feels real and familiar. From the family dynamic that Miguel shares with the family, to the chancla (sandal) smacking grandma, and especially because of the music, this movie feels saturated with Hispanic customs and way of life. It is obvious from the first scene to the last that Disney listened very well to their cultural advisers for this movie.

Being a Mexican-American, I've learned that various aspects of Life, Death, and Family are handled and understood differently between all ethnicities, backgrounds, and cultures. Coco involves several scenes in a graveyard, shows relatives returning from the afterlife as skeletal versions of who they once were, and has Miguel racing against the clock to return to his family before dying. These are cinematic occurrences which some may not want to watch or explain to their children. My suggestion for anyone who hasn't watched this movie and is not of a Central/South American background is to be prepared and be open minded. ​Though some parts of the movie could seem far fetched, myself along with all the Hispanic adults and children watching the movie in theatres were mesmerized to watch something you can identify with as a person and as a community. For many, this movie is all about seeing the world through another's eyes, and that's wonderful in itself. Ultimately, Coco is a fantastic movie worthy of the Pixar/Disney brand which every family should enjoy. Prior to release, my two concerns with the movie was that it would be a heartless Pixar version of the Book of Life, and that Disney would take advantage and exploit the Hispanic culture in a distasteful way. I'm glad to say that besides focusing on music and honoring the Day of the Dead , similarities ended between the two movies. I enjoyed The Book of Life, and had low expectations for Coco in comparison. The truth is (no disrespect to the movie or the people who made it) The Book of Life is enjoyable and relatable, not a cultural staple. Although both movies treated one of the most important Mexican traditions with dignity and respect, Coco's heartwarming interpretation will become an unforgettable treasure in the Hispanic community for generations to come."

The Craziest Day of the Year - in San Miguel de Allende


Living in San Miguel de Allende, since cinco de Mayo, or May 5th, when I moved here from Guanajuato city, has been an ongoing adventure of discovery with both the local culture as well as meeting expats and foreigners who have decided to live here. We are into the rainy season, and that alone has been quite an experience. There were rainy days before and after the parade, so the gods of sun and rain were smiling on this day....June 17 2018 - the craziest day of the year in San Miguel de Allende, in a tradition that goes back to the 1700's. 

Back in the day, Hortelanos - farm workers - were given free access to crops for a day or two and they celebrated and danced as a result. Soon the dances became more interesting as some men would dress up as women since there were not many or any at the celebrations. When more and more people heard about this party they would come to watch, and as a result the dancers would dress in a way that seemed "loco" or crazy to scare the crowds off so that they could have their privacy.

This became an annual tradition that now has about 15,000 people participating and thousands of others lining the streets to watch the parade of "locos" composed of costumes, masks, dancing, loudspeakers blaring music from the back of pickup trucks, candy being thrown out to the crowds, and one big Mardi Gras type of street party that lasts about three hours. (For participants I have heard that the party continues late into the night)

Read more details about the tradition and history from the local newspaper La Atencion
http://www.atencionsanmiguel.org/2018/06/15/the-locos-parade-origins-in-city%E2%80%99s-farming-past/

It is also a celebration of the feast of St Paschal Baylon, a saint who was known to work in the fields in the 1500's, and of  St Anthony, and his statue can be seen on the back of pickup trucks and in altars in the churches.

The parade consists of one cuardro or team after another, each one having a central theme for their costumes and masks. More and more teams have formed over the years, and are seen with the wide diversity of themes and creative costumes and masks.

Curbside

I was fortunate enough to secure a standing room only spot on the corner of Relox and San Francisco surrounded by locals and visitors from out of town. I must have been the only gringo in that small area which was fine. I enjoyed practicing my Spanish and hanging out with Mexican people all excited about the parade. The thousands that lined the streets were very lucky as the rain that happened in the days before and after did not happen during the parade.

The varieties of costumes, masks, music, dance and celebration were amazing. The cuardos or teams showed their pride in their detailed dress and performances. Candy was thrown out to the crowd, and umbrellas were turned upside down to catch some !

The mood of the crowd was very festive and people came to San Miguel de Allende from as far as Mexico City to watch the "dia de los locos". It was truly the craziest day of the year.






A Sunday Morning Walk in Guanajuato

Street Entertainer- Looks Like Bronze Statue - Does Not Move Unless Paid - then Pours Tea
Basilica of the Lady of Guanajuato
Plaza de la Paz
It's Sunday in Guanajuato Mexico (4/29/18), and I went for a morning walk, not planning to stop anywhere, but just making my rounds from walking down the steep narrow alleyways to the main streets in "Centro', or the center of town where the main attractions are.

The photo above is a street entertainer, painted like bronze and unmoving, except for his eyes that blink occasionally. When someone decides to pay him, he moves like a robot, serves tea, and becomes even more photogenic. He has a speaker that plays jazz and he does this for hours on weekend days.

Also to the left is the Basilica of the Lady of Guanajuato, and I stood in the shadows across the street to avoid being in direct sunlight to take this photo. This is the major landmark and shrine in Guanajuato. It was built between 1671 and 1696, and the sculpture of the virgin Mary with child at the front altar is the oldest one in Latin Amercia, made in Andalusia Spain by an anonymous artist and given to the Basilica by Phillip II in 1557, as a sign of gratitude for Guanajuato being one of the largest silver mining towns in New Spain at the time.

500 Year Old Church in Centro
Jardin - fountain and bandstand
 Then as I walk back I pass another historic church, about 500 years old and next to the Theatro Juarez and the Jardin or central plaza and heart of the town.

Artists have their works displayed on the street which is for walking only, and blocked off from cars. It is busy on weekends, and yet also has visitors on weekdays.

The Jardin has fountains and is surrounded by restaurants with outdoor seating and mariachis playing traditional music.



Teatro Juarez
The trees that cover the Jardin are groomed and look like large bonsai trees. They are sculpted with a square type of design, and add to the beauty of the plaza with its gardens and fountains.

This morning walk also included a view of the Teatro Juarez, across from the Jardin and next to the 500 year old church. It is a major venue for cultural events and was built between  1872 to 1903 .

Guanajuato is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and was once the most important silver extraction city in the world in the 18th century. It is also a university town and important cultural center in Mexico.

It was just a morning walk, yet one that was filled with visual beauty, appreciation, and the sense that being here in Mexico is an ongoing adventure of discovery, even when walking along streets more than once. Yet in addition to seeing the historic sites to me the most important experience is greeting and talking with the local Mexicans in Spanish.

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The Donkey with the Tequila - A Mexican Wedding Procession

View of a wedding procession from outside the front door of a house that I am staying at in San Miguel de Allende.
Mexico is a fiesta culture.....they celebrate everything here...well almost.....

In San Miguel de Allende,
there are many wedding processions and some that come right down the small cobblestone streets that are very common here. I heard the band playing so I had to go outside, and then saw the procession starting at the top of the street coming towards me....two large figures of colorful paper mache about 10 feet tall were among the crowd, dressed as a bride and groom. It is quite the visual when you first see one of these processions. I have seen a few here in San Miguel, including another one yesterday afternoon.

The bride and groom were surrounded by friends and family and almost everyone had a small ceramic shot glass of Tequila. A donkey was also walking towards the front of the procession with two boxes full of tequila bottles over its back and sides. An important part of the procession for sure.

I saw another wedding procession the next day, so I am combining photos from both.

Both the bride and groom are leading the large group. The tall figurines are also close to the front of the procession, as is the donkey. Tequila servers make sure that glasses are not empty when desired to be full.

There is signing, band music - mariachis playing, laughing, and the type of mood you would expect for a wedding procession.

If you are a tourist and caught in the middle of one of these, stand aside, and don't be too obvious taking photos to respect the dignity of the event. Since I was in my doorway I was not visible by most, so was able to sneak in a few shots. Photos shots, not tequila shots :) Although I am tempted to toast the bride and groom after I get my thoughts and photos down on this page. Stay tuned.

House-Sitting San Miguel de Allende March 22

So this is the view from the rooftop patio (one of them) at the house that I am watching now (3/21-3/29/18). The house is 300 years old and it is quite amazing.

I am here until 3/30 then to another house here in San Miguel de Allende that I have watched before and I am there until April 17th. Then there is a good possibility that I will be back at this house Casa La Comena in May and June.

(I have already bonded with the dog "Bella" on the first day. I think she thinks that I am a dog whisperer. She responded unusually well when we first met in front of her owners.)

More pics and story on the house-sitting page
House Sitting  or Updates page. 

The Amazing Masks of Mexico

From the video Mexico in Your Senses - on this blog
There is a private museum in San Miguel de Allende called Casa de la Cuesta. A collector has over 1000 masks and 600 of them in the museum which is also a part of a B&B. I went there a few days ago (March 5 2018) and was so impressed with the collection, the displays, and the descriptions of the masks heritage. Seeing so many masks in one place was a unique experience. I saw rooms full of masks of all varieties and regions, all looking at me with those painted eyes, those expressions, and the vibes of cultural traditions and mystery behind each one.

from the video Mexico in Your Senses
Mexico is a diverse country of regions, traditions, geography, and has over sixty two languages. It is also a country known for its celebrations, fiestas, and holidays. Masks are used in many or most of these ceremonies and celebrations, and tell a story in themselves relating to pre-conquest traditions, Christian liturgy, occupations, agriculture, and entertainment.

Masks were used up to 1000 years before the conquest, and after, sometimes mocking the Spanish, the devil, and their traditions. The Spanish caught on and used theater and masked dances that were so familiar to the indigenous populations to teach the religious concepts and stories of the Bible and the Catholic events and feast days.

Many celebrations and festivals combine ancient pre-conquest traditions with the Catholic traditions.

The Dias de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, is one of the more popular Mexican festivals that has its roots in Aztec traditions and masks are used extensively and are seen in most photos of the event.

The diversity of the types of masks in the museum represents the wide range of uses and traditions. It is a part of Mexico's heritage, still actively in use today, that is not discussed as much as other topics.
 
from the video Mexico in Your Senses
There is a beautiful art book The Other Face of Mexico that was created by the collector, Bill Levasseur. It has full page color photos as well as vivid descriptive information.

One page has a collection of various quotes - here's two ..."Masks serve as symbols and guides in rites of passage and festivals of renewal", "From Paleolithic times to the present, people have used masks to add power and mystery to religion, warfare, and entertainment'"

The book is on a coffee table at the house where I am house sitting in San Miguel de Allende. By reading and scanning through the book I knew that I had to go. It's one of those lesser known treasures that you discover "off the tourist track", and there are so many more. Visits to the private museum are usually by appointment only. The day I called there was an open house, and they also had a rug maker from Oaxaca that was a fourth generation artisan. His samples there were strikingly beautiful.


Another Look at Another Face of Mexico 
Then I looked at the book again after my visit to the museum. Pictured left, Another Face of Mexico (Amazon link here - priced at $97 ) is a masterpiece art book that not only shows the photos of the masks, but how and when they were used, including titles and descriptions of the dances they were used in, and the symbolism of the mask design.

This experience of the museum combined with the book is a prime example of the type of deeper cultural experience that I savor here in Mexico. It's not just about the well known sites filled with tourists. It's about the people here, their rich and diverse heritage, and the hidden gems of their culture such as was "discovered" at the Casa de la Cuesta.

If you have not seen it yet, or even if you have, I strongly recommend viewing this amazing video titled "Mexico in Your Senses. It contains many stunning images, and more than a few with masks, combined in a moving collage of the diverse cultures of Mexico with inspiring music.

It's on the "home page" of this blog...here's the link:
Mexico in Your Senses


House-stting a Coastal Retreat

Did this message just come into your email inbox from Magical Mystical Mexico Adventure? Amazing how that works :) This blog post is briefly about a another house-sitting opportunity

Far from any tourist areas and right along a stretch of the coast away from cities, this "adventurers ideal beach retreat" is in Teolan, barely even on the map....near Caleta de Campos. I would have the whole two story house to myself and watch two dogs. July 1 -31.

There would some isolation and although I do enjoy social contacts in Guanajuato, this description that they have of a retreat vibe is fine by me. Besides, I do have the company of two "well-trained well- behaved standard poodles and 2 outdoor cats."

The photo on the listing was so captivating, I immediately messaged the owners and will be interviewing on Skype with them soon.

Besides not having to pay rent for a month, I look forward to being near the ocean. I miss it.

.If I get this amazing house-sitting gig, I will do such a great job for them so that I may be able to come back again when they travel. Such is the case here in San Miguel de Allende, where I am in a large casa until Friday. Then back to Guanajuato for three weeks, then back here in San Miguel March 29-April 17 in the same large casa.

Mindfulness in Mexico Part 1

"Can you remember the last time you lay in bed wrestling with your thoughts? You desperately wanted your mind to become calm, to just be quiet, so that you could get some sleep. But whatever you tried seemed to fail. Every time you forced yourself not to think, your thoughts exploded into life with renewed strength. You told yourself not to worry, but suddenly discovered countless new things to worry about. " Williams, Mark. Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World
It's 2:45am Thursday morning 3/1/18. I woke up with some inspiration and grabbed my Amazon Fire HD tablet. I seem to have a pattern here of waking every two to three hours, and have a lot of dreams. I usually go back to sleep fairly quickly although being up around 2am for an hour is not that uncommon. I just needed to write about this new mindfulness book that I started to read.

Recently I subscribed to Amazon's Kindle Unlimited. It allows you to read books for free that are listed in the program and there are thousands, maybe millions. I have wanted to read more and this is happening.

I have had an interest in mindfulness for some time, although not an expert. I included the word as a keyword in my book 333 Keywords to Change Your Life.

“We teach what we need to learn and write what we need to know.” ~ Gloria Steinem

Now I have some insight into why I wrote the 333 book....I needed to know more about how I perceived the possibilities of the deeper meaning of life using keywords to describe it....or, well, that may be a part of the picture...hey it's almost 3am and this writing right now may be showing me what I need to know about what it is like to write at 3am in the morning ! Clearly some editing may be needed later! An excerpt from my book 333 Keywords to Change Your Life :

Mindfulness
“In Asian languages, the word for ‘mind’ and the word for ‘heart’ are the same. So if you’re not hearing mindfulness in some deep way as heartfulness, you’re not really understanding it. Compassion and kindness towards oneself are intrinsically woven into it. You could think of mindfulness as wise and affectionate attention.” ~ Jon Kabat Zinn

"The invitation to the keyword “Mindfulness” is to recognize it as one of the most important keywords in this book as it relates to how we are present with our thoughts, words, actions, and those of others in any given moment. Using affirmations mindfully can enhance the experience and results of mindfulness. Writing your own affirmations and recording them on a CD for your own listening can also be a form of mindfulness and “heartfulness,” as you can be mindful of your own voice saying keywords that you want to use to make positive changes in your life. If we integrate mindfulness into our affirmations and affirmations into our mindfulness, living in the moment of now, consciously creating a newer fresh perspective on life, we will have accomplished a lot. It’s not easy to do every moment, and it is a process, not a destination. Mindfulness is also an endless process of seeking to be aware of what is in the moment and allowing our consciousness to also participate, as well as our mind and heart, without judgment. Like a meditation in motion, mindfulness can be experienced while doing dishes, walking the dog, eating and sharing conversation, and within the world of business."


So Why All the Fuss About Getting Up at 3am to Start Writing About This?
Moving to Mexico as a permanent place to live is a life changing experience. I have been here two months now and thousands have done this before me and I have a lot of resources and support to not only make this work, but to have it be a fun adventure as well as a sacred pilgrimage.So the book that I am reading now that has me so fired up and inspired is by experts in mindfulness.

Adding this 8 week course in mindfulness will enhance this experience in Mexico as well as in my life regardless of location. This is like adding a whole new adventure on top of the one I am already on....so please read this excerpt in the Foreword of this book titled Mindfulness - An 8 Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World. 
.."To be effective, mindfulness requires an embodied engagement on the part of anyone hoping to derive some benefit from it. Another way to put it is that mindfulness, as Mark Williams and Danny Penman point out, is actually a practice. It is a way of being, rather than merely a good idea or a clever technique, or a passing fad. Indeed, it is thousands of years old and is often spoken of as “the heart of Buddhist meditation,” although its essence, being about attention and awareness, is universal.

The practice of mindfulness has been shown to exert a powerful influence on one’s health, well-being and happiness, as attested to by the scientific and medical evidence presented in this book in a very accessible fashion. However, because it is a practice rather than merely a good idea, its cultivation is a process, one that of necessity unfolds and deepens over time. It is most beneficial if you take it on as a strong commitment to yourself, one that requires a degree of stick-to-it-ness and discipline, while at the same time being playful and bringing to each moment, as best you can, a certain ease and lightness of touch—a gesture of kindness and self-compassion, really."

It's now 3:15am and I am going back to bed. At least I got started on this blog post and got some thoughts and posts down, saved and can revisit later. Buenas noches


Williams, Mark. Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World (Kindle Location 50). Rodale. Kindle Edition.

Feb 10 2018 - New Living Arrangement

A new adventure in living in Mexico started yesterday - 2/9/18 -as I am now living with a young Mexican couple, Manuel and Alleida, who own the casa where I was staying. I am renting a room with them for a month and as described elsewhere in this blog (Guanajuato), it is one of those "sometimes things happen for a reason" types of experiences.

There are also three dogs and a cat here ! All very friendly, and this enhances the whole experience.

Manuel and Alleida speak English very well, and so we are both learning and practicing each other's native tongue. I enjoy their warm hospitality and constant sense of humor.

My room is cozy with a private bathroom, and the house is in the "Pastita" neighborhhood (barrio) which is more modern than other areas of the city of Guanajuato and was originally a large hacienda associated with the silver mining indusry that was at one point the largest in the country.


Museo Olga Costa Jose Chavez

Also this house is very close to a museum, the Museo Olga Costa Jose Chavez , pictured above.
Trip Advisor info and reviews


The map shows a central section of Guanajuato. I live about 5 min (walk) from the Plaza Embahadoras, and then another 10-15 min from the historical center of town. Walking is an everday event as there are so many things to see and do within walking distance. Taxis are only $2.50 to get to further areas of town or to the bus station. The bus to San Miguel de Allende is only $3.99 senior rate and the buses here are all luxury style comfort rides.

There are so many cultural events going on in this city, as well as live strolling mariachis in the Jardins, the central plaza in the heart of the city. Life can easily be seen as an ongoing celebration here, even in between all the fiestas and holidays that are celebrated.


Guanajuato


I lived in Guanajuato from January 6 2018 until May 5th 2018. During that time I also visited San Miguel de Allende. I have since moved from Guanajuato to San Miguel de Allende (5/5/18) and I know that I was and am in the right place at the right time. My journey in Mexico is not a planned vacation. It is a new way of life, a leap of faith, and an exciting adventure-journey that I am also sharing with other expats that have moved here, or are visiting. The following are some notes and thoughts about my stay here. Guanajuato is a special city to visit, away from the tourist towns and resorts. There is a lot of authenticity and culture here. One of the best "takeaways" that I have from Guanajuato are some new friends who are Mexican and locals who live there. When I go back to Guanajuato I will visit them, and keep the connection, as I feel that they are an important part of my journey here.

Jesús Cardiel
July 12 2018 blog post:
Deep Roots - A History of Guanajuato by Jesús Cardiel
This is a recorded interview that I did in May 2018 with  Jesús Cardiel, a resident of Guanajuato, friend, and master massage therapist, whose family roots go deep here. His mother's family has lived in Guanajuato for two hundred and thirty years, and on his father's side one hundred and ninety years. Stories have been passed down through generations. This history of Guanajuato combines some stories about his family as well as some history of the city. full story >
https://magicalmysticalmexico.blogspot.com/2018/07/deep-roots-history-of-guanajuato-by.html

May 3 2018 - early am
It was a quiet, peaceful morning in Guanajuato today. Birds singing, roosters waking up. A dog barking. Until the extraordinary explosions from fireworks started, very loud as usual except more than usual. Even the roosters were taken back. Church bells ringing more than usual. Perhaps cinco de mayo is being celebrated starting a day early. Now suddenly it got very quiet. What's next? Welcome to the early morning sounds of Guanajuato, where some parties are loud at 4am for only an hour then quiet down. Where life seems to be part of an ongoing fiesta culture. The fireworks going off for any reason and maybe no reason. Loud fireworks just went off again and the church bells keep ringing.This is Guanajuato. This is Mexico. and I love it here.
(permission to use above photo by Edgar Alonso Montoya)

April 29 2018
Link to post - A Sunday Morning Walk in Guanajuato 

I will always have some roots here as my first city that I lived in when I moved to Mexico. During the full moon last night (4/28/18) I was outside on the rooftop veranda with a panoramic view of the city. I was reflecting on my time here, my experiences, and the people that I have met. I know many of the places in town that are not only the tourist sites, but also some of the residential areas, many of which involve a steep climb up stairs and narrow alleys. The culture here, including murals on the walls, taxi drivers, mercado-markets, local people, expats, musicians and mariachis, restaurant owners, vendors, students, and the local residents all combine to create an ongoing adventure of discovery. Some of my favorite places here are Cafe Tal, Los Campos restaurante, Mezcalaria Infiel, Ophelia restaurante, Gene Byron music concerts, Cafe Zipolote in Plaza Mexiamora, Museo Don Quixote, the Jardin, Plaza de la Paz and the Basilica, Tulum restaurante,  Mercado Hildago, Plaza Barantillo, and small stores and shops too numerous to name.

I enjoyed living in two separate houses during my stay in Guanajuato - a large casa as well as with a young Mexican couple who spoke very good English.

Collegiate Basilica of Our Lady of Guanajuato is considered one of the most emblematic structures of the City of Guanajuato , Mexico . It is located in the Plaza de la Paz , in front of the plaque that names the center of Guanajuato as a World Heritage Site . It has the distinction of basilica since 1957 and was built between 1671 and 1696 .
"Founded by the Spanish in the early 16th century, Guanajuato became the world's leading silver-extraction centre in the 18th century. This past can be seen in its 'subterranean streets' and the 'Boca del Inferno', a mineshaft that plunges a breathtaking 600 m. The town's fine Baroque and neoclassical buildings, resulting from the prosperity of the mines, have influenced buildings throughout central Mexico. The churches of La Compañía and La Valenciana are considered to be among the most beautiful examples of Baroque architecture in Central and South America. Guanajuato was also witness to events which changed the history of the country."|
UNESCO World Heritage site info - http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/482 






Journey to Palenque - Part 1

I am in Palenque for two weeks, revisiting an amazing Mayan site. I was here twice in 1987.  I will be updating this blog post with new i...