Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year

2013 is drawing to a close.  Even though it wasn't the greatest year for the world in general, it was a good year for me.  I took three trips to Mexico during the course of the year, and last summer my friend Alejandro came up to the United States for a visit.

In January I went to Mérida with a dear friend and former teaching colleague and showed her the sights of the Yucatán for 10 days.

Mérida at night

From Mérida, I continued to Mexico City to visit my friend Alejandro.

 Mexico City's Monument to Independence

In addition to seeing a number of places in Mexico City that I had not seen before, we took a day's excursion to the lovely lakeside town of Valle del Bravo.

In April I returned to Mexico City to be there for Alejandro's birthday.  We visited the little town of Huichapan, north of the city, and saw this impressive aqueduct dating back to the colonial era.

We also visited the ruins of Xochicalco a couple hours to the the south of the capital.

In August, Alejandro flew up to Chicago, and I met him there.
He then spent some time with me in Ohio

 Coe Lake in Berea, Ohio
My trip to Mexico City in November of 2013 has already been well documented on the blog.
 Mexico City from the Latin American Tower
Now as the year comes to an end, I am getting ready for my next trip.  I have no plans for New Year's Eve or New Year's Day, since I am busy with my preparations.  My suitcases are nearly packed, but there are many last minute things that I have to do.
I was thinking back many, many years ago to a New Year's Eve that I spent in Mexico City.  In those days, New Year's Eve in Mexico had none of the "hoopla" that it has here in the United States.  People would spend the evening with family and quietly ring in the New Year at home.  (From what I have read things have changed since then.  It is now more common to celebrate with a night out on the town, and there are even places where there are outdoor crowds... a la Times Square... waiting for midnight.)  
Anyway, one year back in the 1980's, during Christmas vacation, I had taken a group of teachers from the school where I taught down to Mexico.  We were staying at the Gran Hotel which is located right on the Zócalo, the main plaza of Mexico City.  On New Year's Eve we had a very nice supper in the hotel restaurant.  But we were practically the only ones there, and it was obvious that the waiters were eager to go home.  I suggested to the group that we wait for midnight out on the Zócalo.  I figured that, at very least, the bells of the great Cathedral would ring in the New Year.  There we were, six gringos, standing in the middle of the vast Zócalo.  Except for a couple other tourists, and a stumbling, harmless drunk, we were all by ourselves.  We waited for twelve o'clock.  It came and went, and not a single bell chimed.  So, a bit disappointed, we trudged back to our hotel, and went to bed.
Whether your plans call for a big night of celebrating (in which case, please drive safely) or a quiet evening at home, I wish you all a very happy New Year!!
¡Feliz Año Nuevo!    

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Los Amigos de las Américas

I mentioned in an earlier post about buying handicrafts which I donate to an auction to benefit an organization called "Los Amigos de las Américas".  One of the blogs which I follow regularly is "An Alaskan in Yucatan" (you will find a link to it under my blog list).  Today, its author, Marc Olson, published a post on his experience as a volunteer with "Los Amigos" when he was in high school.  Marc is a much better writer than I, and I recommend that you read his description of how his work as a volunteer changed his life.

I know that I am being a copycat, but this is such a worthwhile group, that I felt compelled to mention "Los Amigos" again.  More people should know about this organization and the work that they are doing.

"Los Amigos" is a non-religious, non-governmental, non-profit group which sends high school and college students to Latin America each summer to work as volunteers.  The students live with a host family for six to eight weeks and participate in health and environmental projects in poor communities.  Back when I was in high school, I had never heard of "Los Amigos".  (Although the organization began in 1965, the chapter in Ohio probably was not yet in existence back in those days.)  As I explained previously, one of my Spanish students became involved with "Los Amigos".  He spent the summer before his junior year of high school teaching dental hygiene to children in Costa Rica.  It was a great experience for him.

For the past several years I have been donating to the annual auction of the local chapter.  In addition to bringing back handicrafts, each year I have painted a landscape to put up for auction.  Here is the painting that I did for the 2013 event, a view of the archaeological site of Cantona in Mexico.

As soon as I return from my winter trip, I will begin work on another painting for the 2014 auction in April.

Once again, I will give you the link to the "Amigos" website...

Frankly, I cannot think of a more deserving organization... not only for its work among the poor of Latin America, but for its impact upon hundreds of young Americans.

Friday, December 27, 2013


When I go to the Yucatán next month it is quite likely that somewhere I will hear my favorite Yucatecan song, a song that is still dear to the hearts of the people of Yucatán even though it was written 90 years ago... "Peregrina".

This beautiful ballad is even more poignant because of the history behind it.  In my last post I mentioned the Yucatecan governor Felipe Carrillo Puerto, the reformer who sought to improve the lives of the downtrodden Mayan people.  Carrillo Puerto is also at the center of one of the most famous love stories in Mexican history.  The object of his love was an American journalist named Alma Reed.  Alma Reed worked for a newspaper in San Francisco.  Her articles frequently exposed injustices committed against the Mexican immigrants in California.  Her work drew the attention of Mexican President Alvaro Obregón, and in 1922 he invited her to visit Mexico.  As a part of her tour, she traveled to the state of Yucatán where she met the new governor, Carrillo Puerto.  He escorted her throughout the state, and the two quickly fell in love.  He proposed marriage, and as an engagement present he had the lyricist Luis Vega and the composer Ricardo Palmerín write a love song in her honor.  Thus was born "Peregrina"

(image from the web)
Governor Felipe Carrillo Puerto and Alma Reed

The two of them traveled to San Francisco to meet Alma's parents, and they gave their blessing to the marriage.  Felipe returned to the Yucatán, and Alma was to return in three weeks for the wedding.  They were never to see each other again.  The wealthy landowners who opposed the governor's land reforms instigated his assassination.

Alma continued her work as a journalist, and was also a noted patron of the arts.  She brought the famous Mexican muralist José Clemente Orozco to the attention of art lovers in the United States.  She eventually returned to Mexico to live.  She died in Mexico City in 1966 and was buried near her beloved Felipe in a cemetery in Mérida, Yucatán.

Here are the lyrics of the song with my translation (my apologies for being less poetic and for taking liberties with some of the more obscure words.).

Peregrina, de ojos claros y divinos
y mejillas encendida de arrebol,
mujercita de los labios purpurinos
y radiante cabellera como el sol.

(Pilgrim, of light colored, divine eyes
and cheeks enflamed with a red glow,
little woman of scarlet lips
and radiant tresses like the sun.)

Peregrina, que dejaste tus lugares
los abetos y la nieve, y la nieve virginal,
y viniste a refugiarte en mis palmares
bajo el cielo de mi tierra, de mi tierra tropical.

(Pilgrim, who left behind her places,
the fir trees and the snow, the virginal snow,
and came to take refuge in my palm groves
under the sky of my land, my tropical land.)

Las canoras, avecillas de mis prados,
por cantarte dan sus trinos si te ven,
y las flores de nectarios perfumados
te acarician y te besan en los labios y en la sien.

(The songbirds, little birds of my meadows,
if they see you give their trills to sing to you,
and the flowers of perfumed nectar
caress you and kiss you on the lips and the temple.)

Cuando dejes mis palmares y mi sierra,
Peregrina de semblante encantador,
no te olvides, no te olvides de mi tierra,
no te olvides, no te olvides de mi amor.

(When you leave behind my palm groves and my mountains,
Pilgrim of enchanting face,
do not forget, do not forget my land,
do not forget, do not forget my love.)

I searched YouTube for a good performance of the song.  The best was sung by Plácido Domingo at an outdoor concert given in 2008 at the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itzá.

If you would like to listen to this beautiful song, here is the link...

La Peregrina sung by Plácido Domingo

Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Short History of Yucatán

Yucatán is one of the 31 states which make up Mexico.  Originally the state of Yucatán covered the entire Yucatán Peninsula, but eventually the area was divided, and two other states, Campeche (on the Gulf coast) and Quintana Roo (on the Caribbean coast) were created.

When the Spanish arrived in the early 1500's, the Mayan civilization was still very much alive.  There were numerous Mayan cities across the peninsula, although they could not compare in grandeur to the great cities that had flourished in earlier centuries.  Among the Mayan cities that were populated at the time at the Spanish Conquest were Tulum, Izamal, T'ho, and Dzibilchaltún.

Francisco de Montejo the Elder was an officer in the army of Hernán Cortés (known to us as Cortez) and participated in the conquest of the mighty Aztec Empire of central Mexico.  In 1527, six years after the fall of the Aztecs, Montejo organized an expedition to subdue the Mayas of the Yucatán.  The Mayas offered fierce resistance, and Montejo had to withdraw.  He led a second expedition in 1531, but that too ended in failure.  In 1540, his son, Francisco de Montejo the Younger led another expedition.  By playing upon rivalries between different Mayan tribes, the son succeeded in subjugating the western half of the peninsula.  On January 6, 1542, the younger Montejo founded the city of Mérida as his administrative capital.  He chose the site of the Mayan city of T'ho.  The pyramids and other buildings of T'ho were razed to the ground, and the stones were used to build his colonial city.  A short time later, a cousin of Montejo (who was also named Francisco!) pushed into the eastern part of the peninsula (although much of the remote jungle remained outside of Spanish control). 

(image from the web)
Francisco de Montejo the Younger

The Cathedral of Mérida, completed in 1598, is the oldest cathedral on the American continent.  A wall was built around the city to defend it against occasional Mayan rebellions.

Throughout the colonial period Yucatán was an unimportant backwater of the Spanish Empire.  The area lacked the mineral resources of central Mexico, and it was isolated from Mexico City.  Spanish settlers established cattle ranches throughout the area, and used the natives as laborers.
When Mexico fought for its independence from Spain, sleepy Yucatán was far removed from the fighting.  It wasn't until the end of the War of Independence in 1821, that Yucatán declared its independence, and then joined the new nation of Mexico.  However, in 1841, Yucatán, unhappy with the centralization of power under President Santa Ana, declared itself an independent republic.
 In 1847, while the Republic of Yucatán was in negotiations with the Mexican government, the most violent event in the peninsula's history erupted.  The long-oppressed Mayas revolted in a bloody conflict known as the Caste War.  As many as 200,000 people may have died during the war.  Atrocities were committed by both sides.  The Mayan rebels swept across the peninsula killing whites and mestizos, and soon controlled most of the Yucatán.  Only the cities of Mérida and Campeche held out against the Mayas.  The desperate governor of the Republic of Yucatán offered the annexation of the peninsula to the United States.  The U.S. House of Representatives passed the annexation bill, but it was defeated in the Senate.  Mérida was besieged by the Mayas, and the siege was only broken when the natives left to plant their corn fields.  In 1848 the Republic of Yucatán negotiated the reunification of the peninsula with Mexico.  Mexican troops arrived, pushed the Mayas back, and regained control of the northwestern half of the peninsula.  The Mayan rebels still held the sparsely populated southwestern half of the peninsula however.  The United Kingdom, which owned the neighboring colony of British Honduras (present day Belize) found it advantageous to support the Mayas.  The British government recognized the de-facto Mayan government, and arms were shipped to them across the border.  It wasn't until 1893, when the United Kingdom ended its support, that the Mexican government reasserted its control over most the southeastern part of the peninsula.  Many isolated Mayan villages held out for years against Mexican authority, however, and it wasn't until 1933 that the last skirmish between federal troops and Mayan resistance was fought. 
In the meantime, as the Caste War wound down, the white landowners found a new source of wealth.  The fiber of the henequen plant (or sisal) was used to make rope.  The haciendas (large estates) became vast henequen plantations.  In the late 1800's and early 1900's, Yucatán was the source of most of the world's supply of rope.  The landowners became enormously wealthy, and, for a time, Mérida boasted more millionaires per capita than any other city in the world.  Of course these fortunes were made with the cheap labor of the Mayan peasants who were little better than slaves.  The Mayas, who had come so close to overthrowing their white oppressors, were worse off than ever before.
The former mansions of the hacienda owners still line the
Paseo de Montejo in Mérida.
The winds of change which swept across Mexico as a result of the Mexican Revolution of 1910 came to Yucatán.  In 1922, a socialist by the name of Felipe Carrillo Puerto became the governor of the state of Yucatán.  He embodied the ideals of the Revolution.  He supported women's political rights, and built hundreds of schools.  He began land reform, confiscating plantations and distributing land to the Mayan peasants.  Of course, this made him unpopular with the landowners.  In 1924 he was seized by dissident army officers and murdered before a firing squad.
(image from the web)
Felipe Carrillo Puerto
The huge henequen plantations continued on for a time, but by the end of World War II, sisal rope was largely replaced by synthetic fibers.  Almost all of the haciendas were abandoned, and their ruins can be seen across the peninsula.  Some, however, have been restored and converted into luxury hotels, restaurants, or museums.  Although the Mayan people no longer suffer under peonage, many remain significantly poorer than the rest of the population.
Hacienda Ochil, outside of Mérida, is now a fine restaurant specializing in Yucatecan cuisine.
Yucatán's isolation from the rest of the country ended in the mid-twentieth century.  In the 1950's a railroad connecting the peninsula to Mexico City was built.  In the 1960's a highway was finally completed, and commercial jet service to Mérida Airport began.  Today Mérida is a prosperous city with a population of nearly a million people.  Many professional people from other parts of Mexico have been attracted by the warm climate, good schools and low crime rate. (It is said that Mérida has a higher percentage of PhDs than any other city in the country.)  It has all the amenities of a modern city while retaining the charm of its colonial past.  Tourism is a major industry.  Travelers who seek something more than the commercialized beach resorts of the Caribbean coast come here to experience the rich history and culture.  Mérida has had a real estate boom as many American and Canadian retirees have come to live here.  Scores of colonial homes bought by ex-pats have been beautifully renovated.
Lovely old houses along a street in Mérida's "centro histórico".
The state of Yucatán still faces many problems, but this fascinating corner of Mexico also holds much promise for the future.  It is one of my favorite parts of Mexico, and I hope to see it continue to improve while still maintaining its unique atmosphere.     

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Brief History of the Mayas

Since I will soon be traveling to the Yucatán peninsula, the land of the Mayas, I thought that I would give you a little background information on that civilization.  The history of the Mayas is very complex, and although we know more about them than many other civilizations of Mexico (thanks in part to the recent decipherment of the Mayan hieroglyphs), there are still many unanswered questions and conflicting theories.  I have tried here to write a very simplified overview of this fascinating culture.

The Mayan civilization flourished in what are now the countries of Guatemala, Belize, and Honduras, and in the Yucatán peninsula of Mexico and in the Mexican states of Chiapas and Tabasco.  The earliest Mayan settlements date back to 1800 B.C.

The civilization reached its peak during what archaeologists call the Classic Period (A.D. 250 - 900).  During that period there were scores of Mayan cities.  There never was a Mayan Empire.  Similar to ancient Greece, the Mayan world was divided into numerous city states.  There were cities throughout the Mayan territory, but during the Classic Period the most magnificent and powerful cities were located in the tropical rainforests that stretch from southeastern Mexico, across northern Guatemala, and into Belize and Honduras.  A few of the most famous Classic Period cities were Palenque and Calakmul in Mexico, Tikal in Guatemala, and Copán in Honduras.

(image from the web)

(image from the web) 
Tikal, Guatemala
(I have never been there, but I would love to see it.)
(image from web)
Calakmul, Mexico
(Another place that I would like to visit)
Palenque, Mexico
I have visited Palenque, and it is one of the most beautiful of the Mayan sites.
What is so amazing about the Mayas and the other pre-Hispanic civilizations is that they accomplished so much with Stone Age technology.  They had no metal tools, no draft animals, and no wheeled vehicles, yet they built magnificent cities and created highly sophisticated works of art.
The Mayas were skilled mathematicians and astronomers.  Their calendar was more accurate than the Julian calendar used in Europe at that time.  They were the first to use a symbol for "zero" in their number system.  They were also the only civilization in the Americas to develop a full fledged writing system.
 Archaeologists used to idealize the Maya as a peaceful people whose priest-kings devoted themselves to intellectual pursuits.  And unlike the Aztecs, they did not perform human sacrifices.  That changed in 1946 however when outsiders first found the ruins of the city of Bonampak.  Within the so-called Temple of the Murals were paintings which depicted battle scenes and human sacrifice. 
Reproduction at the Anthropology Museum in Mexico City of a battle scene from the Temple of Bonampak.
In the late 20th century archaeologists made dramatic breakthroughs in the decipherment of the Mayan hieroglyphs.  Today they are able to read about ninety percent of Mayan inscriptions.  This greatly increased our knowledge of their history, and put an end to the idealized image of the Mayas.  Their monuments tell of battles with other cities.  The frequent wars were fought not just for political and economic reasons.  In the Mayan religion only royal blood was worthy as a sacrifice to the gods.  Thus, one of the objectives of their wars was to capture enemy nobles.  They would be held captive until a human sacrifice was needed as an offering to the gods.  The Mayan royalty would also perform bloodletting ceremonies upon themselves.  They would pierce their tongue or foreskin, collect the dripping blood upon pieces of paper, and then burn the paper in the belief that the smoke would deliver their blood offering to the heavens. 
In the last centuries of the Classic Period, it seems that, one by one, the great cities of the rainforest were abandoned.  Archaeologists can read the dates inscribed on the buildings and monuments, and see that suddenly new construction ceased.  Many theories have been proposed to explain the collapse of the Mayan civilization.  Warfare between the cities appears to have worsened in the final centuries of the Classic Period, and people may have simply abandoned the war torn population centers.  A theory that has gained strong support in recent years is that the Mayas were the victims of climate change.  As the population grew, more and more of the rainforest was cleared for farmland.  Eventually the deforestation led to local changes in the climate.  Studies show that the region suffered more and more years with severe drought, which obviously would lead to crop failure and famine.  The kings were no longer successful in currying the favor the of the gods, and the hungry masses were no longer inclined to support their leaders or labor on the construction of grand pyramids and palaces.  The whole political structure collapsed and the cities were abandoned.
Whatever the reasons for the end of the classic Mayan civilization, it would be a mistake to think that the Mayan people simply vanished.  The descendants of the Mayas still live throughout the region and still speak the several dialects of the Mayan language.  Anyone who has visited the present day Mayan towns in Mexico or Guatemala can see that the age-old traditions and beliefs survive beneath the veneer of European culture brought by the Spanish. 
Very late during the Classic Period, at a time when many of the cities of the rainforest were already abandoned, to the north in the Yucatán Peninsula, there was a last flowering of the classic culture.  Several cities flourished in what is called the Puuc region of the Yucatán.  ("Puuc" is the Mayan word for hills, and this area is the only hilly region of the otherwise pancake flat peninsula.)  The most important of these Puuc cities was Uxmal.  Although the city dates back centuries before, between A.D. 850 and 925 Uxmal was at its height, and magnificent buildings were constructed.  However the heyday of Uxmal and its neighboring cities was short lived, and by A.D. 1000 it too had fallen into decline.  
(image from web)
The Palace of the Governor at Uxmal has been deemed by some art historians as the finest work of architecture by any of the pre-Hispanic civilizations.
Archaeologists refer to the next period of the Mayan culture as the Post Classic Period (A.D. 900 until the Spanish conquest in the 16th century)  The Mayan cities of the Post Classic Period were located in the Yucatán Peninsula.  The most important of these was the famous city of Chichén Itzá.  During the 10th century Chichén Itzá achieved a level of splendor that rivaled the great cities of the Classic Period.   The architecture, art, and religion of the Post Classic Period show strong influence from the civilizations of central Mexico, especially the Toltecs.  Some of the buildings at Chichén Itzá bear a striking resemblance to the ruins of the Toltec capital of Tula, 1000 miles away.  Archaeologists used to believe that at the beginning of the Post Classic Period, the Yucatán had actually been invaded by the Toltecs.  Toltec legends tell of their king, Quetzalcoatl, sailing across the Gulf of Mexico.  (Could he have landed on the coast of the Yucatán?)  King Quetzalcoatl was named after one of the principal gods of the Toltecs, the Feathered Serpent god.  At Chichén Itzá, we see the Feathered Serpent (known in the Mayan language as Kukulcán) included along with the traditional Mayan gods.  
Today, however, the most accepted theory among archaeologists is that the Toltecs did not invade the Yucatán.  Instead, they theorize that a Mayan tribe from the present-day state of Tabasco moved northward into the peninsula.  This tribe had strong commercial ties with the central Mexican civilizations, and it might have been they who introduced the Toltec influences.
(image from the web)
The Pyramid of Kukulkán at Chichén Itzá, probably the most widely widely recognized Mayan structure. 
By the 1200's Chichén Itzá too was in decline.  Mayapán emerged as the most powerful city of the peninsula.  Its builders sought to create a new Chichén Itzá.  Although the rarely visited ruins today make an interesting excursion, they are a pale imitation of Chichén.
Compare the Pyramid of Kukulkán at Mayapán (below) with the pyramid at Chichén Itzá (above). 
Mayapán fell sometime in the 1440's probably due to intertribal warfare.  But right up to the Spanish conquest in the 1500's, the Yucatán was dotted with thriving cities.  They were imposing enough to impress the invading Spaniards, but they were a shadow of the great cities that had flourished during the Mayan heyday. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Next Trip

The next couple weeks are going to be very busy for me.  Once the Christmas celebration is over, I have to get ready for my next big trip.  On January 3rd I am leaving for one of my favorite cities in Mexico, Mérida, the capital of the state of Yucatán.

(image from the web)
This is going to be the longest trip that I have taken since way back in 1973 when I studied for a quarter at the University of the Americas in Cholula, Mexico.  I won't return until February 12th, so that means that I will be gone for almost six weeks.  I'll be missing a big chunk of Ohio winter!
This trip is also, in a way, a four part trip.  On the first part of the trip I will be accompanied by a former teaching colleague, Nancy, and her husband Fred.  We will be staying at one of my favorite hotels in the world, Luz en Yucatán.  I will play tour guide with them for ten days.  This will be the fourth time that I have taken friends to Mérida.  Nancy asked me, "Don't you get tired of going to the same place?", and I told her, "No, because with each friend, it's an entirely new experience."
After they return to Ohio, I have rented a 2 bedroom house in the colonial heart of Mérida.  I wanted to see what it's like to live in Mérida.  I have toyed with the idea of moving there and buying a house, but I think that in the future, I might just spend a part of my winters there.  While I am in the house, another former colleague, Jane, will be spending some time with me.  Jane taught Spanish with me for many years, and we are good friends.  This will be Jane's second trip to Mérida.  Many years ago we took a group of our students on a tour of the Yucatán, and we spent a few nights there.
For the third portion of the trip, I will be returning to Hotel Luz en Yucatán.  My friend Alejandro will fly in from Mexico City, and spend a long weekend there with me.  He spent some time in Mérida years ago working for an uncle, but he has never seen the city as a tourist.  So I get to play tour guide once again.
For the final portion of the trip, I will fly back to Mexico City.  I have rented an apartment there (not the same one that I rented on the last trip), and I will spend a couple more weeks there.  On the weekends Alejandro and I will most likely take a few more excursions to places I have not seen outside of the city.
Those are my exciting plans.  Be sure to check the blog for my travel adventures! 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Season's Greetings

I mentioned in an earlier post that I make my own Christmas cards.  Each year I do a small painting, usually based on a photo of someplace that I have visited during the past year.  When appropriate, I change it into a winter scene.

This is this year's Christmas card.  It is of the monastery at Desierto de los Leones in Mexico.  It was a retreat of the Carmelite order of monks built in the 18th century high in the mountains above Mexico City.

Last year's card was of Weisstannen, the Swiss village in the Alps which my cousin Werner and I visited during the summer of 2012.  (Snow was added for the painting.)
In 2011, I painted a winter scene of the church in the Swiss town of Othmarsingen, where my great-grandmother was born.
The card for 2010 was of the Church of Santo Domingo in Oaxaca, Mexico.  I had traveled to Oaxaca in November of that year.
In 2009 I painted a winter picture of the Church of St. Michael and All Angels in the town of Lambourn, England.  Some of my English ancestors were baptized in this church.
In the autumn of 2008 I traveled to Spain.  One of the places I visited was the medieval city of Segovia.  Central Spain can be cold in the winter, and there is snow at times.  I found a picture on the internet of Segovia in the winter to use for my painting.
In the summer of 2007, I took a road trip out West.  I converted a photo I took at Grand Teton National Park into a winter scene.
The card for 2006 was of All Saints' Church in the village of East Garston, England.  In this church my great grandparents from the English branch of my family were married.
I hope that all of my readers have a very joyous holiday season.
¡Feliz Navidad!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Cleveland, Ohio

As I mentioned previously, I live in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio.  Cleveland is located on the southern shore of Lake Erie in northeast Ohio.  It was founded in 1796, and became a major industrial city.  It's population peaked in the 1940's with nearly a million people.  With a decline of industry, and the growth of the suburbs, the city's population has declined to under 400,000.  It is no longer the largest city in Ohio. (That distinction now belongs to Columbus, the state capital.)  But Greater Cleveland, with a population of around two million, still remains the largest metropolitan area in the state.

Cleveland has been maligned as a declining "rust belt" city, and has been the butt of jokes.  The city certainly has its share of problems, but Cleveland has much to be proud of.

For a long time the skyline of Cleveland was dominated by the Terminal Tower.  When it was completed in the 1930's it was the tallest skyscraper in the world outside of New York City.

On the other side of Public Square from the Terminal Tower, is the city's oldest church.  Old Stone Church was built in 1855.  Its beautiful interior includes several stained glass windows by Tiffany.

On the lake shore is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, probably the city's most popular tourist attraction.  The term "rock and roll" was first used by a radio disc jockey here in Cleveland.
Downtown Cleveland also boasts Playhouse Square.  Four beautiful old movie theaters along Euclid Avenue were saved from the wrecker's ball, and restored to their former grandeur.  Today a wide variety of theatrical productions are presented here.  It is the second largest performing arts center in the country, surpassed only by Lincoln Center in New York City.

Farther down Euclid Avenue is the University Circle area.  It has one of the largest concentrations of cultural, educational and medical institutions in the world.  One of the gems of University Circle is the Cleveland Museum of Art.  The museum is considered one of the finest in the country, and its collection spans the entire history of art, from ancient Egypt to the 21st century.

The museum has recently finished a complete renovation which includes this enclosed atrium.

Admission to the museum is free.
Near the art museum are the lovely Cleveland Botanical Gardens.

One of the city's greatest treasures is the Cleveland Orchestra.  I am not exaggerating when I say that it is considered to be the finest symphony orchestra in the country, and one of the best in the entire world.  Concerts are performed in beautiful Severance Hall, next door to the art museum.

A short drive from University Circle brings you to Lakeview Cemetery.  Many famous people, including John D. Rockerfeller, and President James Garfield, are buried here.  In the cemetery is Wade Chapel.  The entire interior of this chapel, including its stained glass window, were designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany.

I could continue, but I think you can see that Cleveland has a lot to offer the visitor!