Thursday, November 30, 2023

Is That All There Is?

I had read online that this week there was going to be a "Poinsettia Fair" in Iztacalco.  Iztacalco is the smallest of Mexico City's "alcaldías" (boroughs).  According to the article, the fair was to be held for four days in front of the borough's government offices.  It would feature more than 100 local flower growers selling a wide variety of poinsettias.  When I checked on Google Maps and saw that the borough offices are located by a stop on Line 2 of the Metrobus... a line that runs just a couple of blocks from my apartment... I decided yesterday to check out the event.

Around 11 o'clock in the morning, I got on the Metrobus.  After a half hour ride, I arrived at Iztacalco.

On the large plaza in front of the borough offices, there was one tent set up with poinsettias for sale.  There was only one variety, as far as I could see, and the flowers were half sold out.  (This was on the second day of the four-day event.)  What a disappointment!

Next to the poinsettias, there was a larger tent where a few dozen vendors were selling food and miscellaneous merchandise.  Three or four were selling Christmas decorations.

One vendor was selling paintings based on pictures from ancient Mayan codices.

They were hand-painted and only cost 100 pesos (less than 6 U.S. dollars), so I bought one of a jaguar to add to my jaguar collection.  At least I got something out of my trip to Iztacalco. 

I left and headed back to the Metrobus stop.  I spent more time traveling back and forth than I did at this sad excuse for a fair. 

I have since read that there is going to be a two week "Festival of Poinsettias" along the Paseo de la Reforma.  I have a feeling that the flower growers decided that would be a much more lucrative event. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Moon Over Mexico

Alejandro and I were heading back to the Metrobus to return to the apartment late Saturday afternoon.  As we passed the Monument to the Revolution, I took this photo of the Monument reflected in the glass of the building across the street.

We turned around and saw a nearly full moon in the sky to the east.

A Lost Saturday

Last Saturday Alejandro and I planned to go downtown to the Museum of the Templo Mayor, which is located next to the archaeological site where the remains of the main Aztec temple were uncovered decades ago in the heart of the city's historic center.  The museum is having a special exhibit showcasing recent discoveries by archaeologists.

We took the Metrobus to the Monument of the Revolution, and as we walked in the direction of the Zócalo, the main plaza, we could tell something was amiss.  As we crossed Paseo de la Reforma, we saw that the boulevard had been closed to traffic.  Monuments were surrounded by barricades, and some of the businesses were also surrounded by barricades.

Then we saw large contingents of police, and, when we noticed that they were all policewomen, Alejandro said that there was a women's march going on.  Although we never saw the march, other than some straggling protestors, we later found out that there was a demonstration by feminists marking the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.  There were rallies around the world, and in Mexico City contingents of feminist organizations gathered at various points in the city and converged upon the Zócalo.

Alejandro and I took a detour from the main route to the Zócalo.  We later learned that Madero Street, the pedestrian avenue that goes through the heart of the historic center to the Zócalo had been completely blocked off by authorities.  Even though we were a couple blocks away from the route of the marchers, historic buildings were surrounded by barricades, and businesses were shuttered.  The problem is that some of the more militant groups have a history of vandalizing buildings and smashing windows.

As we approached the Zócalo, access to the entire area around the Templo Mayor and its museum was blocked.  We turned around and decided to take the Metrobus back to the apartment.  However, as we walked back, we saw that one of the downtown branches of El Cardenal was open.  Even though we were not yet really hungry, we decided to take advantage of the situation, and have dinner at one of our favorite restaurants.

Alejandro had bass baked in a corn husk.

I ordered a type of "mole" that I had never had before... "mole de Xochimilco".

As always, our meals at El Cardenal were excellent.

When we left the restaurant, the rally was over, and city crews were busy cleaning the spray-painted graffiti left behind by the demonstrators on walls and sidewalks.

Our expedition downtown did not go as planned, but at least we enjoyed an outstanding meal.


Tuesday, November 28, 2023

The Market at Christmas

Once Revolution Day and the "Buen Fin" have passed, it is time to think about decorating for Christmas.  In all the public markets, stalls selling Christmas decorations appear.  I had already made a trip to the market in nearby Colonia del Valle and bought a few things.  On Friday I took the subway and made a quick trip to Jamaica Market, which is always very festive during this season.

There is one enormous stall adjacent to the main market building which is filled with nothing but piñatas at this time of year.

Some of the piñatas are gigantic, bigger than I am.

There are loads of piñatas in the shape of animals and cartoon characters.


"Bolo" is the mascot of the annual Christmas parade held by the Liverpool Department Stores.

I couldn't resist buying one of these miniature piñatas that are strictly decorative.

Cut Christmas trees are for sale, although I wonder how, when it's not yet December, they last through the entire Christmas season.

The Jamaica Market's large flower section is dominated this time of year by thousands of poinsettia plants.


The stalls around the perimeter of the market building are devoted to Christmas decorations.  I always like to check out the Nativity scene figures.  As I have explained in years past, Nativity scenes in Mexico are often elaborate affairs that include the whole town of Bethlehem and all its villagers and animals.  

I collect the traditional clay figures that are made in the state of Jalisco.  I purchased a few more to add to my collection.  Soon I will have everything I need to set up my own Nativity scene.

Monday, November 27, 2023

More for the Bookshelf

A while back, on one of my wanderings in Mexico City, I came to one of the branches of "El Pédulo", a chain of really cool stores that are a combination coffee shop and bookshop.  I went inside to browse, without any intention of buying anything.  However, I saw a thick, historical novel which caught my attention.

 The book is called "México" and is written by Pedro Angel Palou.  I had never heard of the author before.  I did some research on him later.  He is a novelist, journalist, historian and educator.  For a few years (2005 - 2007) he was the president of the University of the Americas, the school that I attended the winter quarter of my junior year of college (my first trip to Mexico, some 50 years ago).  He now lives in Boston where he is the head of the Department of Romance Languages at Tufts University.  

This novel seems to be similar to the format used by authors such as James Michener and Edmund Rutherford.  He has created four fictional families of differing backgrounds living in Mexico City.  He traces their story through the generations, presenting a panorama of the city's history from the Spanish conquest in 1521 to the catastrophic earthquake of 1985.  It's over 500 pages... all written in Spanish... but it sounds like a very interesting book.

Last weekend Alejandro and I were downtown, and we stopped in another bookstore (this one part of the chain known as "Gandhi").  They had a fairly large selection of books in English, and I picked up a couple more for my bookshelf.  

One of them is a translation of a historical novel by the Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2010.  The book is a novelization of the life of British diplomat, Roger Casement, who exposed the exploitation of natives in the Peruvian Amazon by rubber companies in the late 19th century.  He was later executed by the British government for his participation in the Irish uprising against British rule.

The other book I bought was "And Then There Were None", a murder mystery by Agatha Christie.  You might remember that earlier this year, I wrote that I had read my first Christie mystery.  It was one of her later books and was not considered one of her better works.  "And Then There Were None", however, is among her most famous mysteries.  I'll see if my opinion of her writings improves.

In the months leading up to my move to Mexico, on each trip down here I would bring some books that I had not read.  I now have several dozen books on my bookshelves, probably a few years' worth of reading material.  And now I have some more books to add to the shelf.  

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Making It My Own

If you have been following my blog, you know that for a number of years I had rented the Mexico City apartment where I now permanently reside.  The former owners left the apartment completely furnished for me, and although it was very tastefully decorated, I still wanted to make it my own.  Over the course of several trips to Mexico this year I packed in my suitcases small items that I wanted down here.  I hired an international moving company to ship the larger things that I wanted transported.  Although there is still work to be done, the apartment is gradually being transformed into my place.

In the living room / dining room area there was a contrast between some modern pieces in black (definitely my style) with other pieces that are "antique-looking".  I had the large, black cabinet in which I store my DVDs and music CDs and the black-framed mirror shipped down here from Ohio.  The mirror replaced a smaller "antique" mirror that I have moved to the guest bedroom.  The "antique" table beneath the mirror is also going to be moved.  I want a black shelf or credenza to go there.  I have not found anything that is exactly the style or size, so I think I will eventually have a piece custom made at a little workshop not far from Alejandro's house.

The former owners had a couple of framed art prints hanging in the living room.  They were lovely, but I wanted a couple large pieces of my own artwork in the room.

This is a painting which I did of the waterfalls of Misol Ha in the Mexican state of Chiapas.  A lot of the knick-knacks in the apartment will eventually be either given away or donated to charity.  That is the one thing that I, as a collector of Mexican handicrafts, did not like about the apartment.  You would never know that you were in Mexico.  (But, as one person joked, it is the "gringos" who usually buy Mexican handicrafts!)  The Mexican table runner on the cabinet is mine, and the little dish in the foreground is one of few antiques that I have.  It belonged to my great-grandmother.

Over the sofa I hung a large painting that I did of a view of Toledo, Spain.

In the hallway leading to the bedrooms, I hung some more of my paintings.

The guest bedroom is slowly being transformed.  The end tables were just inexpensive pieces that I bought at Target, but I liked them and I wanted something at either side of the bed.  So, I had them shipped down.  I bought the mats on the tables from an Otomí woman who was standing outside a nearby restaurant, selling her handwoven work. The crocheted piece on the bed was done by a friend of mine.  The wall above the bed was empty and needed some artwork.  The watercolor in the middle was painted by a friend who has since passed away.  To either side of it are pieces of original art that I bought quite a few years ago in Oaxaca.

The office where I am sitting as I write this blog has also seen some major changes.  The lamp on the desk has been replaced with the one I recently bought.  The bookshelves (there is another on the other side of the desk) are now filled with my books, personal photos, knick-knacks, and handicrafts from my travels.  I had my easel shipped down here, and this will be my painting studio as well as my office.  I moved the cabinet at the right from the master bedroom.  I can use it as storage space for my art supplies.  A few more pieces of artwork have been hung in the room.

Hanging over the bed in the master bedroom is one of my favorite pieces of art.  Quite a few years ago it caught my eye at an outdoor art show in Mérida, Yucatán.  It was done by a local artist by the name of Luis Coral.  I also have a couple prints of his art that I need to get framed and hung in this room.

Finally, my collection of jaguar heads is hanging on the bedroom wall.

As you can see, I am gradually giving the apartment a new personality.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

On Thanksgiving Day, the weather here was gray and chilly.  It wasn't supposed to rain, although there were occasional light sprinkles, what the Mexicans call "chipichipi".  It would have been a good day to just stay in the apartment, but it was my cleaning lady's day to come, and I had to get out of her way.  So, I put on my warmest jacket and ventured out.  I decided to go to some of the shopping malls, not to shop, but to take some photos of their Christmas decorations.

The closest to me, just across the street from the World Trade Center, is a small mall called Plaza Dakota 95.  Their tree was set up, and there were inflatable decorations with holiday greetings in both Spanish and English.

A ten-minute walk away is a larger mall called Metrópoli Patriotismo.  It has lighted decorations and a large tree.

There was a big chair in front of the tree for Santa, but he was not there.

I then took the Metrobus about two miles down Insurgentes Avenue to the mall located in the Manacar Tower.

Once again there was a very tall tree in the middle of the multi-story mall.

Santa was not at his post at the "Polar Express" station, but you could send him a letter at the mailbox.

Walking back up Insurgentes Avenue toward the apartment, it was just a few blocks to the Liverpool Department Store.  They always have a large tree outside the store.

Next door to Liverpool, there is another mall, Galerías Insurgentes.  I thought that this one was the most festively decorated.

Santa was at his post in this mall, but he was conversing intently with a policewoman.  I hope that there wasn't a break-in at Santa's workshop!

Friday, November 24, 2023

More "Buen Fin" Shopping

I mentioned previously that last weekend was the "Buen Fin", the start of the Christmas shopping season when all the stores have sales.

Alejandro and I took advantage of the sales and did some shopping, not for Christmas presents, but for the apartment.  We needed to buy a washer / dryer combo.   Although the washing machine is still working, the dryer above it is not.  A few years ago, the former owner of the apartment had the dryer repaired.  Since this is the second time it has gone kaput, we decided that is time to buy a new one.  We decided on Mabe, the leading Mexican manufacturer of appliances, and a company whose products get very good reviews.  Alejandro has been keeping track of the prices at the department stores as well as at Home Depot and Sam's Club.  On Saturday, we went to the Sears store located at the World Trade Center, just a couple of blocks from the apartment.  Even though Sears in Mexico is an upscale store, their "Buen Fin" price on a Mabe washer / dryer combo was as good as the price at Sam's Club.  Our new washer / dryer will be delivered the first week of December.  (In the meantime, Alejandro has been doing our laundry at his family's home.)


We did more shopping on Sunday.  Even though the apartment was left fully furnished, there were some pieces of furniture that I had shipped from Ohio, including two custom-made, Amish end tables which are now in the master bedroom.  I wanted two matching lamps to put on those tables, so we went to Victoria Street in the historic center of the city.  I have mentioned before how the stores on each street in the historic center tend to be devoted to one kind of merchandise... whether it's hardware or electronics or musical instruments.  Well, the specialty in Victoria Street's shops is lamps and lighting fixtures.  We went to several shops, and the lamps were not the style I was looking for (many of them were rather hideous) and most were made in China.  We them came upon this store...

The store is called "Intensive Laiting"... "laiting" is the way the English word "lighting" would be spelled phonetically in Spanish.  In spite of its rather dubious name, the quality of the merchandise in this store was head and shoulders above the others.  Most of the lamps were either imported from Europe or made in Mexico.  We found a pair of Mexican-made lamps that were very simple and tasteful with bases made of wood and ceramic.  Those two are for the bedroom.

We saw another lamp in a similar stye, also made in Mexico.  There was only one left, so we got that for the desk in my office.

If we are ever in need of another lamp, we will definitely go back to "Intensive Laiting".