Category Archives: Mexico

Mexican Alarm Clocks

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For sixteen years, I’ve been watching Canadian and American expats flood into Mexico and most, no matter how charmed they might be with Mexico, have the same main complaint—the profusion of VERY LOUD sky rockets that are set off by the thousands during festivals, beginning at the very early hour (by gringo standards) of 6 A.M.

I have a piece myself, written on my first morning in Mexico 22 years ago when my husband and I awoke to what we were sure must be the cannon fire of a revolution in Oaxaca.  Alarmed, we sat cowering in our room that thankfully opened onto an inside courtyard until the artillery ceased and the city seemed to awaken to a normal day.  Familiar sounds of cars, donkeys, water vendors, gas vendors, vegetable vendors and motorcycles filled the morning air and we ventured out.  Knowing no Spanish at the time, there was no one to ask about the early morning sounds of battle until we met another gringo couple in the Zocalo and asked if they knew what the early morning artillery fire had been about.  They were polite and didn’t laugh too loud as they explained the Mexican fondness for cohetes (skyrockets) and their purpose.

After moving to Mexico a few years later, I became very well acquainted with their presence not only during holy festivals but also fiestas and celebrations of all sorts: weddings, birthdays, mother’s day, quinceañeras, christenings. After 16 years of living in this country of vivid colors, tastes  and smells,  noise seems to be as important as any other sensory excess while celebrating and living life. This poem, discovered in the bowels of my computer and written 20 years ago or more, now seems the norm:

San Miguel Morning

The sounds of rooting cats
like infanticide
accompany
tuba music
in 4/4 time.
Fireworks.
Roosters.
Donkey brays.
6:29 in the morning.

All’s right with the world.

If you are curious about just why all these skyrockets are necessary and why the complaints of gringo invaders will always fall on deaf ears, read this excellent article on cohetes by Craig Dietz.

The prompt today was noise.

Five Bananas

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Five Bananas

I was on my way home from the weekly market today, going to my car to get a thermal bag to buy ice at the corner liquor store,  when I passed a big truck selling fruit and vegetables.  I asked if they had bananas that weren’t green.  He got up in the truck, showed me some and I said “How much?”  He gave me a price for 2 kilos (about 4 lbs) and I said, no, I didn’t need that many and thanked him.  I realized then that he probably just sold in bulk to small grocery stores in the area.  I got in my car and drove a block away to another small fruit market and just as I was going to open my car door, the truck pulled up beside me.  The window next to me was rolled down and the man held out a bunch of five bananas.  I asked how much and he smiled and said, “It is a gift” and they drove away. Later, I saw them in another store and asked if I could buy them something to drink from the cold case, but they both said no.  

Some days are worth getting out of bed for!!!

The Conveyor of the Moon

The moon, a rabbit, a bottle of tequila and a simple Mayan figure of a woman convey to us many of  the legends of Mexico as well as one theory about her naming.  Eight years ago I created a retablo that conveyed this message, both visually and in a story that resides in a chamber within the box the retablo sits upon.  I sold that retablo years ago, but luckily I have this photo and these words that describe it. In case you missed it last time, here it is again: https://judydykstrabrown.com/2015/07/11/the-rabbits-navel/

 

The prompt today was conveyor.

The Juice of Human Kindness

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I am making guacamole for the play date I’m having with two other collage artists tomorrow.  I am shocked when I see the time is 11:45 p.m. shortly after I’ve also discovered I’m out of limes.  Lack of sleep and the later hour have made me forget what I know well–that guacamole won’t darken if you bury the pit in it. I can only think that an hour’s work disinfecting and chopping onions, cilantro, garlic, tomatoes and four giant avocados will be for naught unless I locate a limón (key lime–Mexico’s answer to limes) or two. Dozens of bars and restaurants on my street—and little markets—all closed. Except for one restaurant with tables in the square that pops up every evening and disappears at closing time. Luckily, since they have to put away all the chairs and tables each night, they were just locking up.  I asked if I could buy a lime, and the cook took me into the kitchen, which she was just getting ready to lock up, and said they only had a few left but to take what I needed from the grocery bag that contained seven tiny limóns.  I took three and asked how much.  She wouldn’t take money, so I gave her a hug.  I love Mexico.

The Tile Layers

 

The Tile Layers

The tile cutter on his knees whistles “Fur Elise—”
five measures over and over—all day with no surcease.
A younger man behind him, in another room,
whistles tunelessly in rhythm as he wields a broom.
Hod carriers laugh and loudly call. Comida will be soon.
One of the youngest sings out a jolly ribald tune.
Their labors hard, their hours long as they hauled and carried,
and yet they have not seemed distressed, back sore, stressed or harried.

As they go to take comida, they move with one assent
as if to be relieved of where their labor time is spent.
Outside my wall they line the curb, their legs stretched in the street
to eat their warm tortillas­­­­––their chiles, beans and meat.
The only time they’re quiet is now their mouths are chewing,
for they are never silent when they are up and doing.
Five minutes and then ten pass as the silence swells around me,
until I feel the magnitude of silence might astound me.

Then one quiet voice is heard, and then another slowly after.
But still no music, calling out, whistling or laughter.
I can imagine well the scene. They’re spread out in the shade,
on their backs just resting in the shadows trees have made.
An hour’s camaraderie, like school kids taking naps,
their ankles crossed, their dusted clothes, their work hats in their laps.
Against their quietness, a motor hums out from afar.
Persistent birdcalls interrupt the tire crunch of a car.

A lawnmower chops at grass below. My clock ticks out the time.
This hour’s quiet interlude is almost sublime.
They must wonder what I do clattering on these keys––
my room cut off from all the dust , but also from the breeze.
The large dog’s bed is in a cage with an open door.
The little dog forsakes his bed to curl up on the floor
nearer the larger, older dog, although he’s sound asleep.
They too prefer to sleep as one, their brotherhood to keep.

An hour passed, the jefe wakes and jostles all his neighbors
who find their voices as they waken to resume their labors.
The gentle scrape of trowels sets the rhythm for
young men shouldering hods of what old men spread on the floor.
The jefe scolds for tiles mismeasured, rails against the waste
of both time and materials lost because of haste.
After the day’s siesta, they work three hours more.
They measure, chip and cut and smooth, then fit and trim each door.

By day’s end, hands are coated, and collars ringed with sweat.
The dust of their day’s labors in their work clothes firmly set.
But folded in each backpack they once rested heads upon
is a fresh change of clothing that later they will don.
Cleaned and pressed, they’ll walk on home unmarked by dust or dirt,
ready for the ladies to admire and to flirt.
For a man’s not made of merely the work that he might do,
and when he leaves his labors, his day begins anew.

Actually, I was imagining the scene described in the poem as the house hushed for an hour after a morning and early afternoon of extreme noise. Diego and Morrie were imprisoned in the small run outside my door but in sight of the front entrance gate all the men had vanished through, tortured by observing all the activity they couldn’t get their paws on, not to mention all those lunches in the back packs.  Then, after I wrote the poem and started to hear a few voices from what seemed to be a direction not anticipated in my poem, I went out to the living room to see the younger members of the crew hunched over their smart phones on my patio, first watching some drama, then talking to what sounded like female voices. One lay stretched out as expected, but by the pool rather than out on the sidewalk. (I had earlier invited them to eat at the patio table and the table in the gazebo, but they had preferred to warm their tortillas in my microwave and then go eat in the street.) My former stereotypes dashed, I then ventured beyond my walls into the street, and there found the older generation living up to former experience and present expectations.

(Click on first photo to enlarge all.) 

CCY Challenge, May 12, 2016: Landscapes

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I love the detail and the unhurried, sleepy quality of this Mexican scene.  I’m not sure whether the amount of detail removes it from the “Landscape ” category or not.

https://ceenphotography.com/2016/05/11/reminder-for-ccy-photo-challenge-21-landscapes/

Just Follow the Bouncing Ball! Cee’s Which Way Challenge

Just Follow the Bouncing Ball!

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The road and their soccer ball were of more interest to the boys than the fields of flowers.  Well, except for Oscar, that is. He was the toddler you saw with a fist full of flowers two days ago.  We’ll see where his interest lies now that he is ten when we repeat our trip to Tapalpa in a few weeks.

For more flowers, go here: http://ceenphotography.com/2015/09/16/cees-which-way-challenge-2015-week-37/