Danzas Indigenistas

I have been to a lot of pow-wows in my time and seen a lot of indigenous dances. It’s always a moving experience for me. Though I wasn’t raised in a tribal family, I am part Lipan Apache and a member of the Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas. I was always reluctant to embrace that part of my heritage because I look ridiculously white, taking after the Irish and English parts of my family and was raised to feel shame about my mother’s Apache DNA. It wasn’t until I began regular shamanic practice that I understood that at the core we all have shamanism in our backgrounds, though for most of us it has been scrubbed out by various forms of organized religion, usually with violence and suppression of our and our ancestor’s true selves.

Shamanism is about connection to the natural world and to Spirit. In shamanism we see the sentience in all things: rocks, trees, water, plants, birds, air, mammals, reptiles, creepy crawlies, stars, fire, earth…. Everything has a spirit. Everything in the shamanic realms can work with us, help us, teach us, challenge us to grow, give us advice, and urge us to be in harmony with the universe.

This new filter of shamanic connection with and to all things gave me a new way to see the dances of indigenous peoples, appreciating the movements and expressions as the spiritual conversation that they are. A dancer in a jaguar costume, for instance, isn’t just a dancer. He or she has the opportunity to embody the Spirit of the archetype that is Jaguar, taking on those characteristics and giving Jaguar the ability to express its’ essence through the dance.

Mexico No Filters-Indigenous dancer who is way into the zone. Festival de San Miguel, 2018.

I once dressed as Durga, a pre-Hindi Indian goddess, for Halloween. I searched for a long time for the right sari, wrap, makeup, and accessories I needed to complete the costume. Halloween night I wrapped the sari and tied it in the customary fashion then applied the makeup to complete the look. I remember beginning to feel very different as I drew the big blue eye vertically between my own eyebrows – calmer, more present, more powerful. By the time I got to the Halloween party down the street I realized I was different. Conversation stopped when I walked in and the look on people’s faces was nothing short of awe. But it wasn’t the costume that held them in thrall for that moment. By allowing the Spirit of the Being I was dressing as to flow, not just through the costume of clothing and makeup, but also through my bodily offering, I did, for a time become that Being.

This is what indigenous dancers are doing by creating and wearing elaborate costumes and makeup when they dance: allowing Spirit to flow into this dimension and giving power and advice on how to heal this broken world.


Click the links below to see: 

  • More photos of the Indigenous Dancers
  • The Festival de San Miguel
    476th birthday of San Miguel and the feast day for our patron saint. Party!!
  • The Blessing of the Horses
    Caballeros and caballeras who flow into San Miguel to have their horses blessed in front of the Parrochia
  • Quema de Monitos (coming soon)
    The burning of the monkeys – not literal monkeys and not just fire. This is a fun display involving blowing stuff up in a show of the battle against evil

The Blessing of the Horses

by Cat Calhoun
San Miguel de Allende, GTO, Mexico

The clanging of church bells in the square drowned out all but the most boisterous of conversations, yet the clop of horse hooves on the cobblestone streets was audible above them. Hundreds of horses, 4 deep across in some places, rang clearly in the streets. Ridden by a cavalry of caballeros and caballeras, many bearing standards and banners like an army of medieval crusaders, the sleek shining horses replaced, if only for a few hours, the throngs of selfie-taking tourists that generally clog the streets of San Miguel on holidays and weekends.

Mexico No Filters - Horses and tourists during the Blessing of the Horses in San Miguel de Allende

And actually, it was both. The holiday was the Festival of San Miguel, the feast and celebration day for St. Michael the Archangel and the patron saint of San Miguel de Allende. But no one seemed to want a hoof in the face nor a tiptoe through the road apples, so the horses and riders had the streets to themselves while the tourists and festival go-ers packed the roadside to watch the cowboys from surrounding towns as far as an hour away from San Miguel roll through in what seemed to be an unending parade reaching as far up and down the road as we could see.

A priest walked up and down the edge of the square with a sprig of cedar and a bucket, dipping the branch into the water and dispensing it with a holy fling it on the horses. While the caballeros might choose to attend Catholic masses, it was clear the horses had other belief systems and customs. Most of them looked as highly offended as a cat, jerking away and neighing in protest when the priest “baptized” them. But this is what the local people had come for and the parade of horses and riders continued, making their away around the town to the Parrochia, the largest church in San Miguel.

Though the space in front of the local parish church is ample, there was not enough room for the whole contingent. An altar was erected in front of the church and a mass was held for horses and riders. Patient people and patient beasts waited calmly for the completion of the service. Many riders calmed their horses with gentle touches and words whispered in ears.

Only one horse reared in the crowd, ridden by a big man with striped pants, large silver spurs, and a heavy handed demeanor. The display was impressive, frightening, and sad, yet the other horses were hardly bothered. The big rider was one of the few I saw wearing spurs or using a quirt. I noticed that the other riders seemed to work to stay away from him. I doubt this guy’s horse will be converting to Christianity anytime soon.

See my Flickr page for tons more photographs. 

Click here to see: 

Festival de San Miguel

San Miguel de Allende is named after two ‘people.’ One is Ignacio Allende, a hero of the Mexican Revolution. The other is San Miguel or St. Michael, who is also one of God’s archangels. In the Mexican Catholic tradition, each saint has their own special feast day.  When a saint’s feast day coincides with your personal name or with the name of your town, it’s cause for a party, ergo, when Michaelmas (the feast day for San Miguel) rolls around, it’s time for a massive party.

Quema de Monitos - burning of the 'monkeys,' or the lower baser self.

Michaelmas is officially September 29th, but San Miguel de Allende makes a weekend long event of it. The party starts on Friday night with fireworks in the sky, church bells ringing, and loud booms that shake the floor. Each neighborhood has it’s own celebration, as do surrounding towns, but the main events take place in the center of town, the Jardín (garden) and the Parrochia (the main parish church).

The festivities include mariachi bands, a parade of stars (piñatas), voladores (flying dancers), the blessing of the horses, the Quema de Monitos, parades that are both Christian and pagan, xuchile offerings, indigenous dancers in rather terrifying regalia, and a fireworks extravaganza that involves shooting fireworks into the crowd in a mock battle between good and evil.

Some of it I captured, some I didn’t. . . because it happened in the middle of the night and I’m just not going to do that to my body anymore!

Read on to see: 

  • Danza de los Voladores
    Flying dancers who leap backwards off of a 100ft tall pole and dance in the wind as they fall. 
  • The Blessing of the Horses
    Caballeros and caballeras who flow into San Miguel to have their horses blessed in front of the Parrochia
  • Danzas Indigenistas 
    Amazing indigenous dancing up close and personal, featuring costumes that would scare the crap out of you if you were one of the conquering Spanish. Seriously. After looking at the pics would you want to meet one in the forest on a dark night?!
  • La Quema de Monitos (coming soon)
    The burning of the monkeys – not literal monkeys and not just fire. This is a fun display involving blowing stuff up in a show of the battle against evil

The fun thing we did

by Cat Calhoun
San Miguel de Allende, GTO, México

Mexico No Filters - Mural tour, Colonia Guadalupe

Life in San Miguel sometimes looks a lot like life everywhere else. We still have to cook, clean, shop for necessities, pay bills, work (online, but still), and take care of an aging parent. That means there generally isn’t a ton of fun for play, but we work it in when we can.

This week DeLora found an awesome mural tour in the Guadalupe Arts District (Distrito de Arte Guadalupe) given by an incredibly knowledgeable woman by the name of Colleen Sorenson. Colleen has been a key factor in legalizing urban art both here in San Miguel and in San Antonio, Texas.

Colleen Sorenson with mural in arts district

Urban murals are created by street artists with incredible levels of talent who miraculously convert blank walls into amazing murals. Here in San Miguel, Colleen has founded Muros en Blanco as an outlet for these artists, getting permission from the owners of the blank canvases, and acquiring paint for the muralists. 

Colleen’s tour is incredible, not just because she is an artist herself, but because she knows the artists and the works intimately. Her 2.5 hour tour through Colonia Guadalupe includes detailed information about the history of urban art in San Miguel as well as information from the artists themselves about the works they have completed, the mediums they used, and what inspired them. While many of the murals are done by local artists, you will find talent from around the world displayed here. It’s some fabulous eye candy, a great walk, and a fun education. 

The Life of a Wall

Impermanence is the rule of life on this earth, so don’t count on these murals all being here if you decide to come for a visit. They decay and crumble over time. Some are maintained, but many are blasted away and replaced with something new. Some visitors express dismay over this, but when you ask the artists, they explain that this is just the life of a wall. 

The mural above, for example, less than a year old, is peeling very badly. There are a couple of reasons for this. Walls in many parts of Mexico are made of brick, which is porous by nature. Walls might be covered with concrete stucco, left as bare brick, or painted. The government gives away exterior paints for free, but they are chalky paints and will actually come off on your skin and clothes if you lean against them. (Hint: don’t lean against walls in Mexico. This stuff doesn’t come off easily.)

You can paint murals over them, but they will eventually flake away, especially during and after our wet season. Because the brick is porous, moisture seeps in causes this chalky paint flake even faster. Because the mural above sits alongside the Arroyo de Las Cachinches, which carries water that flows out of the mountains during rainy season, it’s subject to even more moisture damage. The murals along this stretch will probably be painted over again during the January painting season. 

Fun fact: over and over again I have seen paint damage right around the knee to hip height on walls all over Mexico. Colleen explained why. When you see people leaning against walls in Mexico (and all the cool people do it), they usually put one foot up on the wall. Over time this causes damage to the paint. The damage is especially noticeable on “photo walls,” or mural that are popular for selfies and other photo ops. 

Want to see all of the cool images I captured? Take a look at my Flickr feed. You can find them in an array of sizes and there’s a cool slideshow option.

Meeting Things Head On

by DeLora Frederickson
San Miguel de Allende

This week we had a friend in town.  One day she wasn’t feeling well, so while we were out doing things in the car we decided to drop off some provisions.

This meant I drove our Subaru Forester on tiny one way cobblestone streets in downtown SMA. Now this takes a hardy soul for sure.  The streets are so narrow that often times we have to bring the outside mirrors in toward the car.  I was doing fine…even though we had NO idea where we were, how to get out of there and google maps couldn’t keep up.  I was doing great actually.  No anxiety, charging forward….and then came Insurgentes.  This is a main street in SMA travelled by cabs and camiones – public buses.  There are cars parked along one side, lots of folks walking on the sidewalks and many many vehicles.  So the best part of the story is …..I was going downhill the WRONG way.  People were yelling at me from the curb…but I thought I am just going for it!  I can make it down before anymore cars need to come up.  AND then came the Ruta 6 camione.

Camione coming right at me!

Well, you can guess what ended up happening…I had to back up the hill with that bus right in front of me and the same people on the sidewalks!  And I just did it.  NBD.  No anxiety or uncertainty.

As I looked back on that adventure I kept thinking…this is a reflection of my whole life here.  Things come at me and I just have to let them push me up the hill, ‘encourage’ me to do something.  Here in Mexico it is easy to be overwhelmed with not knowing the streets, customs, where someplace is, etc… and so I often opt not to do it.  But that day was so empowering…..I backed up that freaking street with the bus coming at me cars parked along side me and felt better about life after I got turned around and on my way.

Today a friend told us about a sale (we need stuff for our apt) and it was out of the city a bit.  This is a situation that could intimidate me and I would just not go.  But that is not what happened.  We drove out of town with a google map and a few sketchy directions from 2 different people.  Again google maps couldn’t keep up but we drove on.  After the pedestrian bridge 4 km after the municipal building turn right.  What is a km?  And where is the municipal building? We found the sale.  We didn’t buy anything, but we brought stuff home for a friend in our compound who knew folks out there.  I was satisfied from our efforts.

Someone recently asked me if I am glad we made the move.  I paused, not sure how to answer.  On some level it was the only choice with the care of my Mother for sure. On other levels I struggle with the culture here.  I confront my beliefs and judgements everyday.  That is not easy.  I am willing but it is not easy.

I am satisfied and enjoy the adventure. I am not unhappy.  Is it important to be ‘happy’?  I still don’t know how to answer that question.

Viernes de Dolores

by Cat Calhoun
San Miguel de Allende, Gto., México

Mexico No Filters - Dolores

Yesterday I was in artistic creation mode, so I forgot that we are about to kick off Semana Santa (or Holy Week) here in San Miguel de Allende. DeLora has been gone all week, back in Texas to retrieve her mom. I came out of my artistic trance about 3:30 and realized that I needed to run to get some groceries so she could eat well when she got back.

I got dressed in something suitable for public consumption, grabbed my walking stick and set off down the dusty streets in our barrio of Santa Julia toward downtown. I saw some beautiful decorations, heavily featuring the color purple and remembered it was Viernes de Dolores, literally, the Friday of Pain or Sorrows.

It is the Virgin Mary who is celebrated this day, honoring her sorrow over the death of her son.  House after house was decorated heavily with purple and white ribbons and paper cutouts and fresh flowers (the colors of funeral flowers), bitter oranges (representing her tears and sorrows), and candles. But alongside the sorrows and suffering, there was freshly sprouted wheat grass, and the fragrant smells of chamomile, mint, and fennel, representing rebirth and the new life of Spring.

Families that participate often clear out their whole living room, continuing the theme and remembrances into their homes, for a time transforming their dwellings into living shrines. I saw some truly beautiful altars and a couple of families even extended their tradition of handing out sweet treats to me, a foreigner.

Some of you will wonder why I’m not sharing more pictures if the visuals were so spectacular, but some things aren’t meant to be photographed by gringos. The moments are too sweet and too personal. I did take one for you though, at the request of the woman who created it.

Mexico No Filters - Viernes de Dolores
Viernes de Dolores – Friday of Sorrows

Regardless of whether you are a practicing Catholic or a heathen like myself, happy Spring. May your tears water the soil of your life and bring you renewed joy and life this Semana Santa.

 

¡Buen Provecho!

by Cat Calhoun
San Miguel de Allende, GTO, México

Each morning I wake to the sound of bells ringing next door at Casa Hogar, a girl’s home run by the Hermanas Dominicas de María order of nuns. A moment or two after waking and stumbling to the kitchen to open the windows, I smell delicious aromas – onions and garlic frying with eggs and various “carnes” – and am reminded of how different food is here as compared to the United States.

Food shopping

Americans, at least in my experience, largely shop in supermarkets or grocery stores. My family shopped at HEB (because Texas, that’s why) and, when I was very little, Piggly Wiggly. That’s definitely not how most people shop in San Miguel de Allende, nor in most of Mexico from what I can gather. Don’t get me wrong: there are definitely a few supermarkets here. Mega and Soriana Súper come to mind. There are even a few HEBs in big cities, but not where I live.

(Fill-in-the-blank)-arias, tiendas, and mercados

So how do you shop? Generally speaking, if you want to buy food here you go to a smaller store (a tienda) that specializes in what you want to buy. Need fruit or produce? Go to the verduraria. Bread? Go to the panaderia. Fish? Pescaderia. Beef or chicken? Carniceria.

If you happen to need meats, produce, beans, and bread all at the same time, then you hop on the bus for 7 pesos (about 37 cents) and go to the mercado. Mercados are big warehouse looking places with a ton of little specialized tiendas in them – bread, dried goods, produce, meats of all kinds. The San Juan de Dios market here in San Miguel is my favorite so far. Not only can you find food to cook, you can also find food stalls with people making fresh pozole, sopas/soups, tortas/sandwiches, tacos, and sweet treats.

Mexico No Filters - San Juan de Dios mercado

As an added bonus, you can get all the plastic crap ever made in all of China such as laundry baskets, strainers, cups and glasses, fly swatters, and stuff I cannot yet identify. In San Juan de Dios you can get costumes, clothing, shoes, boots, hats, sporting equipment, and tons more. You can even buy minutes for your cell phone here. (But if you’re looking for all the cool ceramic Mexican dishes, rugs, or other traditional items, you have to go to the artisan’s market. The mercado is mostly about daily life.)

There are also small local corner stores where you can pick up Mexican Coke (like they’d carry any other kind!). I’m not normally a Coca-Cola fan, but we had urban hiked a lot one day last week and had run out of water in our bottles, so we snagged one from the tienda at the corner. Now I understand all the hoopla about Mexican coke! Damn, that stuff is good. 2.5 liters for 22 pesos (about a dollar). If the bottle is labeled “Retorno” they’ll give you 10 pesos back when you drop off the empties. Haven’t seen that since I was a wee little tyke.

Mexico No Filters - Local tienda/produce shop

Sorry. I got lost there – all caught up in the Mexican coke revelry. The little corner tienas also sell cookies, bandaids, aspirin, a little this and that, and they often have good-sized produce sections. You know where all the candy, chips, and processed foods are in a 7-11? Take that out and replace it with produce and you have an approximation of a local tienda.

Can you buy pre-cooked food like you do in the HEB deli? Yes, you can. These are also in specialized shops. There are tortillerias every few blocks – a small shop with a tortilla press and a couple of women making homemade corn tortillas they sell buy the kilo. How many tortillas is that? More than you can eat in a week by yourself. I fry them up with a little coconut oil and they are divine. You want flour tortillas? Well, too bad, gringo. I haven’t found those in San Miguel de Allende yet.

Mexico No Filters - Tortilleria Ramirez

Yesterday I had hiked up a huge hill and stopped for a rest in front of a rosticeria (a chicken roaster) offering roasted chicken with corn tortillas and peppers – $45Mxn for half of a chicken or $85Mxn for a whole chicken. As I watched she pulled a whole chicken off of the roaster and cut it up with shears I swear could cut through bricks, packaged it with the peppers and tortillas in less than 30 seconds. Impressive.


While this is representative of how rosticerias work, this is not the one I was resting in front of. 

How much food to buy

When I lived in Austin I had a big pantry and a little pickup truck that could hold enough groceries to feed a small village for a week. A very small village, but you know what I mean. I could and often did stock my pantry until the whole closet was full. We do have a car here in Mexico and I could drive down to Soriana Súper and fill it up, but both driving and parking here are challenging to say the least. Even if I did feel like driving (and no thank you), I have nowhere to put massive amounts of food.

That means I shop like most families do here. You get what you need for a few days and limit yourself to one or two shopping bags full per individual, knowing that you’re going to have to take a taxi (two shopping bags per person) or a bus (one shopping bag per person) to get back home. Buses are often crowded and but are about 6 times less expensive than taking a taxi, so guess which one I pick! Bingo. Bus it is.

The fun part – food eating! 

In the United States I relied way too heavily on processed food. My household is vegan, but I won’t lie – I still miss meat in a big way even when I get plenty of protein from other sources. To quell my cravings, I fell back on Gardein’s faux meats. And while I was buying those I would stroll down the center aisles at our local food co-op or at Whole Foods and pick up vegan snacks like bagged popcorn and cookies. Whole Foods has delicious sweet/salty kettle corn, those bastards! I gained 10 lbs eating it and it made me swell up like I was on steroids. But I ate it anyway. Rarely did I eat fresh produce or fruits. As it turns out, it’s way too easy to eat junk in America and still be considered vegan or vegetarian. (Did you know Oreos and Fritos are actually vegan? True story.)

Those processed vegan crutches just aren’t available here and I’m actually relieved about that because I have no willpower. I’ve probably eaten better since I’ve been in Mexico than I have in the last 30 years of my existence. Because there is a decided lack of vegan prefab, I find myself defaulting to fresh fruits and veggies and to cooking for myself instead of eating out. I had pineapple dressed with fresh peach juice and coconut this morning for breakfast. Lunch was an egg dish (yes, I know that’s not vegan, but I splurged at the local organic market and bought a couple of fresh eggs). Tonight I dine on Spanish rice and beans that I cooked myself, coupled with corn tortillas I purchased from the local mamacitas at the tortilleria.

(Click on the rice and beans links above for the Instant Pot recipes.)

Dining Out

There are a million restaurants in San Miguel and I doubt I’ll ever darken the door of most of them. Why? Most of them don’t offer much in the way of vegetarian or vegan fare and my cooking is better anyhow.

There are a few exceptions to the “Sorry, it’s all meat all the time here” rule. Last Saturday our downstairs neighbor Amy helped us get to the Saturday organic market. Amy has lived here for five years and showed us where to catch the bus and the best place to flag down a taxi. Once we got to the market we found a vegan tamale stand where we got a couple of tamales, beans and a salad. I think the total bill was less than $10, which sounds hella cheap, but those are gringo prices because the whole market caters to the local ex-pat and Mexican tourist population. I confess I’m not generally a salad eater, but this was delicious! It was garnished with dried and candied Jamaica flowers (pronounced ha-MY-kah), which you probably know as hibiscus flowers. Amazing. And the tamales? Moist and fresh. Totally worth the price, actually. Might have to go again this weekend.

For now however, the sun is setting, I hear the dinner bells ringing next door at Casa Hogar and I can’t quit thinking about the rice and beans I promised myself for the evening repast. I’m going to go cook myself some dinner.

Please feel free to peruse some of my most recent photographs if you’ve already eaten. And if you haven’t, go eat!

¡Buen Provecho!

Mexico No Filters - Iron work at the Taller Madera SMA
Like this? Click on it to see more on my Flickr site!

Big Bang Theories

by Cat Calhoun
San Miguel de Allende, GTO, México

San Miguel de Allende is deep in the throes of a three-day holiday weekend. How do I know this? Did I read it on a flyer? Find out from a neighbor? No. I woke at 5:30am from a frustratingly real nightmare to the sound of six immensely loud thundering noises in a row. In my half-asleep state I first thought it was a neighbor in the compound banging on the front gate after having forgotten keys or a drunken tryst looking for a booty call. Next I thought maybe it was a metal door being dragged across San Miguel’s cobblestone streets. Then I remembered David, our next door neighbor, saying I might wake to the sound of explosions occasionally and not to worry, just fireworks.

I got out of bed and trekked to the kitchen to peer out across the city. It’s handy having an apartment way up on a hill. For a moment I saw nothing, then white sparks shone in the sky followed by the booms a second later. I watch for a while as smoke filled the valley below then went back to bed. The booming went on for a couple of more hours, but I somehow fell asleep in the midst of it only waking with the sun streaming through the windows of my partially glass house, the thundering noises still echoing through town.

Mexico No Filters - Fireworks San Miguel de Allende

Amy, the downstairs neighbor, mentioned yesterday that it might be a good idea to get anything we need in town and then hole up because this is a 3 day weekend. I didn’t really pay attention at the time, but the fireworks drove the point home and made it worth investigating. Turns out this is the alignment of three notable holidays.

Oil Expropriation Day

We probably all know about Hernando Cortez and his merry band of slaughtering Spanish conquistadors and how they helped Spain gobble up all the wealth and life they could squeeze out of Mexico’s indigenous population. Mexicans struggled angrily and desperately for independence in the 19th century, working hard not just to fight off Spanish, but also French, and American oppression. In 1938 they took back what had been stolen from them and nationalized all of their own oilfields, pushing more modern-day foreign marauders away from the wealth they knew they would need to thrive.

Then in 2013 the Mexican government opened up the same oil fields that had been so difficult to nationalize less than 100 years earlier to foreign investment. Last year when we were here for a visit there were riots in the streets in Mexico City when the Mexican government further broke the monopoly of the national oil company (which kept prices suppressed on gasoline), allegedly seeking more green solutions. . . but really it looks like they want foreign corporations to help them go after deeper oil. Someone’s pockets are getting lined and it’s not the Mexican people’s. We were staying in Guanajuato when all this happened, but ironically visiting San Miguel de Allende the day the riots began. We were blissfully unaware of them, but we did see a number of armored personnel carriers on the streets that day filled with people in military gear and armed with assault rifles.

I digress.

Benito Juárez Day

The guy was a very popular president, one of Mexico’s best actually, evidenced by the fact that there are monuments to him spanning from Chicago to Mexico. He was and is he only indigenous president of Mexico (Zapotec, specifically) and was committed to restoring rights to the indigenous peoples. He was also the guy who finally ended the serial dictatorships of General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna.

Mexico No Filters - Presidente Benito Juárez
Pres. Juárez is often called the Lincoln of Mexico – hence the pose. Interestingly, they were contemporaries.

This was no small feat: Santa Anna was dictator, overthrown and then dictator again eleven different times in the 1800’s. Benito Juárez got rid of him for good, which ended Santa Anna’s serious drain on Mexico’s wealth. Fun fact: there is a monument to Santa Anna, despite his thieving ways, of him on a horse with one hand reaching back toward Mexico City. I’ve heard Mexicans joke that his hand points to the national treasury, hoping to dip back in for one more hand full of gold.

I digress again. Benito Juárez was born on March 21, so it’s not actually his birthday yet, but who doesn’t love a long weekend? And an excuse to set off fireworks for 2 hours on a Sunday morning? Heck yeah.

So not only is it Oil Expropriation Day (which is ironically named in light of current circumstances), but also Benito Juárez Memorial Day. But that’s not all….

Spring Equinox

It’s that too. Though Mexico is majorly Catholic, the old ways are still buried deep within its’ Catholicism. This is a huge day. I hope to get to Chichen Itza for sunrise on spring equinox some day. I’m told by people who have seen it that on this day in particular you can see the shadow of what looks like a huge snake slither down the pyramid as the sun moves.

If you don’t like snakes, I hear you. I feel the same way about big spiders. But this snake is Quetzalcoatl (kayt-zuhl-KWAH-tuhl), the feathered serpent, who will some day bring salvation and peace to Mexico. The shadow on the pyramid at Chichen Itza represents the return of freedom and prosperity, the breaking of the yoke of oppression, and deliverance for Mexico’s people.

Mexico No Filters - Chichen Itza at Spring Equinox

I’ve had a special affinity or Quetzalcoatl and the old deities of Mexico since I took Professor Don Chipman’s History of Mexico class at the University of North Texas. Professor Chipman had a way of bringing historical stories to life and watered the tiny seeds of my love for Mexican history until it was a beautiful flowering tree. Mexico No Filters - Jesus in a TortilaHe also contended that proof of the existence of god can be found in a flour tortilla. I never quite understood that, but when I bite into a fresh made, light and fluffy flour tortilla, I am inclined to think he might be right.

I digress yet again. (Sorry. Bad habit.)

Snakes in most cultures represent the old ways when we were more connected to the earth, in partnership with it rather than chewing it all the way down to the bone like Spain did with Mexico. Snakes represent that primal connection we know we have, deep down inside ourselves past the cultural and religious conditioning, to this earth and this universe. Snakes are life, fertility, and healing. They recall the energy of the divine snaking its’ way up from our earthly origins and connecting us to the heavens, allowing us to meld with the light, and to embrace the Kundalini energy within each of us. They remind us to channel that divine energy and work with it in a powerful partnership that can help us gracefully find our way in this world without damaging it.

Time and time again, organized religion has worked overtime to crush our own knowledge of our connection to All That Is. We are easier to control that way, you see. That’s why all the imagery about crushing snakes under the heels of Christians exists. It’s why St. George slew the dragon, another ‘face’ for snakes. It’s why St. Patrick allegedly drove the snakes out of Ireland.

Disconnecting from our own divinity and from our connection and partnership with this earth has had dire consequences. If we still saw her as our mother and our partner, we wouldn’t rip it apart and pollute it like we have. Would you do that to your own mom? No. You are part of her and she is part of you. When one is damaged, the other is too.

So bring on the fireworks, Mexico. Quetzalcoatl’s return can’t be that far off….can it?

Mexico No Filters - Quetzalcoatl, original art by Cat Calhoun

Starting Here

by DeLora Frederickson
San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico

This move has been the hardest thing I have done in my entire life – other than being born, maybe, though I don’t remember that!  From selling the house on a market that softened right before we listed to letting go of my stuff to venturing away from a successful and profitable career.  I already tend toward anxiety so this whole effort kicked that into overdrive. There have been tears and fears, there have been doubts, and then there has been the pure excitement of getting out of the rat race, trusting the Universe, and stepping of a cliff with the dearest, most amazing woman I know.

Cat as we walked down to the Guadalupe neighborhood

Getting out of our house felt like it would take forever (it took 6 months), then getting out of Austin felt like it would take forever (it took 7 weeks and 2 other houses), getting across Mexico felt like it took forever (a semi wreck held up traffic for three hours as we crawled along at 0 kph (that’s right kilometers per hour).  But we got here and it is even better than I thought.

We live in a compound with 5 other Americans, all inhabited by Americans.  The compound was called ‘artsy’ when I rented it through craigslist. I saw it and fell in love with the idea of an instant community.  I chatted on email with the owner and then sent her $600 through Paypal. I kept thinking – I hope this place really exists (Hi, I live in Africa and need your help…).  

She is attached to a tree and made completely of rusty nails – artsy compound

The neighborhood is a Mexican family neighborhood with lots of tienditas (little stores) and we live next to an orphanage and across from a school so are surrounded by the sounds of girls playing and living their lives.  (https://www.santajulia.org/).

Looking out our kitchen window into the courtyard of Casa Hogar – the orphanage next door run by the Religious Sisters of Mary

Our neighborhood is quiet and up the hill from Centro, the main part of town.  We have ventured down to eat at a little organic restaurant and store (overpriced because it is frequented by non Mexicans), and to go to the mercado.  I have very fond memories of the mercado in Juarez when I grew up in El Paso. So, I was looking forward to our jaunt down there. Unfortunately, times have changed.  True enough we bought quite a bit of food for very little money but I was hoping for artisan crafts.

Food at the mercado

What we found instead was a bunch of plastic crap made in China. I did enjoy the numerous shrines to Mary.

After 4 days here I have already made plans to return to Austin to pick up my mom and bring her down to her assisted living center.  We visited Casa Cieneguita yesterday and it is beautiful with great care for an affordable price. When I think about all the places she has had to endure in the states because of her health conditions I am grateful I can get her here and surround her with such amazing beauty and such loving care.

Shirley

We have a found a holistic vet who makes food for cats – since we have a cat who tends toward diabetes this is so fantastic.  I anticipate we will find everything we need here and more. Our spanish is improving daily and everyone is kind as I learn new words and stumble through the colloquialisms.  

The city is full of people living their lives and as Pema Chodron says ‘just like me they want love, just like me they are doing their best, just like me they want the best for their families’.  Please don’t ask me if it safe down here. When you find that on the tip of your tongue ask yourself is it safe where I live? Then take a good realistic view of your environment.