Using the word “graffiti” would be pushing it a bit– most of these pictures are clearly of sanctioned street art.
Using the word “graffiti” would be pushing it a bit– most of these pictures are clearly of sanctioned street art.
Not knowing what I was getting into, I agree to visited the Panteón de Dolores in Mexico City with my mother-in-law, Cristina. I wasn’t aware that panteón translates not just to “pantheon” but also to “mausoleum.”
Hence, we planned our afternoon visit to a massive park-like area full of mausoleums and vaults and tombs, as well as beautiful sculptures. Below are some of my favorites.
The vertical stone monument, which looks quite unassuming, actually marks the resting place of José Clemente Orozco, the famous Mexican muralist.
At the back of the PdD is the Rotonda de las Personajes Ilustres. Here lie the remains of important Mexican politicians, war heroes, artists, educators, and musicians, such as Clemente Orozco (above), Diego Rivera (below), and Ignacio Ramírez “El Nigromante” (more about him in my post about San Miguel de Allende).
Despite my feeling a little uneasy in many cemeteries– probably due to getting horribly lost at the walled Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires, where Eva Perón is– I felt comfortable at the Panteón. It’s more of a celebration of those who have gone before us, an homage to the important people who made Mexico what it is today. I expect that this less-grim attitude toward death and burials is related to the prominence of Day of the Dead, which I will be joyfully celebrating at the beginning of November.
#1: It is perfectly acceptable and very common for adults to eat popsicles in public, no matter the season. Paletas— both fruit- and dairy-based– are ubiquitous here. La Michoacana and Santa Clara are popular chains. D’s aunt and uncle own a successful paleta place in the state of Colima that the president visited recently.
#2: Little smog particles have the amazing ability to cling to just about any surface. Case in point: the glass desktop near the living room window. Also any car that parks outside… and the shelves in my kitchen.
#3: Tip your grocery bagger. They are often retired folks who make a little extra income this way. 2 pesos or so (less than a quarter) is pretty standard.
#4: It is next to ESSENTIAL that you say goodbye to everyone individually when you leave a party or gathering– even if there are 20+ people there. I got (politely) called out once for saying goodbye like a gringa, meaning that I just waved and announced my departure to the crowd.
#5: Oxxo is hands-down the best convenience store (or party store, if you’re from Michigan) in the Americas. I will accept no arguments. It’s a better version of 7-Eleven and always has exactly what you’re looking for, except limes (see #1 on 5 Things I’ve learned in Mexico: Part 1).
A friend of mine from college, who is also a connoisseur of all things related to Mexico, shares my love of Oxxo and will fight to the death to prove its superiority.
Masks. Vulgarity. Stretchers. Slapping. Crotch shots. Spandex. Fake seizures.
My first experience with lucha libre (freestyle fighting/wrestling) took place at the Arena México when a friend of a friend was visiting from Seattle. It’s a great activity to get a taste of Mexican culture for not too much money.
However, it’s also very violent– even if the fighting is fake. After the first hour of the show, I was exhausted from wincing!
Some background on the sport:
Here are the fabulous names of the luchadores we saw that night:
A few translations: Golden Angel, Brave, Sorcerer, Pegasus, Diamond Prince. My favorite might be Sangre Azteca (Aztec Blood) because of the crazy headdress he wears as he enters the arena:
And then there’s Vangellys. I loved this guy.
The cool aspects of lucha libre include:
All in all, it was a neat experience, but not one that I’m keen to repeat for a while.
Back in February, D and I hopped in the car and headed to the El Rosario monarch butterfly preserve in Michoacán, the largest in the world.
Long story short, these delicate little insects migrate thousands of miles from southern Canada and northern parts of the US (including my home state, the Mitten) to spend the winter in sunny Mexico.
There are so many of them that they completely cover the trees in the preserve! It’s a marvelous sight to behold.
It should be noted that the food around the entrance to the preserve is to DIE for and made the hike worth it. We had mushroom quesadillas that were out of this world, then fresh strawberries with cream for dessert. (Michoacán is famous for its berries!)
Additionally, buying a walking stick is basically an essential ritual here.
#1: EVERYTHING (except ground beef and certain desserts) is supposedly better with limón– what we would refer to as lime in the US, even though it’s technically different. It’s not that I beg to differ regarding the deliciousness of this little green fruit; I simply do not see the need for an overdose of lime juice on everything I consume.
[Update, as recommended by a US friend who has spent time in Mexico: at sushi restaurants, the norm is soy sauce WITH LIME. The mayonnaise in my fridge also has “a touch of lime. Limón is a national obsession.]
#2: Mexicans can sometimes come across as not trusting of others– but there is a reason for this. Given the frequency of political corruption and sketchy activities like the “cloning” of credit cards, people who live in Mexico have very valid reasons for being cautious.
This often translates to requesting that your server bring the credit card reader directly to the table, rather than running the transaction somewhere in the back of the restaurant, out of sight.
#3: Political campaigns and PSAs like to capitalize on the importance of family as a persuasion technique. For example, signs along the highway say things like, “Maneje con precaución. Su familia lo espera,” which means something like “Drive with caution. Your family is waiting for you.”
In one of my favorite books, Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie, the highways and bus stations also feature a similar type of weird little reminder. One that comes to mind is: “If you try to rush or zoom, you are sure to meet your doom.”
#4: An intentionally bad accent in Spanish is the perfect schtick and will always make Uber drivers laugh.
#5: There are roughly a million different noises that vendors/merchants use to get your attention. Here is a sampling:
There are so many more– a little horn, a guy yelling something indistinct– that they merit their own post. One day!
Ahh, the one and only San Miguel de Allende: classic cobblestone streets (that, admittedly, start to lose their charm after jostling us around in a taxi for 20 minutes), bright colors, great views, a well-preserved downtown, and the famous wedding-cake church.
With absolutely zero ulterior motive, I wholly unselfishly planned a two-day trip for D’s birthday to this lovely colonial town. I chose Case Naré as our base, and we ended up with the Pasión room. Though I wouldn’t go so far as to call it minimalist, the room was sparsely decorated, in a very good way.
I cannot begin to convey how cool the vaulted brick ceilings were. Unfortunately, neither could my camera. And it wasn’t just the ceilings; the choice of furnishings, especially light fixtures, was on point.
After settling in, we headed to what is colloquially known as Bellas Artes but is technically the Centro Cultural Ignacio Ramírez “El Nigromante.” It’s been an important workshop and learning space for creative types for many years. Apparently it enjoyed a surge in popularity when a number of American World War II veterans decided to use their GI bill to study art. Famous Mexican painter Siquieros had a large presence here as a teacher.
Before I get ahead of myself, I mustn’t forget to talk about our barbacoa stop outside of Querétaro en route to our destination. The place was already chock-full of people by 9:00 am, which was explained by its convenient location and delicious food.
On many occasions, I’ve used the word “animal-ish” to describe certain foods that taste gamey or smell like a petting zoo (looking at you, menudo). Barbacoa doesn’t quite cross that line, but it certainly toes it.
Returning to our afternoon in San Miguel: We were so full from breakfast that I had to scratch churros con chocolate and ceviche off the agenda, with a heavy heart. We did, however, explore the (very busy) downtown. The main highlight was the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel. In person, it looks much more pink!
We then had drinks at La Azotea, a rooftop bar recommended by my sister-in-law and the innkeeper at Casa Naré.
At that point, we found out that one of D’s friends and his family were in town and met up with them at the most perfect little stoneware/ceramics shop, Trinitate. I bought two little planters with the intention of expanding my collection of succulents.
The family then generously invited us to dinner at their home outside of the city, where we feasted like kings and queens: red wine, San Miguel de Allende beer, ribs, steak, ceviche, aguachile, the most perfect flour tortillas, two types of desserts, plus coffee.
After a fun evening, day two rolled around but got cut short due to the onset of food poisoning that likely came from the salad I’d had two days prior in Mexico City. Maybe it’s a sign that I should stop eating healthy and continue to stuff my face with more sopes, huaraches and tortas?
The fabulous Museo Mexicano del Diseño (MUMEDI) surpassed my expectations today. It is currently dedicated 100% to Wonder Woman!
Here’s what I mean: through August, they’re hosting an exhibit called “Mujer Maravilla y el Poder de la Creatividad” or “Wonder Woman and the Power of Creativity.” Dozens of Mexican artists created brazaletes inspired by Wonder Woman’s cuffs to represent the strength of women. The proceeds of the sales from the bracelets, some of which are actually wearable, go toward an organization called Epic Queen that is dedicated to empowering Mexican women and girls. Their focus is empowerment through technology education, particularly coding.
And now for the brazaletes:
All in all, a wonderful afternoon. Thank you, Wonder Woman and MUMEDI!
I swear, the following post is not sponsored by the Pure Michigan folks, but it might as well be. Over the 4th of July, D and I enjoyed a quintessential summer vacation in Michigan.
This was my first trip back to the Mitten since the big move in November and D’s first trip back since wedding #1 in September. I’d forgotten how wonderful (and humid) my home state is this time of year. There’s something magical about kicking back and relaxing “up north”– the boundary of which is typically understood to be Mt. Pleasant– with family and friends.
On a somewhat unrelated note, Michigan is a fascinating place in terms of language. Years ago, a sociolinguistic study was done on the Midwestern pronunciation of the vowel in words like top and shop, with the goal of figuring out how outsiders (in this case, Canadian speakers of English) perceived it. The researchers found that these Canadians perceived the vowel to be the same as the vowel in words like tap… even though it’s written with an A. That’s how nasal-y our accent is. In fact, the very Midwestern word pop, when spoken by someone from the region, is often transcribed phonetically using the exact same symbol (ɑ) as the “ah” sound in the stereotypical Boston accent (you know, like, pahk the cah in the Hahvahd yahd). If you’d like to learn more, search Northern Cities Vowel Shift– one of my favorite topics in sociolinguistics.
During our visit, we squeezed in as much as we could, including a trip to the very dreamy Mackinac Island, which feels like it’s frozen in time. (You may have seen the movie Somewhere in Time with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour, which takes place on the island.)
Without further ado, here are a handful (okay, 16) photos of our adventures!
First, we have pictures from Canada Creek Ranch, where our family cabin is located:
I should mention that this was D’s first time fishing, ever! From what I hear, he was superb.
Next up, we’ve got two snapshots from our trip to the Upper Peninsula:
Finally, I present photographic evidence of our trip to Mackinac Island! For reference, Mackinac (with a C, unlike the Mackinaw City with a W) comes from a very long Ojibwe word meaning “big turtle.” Naturally, the British shortened it for ease of communication, and the French chose to spell it with a C on the end.
Some fun facts about Mackinac:
It seemed weird to include pictures of us at the shooting range, but we did that too! D is apparently an excellent marksman, and I’m not as bad as expected. Uncle Seth was a very patient and wise teacher.
Other highlights of our vacation include hanging out with our very cool cousins from California (and MI, of course!), visiting and swimming in Ocqueoc Falls, Beach Bash activities, and general shenanigans.
… I am now a (temporary) resident of Mexico! After months of silly paperwork, I finally got my resident card and a CURP, which is an important ID number here, similar to the SSN in the States. I can now open a bank account and apply for work permission. A huge shout-out and thank-you to D is in order for all of his help, patience, and willingness to bring me my passport despite terrible traffic ❤
More news: I am partially employed! For about a week, I’ve been doing transcription part-time for a company based out of Boston. It involves watching or listening to files (video or audio, respectively) and making sure the transcript matches up with the spoken words. It’s the perfect word-nerd job! Challenging, but do-able. I put my punctuation know-how to the test every day, and I get to choose the projects I work on, which means a) it’s flexible, and b) I’m not stuck with boring topics. So far, I’ve done jobs with a range of topics like finance, education, medical stuff, and news.
And in other news: D and I booked a gorgeous Airbnb in Boston for our New England trip in May! It’s two blocks from a TJ Maxx, and I don’t have to explain that that is VERY exciting. More importantly, though, we’ll also head up to Maine for my graduation and for a long-awaited reunion with my friends (and family– my parents are coming too!). Plus, Tandem Coffee. And Becky’s Diner (nothin’ finah!). And Target. And… I should probably be more realistic with this list, as we only have 4 days in Portland.
Oh! And I cut my hair. It was a typical exchange with the stylist: I’d like this much (miming about 3 inches) cut off. She says okay. Then 6 inches fall to the floor. That being said, I’m very happy with the new ‘do. Prior to the chop, my hair was so long that pieces sometimes got stuck in the waistband of my (high-waisted) jeans… but the ends were crispy. Change is good.
And finally, D is kicking butt at Cisco. I love listening to him talk on the phone with clients– he explains things so well and is quite the businessman. He also joined a soccer team! This week he bought some pretty swanky cleats.
Okay, this is the last thing, I swear. Happy 23rd birthday to my brother! Feliz cumple, wey.