October 7

I'm up at 5am to get ready to leave Guanajuato. The papa at my home-stay drove me to the bus station and I need to update my comments about the traffic tunnels. They are a miracle, not just a few diesel traps but an elaborate network of passageways that makes the total delight of Guanajuato possible.

Now, from the bus window, is this, and I don't even know what it is but...
...it includes This. And since we were speeding by on a very commodious, well-tended bus, this shot is about 1/4 of how many there were.
I had a four hour layover in the colonial city of Morelia so I took a cab into town to look around.

According to TripAdvisor, the number one attraction is an aqueduct followed by some churches and museums, but they don't go too nuts over the place like local people do.

I knew there was an old cathedral and since this was Sunday I went straight there. Driving through the city we passed maybe a dozen groups of families with boys and girls dressed up like these. Is it the confirmation ceremony? I think so.

The priest talked to the children and the parents, shook water around, and then they all filed to the front of the church. To me, this is more scary than the mummies in Guanajuato.
Outside the cathedral was what looked like a semi-permanent protest. Under the tent there were mattresses stacked up, a cooking area, and a generator.

Oddly I thought, all the words on the signs were not in my dictionary so I couldn't piece together the topic, but a woman I think was a martyr to the cause and her picture was prominently featured.
I wandered for two hours through street after street, this being one of the tidier examples. I was having a hard time feeling it for Morelia and then, on a street much like all the others, I was propelled through a door with no sign which led to a garden around which was this Wonderful restaurant.
It was the best meal I've had in Mexico so far this trip. One reason was these tortillas. At the time I didn't know there were three ladies working full time to keep the restaurant in tortillas (I got these photos when looking around after the meal).
It's true what someone in Guanajuato told me on the first day - you're not here for the food. Maybe that's why the street food there was so appealing and really good whereas the street food here in the Big City Morelia did not look appealing but this random restaurant was top notch.

Ok, time to get back to the bus.
I arrived in Patzcuaro around four, got settled with my home-stay family, and then went out for a gander.

Just down the street from my new mi-casa is this church. I guess this is my church now since it is the closest. This church...lordy...believes that it needs to keep away evil by firing off Ear SPLITingly LoUD fire crackers every 10-20 minutes. It was Sunday, and today is Monday past 6 and I haven't heard it yet so cross your fingers that it's a Sunday kind of thing.

That's right, cross your fingers for luck. Some fantasies are just quieter than others.
They were having a huge fiesta at this church with a pageant and a parade, food, music, the works.

This I think is Mary Magdalen because under her headscarf her robes are scarlet...
...and this I'm assuming is Mary, Mother of God. There were many children dressed elaborately for the pageant whose role in the story I couldn't guess.
And this is the tiniest part of the crowd as it surges forward to watch.

What a festive welcome!
October 8

For those who were wondering, the explosions at my church have not continued into the week but I did just get an email from Michi warning of a big Catholic holiday on Friday, and then Sunday will be along soon. I'm looking at it as a photo-op.

Here come several pictures of kids-in-crowds. Boys actually, I didn't see any girls...
...and I had no idea what was going on.

These are all here so you can get a little feeling of what the Plaza Grande in Pitzcuaro is like. Look past the kids and you'll see the colonnaded buildings which surround the square. There are really delightful restaurants, curio shops, small business, public WCs, and every fifth shop is given over to an internet cafe.

Not to mention that local obsession - ice cream. I'll get to that in the next day or two.
It's all quite charming and although this is a tourist town for local people still it feels like a real place that people live in all their lives.

So, what's going on here anyway?
It's a big road race. That explains why the younger ones were in front - they're off!
The entire historic downtown is made up of blocks and blocks of buildings just exactly like these, and churches on about every third corner.

What's cool is that in these buildings there exists at least one of Everything. As well as residences, think of any sort of business and one of them will be here, and behind every door is a design mystery.
This is a different street. They do all the markings on the walls in the same font and same black and red ink so there is this feeling of tidiness that is quite surprisingly serene.
And lest you imagine that I'm strolling around without a care, mi casa is up here and the town, the school, everything, is down there. But of course compared to my mountain climbing adventure in Guanajuato, it's a walk in the park.
October 9-10

This is the door leading into the school I've been attending from 10-2 each day. The street looks like all the others...the door and the signs are like all the others, and when you go in...
...it's a lovely space with a patio for the students to enjoy. There's no wireless internet here so you don't have that central cafe feeling from Guanajuato, and it is much smaller too. The classes are one 2 hour session and one 1 1/2 hour session. I have not seen a class with more than two people so that's pretty amazing.

Surrounding this patio are buildings for administration and classrooms.
Past that first patio and buildings is this way-back with more rooms and a kitchen area for coffee. Notice the church in the background. You can pretty much look up from anywhere and see a church.
Two blocks down the road and here we are at the Plaza Grande.
This is another view of the church that was having the pageant on the first day and the one that shoots off the rockets to ward off evil. I pass it many times a day.
And these are the gates along the road above. You know, I'm thinking, I may not have yet seen its front?
Exactly across the street is this other church (I've walked a block away by now). I think it might have something to do with a seminary, but it surely is old.

I have no guide book! If I don't get around to it before I'll have to backtrack and get the scoop later.
This is the street where I live! That big building in the foreground is actually four rather small two bedroom townhouse type residences. Mine is the last at the back.

When you go in the door that looks like it's part of the garage it actually leads to a parking area and the front doors of the other units.

(I'll replace this photo if I get a better one...)
And the kids at mi casa! Hola Katia and Luis! They are completely delightful and make me feel welcome every day.
Now I've gone out for a walk without my honkin' backpack for a change and just my honkin' camera across my shoulders. Here's a view.
A basilica dominates this part of town which made me wonder, what is the difference between a Basilica and a Cathedral? So I asked the source of all...and stole this from some article written in 2003:

"Basilica, cathedral and shrine are distinct terms but not mutually exclusive. For instance, a basilica may be a shrine, and a cathedral may be a basilica. A good description of each will be helpful.

"The basilica structure was developed by the ancient Romans for their monumental public halls located on the fora, or public squares.
A view from the inside.

"Strictly speaking, the basilica is a parallelogram with the width of the building being neither greater than one-half nor less than one-third the length. At one end was the entrance with a portico and at the other end was the apse.

"There was one main aisle flanked on either side by an aisle (or two, or even three) with columns separating the aisles. Since the ceiling of the main aisle was higher than that of the side aisles, a clerestory was added atop the columns to allow light to enter the basilica. Numerous examples of ancient basilicas exist, particularly in Italy.

"...Later the term "basilica" was used to identify churches of historic and spiritual importance. Usually, these churches are built in the basilica style, but the key criterion is that they are important places. The Holy Father officially designates a church as a basilica. Therefore, when one speaks of the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome, the title "basilica" refers to the historic and spiritual importance of the church itself and the honor bestowed upon it by the Pope. "

Ah ha, a church is a Basilica if the Pope says it is.
I think it's a grandfather who was doing a promenade with this kid who never stopped laughing at everything he passed, including me, and he passed me twice. What fun!
Pátzcuaro is also an icon for its lake and during the time of Day of the Dead it is the number One tourist attraction around. Places as far away as Morelia book up with people trying to be part of the festivities here and at the lake.
The Day of the Dead is November 1-2 and here on October 10th a few places are starting to put out their decorations. We should be so lucky.

This place has a big one hour photo service and a custom printing service as well. And it's behind a door just like the door that leads to my school.
There are two plazas in town, the Grand Plaza that I've been enjoying for several days, and two blocks away is this, the Plaza Chica. I think they call it Plaza Chica because there is a stature in the middle of a girl who is, I think at this point anyway, a hero of the revolution.

It's definitely down-market from the Grand Plaza but still it's quite nice and that church-like building you see on the right...
...it's this, the Public Library! Further to the left is the local theater and arts center.

Wow! Can you imagine a world where we convert all the churches to public libraries? Whoo, I want that.
Maybe a restaurant did this? I'm not sure.
Here's my home-stay mama Sandra and the dog who has captured the life of the family. Everyone is Nuts for this dog. He's only six months old so he hasn't been around that long and he is awfully cute and lovable.

Sandra works at a restaurant from 1-10 6 days a week and the papa Jose works from 8-3 M-F as a teacher. Everyone is up by 7 to get Jose and the kids off. Then Sandra goes to exercise class, comes back and cleans and prepares food for the day, and then she's off to work. At 3:30 Jose is home having picked up the kids at the restaurant where they've been since 2:30. He then puts together the meal that Sandra has left, cleans up, supervisies homework, playtime, the evening snack, and getting the kids washed and to bed.

And then they've got me taking up one of the two bedrooms. Wow, this is one hard-working family. They are of the new-age, families looking at having fewer children and doing whatever it takes to provide a good education for them all.
October 11-12

It's Thursday, too early for the Dia de La Raza celebrations so I think this is probably something different. What's with this guy? What is he carrying along with his cigarette? I don't know! But he's leading the parade.
What is the occasion?
I couldn't even tell if it was joyful or solemn. These guys were playing like a New Orleans funeral band.
Here is the restaurant where Sandra works and the basis for the Michi connection, who knows the owners and had recommended my coming here to Pátzcuaro.

I stopped by around 3 to wait with the kids for Jose to get off work. Everyone walks. It's right up my alley!
It’s very large for this town, this is just a hidden little corner, and one of the most upscale places around. They’ve been reopened for only a week now after a major renovation and it looks great inside. The old bits are refurbished to 100% working order and everything is finished off to a very high standard.
Most of the time there is Sandra and this one other woman doing all the cooking. What a lot of work!
This is a view from the top of some spiral stairs that lead to a tiny viewing station in the back patio of the restaurant.

I haven’t mentioned the weather enough because it’s been perfect. I would not have believed it either. This is going into my fourth week and every single day without exception I have worn one of my 3 t-shirts and one of my 2 pairs of pants and my flips (which have held up amazingly well). Maybe 2-3 times in the mornings I’ve added that ? sleeve shirt I always wear, and not once have I been complainingly hot or complainingly cold. It’s amazing, really. The air has been clear and bright and the temperatures have been perfect.
Jose and the kids.

In both my home-stay families the dads have been strikingly involved in the life of the household. They both have outside jobs and also work a lot around the house. Both of them did their fair share of kitchen chores too, and have gone out of their way to make sure I’m comfortable and well fed.

Maybe it says something about families that have the energy to take on, what I think must be a big mental and physical chore, having fresh strangers (some of whom communicate very badly!) arrive in your house every few weeks. To be fair, I have heard of people in home-stays that were not as lovely as my two and it does take effort from the guest to make it work for everyone. I’d definitely do it again though since I could stay a month for the price of a week in a not-so-great US-style hotel.
And now we begin the Procession for Dia de La Raza.

This Friday at FOUR AM the church bells and the KaBooms kicked in, which set off the dogs, the car alarms, and the roosters. It’s El Dia de La Raza. Raza means ‘race’ in my dictionary, as in human race(s), and I think this day it’s mostly about the indigenous people since those who don’t identify themselves as indigenous didn’t seem too interested.

These costumes of the indiginous people was a real highlight.

From Wiki. I'm not sure I see the connection unless it has something to do with The Church. "Columbus Day is a holiday celebrating the anniversary of the October 12, 1492 arrival of Christopher Columbus to the Americas. Similar holidays, celebrated as Día de la Raza (Day of the Race) in many countries in Latin America, Día de las Culturas (Day of the Cultures) in Costa Rica, Discovery Day in The Bahamas, Día de la Hispanidad in Spain, Discoverer's Day in Hawaii, and the newly-renamed (as of 2002) Día de la Resistencia Indígena (Day of Indigenous Resistance) in Venezuela, commemorate the same event."
They are waiting in line to join the procession.

I count 12. I had to flash the shot to get into the back. btw Here's one place in the world where American cars are still popular but VDubs and Japanese cars are making a strong appearance.
Another one because who could resist.
You can buy pomegranate already removed from the husk! And check out the colors on that corn. I also don't want to forget the shaved coconut haystacks that were DeeeLicious.
There was a fantastic turn out in the public transportation sector - buses, these combios/colectivos, taxis, which makes me think that must be a job available to the indigenous people. There is a very obvious class structure once you get used to noticing the differences – who runs the business and who cleans the business.

This is the best public transportation in Pátzcuaro and it works really well. You can just stand at the side of the street and wave down any of these passing vans (not all of them are as new and handsome as these…). They traverse a known route and you can get off when it gets where you want to go. It seems they are everywhere, widely used, and cost just a few pesos.
The boys...
...and the girls.
There were a lot of religious images featured on the vehicles in the procession. This was one of my favorites repeated in many sizes and forms.
I had been standing on this corner taking pictures of the procession and chatting a little with this family (‘how are you’ ‘how pretty’ ‘what’s your name’) so when I decided to move on I asked if I could take their picture and they did seem pleased, relying with a smiling ‘si si’ but notice how the grandma is turned away and the mama is looking down. The kids, however, are straight on.

This procession just went on and on and on. In that, it was like the procession in Guanajuato but not as grand. And like in Guanajuato, it’s not that there is an event at the end. It seems the vehicles just peal off and go back to their day. So two for two, it was like this.
Then I went to 'dance' class.

One of the guys at the school arranged a dance teacher who works out of this place. I’ve gone a few times and it’s been fine. I just wouldn't call it Dancing.
Here she is, a real sweetie who can indeed dance – the woman’s part, but as for doing the man’s part, she’s just not a natural. So what we’re doing, for me anyway, it’s more like an exercise class. It's plenty of fun, sure, but it's not Dancing.

We memorize routines. And then doing them means I’m always thinking about what comes next.

Dancing is when I Don’t have to think about what comes next. The MAN has to think about what comes next. Today we spent an hour piecing together a routine that, once we got through the whole thing, I realized, I have this all many times before with Miguel in Guanajuato without having to give it a thought. Now That was Dancing.
HomeMexico and the Caribbean • Mexico • '07 Oct: PÁTZCUARO in Michoacán, México

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