Friday, September 15, 2017

Millions of Monarchs in Migration

 The news is GOOD!  About 160 MILLION monarchs are expected at the sanctuaries about 2 1/2 hours south of San Miguel the end of October and into November!  That is three times as many as last year.  Could it be that people in Canada and the USA are planting lots of milkweed and other plants that monarchs feed on?  I hope so.
In the first two photos is a butterfly who greeted me right outside my kitchen door two days ago.  Then yesterday there were literally hundreds swooping and landing in the garden.  The sun was warm and there was no wind.  Two things that butterflies seem to thrive in.  As those of you who read my blog know, I keep little saucers of water hidden all over in the flower beds and the butterflies often can be seen dipping into the water!  The other thing I notice is that they love the bourganvilla which is now blooming in profusion.
 In Houston, my daughter Jennifer was a "butterfly" gardener.  It even said so on her business card.  She and her son Christopher delighted each time they saw a chrysalis and watched the process until a monarch emerged.  Here she is with one that landed on her face!  I treasure this photo.
 Having traveled to Chinqua, which is the nearest sanctuary to San Miguel is awesome.  No words can describe the wonder of seeing the trees covered with monarchs.  When it warms up a bit and the sun comes out, they flutter their wings and take flight.  The sound, yes, you can hear them, is a whoosh.........of wonderment.
These three photos are at Chinqua, the least visited sanctuary, as there are not accommodations to  stay there and so it is a "go down and come back""in the same day trip.  Well worth it.  The last time I was there, I don't think there were ten other people there. 
You must ride horses up to where the butterflies are, which is at 10,000 feet.  Again, awesome.

The monarchs are at the sanctuaries from November til around the first of March.  They usually come
back through San Miguel as they head north and feast on the lavender colored jacaranda trees.

The indigenous people believe that when the monarchs arrive that it is the returning souls of their departed.  It is around Dia de los Muertos.  Day of the Dead. 

What a gift of Nature this is.............thrilling to put it mildly.


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A Month of Independence

On the first of September, without fail, the vendors who sell anything that is red, white and green are on the street corners early that first day to sell all manner of clothing, wigs, but especially banners and flags to celebrate September 16th, Dia de la Independencia.

I have not found a street or an area of San Miguel de Allende that is not decorated in some way or other.  I also know that this is the norm all over Mexico.

I was quite surprised when I started coming to Mexico over forty years ago at the patriotism and pride of the people of Mexico.  In my uneducated mind, it seemed to me that US citizens were the most patriotic.  But, now it is apparent that all countries that I have traveled to, but especially Mexico, takes patriotism to a new level.

For instance, on the 4th of July in the USA, we celebrate that day.  In Mexico, it is a month of celebrations.  Believe me.  This past Sunday morning, for some reason that is only known to God and the people out at 3AM, fireworks were set off and then again more at 6AM.  If I were to be so foolish to ask someone, anyone, WHY?  They would say, it is September, the month of Independence.

This week is the lead up to what will happen Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  At 11PM on Friday El Grito will be said from the balcony of the former home of Allende who was part of the 1810 Revolution.

The jardin surrounding the house, which is next to the large church known as the Parroquia, will be packed with people waiting to hear the speech and waiting to yell, "Viva Mexico" at the end.  People come from all over Mexico to be here since this is where some of the Revolution began.

Then on Saturday there is a big, grand parade of all manner of military, civilian and who knows what else, parading.  On Sunday often they repeat the whole thing again for those who missed it the previous day.  It is quite something to experience.  Kinda like being in Times Square in NYC for one of their celebrated parades.  It is a federal holiday - NO work - just enjoyment.

Then as the month goes on there are more parades of indigenous peoples from all over Mexico on the last weekend of the month.  I've also heard that the Running of the Bulls is being resurrected.  Hopefully that is just a rumor.

During all this time, little girls walking to school have red,white, and green ribbons in their hair or bow ties on their uniforms.   Cars and taxis have spread Mexican flags across the hood of their cars and tucked them under the hood to hold them in place.  Some have flags on their car radio antennas.

It IS a month of red, white and green.  A month to reflect on the fact that until the mid 20th century, Mexico was not a democracy.   People were raised to not be innovative or to think for themselves as they worked for the landowners or those who owned the businesses.  I still see that every day here and those people that do not know the history of Mexico perceive the people as not having initiative or the desire to better themselves.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  But, since they have only had democracy for a little over 100 years, just think about that!  It will give you a different perspective, hopefully.

I have seen immense change in Mexico since the early 1990's.  All for the good.  It has been an honor to witness and to be a part of the change.

Viva Mexico!

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Moving at the "Speed of Light"

For the last week I have wanted to find time to sit down and write about:

                0   Hurricane Harvey
                0   My family and friends in Houston and Surrounding areas
                0   Otis, the dog and Flash, my dog
                0   DACA  - The Dreamers
                0   Hurricane Irma and, last but not least
                0    The earthquake in Chiapas

LIFE IS MOVING TOO FAST!

I stopped in Burger King on Thursday to grab something to eat, as I was in a hurry.  Much to my astonishment, about five minutes later, in walked my son and my grandson, Sebastian.  They were as surprised as I was.  LOOK what Sebastian wore to school that day!  It made me so happy and him as
well.  I slowed down and savored the moment.  Truly.  John took the photo.

On all of the topics above, my family in Kingwood and grandson in Clear Lake are fine.  Dry and did not get flooded.  In fact, my daughter, her husband and kids were out helping friends and strangers move furniture, or whatever anyone needed.  They had borrowed a flat bottom boat.  There is a website called "Flooding Kingwood with Kindness".  The stories will make you choke up, I promise.
I do have friends whose homes did flood and most of them have already removed possessions to the curb and cut out the sheetrock.  Texans are hardy people.  "Can't" is not part of their vocabulary!

OTIS and FLASH

Otis the Dog lives in Sinton, Texas which is not too far from Corpus Christi, Texas.  www.cnn.com/videos/weather/2017/08/29/otis-dog-hurricane-harvey-viral-picture-ebof.cnn  (I hope this works - if not, just Google Otis the dog!) 

It seems that Otis was being kept by the grandfather of the owner.  He had him and his food in a screened in porch and had left the house for a while.  It seems also that Otis got out carrying his big
bag of food around the town.

Since Sinton is a little town and Otis walked the streets from time to time and was known by everyone, a lady saw him, photographed him and posted it on Facebook.  It went viral and Otis
became a star.  Gypsy dogs have a way of doing that!

It made me laugh out loud to see because I used to have similar experiences in the thirteen years that Flash and I lived together. 

Flash died here in San Miguel in 2004 and this is only the second time I have been able to write about
her.  She was a character.  A true Gypsy who was always looking for a way to take a trip.........from  Houston, where an old boyfriend gave her to me, to Nassau Bay, back to Houston and then to San Miguel, Flash's shenanigans were the stuff of legends. 

In Houston, she was known at every restaurant on Mid Lane and a few on Westheimer that were in close proximity to my house.  She would get out, one way or the other, trot to the corner and WAIT FOR THE LIGHT TO CHANGE and then cross to go to Jack-in-the-Box, an Italian restaurant farther down the street and end up at the car dealership where they fed her everything from ribs to donuts.  Then, a good Samaritan would call to tell me Flash was there and I would go to get her.

When I would arrive, many of the employees would be standing with Flash rubbing her ears or petting her and then helping to get her reluctantly into the car, if I was driving.  Or if I walked, putting her on her leash - which she hated.

One time the phone rang while I was sitting at the drafting table working on a new restaurant project. The person asked if Flash was okay!  It was someone from the car dealership.  I replied in the affirmative  as she was laying by my feet and they said, "We were worried. We have not seen her in at least a month".  I explained that she had now discovered if she went the other way, all the construction workers in the area who were working on building townhouses had food too.  So Flash was trying a new approach.  What a dog.

I could go on and on with her escapades.  Of course each and every time I would worry that something would happen to her.  Then when she would get home I would be so aggravated that I had had to worry.  Well, eventually that caught up with her.

After we moved to San Miguel, she discovered the mercado down the hill.  Plenty of food there.  I've been told she would visit the vendors and the women sitting on their stools selling tunas or whatever.  I'm sure each would give her a pat on her head.  By now Flash was getting old.  One day I drove down to find her and did.  She usually would sit on the curb waiting for me to discover that she had escaped again and come to get her.  This time she did not make it and was hit by a bus on Nunez.
I've never gotten over the loss.  Flash's ashes went to the Blanco River in Wimberley which she loved so much.......I have never even attempted to get another dog.........

DACA

I got so upset about the 800,000 undocumented Mexican kids who are now in limbo that I could hardly sleep for two days.  I could write ten blogs about why I feel that way and when I can get my emotions in check to write logically about this horrible injustice, I will.

Hurricane Irma

As I write this Irma has not made landfall in Florida as yet.  All of us who watch the coverage or who check NOAA have a sense of helplessness as Mother Nature bears down and all we bystanders can do is hope that those in the path have used common sense and evacuated early.

We have all seen the devastation so far.  It is a horrible sight.  I'm sending positive energy to all my family and friends in Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, who might be in the path.  Irma is only the fourth or fifth hurricane of this magnitude to hit the USA.  Terrifying to think what the destruction is going to be over a twenty-four hour period.

And, lastly, Earthquake

Something that no one expects and really can't be prepared for..........IMHO.  It is astonishing to me that an earthquake 650 miles from Mexico City was felt there.  One can hardly imagine the devastation in Guatemala as the place where the earthquake happened was not that far from Guatemala City.

When I traveled all through Guatemala about ten years ago, I noticed in many, many villages that the roofs of the homes were corrugated tin, not the traditional concrete.  Finally I asked someone and they said it was because so many people were killed in an earthquake, in the 80's I think, from their roofs falling on them and crushing them.  Shocked, I looked at the villages in a different light from then on.  Hopefully there is not great devastation there as there is in Oaxaca and Chiapas.

Hopefully there will be no more strong aftershocks.  If interested, there is a website, Earthquakewatch.com that gives all kinds of information.

That about covers all that has kept me so busy that I could not find time to write.  I did not enumerate all the other things that have been going on as well.  Good grief, I'm exhausted just thinking about it!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Hurricane Harvey - The Winds of Change

This time last week none of us had any idea what was about to impact millions of people in the USA especially Houston, Rockport and Port Aransas, just to name a few.  Basically, Texas and Louisiana, so far.

Perhaps the feral kitten knew, because each time it came into the garden, it would climb up and perch on top of this sculpture made for me by my friend Hayes Parker an eternity ago for my birthday.  It makes me smile.

The feral cats, all four of them, have moved on but I did enjoy seeing their antics while they were around.

Having lived through many hurricanes both in Louisiana and then in Texas for a total of fifty years, I started watching the NOAA website to see what was happening with Hurricane Harvey from the beginning.  It's that old adage, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks".   At the beginning they did not believe it would strengthen, but I never assume anything about hurricanes.  I do have a LONG and STRONG memory of those storms that became huge hurricanes in a matter of twelve hours as Alicia did in 1983, or the storm in Baton Rouge in 1965 that sank the chlorine barge right on the other side of the levee from the Married Student Apartments at LSU in Baton Rouge.  That caused a mandatory evacuation of all of Baton Rouge when they got ready to lift it up out of the water!  I remember it well.  I was eight months pregnant and we all slept in the closet that night as the water blew through the concrete block walls.  It is the ONLY hurricane that I did not evacuate from, ever.

From then on, my car loaded with kids, animals - whatever we had at the time, and friends caravaning behind us were just about the first car out of town when they just mentioned that "something was in the Gulf".  I'm not exaggerating one bit!  It used to aggravate my kids - now we talk about it.

Only sometimes, like in the case of 1979, something that was not even a tropical depression or hurricane yet, dumped 42 inches of rain in 24 hours on Alvin, Texas which was about twenty minutes away from Nassau Bay where we lived at the time.  No one had time to go anywhere.  The kids, who by that time were teenagers and I, lifted furniture off the floor onto counter tops, got out the V bottom boat and waited.  Terrifying is not a strong enough  word for my feelings with the responsibility for three people besides myself.  Luckily, in that episode, I found out our house was nineteen feet above sea level, which believe it or not, was high! for Nassau Bay and we did not flood.

My neighbors were not so lucky.  It took months and months for recovering.  In Alicia, in Houston, it took at least a year.  There were other floods and consequences in the thirty-four years of living in the Houston area.  I ALWAYS had flood insurance - even when I moved into Houston in the Galleria/Highland Village area.  People thought I was crazy..........not me.  And, believe it or not, one night I was out with a leaf rake and shovel trying to open drains in front of my house to keep it from flooding.  It did not flood, but did get water in the front closets and bathroom.

I tell you all this, just to give you an idea of some of the things that the people of the Houston area went through from this storm.  Much much worse then the things I went through - the terror, the concern for family members and in the case of this storm, how to get rescued.

It is not over by a long shot.  The surprising thing is many people have not lost power.  I'm astounded.  These darn storms usually happen in the hottest part of the year as Ike, Katrina and so many more were.  I remember in Alicia we had no electricity for three weeks. The kids and I slept on the marble floor in the foyer.  It was cool even though it was as hot as hell, if you stood up.

I drove to Galveston from San Miguel after Hurricane Ike to help my friends Sue and Vandy who lost everything.  As I drove into the town that I love so much, I cried.  I could not possibly imagine that there would be any way that Galveston would be restored.  It looked as though a bomb had been dropped on it.  BUT, it did come back!  Even though there were naysayers who did not think it deserved to be saved.  Probably those were the same people who said that about New Orleans after Katrina.  Those same people are now saying that about Houston!  My words for that would be very, very strong, but I'll be polite and say, "Please be quiet.  If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all".   Houston is one of the most magnificent cities in all of the USA!

If you have never been there, I'm sorry.  If you ever get a chance, after they have recovered in a few years, go.  But, right now, you can do more.  If I were there, I would be volunteering at the shelters; I would be taking in a family to share my home; I would be donating money to the Houston Food Bank or other charities who would get help immediately to the people.  Dollar for dollar and not 10cents on the dollar.

My prayer  would be that no one ever goes through a hurricane again.  Of course, that is not realistic.  So in the meantime, pray or send positive energy or whatever you do for these people who need whatever you have to offer.  They have no home.  They have no car.  In many instances, until businesses can open again, they have no job.  They don't even have clothes!  Can you imagine?

Please help if you can.  Both Texas Monthly magazine and the Houston Chronicle have tons of information on the charities and how you can help.

Gracias to each and every reader for anything that you can do!



Sunday, August 20, 2017

San Miguel de Allende - The Place to "BE"!

In thinking back to my first forays to San Miguel in the late 90's, it was a place to come to "be".
What do I mean by that?  Well, it was an architecturally beautiful, quaint cobble stoned  village
where one could walk in wonderment at so much visual beauty and color.




As far as wifi, it was dial up.  As far as phone service, it was not reliable.  As far as TV, there was
one service in town with 99% Mexican channels.  Restaurants, not as many as now.  Last count I
heard there are 324 restaurants here now.  Many were in converted parking lots or courtyards.

Now Wifi is fast and reliable.  Phone service is reliable as well.  TV we have Shaw (Canadian), DirectTV, and several others.  As I mentioned above restaurants abound with all kinds of food and service - everything from Lebanese, Thai, Japanese, American, Mexican.  The list is unbelievable. 

Many chefs have discovered San Miguel so the cuisine can be high end, gourmet or one can eat
at little hole in the wall places.  My favorite.

It used to be when I rented out the guest house there was no wifi.  Yes there was a phone.  No one cared.  People who were coming seventeen years ago were here to get away from being connected.
Even if it was only for a week or two.  It is not that way now.  Now there is panic if for some reason
they cannot get there smart phone to work.  I find it disconcerting.

The greatest thing about Mexico, for me anyway, was to come here - take off my watch - forget about the "other world", the USA and just veg.  Hours sitting on the bench in the jardin to people watch or a two hour lunch in a little bistro.  Whatever.

Now people come and want to know what there is "to do".  There is someone coming in a couple of months who wants to be busy every day of the week they will be here. Tours now abound. A trip to the pyramids outside of town; a trip to the butterfly sanctuaries; cooking classes; horseback riding; hot air balloon rides just to name a few things!

Yes, all these things are now available and to some extent were seventeen years ago, but not in an organized "tour" way.   People who come don't know that they can just come here and "be".

I want to say, "Slow down.  Take time to see and meet the people.  Take time to experience the quiet and the beauty.  Take time to savor a cappuccino or a meal or whatever you want to savor.  Don't rush.  It is all here to experience. Welcome to this beautiful place where you can just "be".

Thursday, August 10, 2017

"Waves of Tourists Rolling In"

For the last five weeks, while the school kids of Mexico have been on vacation, and even though we
are totally inland in the mountains, it HAS felt like waves of tourists have taken over the town.

Instead of photos of gridlock traffic or streets and sidewalks packed with people, not to mention the restaurants, I thought a scene that my seven year old grandson took of the bird from Forevertron in
Wisconsin, who resides in my garden, was more tranquil.

To what do we owe these "waves of tourists"?   Several factors.  There has been a diligent campaign within the country of Mexico to bring more Mexican nationals to San Miguel.  Add to that the plethora of new cars, the much better highways to get here and an increase in income for every day
citizens.  It has been a perfect storm.  Well, perfect to some but not to others............

The roundabouts to arrive in San Miguel have been clogged with traffic arriving from Estado de Mexico, primarily (Mexico City), Michoacan, Sinaloa, Cabo, Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, Colima, Jalisco, just to name a few.  Several of those license plates are from far, far away.  Especially Cabo and Sinaloa.  I have been surprised to notice so many foreign plates instead of our Guanajuato plates.

Our town is very narrow tiny streets - usually one way.  Those coming from far away and have never been here are seen going one way, the wrong way usually, and totally lost and have no idea how to find a place to park.  Hopefully some day soon, the proposed parking lots on the outskirts of town will be built with transportation from those lots to town.

The municipal authorities finally did close all the main streets in centro to allow them to be used for pedestrians only, but that just served to back up traffic even more so.  What a mess.  San Miguel is a town of 67,000 - many a weekend our numbers more then double with tourism.  Soon, however, the kids will be back in school and our streets and sidewalks will return to their normal flow.  No more waves..........well until mid-September, ha.

The statistics that have been released for 2017 showing the tourism numbers for people arriving in Mexico to visit are equally staggering.  In the first three months of 2017, the number of tourists coming from mainly the USA was 9.3 million!  Luckily, most of those are going to beach places.

Documentation shows the number of visitors in order of numbers are, USA, Canada, UK, Argentina, Columbia, Spain, Brazil, Germany and France.

The number of tourists from other countries for 2016 was 35 million.  With a standing of seventh in the world in tourism, Mexico expects those numbers to continue to climb.

In the forty years that I have either been working or living in Mexico, I have seen this country morph from a country in another century to a country that has much now that is leading edge.  It truly has
been an honor to watch Mexico enter the 21st century and bring so much joy to so many.

Friday, August 04, 2017

The Wall Murals of Escuela Montes de Oca

It used to be frowned on.  Wall art or graffiti or murals, whichever name you wish to define it with.
But, the latest murals at the school near my house are beautifully executed by a man with spray cans!

It is hard to believe, but I have been mesmerized by his talent and his finished art - the wall murals of Escuela Montes de Oca.

He painted the first section in February of this year. Then he waited until the school raised more funds for him to finish the second section.  Here it is.  As you look at the photos, remind yourself that
this work was done with spray cans of paint!



The artist is Francisco "Nadie" Vega or Don Catrin.  His phone number is 415 100-3547 and his email address is franknadievega@hotmail.com   He speaks some English and is a very lovely person.

For a couple of days his little girl came with him and sat on the sidewalk with her chalk and paper drawing quietly.  I always am impressed how Mexican people bring their children with them to work and the children are so well behaved.  Truly amazing.

Nadie is waiting for the school to get the funds for him to redo the mural in the school on a big wall that in my many years here has been painted and redone twice, but never by anyone as talented as
this artist.

Nadie puts so much symbolism into his work and his attention to detail is awesome.  If you click on the photos, hopefully they will enlarge and you can see the detail.

Drive down Cuitlahuac in Col. Azteca some time to see this work in person.  Now if you look at Google Maps, they will have incorrectly named the street Cuahtemoc, but it is in fact, Cuitlahuac.
 Also on some old street maps of San Miguel the street is identified as San Marcos because the people in the white house at the corner named their house that at least 30 years ago, before there was much development up here.  Anyway, on one side of the street it says San Marcos, on the other Cuitlahuac at the corner!  It is typical of Mexico.............and makes me laugh often.