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Archive for the ‘Mexico’ Category

This was an excellent bit of history – well-written, clear, and faithful to the sources.

I came upon it when I saw the author – UC Berkeley history professor Margaret Chowning’s most recent book (published this month) mentioned in list of forthcoming historical works. The new one is Catholic Women and Mexican Politics, 1750–1940 – “How women preserved the power of the Catholic Church in Mexican political life.”

I thought – well, that’s interesting. I’ll have to read that. It’s too early for it to be available via interlibrary loan, so I wondered what else she’d written and found this. Let’s go.

Before I present the summary (which I am going to crib from another website) – let me tell you what I appreciated about the book, what it illuminated and the context it helps establish for thinking about religious life today. The summary I’m going to post is pretty long, and some of you might drift away before the end of that, so I’ll make my points first.

I say to you again and again that reading history – and by that I mean accounts relating small corners of the past, not sweeping general works – can be very helpful in keeping your bearings in the present. Of course, it’s essential to have a basic understanding of the past, especially if we’re talking Church, which we are in this space, most of the time. But beyond that, to read a monograph like this – or to even a summary of it – highlights a lot of plain truths, mainly this one:

Life in the church is always lived by complicated human beings in complicated times. Church structures are always impacted by their cultural, social and political context. They shift, change and develop. People argue. People fight. People in spiritual positions act out of non-spiritual reasons all the time. In fact, in this life on earth, in this incarnational existence, is there any other way?

So in this case, I was prompted, for one, to think a lot about the role of religious orders and their sustenance. Very often today, we look at the struggles and the general decline (with some exceptions) of women’s religious life, and we compare it to the apparent flourishing of the same in the past, and we can see nothing but a reason for condemnation of the present. Faithless, we say. Look what previous generations were able to support!

Well, let’s look at how those Mexican enclosed convents existed. The choir nuns – fully professed – were at the center of convent life. These choir nuns had to be of certain racial stock (not indigenous, not even a drop), and they entered with a dowry. The dowry was then generally invested and used as a lending source. In short, most of these convents were banks and mortgage institutions – that’s how they financially survived, and for a time, flourished. It wasn’t because of incredibly faithful donors who sacrificially made it all possible. It was because of canny financial activities. There was a time in which the convent at the heart of this book suffered financially, for several reasons, including an excess of expenditures, but also because the majordomo hired to collect rents and interest wasn’t doing his job well.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that system. I don’t know enough to judge that. It’s just the way it was. All I’m saying is that knowing this gives essential context when we attempt to compare the apparent strength of religious life in respective eras.

Before the summary, I’ll skip to the end of the story. The Mexican government suppressed all convents in 1863. Many enclosed nuns tried to stay together after the suppression, taking up residence in private homes, attempting to maintain some sort of common prayer life. The Purisma nuns were apparently not able to do so – Chowning can’t find any evidence. However, in a rather moving coda, when Chowning visits San Miguel in the writing of the book, a sister at the church tells her the story of more recent history. Four sisters attempted to return in thee 1920’s, but were driven out, of course, by yet another revolution. But then:

So here you go – this is from a review of the book, found here:

Before you read, however – something this reviewer omits is that the foundress was a (very) young woman from San Miguel named María Josepha Lina. An orphaned heiress, she very much wanted to continue her father’s wish for establishing a convent in the town. She was influenced to support the Conceptionists, despite the fact that she had reformed (austere) tendencies – and that had been her father’s intention – probably because of a spiritual advisor’s ties to the Conceptionists. The Conceptionists were not reformed – they followed the more worldly model of female religious life. So you can see that there are potential problems from the beginning. So:

The rebellion revolved around the issue of reform. La Purísima was established as a reformed convent, where nuns strictly observed their vows of poverty and enclosure and lived the vida común (common life), sharing meals and sleeping in communal dormitories. Donadas (lay sisters) and nuns did convent work, in place of personal servants.

The first abbess interpreted the convent’s mission narrowly, insisting on a taxing devotional schedule even though nuns had multiple responsibilities beyond spiritual duties. A rebellious faction emerged, led by Phelipa de San Antonio.

Like the abbess, Phelipa had come from an unreformed Conceptionist convent in Mexico City to help found La Purísima. She was the first to suffer an illness that later moved among her followers. Described as the salto (jumping sickness) or the mal, it was characterized by sufferers’ trancelike state and jerky movements. Afflicted nuns stayed in their cells, received extra food, and were released from many obligations. Contemporaries suspected fakery, although Chowning considers the possibility of somatic causes, at least in Phelipa’s case. Yet Phelipa and others may also have manipulated the symptoms in order to resist the vida común and undermine the authority of the abbess and bishop. The abbess and her like-minded successor were forced out after the first period of rebellion and, after six peaceful years, Phelipa became abbess. Reform-minded nuns complained to the bishop about Phelipa’s administration. Under her tenure nuns wore secular clothes, received male visitors, and mounted plays.

It was during this period that the salto spread. Although an episcopal investigation failed to remove Phelipa, she was not reelected, probably due to factors including rigged elections and the untimely death of the esteemed pro-reform foundress, possibly seen as a martyr.

In 1792, however, Phelipa’s wishes came true (although posthumously); the bishop imposed the vida particular (individual life) on La Purísima, with nuns receiving stipends for their individual needs. This was touted as a solution to ongoing financial problems, partially caused by the remarkable, and endowment-depleting, practice of letting dowryless donadas profess as white veil nuns after a decade of service.

However, the adoption of the vida particular was as much an ideological as a financial decision; Chowning argues that it was inspired by the belief of the bishop and his advisers in free market ideals such as rationalism and individualism. The convent, like the region, suffered economically during the war of independence, but recovered afterwards, although recruitment, a longstanding problem, decreased precipitously. This was due partially to anticlerical characterizations of nuns as prisoners and non-service convents as useless, and to laws making church property taxable, which affected finances. Both factors made convents less attractive to potential novices and their families. In addition, the bishop forced La Purísima to radically limit admissions—because it was not attracting elite, dowried women, new entrants added nothing to the endowment. Finally, with the Liberal government’s closure of convents in 1863, the nuns were turned out.

As I said, this was well-written history. The only thing missing was a timeline of major events. That would have been helpful. I’m looking forward to reading her newest book:

What accounts for the enduring power of the Catholic Church, which withstood widespread and sustained anticlerical opposition in Mexico? Margaret Chowning locates an answer in the untold story of how the Mexican Catholic church in the nineteenth century excluded, then accepted, and then came to depend on women as leaders in church organizations.

But much more than a study of women and the church or the feminization of piety, the book links new female lay associations beginning in the 1840s to the surprisingly early politicization of Catholic women in Mexico. Drawing on a wealth of archival materials spanning more than a century of Mexican political life, Chowning boldly argues that Catholic women played a vital role in the church’s resurrection as a political force in Mexico after liberal policies left it for dead.

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Time for the traditional end-of-trip summary!

Where: Guanajuato, Mexico

When: October 26 – November 2, 2022

How: Flew from BHM-DFW-BJX. Left Birmingham at 5:30 am or thereabouts, arrived at the airport in Leon at 11am. Got from the airport to the B & B in Guanajuato with a driver recommended by the B & B, but there are plenty of taxis and drivers and buses to get you the 18 miles from the airport to Guanajuato.

Return was the same route, but the flights were not as smooth. Oh, BJX-DFW was fine, but there was a never-really-explained and definitely never-apologized-for 3.5 hour delay in DFW. I had been psyched to get home by 5, but…that didn’t work out.

Airline: American (I have no airline loyalty. I go with whatever’s cheapest with the best routing.)

Why: As I explained in this post, I have been to Mexico a few times, really like the country, and have several areas which I look forward to visiting in the future. I had seen those iconic panoramic photos of Guanajuato with its brilliantly colored houses and churches for years and decided when some time opened up – it was time to go.

Many travelers who go to that part of Mexico hone in on San Miguel de Allende. There is certainly a lot to see there, but it is also has a very high number of ex-pat permanent or semi-permanent residents. Don’t quote me on this, but I’ve read it’s as high as 25% Americans and Canadians living there now. I’ll go someday, but didn’t want that kind of experience this time.

Where 2.0: As in…where did I stay?

I usually go for apartments first when I travel, and I did look at several in Guanajuato and almost bit…but I’m glad I didn’t. In looking at hotels and such, the Casa Zuniga popped up with such stellar reviews and such reasonable pricing, I decided to go with it, and I’m very glad I did, partly because before I went, I really didn’t understand the layout of the city, and I might have ended up with an apartment high on a hill on the other side of town from where the funicular runs. No bueno.

Casa Zuniga is unique in its origins and design, and an absolute delight. Owners – and builders, and cooks, and managers – Rick and Carmen are fascinating, knowledgeable and helpful hosts. My room was the “Ari” – and it was perfect for me. Breakfast was every morning at 9, and it was a time not only to enjoy great food (fruit salad, juice, eggs, guacamole, beans every morning, plus a unique entree – breakfast enchiladas, a quiche/frittata…etc.) but interesting company in conversation with fellow travelers (who, during my time, included, in weird small world moments – a couple from north Alabama, a couple from Charleston, a couple who’d been in Birmingham a two weekends before for work, as well as on the last days, two players from the LA Philharmonic, staying for some extra time after their Saturday evening concert.)

There are plenty of photos on the website – and here are a few of mine. The overlook view is from the patio.

How did I get around? Walked, walked, walked A lot.

The core of Guanajuato – and even a bit beyond the core – is very walkable – if you are in good shape. You can see a lot while staying on the (relatively) flat path through the middle of town – the bottom of the valley – but even venturing a bit beyond that necessitates climbing up, down and around. Casa Zuniga is located a good way up one of the hills, right next to the iconic “La Pipila” statue – and very conveniently, next to the funicular, which takes you up and down the hill at a low price (of course everything in Guanajuato is reasonably priced from a US perspective). The only problem is that it does operate according to specific hours, so if you’re out extra late…you’ll have to walk up (or take a taxi or Uber/Lyft from the bottom up to the top.)

(B & B is near the statue at the top of the hill in the photo on the far left)

What did I eat? Besides a great breakfast every morning at Casa Zuniga, mostly street food – I think I only ate two meals in restaurants: at the B & B recommended and very good Los Campos, and then at the B & B – guest recommended Los Huacales, also tasty. At Los Campos, aside from the guacamole, I had the Camarónes al ajillo which was delicious and which I am going to learn to cook right now. Los Huacales, chilaquiles verde.

Other than that it was tacos and variations of such, eaten from food stands, hole-in-the-wall takeout places and the market. All fantastic and all cheap, of course.

Mercado De Gavira – three levels of deliciousness
By far the most popular food stands were for elote – on the cob or in cups. Always the longest lines.

Health precautions: I’ve been to Mexico four times now, Honduras and Guatemala, with none of those stays being in protected, all-inclusive resort situations. We stay in small hotels, B & Bs and apartments, and eat where everyone else eats, and I’ve only gotten sick once, and I’m pretty sure I know why – that story here.

Before I go, I make an extra effort with probiotics for a couple of weeks. I don’t know if it helps, but I’ll just believe it does. And then…..I DO NOT DRINK THE TAP WATER. Not even to brush my teeth. Not even accidentally in the shower. I talked to a young woman on an airplane once years ago whose Mexico honeymoon had been ruined because her husband brushed his teeth or rinsed his mouth out in a shower in Mexico. I think it was a Sex in the City storyline, as well.

I’m also paranoid about eating the fresh fruit from street stands. They wash the fruit..but in what? It all looks great, but it seems risky to me.

(The tap water at Casa Zuniga is purified and softened, btw)

Did I feel safe? Absolutely. There was some violence in Guanajuato state a week or so before I left, but it was in another small town. Guanajuato city (the capitol of the state) was packed with tourists from all over, had a substantial police presence, and always felt very safe to me, even at night, trudging up those stupid stairs alone when I missed the funicular.

Regrets? I had intended – fully intended – to go to Dolores Hidalgo, which was the center of the movement for Mexican independence. But after my day trip to Leon, I felt…that was enough. There was plenty to see and do in Guanajuato itself. Another time hopefully. (And named, in case you don’t know, after the priest who was one of the movement’s primary leaders.)

The city was a small town known simply as Dolores when Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla uttered his famous cry for the independence of Mexico (the Grito de Dolores) there in the early hours of September 16, 1810, in front of Nuestra Señora de los Dolores parish church. After Mexico achieved independence, the town was renamed Dolores Hidalgo in his honor.

Is that it? I think so. You can find all the Guanajuato-related posts here, but below are the individual links detailing the trip in order. It was great! You should go! Tell Rick I sent you!

Day 1 – October 26, 2022: Travel day, wandering.

Day 2 – October 27, 2022: Churches, museums, tacos

Day 3 – October 28, 2022: Churches, museum, hike up to old silver mine, lunch at Los Huacales

Day 4 – October 29, 2022: La Valenciana church, day trip to Leon, Mass, dinner at Los Campos

Day 5 – October 30, 2022: Two concerts, lots of other music. Enchiladas.

Day 6 – October 31, 2022 Hike up to La Bufa. Parade. Volcanes tacos

Day 7 – November 1, 2022 Shopping, wandering, Mass, 2 saints’ processions, La Catrina parade, tacos

Many other travel-related posts here

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Last full day in Guanajuato. I spent it finishing up shopping, people watching, as per usual, following a saints’ procession, being crushed in a La Caterina parade crowd and eating my last tacos.

Also as per usual….click on photos for larger versions and head to Instagram for video – go to Story Highlights for past days.

All Guanajuato posts here.

Come back tomorrow for my usual end-of-trip posts: a summary and a where-I-stayed-and-what-I-ate post.

First, some photos of some of the altars I saw. I’m sure there will be more today, but…I’ll be gone. And most of the “action” today takes place in cemeteries.

The middle photo of the steps is the University of Guanajuato. Here’s a zoomed-in shot from my B & B. It was beautiful at night, but I didn’t get a photo. Trust me. (You can probably go online and find images)

Midday there was a band – they looked like high school-age – playing on the steps of the Teatro Juarez, pulling in spectators for a dance.

Ran into a children’s saint procession that walked a fair distance through town to the Basílica colegiata de Nuestra Señora de Guanajuato.

And then another one, near San Roque parish – I followed that one for a bit, and it seemed they were going into the streets, around the block, and back to the church.

After popping in and out of churches all day, finally found a Mass that was just starting. (There is probably a secret to figuring out Mass times here, but there are few church websites, they don’t tend to have Mass times posted even on the building for Sundays, much less a feast day.) This was in the Basilica. (I knew the Oratory church would have Mass at 6:15, but I’d already been to Mass there, and wanted a different church)

The children in the first procession were at this Mass- they were mostly seated in the two cross-sections near the altar.

Temple of the Oratory. As I mentioned before, built by Jesuits, only used for a few years before they were kicked out of Spain and its possessions, taken by the Oratory of St. Philip Neri a bit later.

Then…a parade. It was a parade of “La Catrinas” – Lots of folks dressed up as different expressions of the figure, a number of community groups (including a small group of Down Syndrome folks), and then, at the end, a zillion motorcycles.

And, I’ll add- not religious at all, in case you were expecting that. I suspect there is a religious procession today, based on some statues I saw inside the Basilica that looked ready to be carried. I am sorry to miss it.

I didn’t know what would be happening – I just noted people sitting on curbs, looking as if they were waiting for something to happen on the road around Plaza de la Paz before I went into Mass. I went into a shop selling original art pieces and asked the fellow what was happening and he told me, so sure, let’s see.

Along with…everyone else in town. It was, indeed a crush and while in theory I should have been able to see fine considering I was one row back from the first standing row of spectators, in reality, I ended up positioned – wedged – behind possibly the tallest woman in Guanajuato, Mexico, so I could actually not see the parade over her shoulders as it approached, only a glimpse when they were right in front of me, so any photos were taken with me awkwardly sticking my arm out between her and the woman next to her.

So when the (seriously) couple of hundred motorcycles started revving by…I made my exit. That was enough!

Anyway, some images – some blurred because – well, you know.

A Coco-themed float. I guess Disney knew what it was doing, marketing wise, when it made that movie.

Crowds around the main square. Last tacos. Adios!

For more, head to Instagram

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Not quite as much walking on Saturday, but even so, one thing became clear to me Saturday night – I can cross the funicular off my transportation options from mid-afternoon on at least for the next day or so. It’s a holiday weekend, so folks are flocking to town and La Pipila is a major destination – and of course if you can, you want to ride up and down, not just for the ease of it, but for the experience.

(Remember – click on photos for larger versions, and go to Instagram for videos.)

This was the crowd at La Pipila early Saturday evening:

And this was the line for the funicular to go up about 9pm Saturday night:

The line goes in a building and up some stairs, and each funicular car holds no more than 8-10 people. With about five minutes in between loads. So….

Everyday is Leg Day now…

Saturday morning, I started walking with the intention of getting a taxi up to San Cayetano for real this time (remember, I tried, unsuccessfully, on Friday). In my walk out of the pedestrian-only city center, I spied open doors on a church that had been closed every previous time because of reconstruction work they are doing. Popped in to find a small space, packed with images, of course, and also with two groups of religious education students – one younger group at the front, and an older group on the other end. It’s the Templo de San Roque.

Made my way through the already-crowded streets, found a taxi, showed him the place on my phone – and up we went.

You can read the history of the church (and, incidentally, the mine) here. Fraught, to say the least, in my opinion. It’s gorgeous, retablos covered in gold leaf, the picture frames solid gold – in gratitude to God and St. Cajetan for the discovery of the silver mines – which were mined with enslaved and indentured labor.

They manage seeing the church quite closely. The pews are roped off so you can’t sit, there are people supervising, asking you to take off your hat and reminding tour guides not to….guide while they’re inside.

I would have liked to sit for a bit and take it in, but I have no complaints with their rules, because they’re made with their own sense of the sacredness of the space in mind, probably knowing full well what havoc and disrespect tourists can bring with them.

Another taxi back down, this time directly to the bus station, so I could catch a ride to Leon.

Inter-city buses in Mexico are very comfortable, clean and efficient. Buses go between Leon and Guanajuato every twenty minutes, so I paid my 66 pesos (about $3USD), and there was a bus, just about ready to go.

I wanted to go to Leon for a few reasons: it’s a center of leather goods production, and there are heaps of leather goods vendors right outside the bus station, there’s a well-regarded museum of Guanajuato history and culture, and the cathedral – Pope Benedict visited here in 2012. Here’s his homily at vespers at that cathedral.

First stop was a short walk to the museum – admission 25 pesos – a bit more than a dollar. It was a nice museum, spacious, but not very large. There were four main exhibit spaces, only one of which is permanent. There was contemporary art in two of them, a (of course) Don Quixote exhibit in another and then the permanent space, which was very well done, but seemed incomplete – it only went up to the 18th century. There was a closed off door across the mezzanine, which seemed to me to be a continuation…oh never mind. It cost a dollar, for heaven’s sake.

From there I headed in the direction of the cathedral, which was about a 2 mile walk from the museum. I thought I’d walk it to see the city and then cab or Uber back. Which is what I did.

Leon is a huge, busy city – the center is not “charming,” but it’s clean, very busy, with lots of shopping. In gardens and plazas along the way, I saw many quinceañera photography sessions happening, and several shops like this:

Approaching the old city, I saw this looming church and thought, huh, Maps was wrong. Why did it tell me the cathedral was a mile further?

Because…this isn’t the cathedral.

I wish I had done my research and learned more about this before I’d gone – I’d have headed over earlier to give myself more time and toured the crypt as well.

Expiatory Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

My preference is for colonial…well I prefer a lot of church architectural styles over Gothic, but it’s definitely impressive.

Okay. So one more mile and then, here we are:

To save time, I got an Uber back to the bus/leather area.

The driver pointed out what he claimed were the best shops. Well, no matter what, combine the lower cost of living and the made-right-here prices…and you have some deals everywhere.

Also….????

The bus ride back took less time than the first because it was non-stop. About 40 minutes or so. The main bus station in Guanajuato is pretty far out of town, so I took a taxi back, rested a bit, then went out to fight the MOBS of people in town. I had a meal in an actual restaurant, but this is long enough, so I’ll save that for the “what I ate” post. But before that…

..well, one of the most internationally well-known artists to play at this festival was Gustavo Dudamel, conductor of the LA Philharmonic. He and the orchestra (I presume just a core) have been touring and this was the last stop. My Pianist Son is a big Dudamel fan, so I’m familiar with him. Tickets for the concert last night were impossible to get, but I thought…hey. I know where the stage door is. Let’s lurk.

(I wasn’t the only one, just so you know.)

I got there about 7:35, security was fairly heavy around the door, so I knew he hadn’t yet arrived. Five minutes later…there he was. One young fellow was brave and leaped over and got a maskless selfie with him – he (the young guy) was ecstatic, and told me, as we were walking away that no he wasn’t a musician, just a fan of great music, he’d been waiting there since 5 and that tickets for the concert had sold out in an hour.

Anyway, here’s Gustavo Dudamel in a mask.

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Well, duh. Of course it was Louis IX. That was who I’d assume it was, but a quick look of images, didn’t give me the crown of thorns. Who knows. I probably entered the wrong Louis in the search box, given I was …pretty…tired.

So, let’s go – day 3.

One of the features of day 3, aside from walking was an approximately 1639% rise in the number of American voices I heard as I walked. I mean – everywhere.

So, back to the walking. The first thing I wanted to do was to see if this one church – San Francisco – which I’d walked by ten times so far, and has always been closed – was open. It wasn’t. But the little church just at the other end of the block was, so I popped in. It’s called Santa Casa de Loreto, and according to what someone said in Google reviews is “used for talks.” It’s quite small, circular, filled with saints in their garb, as it the tradition here.

Click on photos for full, large version. Videos on Instagram. For past days, check the “highlights.”

Next, time to climb. Guanajuato is in a valley, and there are a lot of good hikes in those hills. Friday, I decided to stay urban and just walk up to Mina de San Juan de Rayas. It was the first mine in Guanajuato, discovered in 1550 by a muledriver after whom it’s named.

So remember, Guanajuato is in this deep valley with basically one flat street, and then everything else running uphill from that point, on all sides. So that was my walk – up, up, up – to the first viewpoint, and then down a bit, then back up to the town and the second viewpoint and the – of course – closed church.

Next, I decided I’d either just walk back down to town (a different way) or, if I could get a taxi, go up to San Cayetano to this church.

So I started walking down the road. Within a couple of minutes, a taxi carrying a passenger passed me going up, so I assumed he’d be coming back down in a minute. He did. I hailed him, and said (I thought) Cayetano? He repeated it back to me – I thought. Nodded. I got in.

I guess my accent is much worse than I thought. I was following our route on maps, and it was fine for a couple of minutes, then just kept descending….till we ended up at the Mercado Hidalgo back in town, he put on his flashers and looked at me expectantly. Si?

Sigh. Okay. I guess God didn’t want me to go to Cayetano today. Sure. Saved me a walk down at least.

So, since I was right there, I went to the Museo Regional de Guanajuato Alhóndiga de Granaditas – you can read about its history here. The placards were all in Spanish, of course, but they did have scan codes – thanks, technology! – so you could access English-language information. I was a little scared because in the MesoAmerican room, I’ve gotten to the point where I can sort of differentiate between the cultures just by the look of the artifacts – when I said to myself without reading the card, “Oh, that’s Veracruz” – I knew my life was very strange now, thanks to kids and the way they expand your world.

Lots of Mexican Independence material, since this area was crucial to that struggle. But of most interest to me (of course) was a room full of ex-votos – I’d seen a lot at the Guadalupe shrine a few years ago. Those I highlight here seem to refer to mining accidents.

Then some shopping, lunch at a place highly recommended by another B & B guest – and yes, it was good.

Then up (on the funicular) for a rest before heading out in the night to see what was happening – and one of the things that was happening was Mass at the always-closed San Francisco, so in I headed. The priest had just begun with the Eucharistic Prayer, which was the Roman Canon, by the way. (I would like to take up a collection to purchase wireless mikes for Mexican parishes. In both Masses I’ve been to so far, the priest has held an microphone even during the consecration. Maybe get a server to hold it for you? Shrugs)

The Mass was fairly full, I’m guessing both because St. Jude seems to be an important saint in this parish (his statue was at the front) and because St. Jude is popular – there were several in the congregation holding small statues to be blessed. As per usual here, the doors to the church were open all during Mass, and so people came in and out, and street life noises – including a would-be lounge singer on the plaza – mingled with the life inside.

You might be interested, too – out of a congregation of about 70, only 9 or so received Communion. I’m used to seeing maybe 25% of predominantly Latino congregations receive Communion, and this was even lower. Interestingly, a noticeable number of people left right after the Consecration, as well.

The town was hopping – as it always seems to be. I wandered around, took in various street musicians, then decided to head back in time to get the funicular.

Hahahaha. I missed it by that much. As in – the last one was rising up the tracks as I walked through the door. Cerrado. Menana. Well, I don’t want to ride it manana, thanks.

So, up I trudged, in the process getting caught in a callejoneadas matrix (photo on the far right). Well, at least now I know their route. At one point, there was no way I could gracefully exit the situation, with callejoneadas groups on three sides…well, at least I saw the show (for free)! I think one of the situations was that this particular callejoneadas excursion was only for couples, and then they divided them into two separate groups, telling them that they were going to do separate tours – and then (at the point I arrived), they brought the men out from behind a block of buildings, up some steps to reunite with the women accompanied by some romantic song. I think that’s what was happening, anyway.

(Video on Instagram)

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One of the highlights of my day was not an American woman walking by me, talking on her phone, saying loudly, “You know, Latinos are very superstitious. They believe that having their photo taken steals their soul.”

Nope, not that.

Anyway, day 2 was mostly museums, wandering, and tacos. That’s really why I came: for the tacos. At a plate for about $2.50, when the same at home (authentic tacos even from a truck) run about $3.50/apiece.

First, though, two church stops.

The San Diego is right next to the Teatro Juarez. In it, a group of women were praying – not the rosary, but not sure what – and the photo I posted yesterday was from there. Later in the day, I went to the “museum” in the crypt, which is really just an excavation site of the original structure – which is interesting to see, and I suppose worth the .80 I paid for it.

(Remember – you can click on any photo of for the full version. Videos are on Instagram because I’m not going to gum up my WordPress media storage with videos. For past days, check the highlights.)

Then up to Templo de la Compañía – built by the Jesuits, but only used by them for a couple of years before they were expelled from Spain (and New Spain) – unused for a few decades, then taken by the Oratory of St. Philip Neri. It’s being used as a venue by the Cervantino music festival, and they were setting up and doing sound checks for a performance later today. It was all so interesting to watch that I probably sat there for thirty minutes – not the technical aspects of the setup, but the juxtaposition and the life going on: the sound and visual techs doing their thing, loudly, a group of mostly women gathered right in front of the stage praying, loudly, some workers up around the high interior cross, arranging flowers, tourists, random pray-ers, and then a group of children accompanied by some women and a priest in a habit I didn’t recognize (light brown – really tan – scapular over a white robe).

Then into the huge Mercado Hidalgo – lots of tourist tat on the mezzanine level, but food and your basic goods on the bottom. Across is another market which is all food stalls. The women stand up on stools, wave menus at passers-by and do this tschu-tscu sound. I went ahead and ate there – it was, of course, good – all freshly prepared, etc.

Then to the museums.

First, the Diego Rivera house and museum. Rivera was born in Guanajuato, and I knew about him was “murals” “communist” and “Frida” – so I learned a bit, even though it was all in Spanish – I can make out museum placards just fine, but don’t ask me to tell you what the funicular conductor just said to us on the way down…I hope it wasn’t important, because I have no idea.

Then to the Museo del Pueblo de Guanajuato, right next to the university. It’s a small museum with changing exhibits. Most interesting to me was a current exhibit of paintings from their collection that feature the religious orders vital to the history of New Spain. Also, the most amazing vanitas painting I’ve ever seen. (couldn’t take photos in the other parts. Probably wasn’t supposed to here, but…)

Next, Cervantes.

So, you are wondering, why is Cervantes and Don Quixote so important here? All because of one man named Ferrer: A Spaniard who fought in the Civil War against Franco, was imprisoned in a camp during World War II, but survived and emigrated to Mexico, where he became a media mogul of a sorts. But while in the camp, he had obtained and read a copy of Don Quixote, which had deeply inspired him. He began to collect everything he could related to Cervantes, funded university programs, and finally, bequeathed his collection to Guanajuato.

(Fourth “museum” was the San Diego crypt)

Came back to the B & B for a bit, then headed back down to see nightlife. Someone said “Yeah, people will start coming tomorrow for Day of the Dead” and I am at a loss to imagine what it’s going to be like. Bonkers, I’m thinking.

Loads of music everywhere – in one photo below, to the right, there’s a band playing, and then to the left – you really can’t see – there’s a crowd gathered around a rapper. Street musicians, the Callejoneadas – whom, I must add, do not do their schtick for free. They hang out all day in the town, selling tickets to their walks. I don’t know how or when they look at the tickets – seem you can just join in whenever on the way, but they must.

I also figured out the mariachi situation. The main square in front of the Teatro Juarez is surrounded by restaurants, especially on one side. I was puzzled because there are probably a dozen mariachi bands hanging out around there, and at any one time, there are two or three playing at the same time, sometimes right next to each other. It was explained to me that people pay to have the mariachi sing for them, sometimes sitting on the park benches, sometimes sitting at restaurant tables, so it is just a mariachi marketplace.

Below: food, including much corn.

And then, after posting an Instagram story about how grateful I was for the funicular so I wouldn’t have to climb up and down that hill, I discovered….I had been misinformed as to the closing time of the funicular, so up I went. It actually wasn’t as bad as I thought. And probably good for me.

Also: hmmm.

Nah, too young. But impressive commitment to the look!

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She stood for a very long time in this spot, praying steadily and vocally.

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Well, that was a day. Up and awake around 3:30 am – had a 5:30 am flight. I live 15 minutes from the airport, but you know how it is. I just – woke up. So might as well rise and shine, double check that the oven is off and wait for the Uber.

The Birmingham airport was pretty busy at 5am, the flight was on time, we got to Dallas with enough time for me to train to another terminal and board the flight to…

And here I am. Guantajuato, Mexico. That’s the view from my B & B.

I’m pretty tired tonight. I tried to nap this afternoon, but to no avail. My curiosity about the city overwhelmed my exhaustion so I gave up and went out. A few hours later, I wanted to lie down on a park bench and pass out, but of course that wouldn’t be a good idea and there was also the matter of the cacophony of the Battling Mariachi bands for which I need to get an explanation tomorrow.

(You are wondering why I am here. It’s fairly simple. I’ve seen pictures like the one above for a while and have wanted to come here just because of that. It’s Day of the Dead season, and, as it turns out, there’s a big music festival here as well. Not that I’ll be able to see any of the major performances (I checked today – Wynton Marsalis as well as Gustavo Dudamel conducting some Mahler are both sold out), but maybe I’ll see something.))

So I rose, and wandered, got the lay of the land, really tired myself out, so tomorrow I’ll be ready for museums and tacos and such.

Quickly, then:

From left to right: A mariachi band getting ready to greet someone at the airport. I had to leave before I could see it actually happen. The main building of the University of Guanajuato (founded by Jesuits in the 18th century), then the Basilica of Our Lady of Guanajuato, including a sort of scary looking St. Charbel (the Lebanese saint who is very popular in Mexico).

For reasons I do not yet understand, but hope to grasp tomorrow, Cervantes and Don Quixote are very popular here. In fact, the festival is called the Cervantino Festival. There’s a museum dedicated to Don Quixote here.

It is already very striking to me how strong the Spanish part of Mexican identity is here. My major exposure to Mexico in the past has been in the Yucatan, where Mayan heritage is so strong. But then, this area of Mexico was the heart of colonial Mexico – at some point, I think 2/3 of the world’s silver was mined around here. So it stands to reason.

A clown/magician show.

Entrance to the Mercado Hidalgo.

Very near the market and the spillage of other markets all around it was a church. It was a little after 7, and Mass had started, so I stopped in. There were a good number of people there, and, as is the norm in city churches, people drifted in and out – mostly in. The doors were open the whole time (just as they were during Holy Week in Puebla), and forget all your evangelization committees – that’s a presence. Right there, door open wide, in the midst of the comings and goings of everyday life outside.

Just another October Wednesday night in Guatajuato? I guess? Is it always like this, or is it related to the Day of the Dead, which isn’t until next Tuesday? It was so busy….

Teatro Juarez where I guess I will not be seeing Gustavo Dudamel…

The Callejoneadas are groups of singers in Renaissance garb who gather up crowds and lead them in song through the streets.

(For video go to Instagram)

Well, I reasoned, I’m going to be here for several more nights – I’ll have plenty of time to take this all in. Time to take the funicular up to bed!

And who is the statue of? El Pipila – and you can read his story here.

(The funicular station is at the base of the statue, and my B & B is a very short walk from there.)

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So much important stuff to talk about, so let’s chat about…a movie. Shall we?

My brain and energies are a bit fried at the moment from being at a church all morning where Son #5 had a run-through of the music for his debut accompanying Mass at this parish, when then turned into an organ-rep practice session which then turned into a piano-practice session (because they have a Steinway that he enjoys playing…).

So I need to expend some of my creative energy…

So?

What do you think?

Here are my Deep Thoughts:

  • YES
  • I’m very, very excited about this. I thought Breaking Bad ended perfectly, but neither have I been averse to seeing Jesse’s story continue. Like many others, I basically want to see Jesse find this, for real:

  • Or, as one wag on Reddit or something opined, when rumors of this project first started flying, something like “I’d be content to watch Jesse sitting on a beach with a Corona and a lady friend for two hours.”
  • Bottom line: I trust Vince Gilligan and team like I trust no other contemporary Big Creative Mind.  Gilligan, it seems to me has the self-confidence required to put his stories out there, but is also not a weird egomaniac – which means he doesn’t let his own stuff get in the way of the stories. Plus, he has a Catholic background which shows, not in angsty-ways (Scorsese, looking at you), but in healthy ways connecting his stories to deeply-felt tradition, even subtly. I’ve always said that Breaking Bad was essentially a series about Original Sin – it’s about what sin does to a person and how that impact spreads – cf. Genesis 1-11. And, per Gn. 3 – the root of that sin is  – always  – pride.
  • I’m optimistic that there’s going to be some intriguing BB – BCS crossover happening, laying groundwork for whatever’s coming with Better Call Saul in 2020.
  • So yes, I’m very glad to see this happening, and have purchased my tickets to see it in the theater in Atlanta!
  • I’m also just very, very curious about some things. I mean – the essence of great drama is conflict, and there has to be more to this story than Jesse running from the Law – if that’s what he’s going to be doing. There just has to be more. But…I keep thinking – with whom? Who’s left for him to conflict with at a deep level that has a lot of stakes?

So. Who’s still alive? Let’s see:

  • Skyler
  • Walt Jr.
  • Holly
  • Marie
  • Elliot and Gretchen
  • Skinny Pete
  • Badger
  • Saul
  • Francesca
  • Brock
  • Lydia (*maybe*)
  • Jesse’s parents/brother
  • Jane’s father (maybe – he attempted suicide, we’re never told the outcome)
  • Guy in the junkyard

And then there may be characters from the Better Call Saul universe who may be around:

  • Kim
  • Howard
  • Nacho
  • Lalo

Various other cartel people, I suppose, although the cartel had dropped out of the BB storyline by the end of the series.

All of this leaves me quite curious as to what this conflict and tension is going to be about. My partial theory, apart from any individuals who might pop up with a stake in the matter:

El Camino is a genius title. It’s a vehicle, of course – the vehicle Jesse escapes in. But it also means, of course the road. The way, the journey. We’re going to see, I’m assuming, Jesse’s road – somewhere. Where? Everything that we know about this character up to this point moves us to root for that journey being to a place of freedom and peace, for we’ve seen that Jesse has a conscience – he’s capable of seeing to the other side and reaching for another way.  But what does that mean?  Is this going to be about Jesse battling his dueling desires for revenge or reconciliation? But then, again – revenge against WHO? All the neo-Nazis are dead. Walter White is dead (and yes, I think he’s dead – and if he weren’t, he’d be in prison, so….)

I’m very intrigued about how this is going to play out. Not because I labor under the delusion that Jesse Pinkman is a real person, but more because I’m interested to see how a talented creative mind works with the themes he’s laid out so carefully – themes that are universal and true and humane – and also how it plays out creatively. I’m fascinated by the creative process, period. We see a piece of art and we think that it sprang fully-formed from the mind of the creator, but of course that’s not the way it is at all – and that’s what makes the creative process so terrifying. You set out to create something, and sure, what you create might be wonderful, but odds are the final product is quite different from your original vision.  The character of Jesse Pinkman was supposed to be killed off early on – but he lived, and as such, embodied this theme of sin and its impact in an important way – in the perversion of the teacher-student relationship that the Walt-Jesse duo became. For Walt could have actually helped this young man turn his life around. Think about it. Upon discovering what Jesse was up to, he could have done something to help – instead, he used the kid’s “skills” and position to his own advantage, feeding his own shame and pride and bringing Jesse right down with him.

I mean – it’s Walt that Jesse needs to either take revenge on or make peace with.

But Walter White is dead.

Right? 

 

Finally? My prediction? I think he’s going to turn himself in and his “I’m ready” is the answer to a question of if he was ready to go.

Fight me!

Oh, and here are the lyrics to the song accompanying the trailer. By Reuben and the Dark, it’s called “Black Water:”

Well I get high and I get low
Oh but that’s the way
These things go
I saw my face in the mirror
Though I know I’ve changed
Though I look
Much the same
I found grace in the black water bathe my soul
And tell my heart
I told you so
I like fate in the lion’s cage
And wait for my time to come
But I’m begging please
I need this so
More than you’ll ever know
Oh well, I get high and I get low
Oh, but that’s the way these things go
I saw my face in the mirror
And though I know I’ve changed
Though it looks
Much the same
I found grace in the black water bathe my soul
And tell my heart
I told you so

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I’m in Living Faith today, and if you are interested in the church I described in the devotional, go to this blog post for more information and photos – but only of the exterior, since they don’t allow photographs inside.

For that, go to this link – just a link to an image search for the church – Santa Maria Tonantzintila.

Here’s a sample:

Tonantzintla

 

Quick reminder – short on a family Advent devotional? Download one for .99 here!

 

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