Archive for December, 2007

Smiles for you


F and I are in Alvarado, Veracruz.  I can´t say enough good things about this place.  It´s warm, there´s a beach, the people are incredibly friendly, there´s a  lot of fun noise and high energy as everyone is preparing for tonight´s festivities.  Many of the colonies will be having their own parties in the street as evidenced by huge speakers going up all over the place and a lot of Corona consumption.  As we walk around, music blasts from many a corner and everyone is singing along and moving along too.  It´s superfantastic.

This morning, the man above sold me the best pineapple I have ever eaten.  I ate almost the entire bag… juicy, sweet, fresh, and service with a smile.  I am beginning to think the Garden of Eden is a small fishing town on the Gulf of Mexico.

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Notes to self

  • Catemaco to Nanciyaga: bikes and jungle
  • Catemaco to Monte Pio: two rivers merge to the ocean
  • Catemaco to Veracruz: Long walks on the beach.  Saturday market! Nights of salsa.
  • Veracruz to Alvarado: Just arrived.  Small beach town. Will spend New Years here.
  • Will post photos when I get a chance to download them. 

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As I was riding my rented bike along Laguna de Catemaco today, I thought this very well could be JB´s version of heaven. Fernando and I had the road to ourselves. We were surrounded by jungle green, big leaves, tall grass, and a slight wind. The lake is beautiful and in the middle of it is an island of monkeys. Another island is full of white birds. The cows here are happy and have so much land to roam on. I have never seen such beautiful cattle. We stopped our bikes for awhile just to watch them. When there weren´t cows there were goats. And when there weren´t goats or cows there were horses. All of these lucky animals wandering around on the greenest grass with a panorama of deep blue lake behind them.

Later on in the day, we went to an eco-reserve, Nanciyaga, where we saw crocodiles, turtles, and archaeological artifacts. This place was a little too commercial, though, for our tastes. The tour, for example, was basically a walking advertisement for more services like a mud bath, mud massage, shaman cleansing, and temazcal. So we hopped back on our bikes and chose to ride a little more, enjoying the country and gorgeous animals.

Last stop was Salto de Eyipantla, a great big waterfall. It was refreshing standing in the spray. It was 85 degrees today, so I imagine this place is a big hit in the scorching summer heat.

Now we’re full of coffee, sun, and a good day. Hopefully there is some dancing in this bruja town on a Wednesday night.


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A Magical Christmas


We should be in Mexico City this time tomorrow, strolling the gardens of Coyoacán, home of Frida Kahlo. In the evening, we´ll board the bus and head for Catemaco, where we´ll explore the jungles of Nanciyaga and the dunes of Tuxtlas. Catemaco is internationally known for its brujos, or witch doctors that practice white, red, and/or black magic. This is an interesting part of the country as it carries influences from Africa and Cuba as demonstrated in the religion, dance, and food.

When Fernando lived in Veracruz, he shared a home with a well respected bruja. She was in her 70´s and had started learning the craft at age 15. He told me that even the priests came to her for cleansings which is borderline scandalous when I think about the separation created between European Catholicism and indigenous spiritualism it tried to eradicate in Mexico when it was introduced. Today, throughout Mexico, a mixture between the two continue to exist as exemplified by a Catholic priest seeking help from a bruja. At any rate, I hope we can find her again for a New Years cleansing.

After we explore the jungle area and small towns, we will head for Veracruz to ring in the New Year.

Much love and a Merry Christmas to everyone at home! Marly, Keelin, I am thinking of you constantly.

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Storefront deco


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Thinking Man


Misery is the river of the world.  Tom Waits

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Fernando and I had a nice time at the convent today.  The madres really went all out on a special lunch for us : chile rellenos, rice, chicken, a delicious soup, and papaya.  They have decorated the dining room with Christmas tablecloths and ponsettias and there are cookies and other treats all wrapped up and gifted to go for the various madrinas and donors that help the convent out. They are also planning a party for all the girls and their mothers on the 23rd.

I talked with Madre Lourdes for some time about the girls.  One of them, a 12 year old, is pregnant and expecting a child in February.  Even though the girls live at the internado (kind of like a weekday foster home) during the week, most of them go home for the weekend and on holidays and anything can happen.  This is why a social worker is so important: to bridge the disparate environments between home and convent and build some constructive communication between the two.  Anyway, Madre Lourdes hopes the girl gives her baby up for adoption because she is sure that there really isn´t another choice.  I agree.

Meanwhile, S came in last week to show off her new baby.  S lived at the internado for years and was dismissed after she proved to be too much to handle (the word used was tremenda).  She is 15 and her boyfriend is 18.  S is very happy with her baby because, as Madre Lourdes says, this baby is the only thing she´s ever had that is her own and that will love her unconditionally.  I grieve to think of her lost childhood.  Having a baby at 15 is a stark wake-up call and S will have to grow out of her tremenda asap.

Some of the madres are learning English.  In particular, I am happy that Madre Patricia is taking classes with Carl (an American innkeeper, and the most charming 80 year old man I know) and Madre Josephina, the youngest nun–early 20´s–and latest edition to the convent, is learning at the University.  The interest spread last summer after a traveling nun went from convent to convent here in Latin America teaching those interested English.  She spent one month at each convent and taught 8 hours a day.  I think this rather enterprising, and I am continually impressed by how powerful these women are.  Many know three of even four languages.  Worldwide, convents are highly organized.  They have to be as they do more work with a quarter of the resources of any academic institution or business.

Lastly, Fernando is going to try and wire Internet for Madre Lourdes and Madre Elvira.  Madre E would also like a webcam to talk to relatives in the States.  We´re hoping to get everything together so we can leave them hooked up by the time I have to leave.  We´re keeping our fingers are crossed.

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