Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Quick update

Happy Halloween (for a few more minutes in my timezone at least)! 

Good news! I paid the deposit on an apartment today, so I won´t be homeless (here if you missed the story).  

Tomorrow and Friday Mexico celebrates Día de Muertos, or Day of the Dead. I visited UNAM´s Megaofrenda today and will share some more photos once I get my computer back (currently in the shop getting fixed. My roommate kindly lent me a laptop). Tomorrow morning  I´ll be heading to Maltrata to spend the long weekend with my adopted family and experience how they celebrate the holiday. 

Not sure what Día de Muertos is? For lack of time/energy at the moment I´ll "recycle" my description from last year: 
November 1st and 2nd are very important in Mexico, mixing Catholic and pre-hispanic traditions to honor and "reunite" with those who have passed away. (Though Halloween has managed to work its way into the mix as well these days). November 1st is All Saints' Day for children who have passed away and November 2 is Día de Muertos/ Day of the Dead or All Souls' Day for adults who have passed away. It is believed that on these days, the souls are allowed back to Earth to visit with the family.

Altars or offerings are set up in homes, churches, schools, etc. They typically include a photo of the person the altar/offering is for (so that the souls can recognize themselves and know where to go), candles and orange marigolds (which are/represent light so that the soul can find its way), flowers or something a purple-ish color (that represents mourning), and favorites foods and drinks of the person. The belief is that the soul cannot taste or consume these items, but can enjoy the aroma -- so the stronger the aroma the better.

Interested in my photos/stories from Día de Muertos in 2010 and 2011? Check it out here

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Taxco with the choir

I'm back in the DF after a weekend in Taxco de Alarcón, Guerrero with the choir. The choir has an ongoing relationship with UNAM's CEPE (Centro de Enseñanza Para Extranjeros, where foreigners can go to take Spanish and cultural classes) in Taxco and has visited multiple times over the past few years to give concerts. This was my second visit to Taxco with the choir, after last year's November visit (you can read more here).

view of Taxco from our hotel room

Santa Prisca Church, where we performed Saturday night

We left Friday afternoon to get there in time for an evening concert at UNAM's CEPE. Saturday morning we had rehearsal in the Santa Prisca Church before some free time to stroll around Taxco and browse (and buy) some of Taxco's famous silver (what can I say, I'm a sucker for jewelry). Saturday evening we performed at the Santa Prisca Church, a new venue for the choir. In both concerts we included songs by the late singer, compositor and Taxco-native Raful Krayem Sánchez, who is being honored the month of October in Taxco.

Friday's concert at the CEPE
*photo credit:

Friday's concert at the CEPE
*photo credit:

Friday's concert at the CEPE
*photo credit:

After Friday's concert at UNAM's CEPE

outside of the Santa Prisca church after rehearsal

During the concert in Santa Prisca Church
(I'm in the middle)
(*Juan's photo - thanks!) 

Saturday's concert at the Santa Prisca church
*photo credit:
Saturday's concert at the Santa Prisca church
*photo credit:
Saturday's concert at the Santa Prisca church
*photo credit:
Saturday's concert at the Santa Prisca church
*photo credit:

Friday, October 19, 2012

Taxco with the choir

I'm leaving shortly for Taxco with the choir. We'll be performing tonight at UNAM's CEPE (where foreigners can go to take Spanish and cultural classes) and tomorrow at the Parroquia de Santa Prisca y San Sebastián, Taxco's beautiful church. This month Taxco is honoring singer and compositor Raful  Krayem Sánchez and we'll be singing a few of his songs.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Cervantino in Guanajuato

I spent last weekend in Guanajuato for the 40th Annual Festival Internacional Cervantino (International Cervantes Festival), this year featuring Austria, Poland, Switzerland and Mexico's Sinaloa.  I visited Guanajuato for the first time in September 2010 for the México de Mil Colores trip I took. I loved Guanajuato then and this past weekend confirmed my love for the city!

I love the cobblestone streets, the colorfully painted houses, the balconies with flower pots and the overall romantic feel of the city. It's a city filled with history, for example it's importance during Mexico's fight for Independence (partially why I was in Guanajuato for the Grito de la Independencia in 2010). It's also the birth place of Mexico's famous Diego Rivera.

Guanajuato is also interesting in that it's a multi-leveled city. Below ground there are man-man tunnels, diverting much of the traffic underground. The city built its way up the narrow valley, resulting in an array of callejones, or winding, narrow streets and alleyways only accesible by foot. Up above are incredible panoramic views overlooking the city.

On this trip I was able to revisit places I had seen before as well as experience and explore new places. Visiting for the Cervantino, which runs this year from October 3rd - 21st, made for lots of entertainment as well, with music, dance, visual arts, and theater performances (both free and with a cost) in the streets, theaters and venues around the city.

We stayed at the hostal  El Zopilote Mojado, which is in a great location in the historic downtown, has a simple and clean, yet artsy and at times somewhat quirky decor, a beautiful view from the terrace and tasty (though not included)  breakfast. I'd definitely stay there again and recommend it for other travelers.

And without further ado, here's a recap of the weekend.


Edson and I left Friday afternoon for the 5-ish hour drive to Guanajuato. There were some beautiful landscapes along the way.

on our way to Guanajuato! 

view from the car 

view from the car (I could have done without the traffic) 

This was the view that greeted us arriving in Guanajuato. Not bad, huh?

view of Guanajuato at night 

We checked into the hostal and then went out to explore a bit. We decided to participate in one of Guanajuato's traditions, the estudiantina or callejoneada, accompanying a group of musicians and singers through the winding alleyways of the city as they sang and played and shared bits of history and jokes along the way.


waiting for the music to start

and we're off! Up through the
narrow alleyways we go

Here's a video of the estudiantina performing "Serenata Huasteca", with some help from the audience. 

The estudiantina ended in the Callejón del Beso, where legend has it that two star-crossed lovers lived and met on their balconies to see each other and kiss. 

in the Callejón del Beso

the 2 balconies in the Callejón del Beso

on the balcony in the Callejón del Beso

view from the balcony in the Callejón del Beso
After the estudiantina we strolled around the historic downtown. 

the Basilica

Don Quijote presenting me with a rose 

Edson and Don Quijote
We listed to a banda band for a bit in a bar we passed.

Here's a clip:


Saturday we enjoyed a tasty breakfast at the hostal (including the best quesadilla I've ever had) and planned the day.

looking at the schedule of events 
We set out to explore Guanajuato by day. As I said, I love, love, love the colors, balconies and flowers!

Teatro Juarez

posing with a statue of a
Estudiantina performer

Edson reliving his days in a rondalla
group of serenaders" is the best translation I could find) 

La Universidad de Guanajuato

view of the Pípila monument
(key person in Guanajuato during Mexico's fight for Independence)

with a statue of Diego Rivera

with a statue of Diego Rivera

the house where Diego Rivera was born

Alhóndiga de Granaditas 

Alhóndiga de Granaditas 

Pedro Infante in the Casa de Sinaloa
tunnels of Guanajuato 
We decided to take a tour to see more of the city. Here's some of what we saw along the way....

La Presa de la Olla (dam) 

La Presa de la Olla (dam) 

this apparently looks like a man's face

panoramic views of Guanajuato

Panoramic views of Guanajuato

the Pípila monument 
Panoramic views from the Pípila 

you can see the Universidad (white building), the Basilica (yellow and red),
and the Teatro Juarez (with the statues on top) 

on of many monuments marking Hidalgo's
route during the fight for Mexico's Independence

statue depicting Cervantes' works 

statue depicting Cervantes' works 

sign indicating that the heads of  Miguel Hidalgo,
Ignacio Allende, Juan Aldama and Mariano Jiménez
(beheaded for their involvement in the
fight for Mexico's independence) were once buried here

Castillo Santa Cecilia 
As part of the tour we visited the mine "El Nopal" to learn a bit about Guanajuato's mining history. 

"El Nopal" mine 

my hardhat  was a bit big...

view in La Valenciana, right outside of Guanajuato

On the tour we also visited the Haciendo del Cochero, the Inquisition Museum and saw representations of the various ways people were tortured.

After the tour we went to a Contemporary Dance performance (where I'm sure the rest of the audience really appreciated my coughing attack. Oops.)

Program from the Contemporary Dance

another estudiantina 

view from the hostal's terrace 
That evening we went to a show at Los Pastitos, an outdoor area where a stage had been set up. 

waiting for the show to start

the frog (toad?) that doesn't love me 


our hostal, El Zopilote Mojado, is the blue building 

We saw photographs of Austria (and other countries), thinking of my friend Martina who was here as an exchange student last semester.

photos of Austria 

photos of Austria 

the dessert from Austria I want to try 
We had brunch and then enjoyed a musical/comedy show in the plaza.

at brunch 

With the frog (toad?) that doesn't love me...

Guanajuato has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO
and is the (self-described?) Cervantes Capital of the Americas 

We went to see the Mummy Museum, which displays naturally mummified bodies found in the municipal cemetery between the mid 19th and 20th centuries. 

outside the Mummies Museum

Though photos "weren't allowed," our guide didn't seem to mind (and practically encouraged it), so here's a few mummies for you...

From there we wandered a bit more through the historic downtown.

Teatro Cervantes 

statues of Don Quijote and Pancho Villa

an abstract Don Quijote 

A bar on the bridge above the callejón
(Have I mentioned I love Guanajuato??) 

a sign marking Hidalgo's route during the
fight for Mexico's Independence 

Statue of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

with a statue of Don Quijote 

there were so many people!! 
Sunday night we stayed for a show by La Orquesta Típica Yukalpetén and the Ballet Folklórico de Yucatán, held outside the Alhóndiga de Granaditas. 

waiting for the show to start 

La Orquesta Típica Yukalpetén

La Orquesta Típica Yukalpetén with El Ballet Folklórico de Yucatán

How impressive is this? Dancing on a tiny wooden box with a bottle
balanced on their heads 

Even more impressive! Now with a whole tray of tequila and shot glasses
on their heads! 
Here's a video of the Orquesta Típica Yukalpetén performing "Mi Ciudad."

It cooled off at night and the wind picked up, so I kept warm with my newly aquired serape.

Overall it was a fantastic weekend (despite being sick with bronchitis). I love, love, love Guanajuato and hope I'll be able to visit again in the future!