THE THREE SOCIAL TABOOS: Religion, Sex, Politics


THE THREE SOCIAL TABOOS: Religion, Sex, Politics

(This is a post without photos. I don’t want to exploit the misery of others. No photo of this crying little girl in a red top and red shoes. Fox took the opportunity to say the photo was fake as this girl was in the end not removed from her mother, missing the point that she had been already exposed to grief of the treatment at the border).

At age eight, I was a devout little girl that swallowed hook line and sinker what I was taught in my parents’ small congregation of ultra-Christians, until I lost all belief in fairy tales including the bible at age 12. Until then, Jesus seemed like a sort of magician, like a nice uncle who would give you everything you wanted, if you prayed long and hard. God was more like a distant father who left the day-to-day business of dealing with the small stuff to Jesus, just like my dad did with my mom.

I had never really understood the idea of the Holy Spirit but took it to be a back-up who kept followers out of trouble after Jesus had died and had gone to heaven, and to inspire them without the Man-God around. We children believed in ghosts and fairies already, so the resurrection of Jesus and an official Holy Ghost doing ‘tricks’ was not a stretch for us.

How gullible one is as a child.

I was always safe at night, but dutifully knelt by the bed anyway, citing the little rhyming verse, praying for protection for the night, but I did also look under the bed when I was in that phase of believing in monsters.

The rules of not stealing and always telling the truth were easy, as long as I had everything I needed. Until it wasn’t that easy anymore. When everyone else in my neighbourhood went to that children’ movie, a presentation that only came along once a year for the entry fee of one guilder, I stole the guilder from my mother’s purse. The film had not even started when in front of all the children in the hall she pulled me out of the audience and dragged me home. I cried loudly for the rest of that day grounded in my bedroom, convinced my mother treated me unfairly.

On entering grade school, I wanted to be part of the clan of other children that freely roamed the neighbourhood. Telling the truth to my parents became harder and the sin of lying by omission became a habit of mine. Not stealing and not causing mischief would mean saying ‘no’ to friends and staying behind, alone, which was too hard for a seven-year-old. We perpetrated our childhood misdeeds communally. I learned not to tell my parents about everything my friends and I were up to. We all knew we should not raid gardens and break into sheds and greenhouses, but those pears and apples tasted multiple times more delicious than those at home. We knew that our playing-doctor-game was maybe not what we should be doing. If we stayed silent, it was as if nothing untoward had happened.

In the fourth grade as a would-be publisher and provider of the resources with my printing kit, I was the leader of the newspaper club we called the Seven-Star in a misunderstood reference to a pentagram; we just liked that drawing. I learned that blocking some kids from joining the club led to being ousted myself as an unfair dictator: they didn’t need my printing kit to be a club. I learned the leader could not be a despot: might doesn’t make right. I gave in and was allowed back into the club. It was a lesson in humility and group dynamics I learned at an early age and taught me what a democracy is.

It also dawned on me that the unilateral and despotic rules handed down by God for his believers did seem somehow out of touch with the real world and could not be copied for use by mere mortals. Why others (including my parents and the congregation) would accept that as the law in their world anyway, seemed weird.

What really put doubts in my mind whether adults can be believed was an event in December we call Saint Nicholas, for short Sinterklaas, celebrated on December 5th. Our Santa came to visit our home with his helper. I was getting more observant and commented afterwards to my mom how much the voice of Saint Nick’s helper, Black Pete, sounded like my brother’s. “Is that right? I hadn’t noticed,” she said.

The next day I discovered in my parents’ bedroom the book of St. Nicholas, from which the bishop had read to us about all the good things—and especially the bad things—everybody had perpetrated over the year. Slowly, the thought that I had heard that voice of Saint Nick before was taking hold. The old man had been shaking his head, and his hands shook too, just like my friend Phyllis’ elderly father, who I now understand had Parkinson’s disease. Then the penny dropped: Sinterklaas had been Phyllis’ father, and Black Pete, my brother!  I ran downstairs and asked my mom: “Was Sinterklaas Mr. Klaassen?” She laughed. “What makes you think that?” I told her. To my surprise she then admitted that Sinterklaas was not real and that it is to make kids happy and have a night of fun and have an excuse for making funny gifts for each other.

The loss of my belief in Saint Nick’s existence left me disillusioned. After that episode, my seven-year-old former self became an independent thinker, in incremental steps. It was the start of my loss of trust in anything that sounded magical or miraculous. I started to scrutinise every statement of any adult and also the stories in books, and definitively the bible.

I started seeing the hypocrisy among people in our congregation, especially of course in my parents. I noticed their thoughtless prejudices and easy judgments about people who looked different or who were not of our ‘class’. The contrast between Jesus’ messages and what people within our congregation made of it in daily life seemed like day and night. I discovered two kinds of people: those who actually tried to apply the principles of Jesus and those who just wanted to be part of the club. I wasn’t sure yet where I belonged.

As I grew older, I questioned and debated the principles of the religion in catechism class and at home. My dad told me to just stop arguing and be more like my eldest sister, sweet and obedient. I knew that she was doing everything on the sly and I took my dad’s advice: since open opposition was discouraged, I went my own way, mostly silently. My road to conversion from a believer to becoming an agnostic was one of incremental disbelief and of discovering that adults lie and are unfair. It took about four years. When I entered high school by the age of 12, I had pretty much turned into an agnostic to the desperation of my Philosophy teacher at my Christian school. I argued with quite a lot of vehemence in his class, leaving the other students speechless. Critical thinking, we call it now. This teacher was also a minister and occasionally led the service in our church. To his credit, he was the only adult in my world who took my questions and my search for the truth seriously and he tried to respond honestly, but still he could not stop my conversion. Eventually, I laid low, as that was a lot easier to maintain. I meekly went to church but took off from my seat as soon as the service was about to start, to return by sermon’s end and stand outside, chatting, as my parents exited.

Learning about sexuality took much longer. One afternoon around this time, our neighbours’ son who was about 5 years older than me showed me his swollen penis behind the garden shed. I suspected that it was probably not the right thing to do, although nobody had actually said so. I touched an erect penis for the first time when I was eight. The thing felt soft and hard at the same time. Nobody ever talked about penises, vaginas, or breasts in my childhood world. I was just told to cover up and not to run naked through the garden with the hose and at the pool everyone wears a swimsuit. No sexual education took place anywhere. It was believed that keeping kids in the dark would delay sexual maturity: let sleeping dogs lie was the motto. To have intimacy—for procreation—there was to be married first; I knew that much.

I had no idea about the actual act of sex and procreation, until I saw a mare being bred on a farm; I was around nine years old. I was shocked and couldn’t believe that the long appendix under the stallion’s belly could fit into that girl horse. Although it did not look like anything the teenager next door had showed me, it dawned on me that his member might have been the same body part as the horse’s.

The whole affair kept me thinking for weeks as I was trying to figure out what that event could be for, and once I was told, I wondered if that was also how humans made babies. When I asked my mom, she started talking about the ewes next door in the orchard, and how they went away to meet men-sheep. They came back a week or so later, pregnant, and had lambs a few months later. However cryptic, nothing was explicitly said about a penis into a vagina.

My friends did not really know the facts either, so a variety of vague beliefs, myths and old wife’s tales gathered from various sources among us kept me curious, until I reached adolescence and started dating.

I started reading fiction as soon as I could read, under the covers with a flashlight after bedtime, reading everything I could get my hands on. Especially interesting were the books of my eldest sister—eight-years-older; I had to often reach to understand the contents. I must have been ten when I read Lady Chatterley’s lover.  Angelique of the Angels was another great novel about a memorable woman who exerted power through her beauty and smarts, and sex, of course. I started to understand love, physical attraction, and the beauty of equal but different powers between people: the idealist in me was taking shape.

But I also saw how my older sisters fared throughout their adolescence and how my parents responded: extremely controlling, almost as bad as in the Rapunzel story. I can forgive them now: this need to control may have been the aftermath of living through the dangerous war years. By that time, I knew I was better off laying low and just not tell my parents what I was up to.

I continued exploring my sexuality with a number of boyfriends and started failing in school. I had boyfriends. I also was gender-discriminated by a number of instructors. The worst was my chemistry teacher, who called every girl in the class simply Dora and who didn’t bother to learn their names but he loved the boys and knew them all by name. As soon as I opened my mouth to chat with my neighbour, he sent me to the principal. This continued throughout the year with this guy. I started skipping school. I got suspended. The VP wanted to pray with me. I politely declined the favour.

I ended up with an interesting boyfriend, someone four years older than me who was unemployed—a poet. I ran away from home a few times, the first time when a big confrontation happened shortly after I went on the birth control pill. That godsend little pill had recently been introduced to the women in my country and free for members of the Dutch Society for Sexual Reform. My mother had found the pill package in my room and went berserk. I became the adolescent running away from home under the influence of a ‘bad’ boyfriend. I did manage to graduate and left home that summer, to move to Amsterdam together with my boyfriend, and to an apprentice job in a hospital. My physical freedom was hard-fought. My sexual freedom took much longer and only arrived after I met my next boyfriend.

I still like the world of imagination very much, where I can explore the inner world of humans without restraint of dogmas or a prescribed worldview. I do miss the magic of believing. It felt so safe to believe as a child. Now as an adult, I have to act like an adult and, like everybody else, take up my adult responsibilities. I participate responsibly in society casting my vote in elections, and I try to follow the law and most social rules, to a certain extent, as long as these are reasonable, but I also like to debate, exchange ideas. I make a living, respect my neighbours and the rights of others–not always easy to do. Most of all as an adult I became obsessed with information: I have to research the facts and knowwhat is going on in the world. The facts have to match with my decisions and vice versa. I became a socialist and a social worker.

Yes, the truth is becoming ever harder to find. Journalist are trying to get at the truth and most upstanding reporters bring the facts. Their job is to fact-check what political orators and religious leaders are saying about public policies.

The leaders of the religious right base their policies on irrational, religious-based arguments, and defend their statements with the accusation that dissenting journalists are making up facts. The religious right has reporters who mindlessly repeat what they hear from their affiliated leaders. The religious right doesn’t want us to know the facts. They want to continue to deceive us: we should believe them unconditionally. It is important to know which voice one choses as the source for information.

The easily-led rely on somebody else for their information (relatives, husband, wife, political leader, minister/priest).  Without knowing the facts, it becomes very difficult to determine what to believe; without the facts one cannot chart one’s own course. Many people don’t want to know the facts and react from an emotional place. Of course, it is so much easier to just repeat what your chosen leader or your chosen TV news program says, compared to trying to figure out what is going on in the world.

MIXING RELIGION WITH POLITICS

Whomever assumes the existence of God as a fact, is in itself irrational. There are no hard, scientific facts that prove a god exists. To assume that everybody else operates from that same belief in God is also irrational. As the basis for a worldview that belief system leaves no room for people who do notbelieve in God, and who prefer to rely on science and the facts. However, that seems exactly to be the current state of affairs, when the Attorney General of the USA quotes the Bible as justification for an inhuman (and in my eyes criminal) measure—separating children from parents in an attempt to try to stop the flow of migrants into that country, many among them asylum-seekers.

In spite of the USA being a secular nation and not a religious-based state, (like Iran) it becomes clear that in fact the USA seems to base its immigration policies on a narrow-minded world view informed by a religious bias for interpreting the current laws, and also wrongheadedly applied. The Trump administration has dropped all ethical principles and the human rights of others and lost its respect for internationally adhered principles of dealing with refugees. It has divided the country between people that believe in ethical government conduct versus those that are led by religious dogmas based on a mainly old testament God-as-a vengeful God.

If Sessions wants to apply his religious beliefs, he could take Jesus’ words instead of Paul’s: to treat one’s neighbour as he would like to be treated himself. Raised as a Christian, I see Sessions distort the bible, a book from two thousand years (and more) ago and many authors talking about sometimes barbaric practices of that time. Does Sessions really want to go back to those barbaric laws born out of ignorance and harsh circumstances of survival in those times? Surely, people with a religion better debate their religious opinions and how they see the world with other, religious people, not adopt these as the tenets for public policy!

In a secular society, religion has no place in politics.

Sessions does not speak for most Americans, I suspect. Neither is Sarah Sanders. I feel sorry for Americans who see this and feel helpless to stop the erosion of their national government and its values. Their head of state is knitting lie after lie into a mantel that suits many believers fine. He and his minions use the name of God to touch an irrational cord in potential followers—his disciples. The consequences are clearly going to be the development of more policies based on fallacies. These destructive policies will destroy any society in which truth and facts have become immaterial and where anti-Other sentiments prevail. The beast has been unleashed!

I mourn for the loss of the USA as a friend and ally against dictators and common enemies. In my neighbouring country, too many Americans have put religion over facts, and racism over compassion. The USA is turning into a force for destruction of the local and international world; its administration lost its compassion, and One-eye is leading the blind.

I come from a country where debating is a national pastime. I love to debate issues and exchange ideas: I might learn something new in the process. The Netherlands has many political parties to offer the electorate choices, and the Dutch do not believe in the two-party system. Although quite a religious country, the denominational parties keep their God to themselves, although unfortunately, the neo-Nazis have become a substantial force. The Dutch government consists of a coalition—very democratically put together after an election. Neonazi Geert Wilders became a well-known oppositional force; he is a friend of the GOP and of Trump and got money from them to broaden his influence in the Netherlands.

In my adopted country of Canada, three parties (at the most) vie for votes in elections. Canadians are not very used to debating their political opinions, or about which church they belong to, and they play their affiliations close to their chest. In life, the warning ‘don’t talk about religion, politics or sex’ is generally accepted, good advice in Canada. The safe way is to just chitchat, have polite social intercourse, and talk about the things we have in common. My need for honest exchange of ideas will have to wait for my visits to the home country. I stay away from religious believers and events. I resent the Jehovah Witnessed who aggressively still come to my door, trying to tell me they have the only truth in their pocket. The best I can do in such situations is to tell them that I believe in facts and not in religion, and to ask to be scratched from their list. Then I close the door.

The subject of discussion has become Trump. We in Canada have found a common enemy about whose policies it is save to become upset and whom to denounce. I have an inkling that is what Trump tried to do in his own country: find a common enemy and unite the country behind him. Unfortunately, he is achieving the opposite in his own nation. However, he is uniting the world against him.

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Posted in adolescents, Children, Children and child protection, Diversity issues, elections, Global immigration, Hitler, Immigration, International politics, memoir writing, Mexican life, Parenting, Pubic Relations, Relocation to mexico, the Netherlands, The truth, travel, Trump, Uncategorized, victims, war crimes, world issues | Leave a comment

RETURNING TO MY NORTHERN COUNTRY


RETURNING TO MY NORTHERN COUNTRY

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After having spent about six months in Mexico, I hoped it wouldn’t be as cold in my province as it had been last year in April on my arrival. This time, I came back a month later to ensure spring would have arrived, and it had indeed done so with a bang. It was the same temperature at my arrival at the Kelowna airport as where I came from, a balmy 24 degrees at 11 p.m.

 

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My cat in her travel kennel didn’t have to shiver at all (after having left her warm second home), and when I let her out at home after 9 hours in her “prison”, she happily started scratching her nails on the steps of my carpeted stairs as soon as she was out of the cage.

 

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Photos of my neighbour washing his horse. This was about the last scene in my calle before I left Mexico.

 

Adjusting from my calle, where I live in Mexico where people wash their horse in the street, to the very clean streets and very organized life in my Canadian middle-class, conservative city takes some doing. It took me a few weeks to get back into a routine and to resume my life here. My home was not as dusty as I had expected, but the deck was dirty from old snow melts and dust, so cleaning up that section became my first mission. As I am hoping to sell my place this summer, I started with prep for emptying and tidying up articles and furniture that I cannot keep in my newly constructed, 700 square feet condo that, with some luck, will be ready in the fall.

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My deck, cleaned up and new plantings of Hibiscus.

 

One of my beefs in my environment, wherever I am, is smell, as  I have a well-working nose with an acute sense of smell. In my Mexican neighbourhood I smell my neighbours at lunch and supper times, when the small fires of barbecues start up with some initial fire-starting liquids and the sharp smell of charcoal burning.  I close the window on that side, until they are done with the cooking. No problem.

In my Canadian home, banning the unpleasant smells is not so easy to do.  Closing my open window and patio door doesn’t do the trick to stop the smoke of marijuana and tobacco coming in from my neighbours’ homes. If that was the only source, it would be not a problem, but the smell also enters my home through their exhaust system that deposits their used air  right next to my fresh air intake in the adjoining breezeway. My stove hood and bathroom fan exhaust systems are located right beside my neighbours’ exhaust outlets. When my exhaust fans are not running, the exhaust openings in the breezeway outside allows the neighbours’ smoke to waft back into my apartment. I have to accept the constant smell of tobacco and marijuana in my home, or have my exhaust fans running all day to vent out the smells and block passive air coming in. This is basically the reason for my move to new digs, beside the thrill of moving into a brand-new home  for the first time in my life that is even built with the highest standard of environmentally responsible construction (LEED).

 

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When I arrived, the deciduous trees were all out and the flowering shrubs wafted their sweet smells throughout the neighbourhood. I started walking again; the swimming pool was opened soon afterwards. Although I have to share it with my neighbours, often there is nobody in the pool, and the water is heated to a balmy 25 degrees.  To compare it with my Mexican home: I have a small solar-heated pool there with high walls around it for privacy, so I have taken up the habit of skinny-dipping there in water of up to 29 degrees centigrade.  It makes me feel ten years younger to be able to shed my clothes and not having to care  what my body looks like nowadays.

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Photo of pool.

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At about five minutes walking distance from my complex, I can turn onto a dead-end road that stops at the end at the back entrance of a gated housing development. From that point on, a system of gravel paths leads to a pond (Munson Pond) with a protective area around it, where no dogs are allowed in protection for the wildlife. Another path where dogs are allowed leads to the next major thoroughfare, KLO Road. By Munson Pond are signs that indicate with pictures (drawing of a dog with a red cross over it) and text that dogs are not allowed, and yet, more than a few times I encountered people with dogs. Recently, even a guy on a bike was racing over the narrow hiking trails with a dog that wasn’t even on a leash trailing behind him). When I pointed out to them that dogs aren’t allowed here, they breezily wave my objection away, and the guy on the bike even called “why not”, as if his dog wouldn’t have it in him to chase geese or quail.

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Believe it or not, but I found that Canadians are often just as loathe to follow rules as any other people—they only do it in a politer manner than, let’s say, Dutch people. These friendly people in the wildlife-protected area gave me the impression that they are convinced they are right, or somehow have a status that puts them above the rules, and nobody can convince them otherwise.

By comparison, in Mexico, the free-running dogs are often not leashed and they do their business anywhere. Nobody seems to pick up after the (unleashed) dogs in the streets. In the morning, most women sweep the street in the barrios and for special occasions the water hose is coming out. Living in Mexico’s villages is like returning to my old stomping grounds in Amsterdam of thirty years ago, where the walk in the street on the sidewalks was a dance between the dog piles. I have to say, the residents in my apartment complex and in the Canadian streets do pick up after their dogs.
I guess everything is relative, seen in their context.

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We live in a nice and neat development with open access on all sides with lawns all around. The strata fees pay for: fertilizer, irrigation and maintenance/repair, mowing at least weekly and trimming of the edges. Cedar hedges separate the lawns from the parking lot of the business section and the mall. When car owners park in reverse (I have noticed mostly men do that) and start up and run their vehicle stationary, the hedges get the full blast. Every year some have to be replaced as they are burnt from the car exhaust.  I don’t know why men have to park backing up in reverse, if not to get a quick get-away when they leave in a hurry after some offence, or is it just on accord of the rat-race—always in a hurry?

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Beaver and goose trail to the pond.

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Mock-Orange shrub

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Wildrose

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The flower for butterflies. I hope there will be many of them this summer. Next time in Mexico, I am planning on visiting the Monarch butterfly sanctuary.

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Well, anyway, after having lived and adjustment to my narrow calle in Mexico, where the drivers have to possess extraordinary skills and much patience to squeeze by parked cars at both sides, or a coca cola truck stops all traffic, and the rules seems optional,  the Kelowna fast and busy traffic seems very organized and the streets very wide, and some of the drivers are extremely rude and selfish.

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The garbage truck coming by in my calle.

I have to conclude that people are in the rat race in the city of Kelowna—as it now feels to me—since I have all the time in the world and have relaxed to a slower pace in retirement.  It suits me well.

Having been raised in another world in The Netherlands, and now living in two different worlds in Canada and Mexico, makes one realize there is no perfect way and not one way of doing things. I have taken up my walks and yoga class again, and play Mah Jongg at the recreational centre for seniors, and to occasional visits with friends.

Each country and lifestyle has its advantages and disadvantages.  We just have to adjust to the change in scenery.  One thing that didn’t change is the talk about Trump and I am getting tired of it!

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DIA DE LA CRUZ


DIA DE LA CRUZ

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Dia de la Cruz is a holiday for the Mexicans in which they celebrate the construction workers with a ritual that has been going on literally for centuries. There are a lot of myths about the origin of the day and its name. From the Spanish articles online, I picked the most likely and least superstitious.

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Mexico adopted the cross as the symbol for its celebration of the masons on May 3. This tradition dates from the colonial era with the formation of the guilds—we would now call unions—and according to old chronicles, the incorporation of the cross was impelled by Fray Pedro de Gante. In spite of the suppression of this celebration (and it was not included in the liturgical calendar by Pope John XXIII), the masons of Mexico kept this tradition alive. Given the religious fervor of the locals, the Mexican Episcopate eventually made the arrangements themselves, so that in Mexico the celebration of the Holy Cross would continue, with or without the pope’s permission.

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It is also believed that the celebration of the Day of the Holy Cross was inherited from pre-Hispanic times. In Mexico, Spanish and pre-Hispanic cultures are mixed. The day of the cross had its antecedent in the rituals practiced by the pre-Columbian cultures for the request to the gods for rains and good harvests which took place at the beginning of the agricultural cycle, around the first days of May.

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(Back entrance to the Panteon-cemetery)

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(Mural: If you wondered what’s behind the wall…by Javier Zaragoza)

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(A curious gringo looking in?)

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(Ceramic plate by Salvador Vasques: the introduction of horses with the Spanish soldiers)

 

When the Spanish priests (and not to forget: the soldiers) arrived in the old Mexican territory, they modified some of the old Roman Catholic beliefs, so that the converts would easier accept it when it had more similarities with their old beliefs. Thus, during the time of the Spanish Colony (1521-1821), the pre-Hispanic ritual for the request of rain to Tláloc, god of the rain, was transformed into prayers for good harvests and was incorporated into the devotion of the Holy Cross. This used to be on the first Sunday of May within the Catholic calendar. The day on the so-called Marian calendar (inspired on what the mother of Jesus Christ did on any given day in the year) was the day on which the Virgin Mary made the request to her son Jesus, but I am unaware what the request was. From the twentieth century on, the great feast of prayer for a good harvest became linked more strongly to the activity of all construction workers, both in rural towns and cities. The day is now always on May 3.

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Ajijic, Jalisco.

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Other sources indicate that the celebration of Day of the Holy Cross in Mexico dates back to the sixteenth century, when Captain Juan de Grijalva named the Island of Cozumel, (in the state of Quintana Roo) Isla de la Santa Cruz. The masons took the name of the Cruz celebration as their own, due to a legend that in a village of Tabasco the villagers carried out a procession with a cross, but in the end, the cross always returned to its place of origin.

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(Aztec dancer, photo by Dane Strom).

 

Whatever the origin, currently the celebration to the masons on the Day of the Holy Cross is intended to express  the value of their work as one of the worthiest trades, because this union builds not only the homes we inhabit but also public buildings and many more works that are indicative of the progress of the cities. The workers place a decorated cross (made by their wives) on top of anything under construction on that day.

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The stations with the crosses (in the streets) become the collection stations for fruit and baked good and vegetables for those neighbors which happen to collect those for an hour or so before the start of the festivities. At the end of the day, the neighbors gather, drink refreshments (I was offered a fresh fruit drink from guayabas), and share treats.

I went out to see what it all was about. My next door neighbor turned out to be one of the committee members, and she invited me to sit and enjoy with them. The men get their stronger drinks themselves from inside the homes—if they have to drink—and the whole street is full of people including many children of all ages, adolescents too, and of course a dog or two. Further up in the street were mariachis playing.

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Watercolor painting Torrito by Dionicio.

 

The committee of three neighbors record the gifts and which family is on the receiving end, so the next year those roles will be reversed. It is a true neighborhood party, with everybody hanging out, some of them sitting on the sidewalks (which are quite hight, connected to the rainy season when rivers run down to the lake!) or on stools or plastic chairs. It reminded me of the custom of the potlatch of our indigenous Canadians.

(Sources: noticierostelevisa.esmas.com, zocalo.com.mx, elsiglodetorreon.com.mx)

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The masons and other construction laborers work long hours under the hot sun, their physical activity far exceeds any exercise in a gym and their mathematical ability would be the envy of a high school student.  May 3 is their day, called the celebration of the holy cross.

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(Earlier that day I had seen the “torritos” in the yard of a fire technician who constructs the body of paper-mache and bamboo and attaches fireworks to it. A daring young buck hauls the contraption on his shoulders and runs through the streets with the fireworks lit. Much fun is had by all. Not something that is allowed anywhere but in Mexico!

 

I asked what he would charge for one torrito: 2500 pesos. Later that night I saw a couple of them sitting in my street at the festivities, but I didn’t end up seeing them run the torritos; I probably was in bed—after 11 pm).

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In the time of houses constructed from plywood, gyprock board, pressed chipboard and two by fours, the value and the understanding of the craft of masons is for the most part lost on residents of our North American society. It takes to actually see the boveda ceilings being constructed out of brick to believe that those bricks won’t fall down on your head. Basically, it is based on the construction of arches.

From Wikipedia: The construction of arches is an old craft: its inherent strength and the underlying principle of internal balance that keeps the bricks in place dates back to the 2nd millennium BC in Mesopotamian brick architecture. The systematic use started with the ancient Romans, who were the first to apply the technique to a wide range of structures.

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The strength of the ceiling is in the bricks, arranged in rows of four bricks with mortar between them, and held up by iron beams as the only external support system. It still boggles my mind to see it actually working. These ceilings are so strong that a grown man can stand on top of it. This is how Mexican boveda ceilings and the roofs are built, and the more intricate cupulas.

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Just for fun, I am adding a photo of a mural with the whole family of the owner of Viva Mexico, a restaurant in the next town over, San Juan Cosala. In Mexico, the family is the most important entity in a person’s life.

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In the tradition of painting the advertising right on walls, this is a photo of a new ad for a mural-painting business.

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A new arch for the benefit of tourists that might need directions called the Gate to the Lake —  Heart of Ajijic: Puerta del Lago — Corazon de Ajijic.

This is the latest modification, together with the extra-wide flagstones on this road that is closed for cars on the weekends that makes it easier to stroll down to the lake. Restaurants put their tables right in the street. Some other day I’ll take the photo with the tourists too.

Posted in adolescents, architecture, Children, Diversity issues, Exercise; old age; aging gracefully; yoga practice ; wholesome life, Global immigration, Mexican life, Murals, Music, Parenting, religion, travel, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

LAZY SATURDAY


LAZY SATURDAY

 

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On this Saturday afternoon towards the end of siesta time on a hot 30 degree C/86 F day, I am relaxing in my second-story, darkened room, when I suddenly hear the mariachi performing a live concert in a backyard garden, a few houses further up the calle. So lovely how the trumpet is skilfully dancing its tune, after which the violins and guitars are answering with a slightly different variation of the leading trumpet’s melody, line after line. This is a musical discussion between the brass and the string sections. Unfortunately, I cannot hear the singers’ voices from this distance, but I do hear the ‘ole’s and ‘bravo’s from the audience and the firecrackers.

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Mexico, you know how to have a party; your fiestas are joyful, always musical, and creative in many other ways.  I want to put that all in my suitcase when I will prepare to leave for the cold climate in Canada in two weeks, and take it with me.

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(Fiesta of Chapala 2016)

After having lived for six months in my little town in Mexico I am returning to my other home. Most of the snowbirds have already left. It doesn’t seem to make that much of a difference, as more Americans than before seem to stay year-round now. Weekends are very busy here with the crowds from Guadalajara flooding the town. The carretera (the highway through town that connects the lakeside villages) is slow going with bumper-to-bumper traffic, like the highway 97 through Kelowna, but luckily still just two lanes, although that undoubtedly will also change in the future. (Have you also noticed that this expression—in the future—is not used anymore? Media commentators now say: going forward. I wonder what happened that the future has become so unpopular.)

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There is a building boom going on. Many young men are working, and since the work is here much more often manual or completed with less mechanical appliances, and lots of crafts still are used in the construction of the houses, lots of men are working, and still, more men are needed.

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I did manage to get the befriended painter-artist to make me a set of wardrobes with paintings on the doors.  But  I can’t get my handyman to finish the job of hanging the sunshade back up on the second floor. He doesn’t answer my call about when this is going to happen. He likely has his hands full with other work, now that there is no difference anymore for him between ‘the season’ and ‘off-season.’ Well, it’s not an emergency. It can wait.

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Money is streaming into Ajijic: foreign money and local money, and from Mexicans living elsewhere. I read on the CNN online publication that Mexicans in the USA sent home $26.1 billion from January to November 2017, according to figures released by the central bank of Mexico. That’s the most ever recorded and better than the $24.1 billion sent in 2016 over the same period. The total annual figure for 2017 is on pace to hit another record high. Remittances are one of Mexico’s top sources of foreign income, outpacing oil exports, which totaled $18.5 billion between January and October, according to the most recent figures available at the Bank of Mexico. Manufacturing exports are the top source of foreign income for Mexico.

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(Mexico is growing and becoming an economic powerhouse. Photos from 1950s.)

Trump, eat your heart out. That wall is not being built and not being paid for by Mexico. And by the way, if Mexican cartels would not buy your American weapons, the gun dealers would have to close their stores. A U of San Diego study into guns in the USA stated that if US dealers couldn’t sell to Mexico, 47% of gun dealers would go out of business. I think Mexico would be better off if there was a wall and if it kept those guns out. I never heard Trump own up to the fact that his nation’s gun dealers are a liability for Mexico.

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(History is not going to be repeated where white invaders and their clergy could exploit the people of Mexico – mural in Chapala’s town hall).

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At the same time, federal and municipal elections are in the works. The push for voters’ allegiance is on. It is really noticeable that the public works budgets are being spent right now on public projects to impress the public. At the local level, the main street has new, even, sidewalks of embossed concrete, and even a bicycle path is laid from the Walmart site on the edge of town to right in the center of town and stops by my turn-off on Juarez. A reporter from the Ojo de Lago (an English-language monthly magazine) had done research and knew that the municipality of Chapala had hired twice as many employees as the previous mayor. All businesses were asked to paint their fronts. The place looks outright clean, tidy, and better maintained.

 

 

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Hola! The mariachis have started up their gig again, probably with a cevesa or tequila or two in them. I hear singing now too. Wonderful. I am beginning to recognize the melodies lately. It’s time I get myself a drink too.

 

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If you have a thought about visiting me between December and May, you are welcome. Just know and understand that I live in a Mexican neighborhood, not a cleaned up version of it where mostly gringos live, and definitively not a gated community. It would help to feel comfortable if you learn some basic Spanish, like hola, buenos dias, and buenas noches, and gracias, haha, and Quiero un margarita por favor. I heard my American friend (who has spent a good part of her youth here and lives here most of the year) complain that lately there are too many gringos, and she misses the Mexicans. Not at my place: I definitively live in the barrio.

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And January/February can be cold, relatively speaking, so take warm clothes too. No, not your minus 20 coat, but jeans, socks, and a sweater or puffy will do. And bring good shoes, because all the other streets are still built with uneven sidewalks and cobblestones from the 17thcentury—not the civilized, uniformly shaped, manufactured cobbles from Europe and from your landscape place—but uneven and natural rocks (even in the sidewalk).

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Too bad, the mariachis are done. I have enjoyed the two sets of each 45 minutes. That is a costly affair. Must be an important anniversary or birthday. I should be starting to think how I want to celebrate my next birthday here—the big one: 70!

 

Time for my dip in my little pool to cool off and have that drink. This April was hotter here than ever, people told me. I bought a lounge chair today for sitting on the patio. The music is already taken care of: modern music now, don’t know who plays it, but likely my neighbor behind me.

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MEXICAN STYLE PATIO


MEXICAN STYLE PATIO

My friend lives in the cutest casa and she is a master in decorating Mexican style and gardening;  I just had to take photos of her work.  With her permission, I post them here. Her companion is Jezebel.

 

IMG_0481Jezebel is waiting for her mistress to come along to the patio.

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A mobile statue: the weight of the stone bodies cause a pendulum movement when set in motion and then the mother starts rocking her child.

 

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The ladder wasn’t meant to be decorative, but it is!

 

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TOO FUNNY.

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ISLA DE MESCALA


 

ISLA DE MESCALA

 

The article below is taken from the website The Informer, with my own photographs added, taken last week on the island.  I am placing a copy of the article here, as the research is better than I can do myself with my limited knowledge of Spanish.

 

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GUADALAJARA, JALISCO (26 / JAN / 2014) .- Many of the Sunday walkers who visit the Chapala Lake to rest from the city bustle, do not know what is beyond their boardwalk. One of those well-kept secrets is the Island of Mezcala, a prodigious 20-hectare land full of living history, which also offers the most amazing views of the gray water mirror.

 

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From the island the rebels could see how the Spanish reconstructed their galleons on the coast of the Ribera across from them. The ships had been taken apart and brought overland from the ocean to the Lake Chapala to conquer the rebels. They failed and the ships stranded on the rocks and against the underwater barriers.

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(Debbie, Carol, Dennis and the guide by the church that lost its roof. Grandson Jackson was there too; he roamed around the island with the pup in tow).

 

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(The church was built on the place where sacrifices were made to the Aztec gods, here on the island, and all signs of their worship were extinguished and the idols were thrown in the lake by the priests. The recent renovations of the site allowed for a circle to be restored, to indicate that there was indeed a previous culture of Aztec people).

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(Above a photo of the crosses, I am not sure of their meaning,  and where the virgin was honored with a statue and where the local Nahuatl prayed. It was removed with the restoration of the historical site).

Founded around 1280, it was once a cult center of great importance for the pre-Hispanic civilizations of Jalisco. Also later known as Presidio Island, it is located on the North Bank of Chapala Lake and is reached by the Chapala Highway after passing through other riverside towns such as Tlachichilco del Carmen, San Juan Tecomatlan, San Nicolás and Ojo de Agua.

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(Inner courtyard of the prison-Fuerte with Carol, Dennis, and the site’s guide)

The island belongs to the town called Mezcala de la Asunción, in the municipality of Poncitlán, where there is a community of indigenous Coca, mostly fishermen, and textile artisans. There are also some huaraches workshops. From the town, there are boats to get to know that piece of land surrounded by fresh water.

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(The trees offer welcome relief from the sun. The guide said these trees were not here during the time of the presidio.)

 

From the traces of its pre-Columbian greatness, there were palpable testimonies such as obsidian tips, ornaments, shooting tombs, ceramic pieces from the Teuchitlán tradition (Guachimontones), the Ixtépete type (the classic period from 200 to 700 AD) and the Aztlán tradition (850 to 1350 AD). But his most recent history takes us only about 200 years ago.

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(On the way by boat to the island: the birds watch us, while we watch them.)

 

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(This tree is called Arbol de la Vida–Tree of Life and was revered because of its health in spite of having no soil to draw nutrition from. The locals had put a statue of the Virgin there at the bottom of the tree and held prayer sessions, but that all disappeared in the push to update and restore the site.)

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(A piece of art in a gallery of folk art in San Miguel de Allende that I thought would give an impression of how rich the inner life and the imagination of indigenous peoples can be if this painting is an expression of that.)

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(Father Hidalgo calling the people to stand up against the Spaniards, starting the rebellion in Guanajuato and Dolores and in San Miguel de Allende. Mural in Ajijic).

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(Among the rebels on Mezcala Island was  Castellano, a priest in Ajijic. He is buried in Jocotepec. Mural in Ajijic.)

In Mezcala, one of the most fascinating chapters of Mexico’s War of Independence was written. Persecuted after the battle of Puente de Calderón on January 17, 1811, a group of insurgents settled on the island to raise a fortress that resisted the attacks of the royalists for four years (1812-1816).

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In the site, there are remains of thick walls, made of stones arranged on top of each other, which constituted the tanneries, barns, obrajes, corrals, as well as the dormitory galleries for the soldiers, the kitchens and, fundamentally, the crossings where the insurgents watched what happened in the distance.

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It was not the weapons that subdued the rebels. The resistance happened because of an epidemic of typhus spread among the population. When the forces of the Spanish Crown realize that they can not defeat them by force, they decide to extinguish any nearby source of food, medicines and hygiene products. That caused the disease to proliferate and in the end, the insurgents surrendered.

 

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So that no one would forget what happened, Don José de la Cruz, mayor of Nueva Galicia, known for his cruelty and bloodthirsty methods when fighting, ordered in 1817 the installation of a prison that would prevent the rebels from recovering the island. Thus, a new fortification was built, consisting of a moat, drawbridges, embrasures, plaza, slopes, firing ranges, among other elements, of which the ruins still remain. It is the only structure of military architecture that survives in Jalisco.

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(Mural on the lakeshore in Ajijic indicating the history of the rebellion and what happened on Isla de Mezcala. You can see the Spanisg galleons sailing up, but they got shipwrecked on the dfence system of walls of rock)

 

With the passage of time, this story was left in oblivion. But since 2005, the State Government undertook a comprehensive rehabilitation of the island that ended only last year. The objective was to detonate its tourist potential, and the main intervention consisted in the rescue of the ruins of the fortification now known as Casa Fuerte to turn it into a museum.

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In mainland

In addition to its island, Mezcala has much to offer visitors curious, foreign or local. In the heart of the town, it is worth knowing an architectural work of religious type dating from 1703, the Church of the Assumption, dedicated to the Virgin of the same name, with its white facade and its two brick towers.

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You can also go hiking in Punta Grande and El Venado hills. What definitely can not be left out is a visit to the famous “Cueva del Toro”, where there are cave paintings and petroglyphs that have been preserved over a huge rock for centuries.

TAKE NOTES

How to get?

From the Metropolitan Area of Guadalajara you have to take the Carretera Chapala until you reach the municipal capital. Then, travel the González Gallo road for about 22 kilometers.

The journey from Chapala to Mezcala lasts just under 30 minutes.

By:  INFORMATOR The original was in Spanish on the website.

January 26, 2014

 

 

Posted in architecture, Diversity issues, Global immigration, Mexican life, Murals, religion, Relocation to mexico, righteousness, travel, Uncategorized, war and resistance | 3 Comments

THE DOGS OF MEXICO


THE DOGS OF MEXICO

 

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Mictlanteculhtli by Jesus Lopez Vega

Jesus Lopez Vega is a local artist.

When in Mexico, do as the Mexicans do. That’s what I told myself, but I don’t have a dog (anymore). Dogs figure prominently in the little town where I live. They roam the streets or hover around the neighborhood, waiting for the garbage to be put out, or for a resident to put the leftovers by the street for them.  They are a different breed from the pets that we see in Canada. Most of these dogs are no pets in that same sense. They often fend for themselves. They may be adopted by residents and given food, but there is little sentimentality involved. Most dogs are working dogs, and there are some that spend their lives on top of the roof—roof dogs—as guard dogs. Of course, there are also pet dogs that are pampered, just like the pets of Canada. There is an intensive action (mostly driven by the gringos that live here) to take better care of the roaming dogs, have them sterilized, and get them medical care when they need it. When I try to be friendly to the dogs on my street, they are not eager to respond and keep a safe distance, weary. They expect that people cannot be trusted.

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Most kids here grow up knowing about dogs.  I see the kids on my street deal with the dogs. If the dog is a big one and eyes their treat or follows them, or they want to dog to leave, they throw rocks. I have seen adult women do that too, to be sure, not with an overhand throw with power behind it, but with an underhanded throw in the air. The rock will come down on de dogs back, with a little luck.

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As most Canadians know, dogs can run in packs and can become more like wolfs than the pets we know and love; they can start hunting wildlife or cattle. It would be good to know for kids how to defend themselves against a pack of dogs.  Bigger kids might be meaner than the small children (who play unsupervised in the street), but I haven’t seen that yet, although I am told it does happen. I have seen a grown man in a car let his dog run behind the car through the length of the street and not let the dog in the vehicle: the love for dogs is fickle, and can be cruel. The dog is a man’s best friend they say; that dog deserved better. In San Miguel de Allende I heard that dog fighting is a thing. My host there had rescued one of her 4 dogs from that ring.

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The history of dogs in Mexico is very long and predates American society. In Aztec beliefs, dogs are thought to be the intermediary between the bad spirits/god of the underworld—Mictlanteculhtli—and humans.

From Wikipedia:

“Mictlanteculhtli was 6 feet tall and was depicted as a blood-spattered skeleton or a person wearing a toothy skull. Although his head was typically a skull, his eye sockets did contain eyeballs. His headdress was shown decorated with owl feathers and paper banners and he wore a necklace of human eyeballs, while his decorative plugs in his ears were made from human bones. He was not the only Aztec god to be depicted in this fashion, as numerous other deities had skulls for heads, or else wore clothing or decorations that incorporated bones and skulls.

In the Aztec world, the skeletal imagery was a symbol of fertility, health, and abundance, alluding to the close symbolic links between life and death. He was often depicted wearing sandals as a symbol of his high rank as Lord of Mictlan. His arms were frequently depicted raised in an aggressive gesture, showing that he was ready to tear apart the dead as they entered his presence. Mictlanteculhtli is often depicted with his skeletal jaw open to receive the stars that descend into him during the daytime and was associated with spiders, owls, bats, the eleventh hour and the north, also known as Mictlampa, the region of death. He was one of the very few deities held to govern over all three types of souls identified by the Aztecs, who distinguished between the souls of people who died normal deaths (of old age, disease, etc.), heroic deaths (e.g. in battle, sacrifice or during childbirth), or non-heroic deaths.

Mictlanteculhtli was the god of the day sign Itzcuintli (dog), one of the 20 such signs of the Aztec calendar, and regarded as supplying the souls of those who were born on that day, joining the sun god Tonatiuh to symbolize the dichotomy of light and darkness.

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This dog has one bad eye.

According to the Aztec creation myth, the sun god demanded human sacrifice (my addition: as a symbol not so different from the Christian tradition—the crucified Son of God) as a tribute, and without it would refuse to move through the sky. It is said that 20,000 people were sacrificed each year to Tonatiuh and other gods, though this number is thought to be inflated either by the Aztecs, who wanted to inspire fear in their enemies, or the colonizing Spaniards, who wanted to vilify the Aztecs—the latter were fascinated by the sun and carefully observed it, and had a solar calendar similar to that of the Maya. Many of today’s remaining Aztec monuments have structures aligned with the sun.”

“A common belief across the Mesoamerican region is that a dog carries the newly deceased across a body of water in the afterlife. Dogs appear in underworld scenes painted on Maya pottery dating to the Classic Period and even earlier than this.  In the great Classic Period metropolis of Teotihuacan (outside of present-day Mexico City) 14 human bodies were deposited in a cave, most of them children, together with the bodies of three dogs to guide them on their path to the underworld.”

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The Xoloitzcuintli is a hairless dog from Mesoamerica. Archaeological evidence has been found in the tombs of the Colima, Mayan, Toltec, Zapotec, and the Aztec peoples dating the breed to over 3500 years ago. Long regarded as guardians and protectors, the indigenous peoples believed that the Xolo would safeguard the home from evil spirits as well as intruders. In ancient times the Xolos were often sacrificed and then buried with their owners to act as a guide to the soul on its journey to the underworld to the underworld. These dogs were considered a great delicacy, and were consumed for sacrificial ceremonies – including marriages and funerals.So far the excerpts from Wikipedia.

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This one is the size of a large mouse.

 

Most of the people here may not be aware of this long history of their dogs, but one thing remains: that there are many dogs and they roam everywhere, having the freedom to go wherever they go, unless of course, they are stuck on a roof, or behind a fence as guard dog and are barking their heads, off when they sense an intruder. They come in all sizes, shapes, and mixes. Recently there have been reports that somebody is intent to get rid of them and they are being poisoned. I fear this may be the beginning of the end of the freedom for dogs. My neighborhood dogs have for a good part disappeared. I saw that the four bigger dogs are kept at night behind a gate that used to be open at the end of my privada (private road), but now the gate is closed at night.

 

 

Posted in Babyboomer, Diversity issues, dogs, Global immigration, Mexican life, Relocation to mexico, Retirement, travel, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

UPDATE EASTER IN MEXICO


UPDATE EASTER IN MEXICO

Check back to see the video and photo updates.

 

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EASTER IN MEXICO


EASTER IN MEXICO

 

This website has a video of the betrayal of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, his trial and the crucifixion that happened today, Good Friday.

 

In the small village of Ajijic where I spend months at the time Easter is the most significant time for the locals. I try to catch most of it, in respect for the volunteers who spend the whole year preparing and rehearsing for the Passion Play, the PASSION DE CRISTO.

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This is the time of the Jacaranda trees in bloom as if the colour purple mimicks the mourning of Good Friday.

 

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My street at sunrise, after the decorations were hung by the residents of the street the night before—a communal effort with everybody out in the street “helping” the young men with ladders and commenting, visiting and having fun.

 

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The neighborhood community spent cleaning the street in the morning and remove old cars. This is the cleanest it will be for that year. Not an empty pop bottle or garden refuse to be seen, no non-recyclable food containers or plastic cups on the street! That is a miracle in itself, and it gives me the confidence that one day it will last longer than a few hours. The reputation of the barrio is the issue! I live on the edge of the Mexican poor section and the rich section (La Salvias). I can walk to my house from the town core and feel very protected, as most know that “gringa” by now. If I go home from the other side, from the rich neighborhood, everything is silent, nobody walks in the street, all are behind their fortifications en barbed-wire-topped walls. I love my barrio.

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The character Jesus (wearing a blood-stained mantel) is temporarily relieved from bearing the cross by a helper walking next to him  (ahead of the two other characters with rough-shaped crosses). He is also wearing a crown of (real 1-inch) thorns. As the procession is very quiet, I missed the arrival on my street in front of my casa, and wasn’t ready with my camera to catch Jesus. The U-tube video shows it well.

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The victims of the execution are guarded by the Roman guards, after which the clergy–the Pharisees–follow to witness the proceedings. They are then followed by the commoners, followers of the rebel Jesus and his mother, and the usual rabble present at such occasions.

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This the entry, turn right into my street Angel Flores. Some of the guys were willing to be in the photos as they probably had a good part in hanging the decorations.  The decorations were made communally in a working bee in the old days, and were made by a contractor this year, and paid for by the locals themselves. I walked through the streets afterward to enjoy the decor and the cleanliness of the streets.

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Most Mexicans are members of the Roman Catholic church, although their belief is a mix of modern Christian themes with old beliefs—Aztec and older. The RC church leaders have accepted those blended beliefs and this has made the church a lively and enduring force in the life of the Mexicans. The indigenous Virgin of Guadalupe is a brown Maria and is revered as the Queen of Mexico, as well as accepted, and a stand-in for Mother Earth/the Goddess in other central and south-American nations.
I am a non-believer, but respect and enjoy the integration of spiritual beliefs with the everyday life that I see around me. For the first time, I will be witnessing the procession to the hill—that doubles as the Garden of Gethsemane e and also as the executioner’s hill: Golgotha—from my own casa, as the actors and the followers will go through my street. I will collect a number of photographs and add those later to this piece.

This is a short video I took of the lovely movement of the very thin paper street decorations. NB: Unfortunately, WordPress doesn’t allow me to download it.

BOOK REVIEW

The Easter story is that of a small country (the tribes of Israel/Palestine) under a foreign occupation (Egypt) in which the occupier suppressed the natives’ religion and imposed its own laws.
The locals’ religion meant a significant identifier for the population and they adhered strongly to their beliefs. Then a turn of events during the occupation took place that had a long-lasting effect on the whole world:
A blaspheming unusual local Jewish man came along and upset the applecart, preaching a new world and a new way of seeing things, attracting many followers. He was making the religious elite (Pharisees) fear for their position as the leadership, including loss of the wealth they obtained from being at the top.

The religious leadership conspired and set a trap for the preacher man Jesus, and had him arrested, led him before the occupying governor, and pushed for his condemnation as a rebel. They got their wish and the man was sentenced to death. In his death, he became the martyr for his followers. This was the start of Christianity (his second name, Christ). Some believe he was resurrected from the dead to inspire his followers. He is still acknowledged as a prophet in several other religions, such as the Jewish and the Muslim religions. So far the Easter story.

This is a work of fiction inspired by true events. The book is called The Bible.
============================================================================

The piece below is copied from the previous online publication in the Ajijic News from the reporter Micki Wendt.

In a Catholic culture, the time between Ash Wednesday (the day after Carnaval) and Easter is a more solemn and quiet time of reflection and prayer, known as Lent, which leads up to Holy Week, or Semana Santa. The San Andres church puts on a notable production of the Passion Play, which commemorates the events leading up to the Crucifixion of Jesus, each year. The actors who portray Jesus, his followers, the Romans, and other Biblical and historical characters, will be rehearsing for this event during this time. Please have respect for this season.

Holy Week starts Sunday, March 25th, Palm Sunday, with a small preview of the Passion Play as the scene of Jesus riding the donkey into town will be re-enacted with a large procession between 6 Corners and the San Andres church, past the plaza at 6:30pm. The street will be strewn with alfalfa (rather than palm fronds) and bougainvillea petals to honor the coming of Jesus. Please respect the tradition and do not walk on these special devotional decorations.

That day will also feature a fund-raising food fiesta in the plaza where you can buy unique fiesta foods, including the wonderful ponche de guayaba, and have a lovely, early dinner in the plaza before the lovely outdoor, sunset Mass at 7pm at the San Andres Church, if you like. There will be seating for around 1000 people.

Thursday evening. Maudy Thursday, March 29th the Passion Play will feature scenes of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, staged in upper Ajijic in the hills at Calle Tempisque. There is no seating, only standing room. The Roman soldiers will come and take the Jesus character away, and a torch-lit procession proceeds down to the chapel in Ajijic, via Calle Emiliano Zapata to Colon, for the final scenes that night.

The biggest day of the Passion Play is Good Friday on March 30th, at 11am, where there will be a huge crowd at the Church for the final trial of Jesus and the procession leading up to the Crucifixion of Jesus through upper Ajijic via Calles Parroquia, Hidalgo, Juarez, Angel Flores, hasta el pie del cerro. Returning via Calle Emiliano Zapata, Colon, Parroquia to the interior of the church.The next 24 hours are a solemn time for observant Christians, which is most of the village, so please respect this tradition.

Saturday night, the 31st, there will be a late Mass and Easter service at 8pm, which features a beautiful Resurrection Scene. At the end of the Mass, there will be pealing church bells, fireworks and celebrating both in the Plaza and at family homes. In True Mexican Tradition, the Big Day is really the night before, like Christmas, and Sunday will be a quiet day of rest for most of the people, many of whom will continue with their vacation break for the next week.

Easter on April 1st begins the exodus of the northern seasonal visitors, as the weather heats up and things calm down, and we full-time residents look forward to the refreshing coolness and tranquility of the upcoming rainy season.

I never fail to be awed by the love, devotion, and creativity put into all these fiestas, which are an essential part of Mexican culture, unseen by most of the foreign visitors. Please come out and enjoy these rich and enjoyable events that are so meaningful on so many levels. The spirit of fun is off the Richter Scale here in Mexico.

Submissions by Micki Wendt — Edited and updated by Ajijic News

Copyright 2018, AjijicNews.com

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I couldn’t possibly write a better piece than Micki.

For now: HAPPY EASTER to everyone who reads this.

Posted in Author circles, book review, Creative fiction, Diversity issues, EASTER celebrations, Immigration, International politics, latest news items, Mexican life, religion, Relocation to mexico, Retirement, righteousness, The truth, Uncategorized, war and resistance, world issues | Leave a comment

The Joseph Boyden Affair and the San Miguel Writers Conference.


The Joseph Boyden Affair and the San Miguel Writers Conference

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I just came back from the San Miguel de Allende writers conference in Mexico that the local writers group organized for the thirteenth year. As I was deeply affected by events, I want to write about it and let others have a peek into this experience.
The first time I attended—last year—I carefully dipped one toe in the water of this ocean of creative talent and their admirers in this balmy enclave of predominantly Anglo attendants, and only picked a small number of events to attend. This year, I selected all the workshops, forums, readings, and presentations I was interested in, and also spoke with two literary agents to test their interest in my latest novel.

I had purchased books by the authors of my interest in advance, Joseph Boyden and Emma Donoghue—both Canadians—who were scheduled, among others, to give evening keynote addresses—generally the highlight of the day. Unfortunately, Emma Donoghue cancelled due to a death in the family.

Prior to the conference week, the locals of San Miguel were offered a special event: a reading and discussion group on Joseph Boyden’s novel Through Black Spruce, with a reception and the opportunity to meet the author. I contacted the organizer of the event and inquired if there was any chance to participate on line, but that was not offered. I only planned for the conference week (costs being the main reason) and did not attend this event.
In tandem with this readers’ event, a second discussion about cultural appropriation and a movie presentation open to the general public took place. Angry Inuk by Canadian filmmaker Alethea Arnaquq-Baril’s would be shown, to bring awareness about another group of indigenous people to the local community and to aid in a discussion about how to survive & maintain cultural integrity within an encroaching western culture. I was alerted by my Twitter feed that the filmmaker Arnaquq-Baril was not informed of the showing and was not invited to be present at the discussion—a prime example of actual cultural appropriation: using a product of another culture for your own purpose, and not involving the maker.

Once arrived in SMA, I attended the multicultural forum, titled Co-Cultural panel: Our Cultures, Ourselves, with authors John Valliant, Rita Dove, Jorge Volpi, and Joseph Boyden on the panel. The questions asked by the moderator were to the point, but in my view rather superficial. In the Q&A minutes the public’s questions were gentle, except one Mexican reader, who charged that Volpe, as a Mexican author, did not write about Mexicans and the troubles in his country. On the question from a reader how the authors felt about writing about a culture that is different than their own, each author’s answered that they felt not part of one particular culture, but of at least two, or more, and that they could write about the various cultures they had experienced by living for a number of years submerged in it, even if not born into it. Boyden literally addressed the elephant in the room and mentioned he would talk about that later in more detail.

Joseph Boyden gave his keynote presentation on the second-last night of the conference, titled: “Creation Myth: One Writer’s Life in Three Simple Steps”. He moved me to tears with his eloquence and his vulnerability. He had selected an excerpt of a story about his suicide attempt as a 16-year old for his readings—tearfully himself—and explained how he uses this story in his work with Indigenous youth, to encourage them to live. His explanations of his family of origin and his multi-ethnic background with predominantly Irish and Scottish heritage and some great-grandmotherly First Nation heritage, was the same he always has provided. He talked about his relationships with Indigenous people in his life and the honorary titles given to him, such as nephew.
He talked about the struggles he has faced in the literary world lately, without going into details what exactly that was about, assuming he was before an informed audience. His defiance was clear to his listeners, as well as his obvious pain, and how unexpected the attacks on him had been to him. It was clear to me that this wounding has led him into a crisis of faith in himself and in the literary world, which is already so very small in Canada; a writer needs every possible supporter.
Boyden obviously is strongly identifying with our Indigenous population, whether sanctioned by the literary community or not. He expressed great compassion for the members of First Nations. He wanted to show his audience the troubles Canada faces—to our shame—and has allowed to linger on, such as the suicide rates among the Indigenous youth, and the murders on women and girls.
He talked about his friend Gord Downie and what his collaboration on the Charlie Wenjack story meant to him. For those who followed Gord’s “Three Day Road” in his last year before the brain tumor got him, the images of Gord and “The Hip” on their goodbye tour as televised by CBC flashed before our eyes. I imagined that, like me, by the end of his address most Canadians in the ballroom were moved to tears, and many others as well.

I am a beginning writer and have reflected on how I must deal with the issue of Boyden’s fall from grace in the Canadian world of writers. I am conflicted and would like to restore my faith in the literary world, for my own sake. To say you need a thick skin is an understatement. As a writer one would need a blindfold and a mask, as well as a clip on your nose against the bad smells, and tiptoe through the world of appropriateness. One mistake and you crash in the fiery pit of condemnation.

Cultural appropriation is an ugly concept and projects a picture of colonialism and exploitation. On the other hand, the development of what is appropriate to write about changes as society changes. What was allowed a century ago, is not anymore. To be an Indian was not a desired status. Nobody wanted to write about Indigenous characters. First Nations’ writers were considered niche writers and didn’t reach the mainstream readers. They were not interesting, not relevant, and white Anglo-Saxon culture was king. Thirty years ago when I lived in northern Alberta, it broke my heart to hear my fellow student say he was ashamed of being an Indian. My classmates showed me they had an uphill battle being taken seriously by mainstream Canadians on all fronts.

Boyden touched on the sore spot in Canadian society by talking about First Nations—Canada’s true founding fathers. I want to give Boyden credit for taking on the subject and for exposing the underbelly of our society: Canada’s treatment of our First Nations. I can forgive him for over-identifying with the subject. Unfortunately, the cultural appropriation issue came alive and it overshadowed the material issues he wrote about.
“I feel like I am standing at the precipice,” he joked, standing on the steps of a sunken living room, prior to facing the discussion group. He is indeed. How is he going to pick up the pieces, and will Canada let him?
Does Boyden even need the approval of the Canadian literary world? I don’t blame him for seeking support for his writing wherever he can find it, even at this weird and unique conference of (mostly) retired “gringos” in Mexico. His books are marvellous and his intentions are good. What more do we want from a writer? I am looking forward to his next novel.

Posted in Agents, Author circles, book review, Canadian publishers, Children and child protection, Diversity issues, latest news items, Mexican life, Pubic Relations, Publishing, Retirement, Uncategorized, victims, woemn and murder, women's issues; torture of women, Writing life | Tagged | 6 Comments