Archive for the ‘Mexico’ Category

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November 24, 2014

Hello my darling one

 

How are you?

I am tired and content and in a charmingly lit cafe in Roma Norte, Mexico City.

I am swimming in my large and swanky armchair, a glass of red sits before me and there is busy chatter all about me.
Aaahh, good times.
Hello.
It has been some time, has it not?  Perhaps not thaaaat long in real time, but I feel like I haven’t put my fingers on a keyboard for decades.It was recently Day of the Dead here and I spent the day in Mixcoac Cemetery.  It is one of the largest in the city and was so very cool that I will never again view a cemetery the same.

Hundreds of people were scrubbing tombs clean, raking the old soil, erecting fresh flower beds and leaving offerings for their dead.

 

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Mariachi bands played sad songs for families who picnicked by graves.

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I saw one woman crying but mostly everyone seemed just delighted to be hanging out with the old crew. It seemed a true celebration of death and I loved it. Apparently, in the towns of Oaxaca and Michaocan they dine upon the graves during the night where the candle displays must be enchanting.

I bought a great big bunch of marigolds and placed single stems on the most neglected and grim-looking graves.

I have seen ofrendas all over town; altars and offerings for the dead.

 

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I visited the Dolores Olmedo Museum for their annual “ofrenda”.

Here is the butcher, the hairdresser and the shoe shiner.

 

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Dolores was loaded and a super fan of Diego, Frida and a strange breed of dog called a Xoloitzcuintle which has no hair and is almost extinct.  I actually mistook these odd-looking hounds for statues till one barked at me.  You might have seen them in one of Frida’s paintings.

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Image courtesy pbase.com

 

Today I visited the Tenochtitlan Pyramids which are just an hour away and are truly awesome.  I spent hours out there strolling cluelessly around collecting audio snippets from the occasional tour guide and climbing up and down deep, steep steps.

 

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I first visited them in 2001.

I had planned to live here with my lover but we broke up instead and I carried on home for Christmas.

While Mexico City is undoubtedly magnificent, I couldn’t live here long as the pollution gives me a permanent headache and a dripping left nostril.  Bodies will adapt but I’d rather mine didn’t.

Tomorrow I will leave on the red-eye for another city famed for its terrible pollution, Santiago de Chile.   Three days after landing there in 1999 I lost my voice for the first time, and by mid morning the Andes disappear behind the smog.

So…Cuba eh?  I believe the last time I wrote I was on my way.

It was beautiful, lively, friendly, crumbling, green.  So many mountains, so much sugar, such delicious avocados.

 

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Hugo and I decided that it has everything going for it as far as a holiday destination is concerned.

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Coffee

 

 

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Travelling with a gay Englishman about to embark upon another London winter had us at the beach quickly and regularly.

I rarely elect the beach but I almost found it relaxing.  All that lying flat, with all that sand.  The water was that exquisite Caribbean blue you don’t quite believe till you see it, and the temperature divine. I knocked back three books; one about the Cuban mafia in Havana which was fairly saucy.

It was hard in Havana to escape conversation, to the point that it drove us a little barmy.  So barmy in fact that when we returned Hugo turned us into Russians having spent 6 months in Moscow so could slip some words in while I kept dead quiet.  “Where are you from? Where are you from?” does get tiresome after the 67th time. “Niet, niet”.

Three women just turned up to this restaurant wearing fake fur.  It is cold but not that cold.

We scaled Cuba by bus and by car staying every night in the houses of Cuban locals.

We drank good rum in super sugary cocktails and chatted up the locals around the country usually steering clear of political opinions, both theirs and ours. Some people in Havana however, were particularly keen to tell us how hard they had it.  And they certainly do look undernourished.  Thank god for the cucumber and the avocado.

We swam under waterfalls with hummingbirds and woodpeckers.

Every second person was a doctor.

The toothbrushes and guitar strings were a hit though I wish I’d had some usb memory sticks for them.

Our favourite province was Granma, named after the boat that Fidel and his mates snuck in on from Mexico. The previous owner was an American chap who named it after Granny.

Sweet and proud Jose led us through the swampy Parque Nacional Desembarco de Granma (Granny’s National Park of the Disembarcation) where the revolutionaries had once hacked their way through.

 

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We walked through the Gran Sierra Mountains to their old treehouse hideouts in the Comandancia de la Plata,  and up to the site of the Radio Rebelde without which there’d have been no revolution.  It felt quite extraordinary and I felt very privileged hiking amongst it.

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Image courtesy alternativacuba-cast.blogspot.com

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To die for patriotism is to live

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Socialism or Death

 

 

We also loved the music capital Santiago de Cuba where I gave my drippy salsa a run for its money.  It was a chilled out Havana.

 

A man at the table with the furs just started to talk about Burning Man.

“Se llama Black Rock City. Es una locura.”

There is a man standing on the footpath here selling stuffed bears. Everyone seems to be street selling here in Mexico.

I know my photography is just awful, but if you look closely, these below are both Cuban butchers.

 

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Tea was tricky to come by so I took up coffee again (3 teaspoons a day) and on my final day I found this cafe in Havana which boasted tea.  It took her 10 minutes to brew it and then she threw in loads of sugar without asking. Yuck, but what are you going to do?

 

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Mexico is currently in great distress because 43 protesting students were last seen being pushed into vans up in the northern town Iguala, and the search continues for their bodies. It dominates almost every conversation and people continue to march while they keep stumbling upon mass graves of other people.  Apparently the town mayor gave the word for them to disappear so that they wouldn’t interrupt his wife’s speech and the crooked pair were found hiding out in Mexico City just this morning.

It is not a happy tale to end on, sorry.

I know I owe you about the desert in San Luis Potosi.  I’ll get there, I promise. There must be other tales I am forgetting to tell you too.

I am home to Sydney soon, with just a night in Valparaiso and five more back in Buenos Aires where I’ll put the doggie Monalisa on a plane.

 

All my love to you

k xxo

 

p.s.  a few hours later…..

I approached that table as I left the restaurant…”sorry to interrupt, but I couldn’t help hearing you say something about Burning Man??…”

He hadn’t been but is desperate to and we are all now Facebook friends.  The three women are from Mexicali in Baja California which they all agreed is probably the most awful town in Mexico but with the friendliest people. The chap somehow ended up there a decade earlier where he met his fur clad mates while lost in the street.

He is an artist and has invited me to Cuernavaca tomorrow; “the land of eternal spring,” saying the drive past 18 volcanoes is worth the journey alone. My flight isn’t till midnight, so why not?

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Mexico

October 13, 2014

Darling You

How’s it going?

I am just fine and wanting to catch you up before I head off to Cuba tomorrow.

Cubamera has been cancelled. They are quite devastated but they had to pull the plug due to insufficient funding. I too would be shattered considering I returned to the Americas from Scotland to hang around for it but, just a week before I heard the news, I sent an email to Hugo in London saying “come to Cuba.” He is. Just too sensational. We meet in Havana tomorrow. Wicked wicked wicked.

Mexico has been good. I was all excited and tucked into street food on day one and knocked myself out onto the sofa with bad bellies for most of the week but other than that, Mexico has been colourful and kind and, once my courage returned, delicious. Chile, beans and corn, chile, beans and corn and grasshoppers.

Last week I snuck up to Real de Catorce; once an important silver mine, and now a pretty colonial town creviced between large colourful hills. One must journey through the one very narrowly carved tunnel that only skinny, teeny buses can sneak through too.

All the locals say I visited in absolutely the worst week of the year because it is pilgrimage week to celebrate a sighting of Francisco de Assisi way back when. I was told that “the magic this week is spread too thin” amongst the throngs of pilgrims and wasn’t able to sense its extreme tranquility or to see the architecture past all the street food and plastic junk stalls set up for the week. I did however catch whacky dancers with kinky feathered head gear, hung out with loads of young hippies from Mexico City selling their jewellery, had some good, long, cactus laden walks and several fine siestas in thunderous storms.

After a few nights in the charming Refugio Romania run by ex Italian Basketball champion and his grumpy Mexican wife, I moved in with Simone di Bologna.

Simone is an interesting cat, let there be no doubt, and he was the one contact I’d been given; via Riccardo, who put me in touch Andrea, who put me in touch Eduardo, who put me in touch with Simone.

His home is a little out of town yet all night and all day we could still hear banging drums, squeaky violins, and the voices of the thousands walking in to town to ‘feel’ Francisco.

Simone was really really naughty once upon a time (though he assures me he never killed anyone) but I can’t talk about it on the internet. A naughty naughty Italiano though. He has been in Mexico for over 20 years ago, is 45 and was top waiter at Bologna’s swankiest hotel at the age of 18. He said he’d be Bono’s waiter, and the star would call management to say “he must go to the concert, that is his work today.” He is well into the indigenous culture and spends his days in his workshop ‘Tipi’ by the one plaza where he carves leather into bags, belts and shoes. He also has a teepee on his land, misses Japan, hand grinds his coffee each morning, won’t touch Mexican street food, and once turned into the town vet with gruesome tales of diseased donkeys to share.

One morning we set off together in the dark, with his three hounds, to climb the Cerro Quemada (the Burnt Summit) so that he could sing to the Gods’ to ask permission for me to eat peyote. It is a very important and sacred place that many travel far and wide to stand on.

In the dark I took the wrong bridge to his place and was rescued by Maria del Refugio who called out across the valley to his house. It seemed absurd but his lights were on and after a few attempts he called back and we met up the way. Every morning she puts her 12 year old son on the school bus at 5.30 having decided to send him to a larger school out of town because he had stopped communicating after his father went to work the mines. She was an angel.

Up on the Cerro Quemada Simone explained that it is where a band of blue deer decided it was time to lift the dark veil on earth and give birth to the sun. We both lit candles and Simone placed a bunch of maize as and asked for a good harvest.

Halfway up he had offered me some peyote. It was a small amount and we nibbled more for medicine’s sake and open the gates to the Gods. He sang two songs to the four winds (he has permission to sing just two) and that night we lit a fire in his tipi beside his house and he sang again.

I didn’t really come here for peyote. I came here because 3 times I said Mexico and three times people suggested Real De 14; named that because 14 Spaniards were slaughtered there and thus become the Royal 14. There is ‘Estación 14’ nearby as well as ‘Real’ which is confusing.

While I was not terribly fussed about whether I sampled more peyote or not (a cactus if you have no idea what I am talking about) I had taken Eduardo’s advice to go to the desert town Wadley and to ask for Don Tomas. Heading off solo into the desert to eat cactus sounds a little too experimental but off I went to Wadley where there was to be more fiesta.

By the way, one of the dogs, Rosita, didn’t make it back down the hill with us that morning. A puppy, part jack russell. While Simone said that he rather leaves a dog to its own devices and that she was free to roam should she wish to, she kept coming up in conversation and no doubt he would be very relieved to see her. Someone spotted her the following day down in the desert but she wouldn’t respond to the call of her name.

Back in the pueblo, hoards lined up to enter the church and touch a box with an awkward looking figure of San Francisco sitting inside. They would touch the glass or the wood and then wipe their faces with the same hand. So I did the same.

I sat in a pew for a second and all of a sudden hear this horrendous thump thump bang, and in come 20 Mexicans with their big feather boers and shiny shoes, dancing and banging drums and rattling the instrumental legwarmers they wear. It was quite something.

The sacred desert with the sacred cactus is called Wirikuta. I sat on top of a jeep (strangely called willys) holding on for dear life as it bumped its way slowly down the steep hill. Pretty great rollercoaster ride actually and I met Mocho, a very proud indigenous bloke and Francisco who’d been selling potions all week.

Mocho offered to read my I Ching (first time for me) and said I’d be welcome to stay the night. As the willy was to terminate just a few blocks from his house I jumped off thinking to head the 8kms to Wadley before sunset, but then his young friend Eber turned up with a mate and we three shared a room so we could listen to Mocho and his stories.

One story I remember is that as each baby is born the entire tribe wait outside the delivery room. The ‘jefe’ (boss) then holds the child up in front of everyone calling out its name. Mocho’s real name translates to “one who rises with the sun” and was just as long in his language as it is mine. Thus Mocho.

He is not the first person to tell me that Mexicans are very racist, and said he and his people are some of the worst offenders. He doesn’t much like walking around town either, explaining the people make him feel uncomfortable.

My bed that night at Mocho’s was easily the worst of the trip and I knocked back one ibuprofen and half a zanax so I could snooze between the two crusty blankets and forgot the existence of bedbugs.

He painted his paintings directly onto the the walls and there were many peyote references about. His beautiful dog was half golden labrador, half coyote and he said she was a tricky companion, except in the desert. So he never let her out and the place was pretty stinky as a result.

He approved of my singing ceremony with Simone.

Eber was a charming flirt and it took me a couple of hours to realise he had only one arm. 15 years ago he’d lost it in a factory accident and was so capable without it I even felt out of line offering to help cut the garlic. He said he had covered and he really did. Eber and I and his mate Juan travelled on to Wadley together the following morning, which was super lucky for me for he knew the land well and knocked on several signless doors searching both bed and food for us three. Peyote had cured his depression.

As for Mexico, I seem to know more gay boys here than in other city in the world, perhaps even including Sydney. 15 years ago I visited for the first time, having just broken up with Fiddy. We’d planned to move here together but his cheap ticket wasn’t honoured after 9/11 and, as we called it a day in Bolivia, I came here solo. Landing in tears and into the arms of my one Mexican mate Guillermo it was hugs, tequilas and gay boys.

This time I am staying with Riccardo who also has a large group of delicious men for me to hang out with. He is the brother of Francesca, who you may remember from a few letters back, and is as equally marvellous as she. He has a cheeky grin, sports a Daliesque twist to his moustache and is talking of heading to Sierra Leone to help with the Ebola crisis for he works with Oxfam. Francesca and their mother have threatened to never speak to him again.

We had all planned to go on a Porn Tour but it was cancelled at the last minute. Apparently the cinemas had some ‘issues’ and I’m not surprised. If I was sitting watching porn in a dark cinema I don’t think I’d be dead keen for a tour to watch me watching. There would have been a second chick to keep me company.

I spent some hours in the anthropology museum which is so great I will try to slip back in before I depart Mexico next month.

I’ve been to the theatre with them all a couple of times, and understood most of it, kind of.
One play we saw turned into karaoke. I sang my usual, Goldfinger. It only lets me down in the last three lines.. a very high pitched ¨he loves gold, he loves gold, he loves goooooold!¨ As it is usually a few years between and I forget each time. I may have to change my song.

Riccardo now realises the handiness of having one “up your sleeve” and is likely to pull out ‘Volare’ from her on in.

Last night we went to micro theatre, which I just adore. 15 minute plays so you can see a few, in teeny intimate theatres, and I couldn’t help wondering if Sydney could pull it off. Maybe it already exists. I’ll be sure to check in to that hen I get home, and I heard that a Fringe Festival has begun since I’ve been away. Go Sydney!

Hugo and I are invited to a party at a musician’s house on the weekend in Havana and my bag is full of guitar strings and toothbrushes.

I´ll have to catch you up on the desert later…must fly.

lots and lots of love to you

k x

p.s Forgive the photoless world I seem to have fallen into…. something has gone skewiff

I am trying to put some in but they jump to the bottom here and all I see are letters on this telephone screen…

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