I just want to be understood

Please pardon my silence the last couple weeks. I have been traveling and exploring and either had an unreliable Internet connection or no energy to write. Let me catch  you up on the highlights.

Having been in Mexico, pretty much “en todo espanol” (total Spanish) for a month, it was time to give my brain a break. Though I can speak a little Spanish — more all the time, I just wanted to truly be understood for a change.

Friends in  Cuernavaca, Mexico

Bob and Kathy

So I boarded a bus to Cuernavaca (the city of eternal spring) somewhat South and West of Mexico City where I stayed with Bob and Kathy, a lovely Witness couple from Colorado, who shared their home, the challenges and joys of retiring in Mexico and their fabulous, gluten free brownies (and recipe) with me.

Cuernavaca, about 45 minutes from Mexico City has become almost a bedroom community, definitely a weekend retreat from the noise, pollution, and crime of the BIG city up the road. Mexico City residents also come for the cooler temperatures and after the big earthquake a few years ago, a sense of safety. What was once a naturally air-conditioned weekend get-away or a mecca for Americans wanting to learn Spanish, is now a sprawling megalopolis of its own filled with all the trappings of both Mexican and American life (Walmart or Costco anyone?).

Like most Mexican towns, the city fans out from the zocolo, this time instead of being dominated by the church though, it is bordered by the Palace of Cortez, itself a sprawling 1500s structure that now houses a museum, and a municipal building almost as large.

The zocolo itself is simply a stone plaza with a few benches and trees around it. As typical, artisaninas (crafts people) and food vendors of every description hawk their wares and try to get a few pesos out of you. On weekends you might be treated to a clown performing loudly in this open space, or the opposite, a mute floating angel.

There is a lovely artisans market next to the palace with some nice Mexican souvenir options, but to me the most interesting and lovely sight can be found in the “little zocolo” to the side of the main one, where a kiosk (gazebo) designed by Gustave Eiffel (of Eiffel Tower fame) and carried to this location in pieces by mule, adds a bit of early 19th century whimsy and grandeur.

The city is built on a succession of barrancas , steep ravines which help to channel water (abundant here) and cool the climate. A highlight is Salto de San Anton, a waterfall, near the center of town, that cascades about 150 feet into a pool exposing some pretty cool rock formations in the process. I am not sure if it was that we were there on a weekday or some other  reason but we were not allowed to walk either the path that goes under the falls or over the top. As we walked along the street looking for a view from the top, a nursery owner who uses the cool moisture of the falls to benefit his plants, allowed us to come into his garden for a peek. Not the best view of the falls but to be allowed to walk around his garden area was muy magnifico, like a small botanical garden.  Actually their are many plant growers and sellers here and the street was filled with green and flowering plants of all kinds. And imagine it is only mid-January!!! Back home the seed catalogs have not even arrived yet.

Bob and Kathy live at the end of one of the barrancas (or I think it was a small one). They rent a cute little Mexican cottage, likely built in the 40s or early 50s as income property (housing Spanish language students), in a garden setting that is sunny, yet cool and quiet  (a nice escape from the big city out the gate and down the street a few blocks. The cottage has been added onto a few times as every room and even the middle of some rooms go up or down a step or two. Very quaint and cozy though.

Throne room

I especially liked the guest 1/2 bath — a true “throne room” — just watch your head when you rise your majesty, the ceiling rafters are only about 4 1/2 feet above the throne!

I am afraid I asked a million questions and probably talked their ear off but it was so nice to be truly understood.

Break time, Cuernavaca service group

Break time, Cuernavaca service group


Zocolo at night, Taxco, MexicoThe Zocolo is the center of activity in most Mexican towns and Taxco is no different. There is usually a landscaped, park in the center, with flowers, trees, shrubbery, benches to sit upon, and a “kiosk” (bandstand) for musical and other presentations on special occasions. There is a casual, relaxed fiesta atmosphere about the place — vendors sell popcorn and candy, blow up toys and Mylar balloons; there are artisans selling watercolors, indigenous peoples selling sombreros (hats), colorful baskets, painted leather or pottery, embroidered clothing, and  the ever present street urchins with their packs of Chicklets. Of course, a Zocolo would not be complete without a shoeshine chair on every corner. They do a brisk business, too. Mexicans love shiny shoes.

You might find many of these things or their equivalent in almost any larger American city. Madison, Chicago, Austin, Boston, Manhatten, Brooklyn, all seem to have their version, whether in the city center or a central park of some sort. However, only in Mexico will  you find a true Mariachi band.

You can tell the Mariachi (the most distinguished of street musicians) from the rest of the bands by their black suits, red ties, and shiny silver buttons and chains adorning their jackets and pant legs. There are usually about 7 in the group — several violins, a viola, a couple guitars (one a bass), and a trumpet or two. They tend to gather at the Zocolo on weekends and in the early evening when people are strolling about, warming up, practicing riffs of new songs, and generally waiting for some lucky woman to come along whose escort treats her to a performance. After the negotiations over price, the band gets off their park bench, and with great aplomb seats the couple and gathers around to serenade her. One song turns into another and then another — like true musicians everywhere, they love to practice their craft.

I recorded video of one song, however I cannot seem to upload it to Youtube in a timely manner so you will have to be satisfied with pictures for now. If I do not figure it out and post it later, when you see me, ask to see the video. It is truly a treat.