Friday, July 28, 2017

The San Miguel Mask Museum

One of the most extraordinary places to visit in San Miguel is the Mask Museum.  It's owned by a mask collector and the host of a B&B and a former ad man.  Bill's wife, Heidi, is an artist and runs a studio where folk art is displayed and sold.  Bill has collected these masks over 26 years and has paid for each and every one, nearly a thousand.  Bill, during our tour, stressed he never bought masks that were expressly made for sale, only masks that had been used and retired from duty.  His oldest mask is estimated to be 200 years old and the remainder of the masks are around a hundred years old, give or take fifty.  The masks are almost all carved from wood, generally one piece.  Paint, pig bristles, feathers, sheep's fleece, horsehair, cow tails and other organic materials are incorporated as needed. Here's a link to the website;  Visit it and the museum if you are within a thousand miles of San Miguel.  Now, without further ado, here are some photos.  Please understand, I have nothing intelligent to say about the masks, other than they are beautiful and fascinating.

 The groom.
 The bride.

 "Gotta see a dermatologist about this mole, but only after a visit to the dentist."

 Beautiful carving work and nicely painted.

   Bill wouldn't allow photos of the actual masks in the museum itself, but all of the others were fair game, and I might;t add, for sale.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Antiquedades For Sale

Yesterday included a visit to several antique vendors.  This particular one had some of everything as you will see.  I won't comment on all of the photos because, again, as you will see, some defy commentary.  Or.........don't ask me, I'm just the photographer.

Bad place for cows I guess.

My thinking is that this is a sign that once hung in a Mexican beauty parlour judgeing by the terms, which I think are all hair treatments.  Anybody agree or disagree?

I asked about this ring of corncobs and the explanation is, as I pieced it together, it's some kind of corn grinding system.  The corncobs are shaved with a sharp blade and are subsequently ground into corn flour for tortillas.  Cob, kernels, the whole works apparently goes into flour.  The surface is flat on one side, rather bumpy on the other side.

 Yikes.  Run for your lives.

 The owners had several if not several dozen stone, carved sinks and water storage vessels.  All but a few were full of water from recent rains, and the water had been there long enough to have mosquito larvae floating on the surface.  Stagnant water and mosquitoes go together like peanut butter and crackers.

I picked up one of these bottles to examine it, and lo and behold, it was also part of the mosquito breeding project. And woodworm preservation too, it appears.

Furniture Makers

 We drove by a furniture maker yesterday, actually there were two of them side by side, and we decided to drop in and look around.  The table above, we were told, was for a church.  I couldn't quite understand what the hole in the table top was for except that something made of stone was to sit there.  Holy water vessel?  Artifact?  A carved Jesus?  Who knows?  Our Spanish is pretty good (like our French) when it comes to a bar or restaurant, but not here.  The hammer was well lused and had a taped up handle.  I've owed hammers like that, and the tape is not a good sign for the future of the hammer.

 One of their creations sitting ouside in the weather.

 The workshop had numerous items in progress.  You can see the table, a bench which has beautiful hand carved decoration (perhaps also destined for the church), a bed (probably not for the church) and several kinds of cabinets in progress.

 A detail of the bench's hand carved leg.  Man, they just don't make 'em like this anymore.

 Here's their competitor next door.  They have a table in the works also. They seemed to be more involved in repairing and refurbishing older furniture that had seen better days.  I was more intrigued with the old, faded lettering on the adobe wall.  "Builders of furniture of a rustic nature.  Kitchens, doors and windows."

Wampy or the Horrible Life of Mexican Dogs

We made a visit to an antiques dealer yesterday, who used three Dobermans as night duty guards.  Outside the fence was a dog house and I was unsure whether it was for sale or not.  The antiques themselves were in quite a disarray so it was not out of line to be confused.

The Dobermans were on the inside of the grounds, on chains and in cages.  They didn't like Fergus at all.  But...back to the beginning.  I had noticed the dog house had a name, "Wampy", painted on the outside and I wondered briefly whether it was a misspelling of Wimpy. What did it mean?

"Welcome" and "Come in" are painted on the colorful wall.  As I was leaving I decided to take a picture of the large grinding wheel.  I am going to assume it was once used in corn flour mill to grind dried corn, of which a lot is grown in these parts.  As I got closer what did I see but Wampy herself. (Not that I'm sure of the gender of the critter.  Just a feeling.)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Tuesday Mercado at San Miguel

I think the senoras are making gorditas, but I'm not sure.  Anybody know. The senoras we saw used their bare fingers to turn and remove the tortillas from the hot griddle.  Their fingers are so callused I'm sure they can't feel anything.

All kinds of good protein inside and outside a  cabeza de vaca.  Brains, meat on the cheeks, so on and so forth.  It's actually not my area of expertise.

Chicken feet.  We asked the vendor what they were called in Spanish and he said "Patas de pollo."  I would imagine that if you bought a number of these you could make quite the soup or broth.  Ask Julia Child.

Add a chicken head, cabeza de pollo, and you've got yourself a meal.  The vendor of the patas offered up this delicacy, I think, knowing we would grab our cameras and begin clicking away.  I'm absolutely positive we're not the first gringos to be enlightened this way.

The Mercado was fascinating.  Mobile restaurants, mobile hardware stores, vegetable vendors and lots of other types of things, used and new.  But certainly the most numerous and well-attended booths were used clothing.  Great piles were examined piece by piece and rejected or selected. I have to think that most of the clothing was used and donated to Goodwill or the like and so much of it ends up in Mexico.  The first time I came to Mexico, in 1965 or '66, all the rural Mexicans wore the traditional white cotton garments.  Now it's t-shirts with "Led Zepplen" silk screened on it and a pair of jeans.   

Careful with the Train

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

As I Promised, Interior Photos

A Visit to a Place I Can't Pronounce - Atotonilco

Tacos, empanadas, burritos, chicken salad.  What's cooking?  I'm not sure.

Peppers, perhaps frijoles in the clay pot staying warm on the wood fire.

The fiesta was entering it's third and probably final day.  It was before lunch and not too long after breakfast and people, the few up that early including two gringos, wandered around looking at the aftereffects of the day before.  This senora was dishing up tacos of some kind.  Her cooking devices were as you see above.  One was propane fired.  The other was wood fired, and as I was taking a picture the smoke curled up into my face.

I took a lot of pictures of the amount of trash left in the street.  I decided not to use them.  Partly because the photos seemed to diminish the litter, and partly because it was slowly being swept up, and lastly it seemed to be unfair criticism.  Where in the US we'd send a street sweeper; ten wheels, chugging diesel engine, swirling brushes, three for four passes and it's all done.  In Mexico it's one lonely guy with an old broom and the whole day ahead of him.  With job security.

Three guys were killing time before the hordes showed up. They were playing with what we think were Spanish playing cards.  Costumes on the kings, queens and jacks suggested medieval royalty. They were gambling with peso coins stacked up in small piles. Judging by their seating, they weren't in the game for the long haul.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Mexican Man Builds Beautiful Wall with Beautiful Door

We ran across this gentleman building a wall outside of San Miguel.  It was beautiful, and excellent work.  But judging by his lack of friendliness, I think it was a wall to keep North Americans out of San Miguel. And I can't say I blame him one bit. 

We went into central San Miguel, the beautiful historic portion (Centro) to take care of some business with the Colorado Dept. of Revenue from 2012.  We needed to print out some documents and send them off to Denver. So we went to an office services business....think Mailboxes Etc.  If a person wanted to meet Americans you could do no better than hang out at La Connexcion for a few hours.  People were receiving their mail, sending faxes, wiring money, using the computers and the internet, and they were all Americans or perhaps Canadians. And they were all white, in their sixties and climbing. (Like us.)

This business of being a resort town, a very attractive resort town, has it's ups and downs.  The rich Anglos (and Mexicans from Mexico D.F.) buying up the nice properties, are goosing the economy and providing work for everyone.  But sleepy San Miguel is no more.  People are everywhere, and it is said 10% are North Americans.  Diesel smog, taxis, busses, work crews, maids, vendors, scooters, bicycles, four-wheelers, all converge on Centro and it's a madhouse. When we visited seven years ago we could not have predicted the growth and it's been going on since a little after WWII.  What's not to like?  It's a beautiful, colonial town, with nice cool weather year round, or eternal springtime, as they like to say. So it is better than being in a oil boomtown in North Dakota.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

From our Photo Files

A waiter, waiting for the lunch rush to begin.  In San Miguel de Allende on the Plaza Jardin.
 A nice lady eating an elote because I asked her to take a bite for my camera.  An elote is corn on the cob, roasted on a grill, salted and buttered and served on a stick. This was in Dolores Hidalgo today.  Dolores Hidalgo is the birthplace of the Mexican War of Independence in 1821, and there are numerous statues of the participants, chief among them, Benito Juarez and Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, fathers of the movement.

Here is the elote stall with the vendors preparing their product.  Pretty simple.