Thursday, August 31, 2017

Rainy Day. What to do?

That's easy.  Go back to the mummy museum. 

Nothing like this exists, at least as far as I know, anywhere else.  I am aware of mummies in Egypt, the Ice Man in Bolzano, Italy and some Incan mummies in Peru. And are they on display in glass cases?  These mummies, however, are rather recent dating from around the turn of the century, 1900 that is.  Remember that these mummies were totally unintentional because the "dry" air and certain substances in the soil that delayed decomposition.  They were removed because no one had paid the "rent" on the burial space which were mausoleum vaults.  Only a few were in a casket and placed in the ground.  So it's all very confusing to me.  Why are they so well preserved if they weren't in the soil and the air is not so very dry?

 This lady's feet are tied together with twine and her stockings are down around her ankles.  I have to guess that the stockings were in place on her upper legs upon burial and ended up there when she was stood up for display.  I can't guess what the twine is doing there, except holding her feet together so her legs aren't splayed and hold her up, but it must have been added later.

This gentleman had a full beard that is still present.  He's in remarkably good shape for a dead man.

 Since there is no one present at the museum to ask questions of, I am forced to guess why this fellow is wearing underwear.  And remarkably well preserved underwear it is. Other mummies are totally devoid of clothes and I can only assume what was left of their final attire fell to the ground in tatters as they were moved out of their burial chambers. But this guy is wearing a pair of undershorts that except for the color, look pretty darn good.  I reckon that his genitals were so "lifelike" that the curators decided he needed some cover.  I just don't think they found him like this.  His original shorts would have been in tatters and if still present would have fallen to the ground.  You'd think I'd be wondering about more metaphysical matters rather than the state of his shorts, but I calls 'em as I sees 'em.

 One of the few mummies in a coffin was this 76 year old lady in a nightgown and stockings.  Lots of questions.

 This gentleman, says the card, died of drowning.  Hence, they say, the "blue" tone to his skin and the evidence of water in the lungs.  But he's still got his shoes.  And did he drown in an accident of was it suicide?  I can only guess accident because he was in a Catholic Church graveyard, and they don't allow suicides.  The interesting thing about this museum is the number of questions that come to mind.

And another lady, whose last attire includes her best boots and stockings.  I wonder why leather and silk didn't decompose as much as the rest of her garments.  There was more than one mummy clad only in shoes and stockings.  The visit to the Museo de las Mumias reinforces my belief that I want to be cremated.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Photos by Nancy, Captions by Doug


 In the museum in the old granary mentioned earlier, was this display of hacienda life.  The hats are supposed to show a progression from one period to another, I guess. The oldest is on the bottom, and I'm thinking the newest styles are in the middle row.  Or, the campesinos wore the straw sombrero and the haciendad, el patron, wears the other styles.  But I'm guessing here, because there was no information nearby.

 We ate at this restaurant several days after the photo was taken, and the weather wasn't as good, cool and cloudy.  Again, I am puzzled.  I can translate flores quite easily, but canastillo, I got 'nuthin'.

 Two sisters on the bus ride back to Marfil were pleased as punch that Nancy, a gringa, would take their picture.  Cute, aren't they?

At the Gene Byron Museum (that's her on the left) Nancy took this picture of the paintings of husband and wife.  The husband, a Spanish gentleman is still alive so we're told, and lives on the grounds.  The museum does double, triple duty.  It serves first as a museum for all of Gene Byron's work, furniture, ceramics, the fireplace, lamps, sculptures, candelabras and so on.  Secondly, thirdly, and fourthly, it's the old gentleman's home, it's a restaurant, it's a massage parlor.  I think that might be all.  The portrait of the senor is done with a background of the flag of the second Spanish Republic, of just before the Spanish Civil War.  For Whom the Bell Tolls.  That republic. The artists, I don't know.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Four Views of Guanajuanto

The top photo is looking up the track of the funicular, which took us up to the top of one of the hills surrounding the city.  The town itself seemed so big to us when we first arrived.  The streets are narrow and winding, some of them steep.  And houses and restaurants march up the hillsides around the town.  After a couple of weeks of wandering around the town, we realize it is all quite compact. 

The second photo (by the way, all are by Nancy) is a panoramic of the town.  We walked down from the summit, which has a gigantic stone sculpture of Pipla, a local hero.  A fair number of the residences we passed on our way down have access only by stairways and paths.  Groceries come immediately to mind.  How they get to the individual houses is unknown.  They must patronize the small tiendas located all over, on a daily basis, on foot.  If they own cars, and that's a big if, they must be parked far from the front door.  But in centro, the taxis are numerous and cheap, and the busses haul loads of people all over the city.  The bus ride in Guanajuato is really cheap, five pesos, or 28 cents US.

The third picture illustrates the local restaurant trade, and since the weather here is called  "eternal springtime", many serve up food and drink outside.  The climate here in the state of Guanajuato is fantastic.  We are here in the rainy season, but it seems to fall mostly in the late afternoon when the heat builds up, or at night.  It's far enough south that it never gets too cold and high enough in elevation that it never gets too hot.  Lovely, and conducive to eating out in the street, many of which don't allow automobile traffic. But not very many restaurants serve food on a footbridge over the cobblestoned road.

Alhondiga de Granidatas

The Museo Regional de Alhondiga de Granidatas was not originally constructed to be a museum in late 1700s. The magnicient building started life as a grain storage facility, was the site of a siege during the war of independence from Spain, and spent a hundred years as a prison.Today the Alhondiga is a museum in tribute to the history Mexico, of Guanajuato and War of Independence. The Romualdo Garcia photos were the highlight for me, amongst all the pre-Columbian pottery and figurines, paintings of revolutionary leaders and artifacts of Spanish conquest, the photos had a simplicity and elegance.

Garcia was able to capture everyday subjects, in this case some Mexican children around 1900 and make a fine photograph. The Napoleonic chapeaus the boys are wearing have crossed forks and spoons instead of guns or swords.  Wonderful touch.

I'm guessing by the dark complexion of the lady and the extremely light complexions of the (probably Spanish) children, that the lady is the nanny, or a servant of some kind to the family and was more or less a prop to keep the youngster quiet and photographable.  She was no doubt an always to be nameless and indigenous photographic prop. In any case, she adds a lot to the photo.

All three of these photos of Garcia's work are by Nancy and I know it was difficult to make sure the management didn't catch her, and find the right angle to eliminate reflections on the glass covering the photos.  I would urge you to go to Google and see other examples of Garcia's photographs, not all of which are of children.  Some are vaqueros, businessmen, pretty ladies and photos of beautiful Guanajuato around the turn of the century.  Garcia was said to have never left the town of Guanajuato, and certainly none of the photos make that seen untrue.  He left behind a treasure trove which few have ever heard of and he deserves more recognition as one of the pioneer greats of his art form.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

St. Somebody's Day

We took the bus into town again and people who know these things said we should get off the bus "right here", in the middle on one of the tunnels.  Lo and behold, the stairway was right there, and following our leader we appeared into the sunlight right at the steps of the major cathedral in Guanajuato.  We looked around for awhile and at a side door were a few old caballeros working on a litter for the evenings' parade in honor of St. Somebody.  The numbers on the rails tell where each of the 36 hombres stand to shoulder the litter (which is burdened with a statue, flowers and candelabras) and haul it here and there along the parade route.

This gentleman answered our questions about what in the hell was going on and I felt obliged to tell him "Yo gusto sus espanol por que esta es despacio por nosotros gringos," which may or may not mean 'I like your Spanish because it is slow for us idiots'.  He took the time to tell us all about the festival, the components which came from Spain, and which were crafted here in Mexico, I think.  It was all very interesting, I think.  I missed most of it, but the gentleman was enjoying telling us all about it so we listened and picked up a little information.  But we missed what the occasion was in celebration of, and googling the date and place helps not at all.  St. Somebody's Day.

 We heard a commotion and looked down into the street.  There was another litter with a brass band and vaqueros mounted on their caballos.  Hombres played horns and ninos beat the drums and we took pictures.

The nice slow speaking gentleman had told us to stick around because at 6pm there would be a parade with the litter they were working on leading the way.  A parade like this one, which occurred about 11am, was a smaller parade with a smaller litter and statue than the one in the evening, but it was all the same to us.  Holy water was sprinkled, vaqueros rode their second best horses and the second best band played, or more accurately pounded on their drums and blew their horns.  This litter was carried by about a dozen hombres.  The litter which we saw earlier was probably twice or three times this size and, as I said, carried by 36.

Then we rode the funicular up to the statue of Pipila, who is a real historical figure in Mexico's history.  This was about the third or fourth statue of this Mexican Revolutionary hero we had seen in our journey.  It was of granite and the others in San Miguel and elsewhere were in bronze.  More impressive than the statue, which was impressive no doubt, was the view of the city.  This photo was the second (or middle) of three photos that I took to encompass the view.  The cathedral is the large yelllow building in the center of the photo.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Macbre Museum of the Mummies, Guanajunto

 Guanajuato is famous for the Museo de Momia, where 111 specimens now reside.  Some like this former doctor, survived with most of his clothing intact.  But I imagine the bulk of the mummy's clothes fell off in tatters when unearthed.  Hair, beards, pubic hair, teeth, breasts, were all visible or easily imagined.
 These are Nancy's photos and you can see more pictures if you go to Instagram and access her account of the visit, Naahcee  is her handle.
 The mummies were dug up intentionally, as there was no one willing to pay for eternal internment.  Due to a cholera epidemic, space was needed in the local cemetery.  It was not intentional that these corpses were mummified, but conditions; weather, soil, humidity and other factors, were perfect.

  The bodies are displayed in cases, actually hermetically sealed, (I'm glad I finally got to use that word) and so there is no odor, but the lighting and postures of the mummies are certainly spooky.  Three of the corpses died in unusual circumstances; a drowning, a stabbing where the blood stains are still visible, and a premature burial which is the scariest of all.  I encourage you to learn more about these poor unfortunates on the internet.  The Museum has the world's youngest mummy, and the mummy of a fetus.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

A Bus Ride to Town

 We took a bus ride into Guanajuato this morning stepping onto the bus a hundred yards from the house.  The bus driver had failed to qualify for Le Mans but drove like a man still in the race.  The bus was mostly empty and so, rattled like a thousand tin cans along the cobblestone roads and the newer roads filled with topes (speed bumps are everywhere in Mexico, mostly where you don't expect them).  The driver lived by the rule "If you can't find 'em, grind 'em" (referring to the complicated gearbox).  I never imagined you could drive a beat up old bus that fast on congested, winding, tope ridden roads. 

When we got to Centro, there was this sign reminding me to get out my camera.

For a little while the three amigos were in every shot, mischievously standing in front of what I wanted to capture, so I took a portrait.

Some kind of min-drama was taking place in the plaza with a drum and piccolo, a costumed and masked maiden and pirate, un toro, un matador, and some kids.

 Near centro was this sign and I took a picture so I could translate it later.  It reads "Where any toad is king" and then the original spelling of the town.

 From many vantage points, the city looks like this.  Houses climbing the hillsides, most built during the silver boom.  The only way you can tell you're not in Spain is the American cars and trucks.

An older couple (about the same age as Nancy and I) waiting for the bus home.

The Pied Pipers of Antotonilco

Friday, August 4, 2017

We've Moved to Guanajuato for August

 We lucked out on this one.  A few miles from the center of Guanajuato is this beautiful house.  The English owners, from Phoenix, spend time here in the summer to escape the heat of the desert and just left a few days ago, leaving us in charge.  We have a maid and gardener at our disposal.  We constantly order them around without mercy.  

 This is the back porch area where we had drinks and dinner last night.  Fergus is inspecting the plant life for traces of the owner's dogs.

The "front yard" has a beautifully cared for lawn inside a stone wall.  There is a huge carriage door which just barely allows us to park the car inside the grounds.  We are situated next door to a pool and racquet club and I thought I might be able to swim there in the mornings.  We personally contacted the manager and she showed us the form we would need to fill out.  Naturally it was in Spanish and probably would have taken most of the month to fill out, return and then wait for our references to be checked. Maybe next time. Our interview was conducted entirely in Spanish, except where my memory dredged up previously unknown words of French.

 This is Carmen, our maid, with Nancy.  Carmen speaks not a word of English, except "okay" and we speak a lot of Spanish, mostly without verbs.  Amazingly, communication is not difficult.  Carmen is a tiny little woman and besides being the maid, she also cooks traditional Mexican cuisine.  We're going to arrange a night of, possibly, Chicken Mole ("mole" should have an accent mark to differentiate it from skin ailments, but I don't know how to add it, but it's a chocolate based sauce and it's pronounce moe-lay).  It will be excellent.

 Here's Fergus with his friend Whitey, who travelled with us all the way from Tucson.  They are enjoying one of the living room areas.  Neither one of them are allowed on the furniture.  Good thing.

This is the dinning room with it's wonderful table made from an ancient Mexican wooden door.  It resides in a sunken area which separates it fro the rest of the living room.  So, needless to say, we are being spoiled for a month before we go back home.  The weather has turned hot and dry for the highlands of Mexico, anyway.  It might be getting up into the mid to high 80's and really cools off at night.  We are expecting rain and cooler temperatures soon, but in any case, it's hotter 'n hell in Tucson.  So, we're happy.


For my sister, Leslie, who loves yarns and knitting.  From the San Miguel Mask Museum's art studio.