Saturday, October 1, 2016

Exploring the many layers of Mexico

Having recently returned from an adventure of visiting the interior of Mexico; Puebla, Cuernavaca, and Mexico city, all I can think about is what a truly beautifully layered country Mexico is.
From it's cities, to it's food, to it's people, amazing me that the layers never cease. There is a feeling of something hidden, secret, achingly painful and elaborately beautiful. Cities built upon other cities, cathedrals built upon pyramid temples, plain building facades hiding exquisite gardens and homes filled with foods of pre-hispanic roots, spiced with flavors of the orient, augmented with meats of animals introduced from far away lands across oceans.
There is a kinetic energy of creativity and movement that never stops in these ancient cities, as if it would fall right apart under your feet, or explode in a rain of volcanic ash, if you don't keep moving. People work so intently, sweeping, selling, story telling through murals, weaving, food, dance, everything they do. People stroll and chat, hawk their wares, sing and dance, and generally bustle in a strangely contradictory relaxed way.
I had the chance to spend a few days in Cholula, Puebla with some of the most lovely artists I've ever had the pleasure of spending time with. Welcomed into their shared living space with all the beautiful traditional hospitality of any good Mexican home. As I arrived late on a rainy night, I was delighted to find they had prepared both pipian and mole sauces, with fresh bolillos (rolls), we drank home made lavender infused Pox, moonshine made with corn and sugar cane (I had arrived with a gift of our own moonshine from the Yelapa area, Raicilla), and was given a cozy room to call my own. The next morning well rested and ready to search out breakfast, I find in the kitchen there is pan dulce, coffee, juice, and eggs being made.
I realized the thing that I thought was special treatment the night before, is just the way it is. It's the way it is in almost every house in Mexico I've been in throughout my whole life. Of what little there may be, offer half, always have something to offer, always have tortillas, bread, beans, coffee, juice, something...and most importantly, always graciously accept what is offered.
These artists work constantly on new projects doing murals in the streets, around every corner is a surprising colorful piece of art. Cholula's walls are covered in murals, many new and vibrant, some peeling off the wall, all unique and equally enticing to the eye. Beautifying their city and at the same time protesting the oppression that is felt by the people of Mexico. Fighting the same fight that ancestors fought, over land, over exploitation, over religious repression, always working to conserve and celebrate indigenous culture.
There are so many levels of different creative pursuits that I had the luck to experience on this trip. After leaving Puebla I arrived Sunday evening in Cuernavaca, Morelos and knowing that Sunday in any plaza in Mexico will be full of life, I went directly there. I happened upon a group of young dancers doing traditional dances of Mexico. These dancers didn't miss a step, even when the heel on the shoe of a girl broke, she continued dancing perfectly, smiling and putting her full heart into it. I saw dances from at least four regions of Mexico, each one with it's own ceremony and significance. Each one danced with the expertise and heart that clearly showed the love and passion they felt for their heritage.
It was a lovely few days of wandering the terraced, verdant, and hilly streets of Cuernavaca, the city of eternal spring, with it's many gardens, amazing food, museums and a people that are clearly proud of their beautiful city, and very happy to share it with visitors.
With the true luck of a journey meant to be, I happened to be staying my last night in Mexico city on the same night the Cracovia 32 swing club has their weekly social dance.
Welcomed into their space where they hold events from swing dancing, to circus school, I stayed the night, met new friends, joined in on their dance class, and finally tired from travel, I went to bed and was lulled to sleep by the big band music drifting upstairs from the dance floor.
My last day before flying home I spent wandering the streets in the area of Coyoacan, drinking coffee, eating pan de muertos, buying mole in the market, soaking up the feeling of being in the blue house of Frida and Diego, somehow feeling as if just being there connected me to the culture and creativity that they cultivated and thrived on in that space.
I felt overwhelming emotion a few times while roaming through the restored rooms of this historic home. I wasn't sure why I felt my chest tighten and my eyes sting with tears when I walked into the kitchen, or when I saw the bed where Frida painted her self portraits, laying there using a mirror she installed in the canopy. It struck me as odd that I would have such emotion for a place, for people, for a time that really had nothing to do with me and my life.
As I sat in the lush and lovely garden where so many people of interest, famous, not so famous, artists, politicians, philosophers and various vagabonds had surely drank morning coffee, shared mescal while lamenting lost loves, strummed guitars, argued opinions, generally celebrated and mourned the complicated human existence, I realized the emotion I felt was not just nostalgia for things past, it was for the experience I had over the last week, it was for the longing I have to continue traveling, creating, loving, and the knowledge that right in that moment, I was one of those people in the lush and lovely garden, and that knowledge reminded me that I have my own garden, my own art, my own companions to argue opinions with, my own complicated and layered history, just as every person in this world does. That feeling is equally wonderful and overwhelming, to know that we are all complicated, connected, perfectly imperfect, layered and many faceted beings.
Mexico is a country that does not let you forget that. On every corner, in every house, in every city, there are unique and distinct traditions, and at the same time, there are traditions that are the same in every place here, one being the hospitality that is a proud part of this place, the hospitality that brought down the great empire of Aztecs who welcomed the conquistadors into their cities, hospitality that eventually integrated all the colonizing cultures into one fascinating, vastly varying, and completely lovely layered country that is Mexico.

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