Musical Enchantment in Mexico

In a prior post, we described the abundance of music we encounter every day here in Chapala. Mariachi bands on the malecon, people walking or biking or driving around with audio rigs blasting out all varieties of Mexican music, classic music at the refurbished and re-purposed train station, music pretty much everywhere you go.

A few weeks ago, Bonita’s daughter and her husband and their very young son paid us a visit all the way from France, their current home base. On the last day of their visit, we drove up to Guadalajara so they could see the centro historico and get a little flavor of the city.

Guad can really be a challenge to drive. It’s the second largest city in Mexico. The deeper you head into the centro, the more narrow the streets become and the more dense the traffic. And street repair seems to pop up overnight, so quickly that Google Maps has not yet registered the change and re-routed you, so you can get into some long waits for traffic to sort itself out.

After quite a harrowing journey to find parking near the centro, we finally parked at one of the mercados around the centro, Mercado Libertad. This is a locals market. We’ve been there twice now and have yet to encounter another gringo. And it is HUGE. Imagine your local flea market, add in food vendors, jewelers, clothing merchants of all sorts and multiple grocery stores, expand by 1,000 and you’ll have the image.

After negotiating our way down three flights of market to ground level, we exited the market and discovered horse-drawn carriage rides on offer. We hopped aboard for a leisurely tour up to and veering into historico centro.

A beautiful day, a delightful ride, great family, what could be more lovely?

Well, a surprise!

From the mercado we walked back up toward centro historico, taking in the sights along the way.

And as we got to the back side of the Opera House which anchors the main square of centro historico, there the surprise was.

A band had set up on the sidewalk and were just starting to film a video. Happy, infectious music came our way, captivating, entrancing, delightful. I stopped to listen to their offering, as did several other locals.

When you finished the song, I hung around to say hello and to thank them for the music.

After the song had ended, one of the band said the name of the group, which I heard as Chorizo, as in the delicious, spicy Mexican sausage. I chuckled and thought, how appropriate.

When I mentioned this to the band, they laughed heartily and corrected my hearing. The name of the band is Teriso.

Here’s one of their songs if you’d like to hear them. (The song they were videoing that day is still yet to be posted.)

Wandering around Mexico, you just never know what may lie around the next corner. We delight in that.

What’s the Buzz in Chapala?

When we first arrived in Chapala, one of our first discoveries was that our backyard was inhabited by hummingbirds. We were (and are) delighted! Having lived for several years in Arizona and coming to love hummingbirds there, to have their presence again seemed a great sign of how life would unfold in Mexico.

In our backyard, we have a few large plants and a refreshing swimming pool, shared among the four apartments in our complex. The backyard is walled in (see the video above) with light fixtures.

So, off to Walmart to purchase a hummingbird feeder and that lovely bright red bottle of hummingbird food.

Hanging it off one of the light fixtures, we enjoyed watching a few hummingbirds feed occasionally. Typically, we’d have to refill the feeder once every seven to ten days or so.

Then over the last two weeks, coincident with the beginning of the rainy season here in Chapala (so far rainy season seems to mean cloud cover for part of the day and a few patchy rains), all of a sudden, the backyard was abounding with hummingbirds.

From maybe three or four or even six hummingbirds, we suddenly had a dozen, no wait!, eighteen or twenty or more, hovering around the feeder. We’ve gone from a fill every week or so to a fill twice a day and sometimes three. Word is spreading.

And they are bold!

We have floor to ceiling glass doors overlooking the backyard and when the feeder emptied, we would often see one or two of the hummingbirds come up to the doors and hover there, seemingly alerting us that they needed more food.

Then I would trudge out, bottle in hand, get the feeder and return to the porch to fill it on a little patio table there.

Bold indeed! Several of this “new” flock would come and hover around me while I poured the food, getting very close to me, close enough, even with my hearing loss, to hear the beating of their wings.

And I’ve found myself sitting on the couch, looking out the door, just lost in watching the dance and play of the hummingbirds. I could do so for hours. There is something endlessly fascinating to me about them.

We feel blessed that they have chosen to grace us with their presence.

Oops, well, got to go fill the feeder……….again.

Street Art in Chapala

One of the most delightful aspects of life here is the street art. Not the artists offering paintings or doing cartoons of the inner you–that’s prevalent up in Guadalajara. In Chapala the street art can be both brazen and subtle. It’s found in odd places and can often pop up overnight. Other times it’s more permanent.

The free form of street art here can be quite stunning. Truly a labor of love and civic celebration. Here are some of my favorites:

For me, part of the appeal of the street art in Chapala is the random nature of it. You never quite know where it will appear. You round a corner and pow, there it is. Or you may be walking down a familiar street and just like that, a new mural is confronting you.

Street art can be found in nooks and crannies, so to speak. Little artful flourishes on steps, around windows, in seemingly unlikely places. Keep your eyes peeled. It’s there for the observant.

Some of the street art is more subtle, more of a personal statement. Often religious in nature. There are many saintly icons adorning homes and walls.

Chapala is adorned with a kaleidoscope of art. Some of it ephemeral; some a seemingly permanent part of the city. Big and small, garish or sublime, the street art of Chapala helps bring the city to life. Come and enjoy!

Tequila!

Bonita’s middle daughter and her husband and new-born (hello, Marius!) ventured all the way from France to visit us recently and it was time for a little adventure. Well, not exactly, but at least a trip to some of the uniqueness of Mexico. So off we ventured to Tequila, where, surprise of surprises, tequila is made.

This is the real deal. Yes, what is drunk as tequila is produced in other areas of Mexico too, but only if it is from this specific geography in the state of Jalisco, can the beverage be labeled as “tequila”.

So about an hour drive north and west of Guadalajara, we found the blue-green fields of the particular cactus that is turned into this beverage of the gods.

If you make this journey, be sure to have your electronic guidance. It’s quite a twisty-turny drive once you exit the main road to get down into the centre of town where the Jose Cuervo distillery (among several others) are located.

It’s a lovely town center. Touristy? For sure. Yet, delightfully so. The town square was buzzing the day of our visit. Lots of artisans and the ubiquitous plastic-product vendors (see my recent post on a plastic Mexico) and lots of food and drink.

After a delightful lunch in true Mexican fashion (beans, rice, tortillas, and carne (meat)), we proceeded onto the Cuervo tour.

First up, an interesting film about the long history of the distillery and tequila production.

Then, an inside look at how the cactus is turned into tequila.

The facility is clean and bright and a unique blend of modern technology and old-school distilling. Fascinating.

Tours are conducted in either English or Spanish, your choice. (We chose English.)

The interior of the production facility is off-limits to ph0tos. I respected that. One more reason for your own visit.

It’s well worth the trip!