Friday, August 01, 2014

GIFF Painting the Town Red

Not much time for words today, as I'm a film buff too, and a very happy one with the Guanajuato International Film Festival showing more feature-length films than ever. So here goes with a few photos:
Deciding, as usual, the hardest part

Got to keep up your strength, verdad?

60 people were sitting farther back in the Cervantes to see the documentary about the renowned Huichol artist, Sr. Sanchez 

Polish & Mexican principals talk about their co-production, Six Degrees filmed in,
yes, Poland and Mexico

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Cervantino Fever 2014

As always, yesterday Guanajuato folks filled the main floor and first balcony of Teatro Juarez to be among the first to know this year's International Cervantino Festival program  And always, the speakers felt no need to hurry through their speeches. So here's a joke  I heard afterward:
Guanajuato hillscape behind , Japanese sun on both sides

"A good speech must be like a bikini, short, showing much but leaving something to the imagination." 
Waiting their turn
  Un buen discurso debe ser como un bikini, corto, enseƱando mucho, pero dejando algo a la imaginacion.

Whoever made the exuberant video that followed   the speakers knew what what to do. It was short, showing much, but, yes, leaving parts uncovered.

The program is so full  the list that follows is almost like a Thanksgiving dinner described by the cranberries, but here goes:

The opener :Japanese taiko drummers

The closing: Ruben Blades (Panama by way of New York), known as the salsero intelectual.
In classical music, two performances by the Arditti Quartet (USA), seven by the Austrian pianist Rudolf Buchbinder playing all the Beethoven sonatas

Three nights of folklorico-the National Folklore Ballet of Amalia Hernandez, the: Nuevo Leon Dance Troupe; and the OSUG ballet folklorico + at least one night of ballet (from Bulgaria)

A concert version of West Side Story (Amor sin barreras)

Jazz and world music as always at the Ex-Hacienda Gabriel de Barrera

Movies, pantomime, acrobats, world class marionette shows

Guanajuato's own Capella Guanajuatense and Zephyrus

Spotlight on Shakespeare: somewhere between half a dozen and a dozen offerings of his plays during this 450th year from his birth, including a local project involving young people from four Guanajuato communities (El Proyecto Ruelas) alredy rehearsing scenes to present

At the Alhondiga, an African woman playing the kora

I'll stop here although I have probably skipped the event (possibly from Mexico) that will propel you to the box office (taquilla) tomorrow when tickets for individual events go on sale.

Despite this horn of plenty, people talk about what is not being done this year."What? only the Entremeses tis year when Cervantes was Shakespeare's contemporary?" (my translation)

A fraction of the audience pouring out of Teatro Juarez
On the other hand: much baroque music and music on Shakespearean themes, literary programs honoring the centennial of the nationally beloved poet Efrain Huerta born in Silao, and art exhibits including Guatemalan textiles and photos by Rodrigo Moya from an archive that has been closed for thirty years; and at the train station every night of the Festival, hip hop, vallenato and other dance music for young people. I always marvel at how the FIC offers something  for every age and taste.

Stay tuned for more on the nooks and crannies that make the Cervantino special.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Opening of the Dam at the Presa de la Olla (La Apertura)

Today I was one of the happy throng on a bus going up Paseo de la Presa. Especially in a wet year this is a happy, happy day for Guanajuatenses. 
A bench with a view of the water rushing out
First I did the obligatory walk past the stalls lining the walkway, thinking about what I would eat on my way back. Then I heard the sound of the water going over the dam. I didn’t trouble to ask whether the event actually started on time or whether it was set to start earlier than I thought. I was happy to be there; it didn't matter.
A favorite thirst-quencher

Afterward walking home down Paseo de la Presa, a route I don’t take often since moving to another neighborhood, I stopped by two new restaurants to check out their offerings, took several candid photos, and kept sipping at the plastic glass of tepache (fermented pineapple drink) I had bought at one of the stalls. I had already eaten a gordita de nata (tasty raised hotcake) and was carrying a six-sided blue and white dish I plan to use for peanuts.

I also saw two friends I hadn't seen for awhile as I was walking back. Silvia mentioned she had heard me read the Pacheco poem (see my other blog  Julian asked, “You’re coming from the Apertura?” I guess he knows I have eclectic tastes, as likely to go to imbibe popular as well as high culture.
Let's face it, cockroaches come into almost everyone's house at this time of year. 

The Apertura takes place the last day of the two-week-long San Juan Festival. Yesterday I bought herbs, mint, lavender, and flat-leaf parsley, at the annual plant sale. I have my own way of dealing with cucarachas.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Guanajuato Museums: In The Gene Byron, Songs of Love and Loss

Renee Bouthot (soprano), Susan Hammond (piano) and Djamilia Rovinshaia (viola) started the afternoon of March 23 with Canadian folk songs by way, moved on to a modern arrangement of Sephardic songs sung in their original language, Ladino, and went on to German lieder and a heartrending selection of of Gershwin songs. Both
Renee singing before a full house. Photo from El Correo  
Canadian musicians have had impressive careers, with  Bouthot founding The Ginger Group, a women's trio that specializes in Canadian music, their songs available on a CD, Hammond is known throughout Canada for her radio program Classical Kids as well as for performing on the piano. Rovinskaia is the first violist of our symphony orchestra.
Wine and conversation afterward:Miriam Uriarte with Araujo father-son duo


Friday, April 25, 2014

Guanajuato Performances: Hansel and Gretel; Cri-Cri

If you're a child at heart and haven't yet been to Hansel and Gretel at the Juarez, tonight, Friday the 25, is the only chance left to see this exhilarating local performance of Engelbert Humperdinck's opera, first presented in Weimar, Germany in 1893 with Richard Strauss conducting. By the way, the composer's sister was wrote the libretto, not Herr H.

As if the much loved, well-paced opera isn't enough, many of Guanajuato's finest bring the opera to life, giving the event a special fillip for the audience (who fill the main floor and the first two balconies) and have come to watch people they know bring the spectacle to life..

What a lot of coordination putting on an opera takes! With Kate Burt as the general and stage director, the city's fine singer-actors bring out the universal appeal of  the opera, so much so that I was startled when finally the cookies on the witch's house materialize as children dressed in traditional Mexican clothes!   

Opera is theatre saturated with music. Putting on Hansel and Gretel to life has meant skillful casting, set design (and construction), costumes, lighting, super-titles, dance, instrumental music and whatever else I am leaving out, including finances and poster design. With hours of planning and effort, Kate and her cohort manage to get it all to work, although due to the design of the Juarez, I found the supertitles hard to see from my seat 3/4 of the way back in the luneta.

The brother and sister were such convincing twelve-year-olds that I forgot two skilled women were in the roles, always in character as they sang and acted. I was delighted when a "fire" blazed in the witch's oven, with the contrast between the witch's abode, an embodiment of any child's fantasy and the simple house where the children lived. I could even see a menacing wolf and hawk on the forest backdrop.

With Christian Gohmer, conductor of the Sonora Symphony, in Guanajuato to coordinate and conduct the music, and many well-known local musicians in the orchestra pit, who can ask for anything more?
Well, there is always more. Last weekend at Casa Cuatro, parents and children (in fact, unaccompanied adults, too) were treated to the songs of Cri-Cri, a favorite for three generations of Mexican children.
Believe me, the singing and clapping that took place while the Cuarteto Academico played the songs made me wish my twin grandchildren were sitting on either side. The biggest sing-along hits: El Raton Vaquero (The Cowboy Mouse) and La Marcha de las Letras (Alphabet March). 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Guanajuato Holidays: viernes de dolores

My viernes de dolores  (as written in Spanish without caps):

10am: I take a bus from Pastita to Mercado Hidalgo. Bad decision. The trip takes an hour with all the people crossing in front, but through the window I do see the throng of students in the Baratillo and happy holiday-makers buying souvenirs in Plaza de la Paz.

11am: About to board a bus for Cata when I realize IMSS at Cantador will close in an hour. I need to arrange an appointment, so I walk over to IMSS which, I had been told, will not be open next week. Wrong. It will be open next week Mon-through Wed.

As I leave, I ask one of the guards whether I am too late for the merry-making at Cata. He says I can make it. I pay 35 pesos for a taxi to eat free ice cream at Cata (but I am going mostly to enjoy being with the miners' families, although I admit to anticipating the tamarind-flavored ice I ate there last year).

The day means hard work for these young women who may have been out dancing all last night

Detail from the seed & bean portrait of the Virgin at Cata

Worth the long wait, boys?

1pm, nearly: I arrive while Mass is underway. I must have arrived even later last year as all I remember is an uncrowded space of happy ice-cream eaters. I recognize The Lord's Prayer, taught to my high school Spanish class by our teacher. A man asks if I want to take photos. I say, no, not during the Mass, but I would like to sit down. He brings out an extra chair. A woman comes over to suggest I move it to a patch of shade.

1:15 pm. The stampede begins for the ice-cream. Much too my disappointment, except for the popsicles for the children, all the flavors are variations on strawberry, but when my turn comes I manage to eat a cup of vanilla with strawberry swirls.

2-3pm: I head downtown, do a few errands, take photos of the new benches at the tarted up bus stop in front of the market, and catch a Sprinter to Embajadoras.

Pedro Acevedo's shrine
3pm: I buy the last bunch of purple flowers for sale at Embajadoras Park, then start walking home. In front of a fruteria, I pass a shrine, I take a photo.

I see that the doors to Pedro Acevedo's carryout loncheria are open. When I go in, I see his shrine, on the counter where he usually places pots of food, is more elaborate than the day before. I ask whether he always has the portrait of the Virgin hanging there. He tells me no, it is precious, from the 18th Century. A priest gave it to his father. He has had it restored.

I go into an abarrotes to buy yoghurt. On my way in, I see I could have bought my flowers there. Same price, same condition.

3:30 pm. Am relieved to see the tepache man at his stall. I need a drink. He asks if I want it with limon and chile. I say limon y poquito chile. I start sucking in the coolness as soon as I can set my other purchases down..

4pm: I realize I haven't seen any of the big altars. There's always tomorrow. I'm tired, hot, and need a nap.

To read about the history of viernes de dolores. click (in Spanish).

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Guanajuato Byways: Passing the Guadalupe Mine on the Way to Santa Ana

I went with a friend in his truck to his country home near Santa Ana, one of Guanajuato's outlying communities. Along the way, close to Valenciana, we passed the imposing wall of the 16th century Guadalupe mine rearing up to the right. It is a majestic sight that served the practical purpose of protecting the mine's silver from outsiders. If the word awesome hadn't lost its freshness, I would use it.

Karen and Jerry's photo of the Guadalupe mine
The final kilometer of the road to to the couple's house had the truck shaking on the rutted road but got us to our destination above the main town of Santa Ana.

On the way home, several of us watched a boy leaving food for his burro. Definitely a day of contrasts.

But before that, on the back veranda, I couldn't resist the contrast of the sophisticated bonsai plant against a far reaching view of sky, hill and presa. According to the owner, the water in the reservoir is unusual for this time of year.

That's the Presa de Soledad beyond the bonsai

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Guanajuato Writer: Pablo Paniagua To Present His Most Recent Novel in Mexico City March 20

As always, Pablo Paniagua writes to entertain. That is why I love to read his books. They are a reminder that reading needn't be a serious task but can go down as a spoonful of honey. His latest, Nadine, falls somewhere between erotica and pornography. As I have only read two pages so far, I can't tell you exactly where it lies. I can only say I'm sure to keep keep reading.

Writer-artist Pablo designed the cover for his first novel
Pablo Paniagua, born in Spain but now after living in Mexico for more than twenty years, is a  patient fellow who was willing to start an independent press to be published. Now his books are flourishing, published in both Spain and Mexico. His new novel, Nadine, was a best-seller at the Guanajuato booth at a major book fair in Mexico City this spring.

Before Nadine, Paniagua came out with The Lost Novel by Borges, a short novel with a special appeal for Guanajuato readers. The book begins in Spain but soon the two students arrive in our city, where before long they think they know where to find the manuscript of the only novel Jorge Luis Borges ever or never wrote. I found it a treat to see Guanajuato through European eyes, besides reading his updated version of the legendary local method of entering clandestinely through a neighbor's roof.

Paniagua's first novel EXEX (subtitled la mujer del bigote / The Women with a Mustache) already shows this writer's readers what to expect of him. Served up in Paniagua's smooth style, it is as a thriller set in New York City with. As always with writer, sex and violence are treated lightly (think James Bond, not Hemingway.

These short novels are only available in the original Spanish. El Sotano is carrying them in Coyoacan, Mexico City. If I find out they're on sale here, I'll update the post.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Along the Street: Two Ways to Keep Cool Along the Guanajuato Streets

The tepache vendor is out in Pastita, at the corner nearly across from the Plaza de la Fuente.

Tepache,  is made of from pineapple, sugar, cinnamon and water, then allowed to ferment slightly. Less alcoholic than a beer, it's the most refreshing drink I know. A large size costs $10, larger $20. If you know other places in the city where tepache is sold, please leave your comment. UPDATE: I hear he's now moved his business in front of the Encino recreation center,the complex that includes the English language library.

The other pause that refreshes
I'm a fan of Mexican sherbets and ice cream in its many flavors: zapote, mamey, elote (corn), limon, fresa (sherbet or icecream), to name a few. Mantecado (a relative of rum raisin), thumbs up; chocolate only mas o menos. 

When the folks from Oaxaca sell their wares in the Casa de Moneda, I make a beeline for fig-tequila ice cream. By the way the artist Jose Chavez Morado used to go with his driver over the sierra to Dolores Hidalgo but I don't know his favorite flavor among the many sold at the Jardin there.

He sells his fresh fruit ice cream during the daylight hours

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Guanajuato Restaurants: Food for the Spirit Too

A comida corrida restaurant on Ayuntamiento with goldfish and colorful chairs offers up the advice below to its diners:

The Zapatista poster at the bottom is only one currently on display at the hip teahouse-bookstore on Truco that wears its political colors proudly.

Pride and joy of their owners

In case you (formal) are not smiling already

Remember when the Zapatistas made headlines
& the irregular verb caber?