The opening sentences of Juan Rulfo’s Perdro Paramo.
‘I came to Comala because I had been told by my father, a man named Pedro Paramo, lived there. It was my mother who told me. And I had promised her that after she died I would go to see him. I squeezed her hands as a sign I would do it. She was near death, and I would have promised her anything.’
We were given this book to read to help understand the culture of Mexico. Caroline and I devoured the book; it scared us and helped us to understand the culture of Mexico. Carmen, our friend here, gave us a copy in english to read and also blessed us with it for our own collection. It is a prize and if you find it you must grab hold as it is 139 pages of emotion, surrealism and frightening Mexican culture.
We live most of the year in San Miguel de Allende in Central Mexico. The beauty here is hard to describe but easy to see and even easier to feel in your heart and soul. The town is said to be built on giant beds of crystals. The way the Churches line up with the sun and moon is not an accident. The sun sets right down the middle of Calle Umarán as color and light simply beam as the bells of the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel ring through the city with the throaty melody of a baritone singer.
Cañada de la Virgen is an Otomi archaeological site that has been recently excavated. (Started in 1995) The site was ruled by the Moon, the Sun, and Venus, as demonstrated by archaeoastronomical studies conducted by the National Institute of Anthropology and History. Its main features are: Ceremonial Avenue, House of the Wind, House of the Longest Night- scientists believe has some relationship with the Otomi’s belief in the duality of the heavens and earth (Sun and Moon, Man and Woman), and House of the Thirteen Heavens.
Our fantastic guide Albert Coffee tells us that archeologists believe it took 500 years to find the location and another 500 years to build the pyramid. Perfectly designed archways and man made mirror pools line up exactly on the first day of Spring with the sun and in October the moon sets directly in line with the doors of the Pyramid. Off in the distance is San Miguel de Allende and the beautiful Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel that also lines up with the Pyramid. When Spain conquered Mexico, Coffee tells us, they attempted to crush the Mayan culture. Part of Spain’s strategy was to build their own buildings, and Catholic Churches right over the top of of the Otomi, Mayan and Aztec Indian sites which were brilliantly positioned and built to respect and honor the earth. Building over the top of these sites to crush a culture only protect and honor it even to this day.
My own history in Mexico touched down here in 1978 while in college I studied Spanish in nearby Morelia. The moon and stars lined up that year as I learned that one of my best friends that I had not seen in over two years had lived in San Miguel de Allende. Pre cell phones and email. Only hard mail letters, phone calls from parents and friends led me to San Miguel with zero communication with Tia.
I took a bus alone from Morelia to San Miguel de Allende in search of a friend and love. I walked to the Jardin that night and asked an American student if she happened to know a young woman named Tia. She said, ‘yes and I think she is right over there in that bar playing congas in a band’. Excited, I walked in to the bar and found my way near the front of the stage and stared quietly at Tia as she grooved on the congas. It took Tia 15 minutes, as I thought what am I doing here?, to notice and recognize me and her rush off the stage and in to my arms was one for the movies and especially my memory. Thank you Tia for showing me San Miguel and teaching me the importance of travel and learning.
Here we are now in San Miguel studying at the same school Tia studied 40 years earlier. Seriously? How could it be so long? We walk the same streets of the Jardin that I walked when I was 19 years old, when my thoughts were, like many of my friends today, ‘how far away is the beach or where is the beach?’ The beach is far and Mexico is so much more than beaches.
We do have a few adventurous friends that have visited us here. John and Miriam Larson. Laurie Flynn, Laura and Lorna Shirley and Andrea Jewett. Make the trek friends!
When you do come to San Miguel you will meet people. People like Gabby. Today we took a vegan cooking class with Gaby Green. We chopped, cooked, laughed, shared stories and listened to each other and learned from each other. We learned to cook traditional Mexican food which Gaby taught us from Mayan history is vegan. We cooked Chiles en Nogada, Cebiche de Verduras, Green Mole, and Nopales Jengibre-soya. All 100% vegan and delicious.
We sat to enjoy this beautiful meal with Gaby and our friends from the States Laura and Lorna Shirley they are here visiting us, getting away from the stress of the US, learning and laughing as a mother daughter duo. Mom and daughter cherish the gift. Moms and daughters cherish the gifts. A cooking class, a horseback ride, a shared glass of wine and a kiss on the head goodnight. Cherish the gift of shared experiences.
Gaby is brilliant. A film study, an artist, a chef, she speaks German, Spanish, English and is working on French. Gaby’s heritage is Mayan, Jewish, Russian, and Austrian. She told us people often ask her if she wants to live in the US. Her answer: ‘I’m Mexican and Jewish, I have tattoos and a girlfriend. In the US I would be considered derelict; here in Mexico I can be me!’ It feels, to me, that in the US we used to think this way. No?
These are a few sentences from Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a famous writer from Colombia in the forward to Juan Rulfo’s Pedro Paramo:
‘I felt like I had many novels in me, but I couldn’t conceive of the convincing and poetic way of writing them. That is where I was when Alvaro Mutis climbed with great strides the seven storeys up to my apartment with a bundle of books, extracted form this mountain the smallest and shortest, and said as he laughed himself to death:
-Read this shit and learn!
The book was Pedro Paramo.’
We are learning, learning so much about language, culture, people, and ourselves. Thank you Carmen, and thank you Gaby for your guidance and friendship. Thank you Caroline for your love.