The typical schedule for eating here has taken some getting used to for me. Before we leave the house in the morning we eat. So around 7 or 7:30 a.m. we have a very hearty breakfast. On the table we have been served fresh fruit, oatmeal, tortillas, or maybe even some pancakes. You can have a light snack around 11 but it’s nothing formal. Then our next big meal is around 3 or 5 in the afternoon. This is “la comida”, the largest meal of the day. But for my American stomach it’s a long wait from breakfast. My housemother and housemates are vegetarian so we have been having wonderful meatless dishes. Sometimes she will make me a separate entrée with meat. These are some of the meals Pilar, our señora, made us: Continue reading
We have been following a very busy schedule here in GTO. We are working closely with the University of Guanajuato to achieve our goal of (brief) cultural immersion. Our language classes start at 8 a.m. So we have to leave the house to walk down to the University at 7:30. Azul, Elizabeth and I are taking Intermediate Grammar, Mexican Literature, Mexican History and Intermediate Conversation. The Literature and History classes are fascinating. There is so much I don’t know about my neighboring country to the south. For example we studied a poem by Sor Juana, a famous nun who lived in the 1600’s, and it was powerful and very edgy for the time period.
After four hours of class we typically have a short break before having a specialty lecture/tour from a faculty at the university. We have learned about the history of the university, the libraries (they have three major ones on campus), and the fine arts program, just to name a few. My favorite was a visit to the historical archives where they have collections of really, really old books. The pride of the archives is a book published in the late 1400’s! You know, only 500 years old, give or take. We got to, very carefully and with gloves on, handle the book. Continue reading
Friday and Saturday we followed the “Freedom Route” which traces the path of the start of the Mexican War of Independence in 1810. It all officially started with Miguel Hidalgo giving the “grito” in the town of Dolores Hidalgo. We visited his house that is now a museum. We stood in front of the famous church where Hidalgo called on the people to rise up in rebellion. And we ate a lot of ice cream. It turns out that Dolores Hidago is also famous for its ice cream. As a lover of ice cream I felt that it was my duty to sample many of the flavors. The thing that makes the ice cream here so well known is the variety of flavors. They have sweet and savory, think of a flavor and you can probably find it here. I sampled the following flavors:
- avocado ice cream (surprisingly yummy)
- shrimp and octopus ice cream (not surprisingly rather gross)
- and rose petal ice cream (reminded me a lot of a rose lassi, different but good)
Atotonilco, a very small pueblo, was our next stop. They have a very beautiful mission style church and a small mercado (market) with lots of religious merchandise. Apparently they had just had a big festival the previous week so the town was decorated with flowers and streamers. It looked like something out of a movie. Continue reading
We are now in the historic town of Guanajuato, known affectionately by locals as GTO. Picture a Spanish colonial town nestled in the far end of a small valley. There are brightly colored buildings lining narrow winding streets. There are many quiet parks, plazas with fountains, and interesting churches. Colorful flowers spill over balconies. Now add street vendors and street performers. This gives you a tiny sample of this amazing city. One of our group says she feels like she is in a Disneyland version of an old Mexican town, in all the best ways. And I haven’t even mentioned the wonderful artisan shops and restaurants.
Given its layout, this is a walking town. The locals say that the fastest way to get around is just to walk but no one seems to be in a hurry to get anywhere. This may be due to the fact that there are also inviting benches in the plazas, pleasant outdoor cafes, and strolling musicians. Continue reading
Today was our first excursion day. We had to leave the hotel early and drove to three significant historical sites. Our first stop was Plaza Tlatelolco, also known as the Plaza de las Tres Culturas. Representative of the blending and layering of history that is so typical of Mexico City, this plaza has Aztec ruins, a 17th century church and 1950’s era apartment building.
Next we drove to a major religious site for the Catholic Church – the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe. The old basilica, built in the 1600s, is slowly sinking due to soft ground. After several hundred years the tilt is very significant. When you walk inside if feels very strange because the front part is sinking faster than the back, causing quite the slanting floor. The new basilica now houses the original timal, Juan Diego’s cloak that has the image of the virgin on it. We saw several pilgrimage processionals. It is a very popular place, there were throngs of visitors from all over the world. The image of this Virgin is everywhere in Mexico – tshirts, mugs, posters, jewelry, etc. Continue reading