Sunday, October 25, 2009


It’s been unseasonably cool here for more than a week. Yes, I’m still in Mexico. The closing for the sale of my house in New Orleans was postponed and I’ve been trying not to fret about that. I keep repeating my The Game of Life and How to Play It mantra, “Don’t worry, it probably isn’t going to happen.” Have been trying to keep myself occupied—finishing projects started months ago and never completed, doing my own simple alterations rather than taking clothes to the tailor, writing more.

Very few tourists visit this time of year and the town is quiet. These peaceful interludes are the best times to explore the city. I have become neighborhoody here like I’ve done in everyplace that I’ve lived—confining most of my activity to the areas that are closest to home. I spend late afternoons walking through colonials on the other side of town. Observing what’s changed, taking time to investigate new businesses that catch my attention, ones that have survived the economic downturn that I haven’t been inside for months. I finally get to Vía Organíca—the health food store and restaurant that opened in Guadalupe months ago—one afternoon when one of the lunch specials is trout, a fish I love but don’t to get enjoy often.

I start preparing for my trip next week to Pátzcuaro for Day of the Dead. The day the Tarascan Indians believed the dead returned to visit with their loved ones. Like the recessional of a New Orleans style funeral, this is not a somber occasion. Towns are decorated with colorful, elaborate altars that include the four elements of nature—earth, wind, water, and fire. Earth is represented by crop, wind by a moving object—tissue paper is commonly used to represent wind. Water is placed in a container for the soul to quench its thirst; a wax candle represents fire. Families visit cemeteries to clean and decorate the tombs and share a meal at the gravesite. At night, the dances begin. The souls of children are honored on November 1st; the following day, the spirits of adults are remembered.

It was believed that because of its extraordinary beauty, Pátzcuaro Lake, in the State of Michoacan, was the door to heaven, used by the gods when they came down to earth. Because of this early belief, one of the most beautiful Día de los Muertos rituals developed on one of the five islands in this lake, Janitzio. I look forward to experiencing this next week.

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