This is Mexico.
Color, texture, evening lights slowly appearing at dusk.
Desperado-ing Through the Desert
Somewhat reluctantly, I sign up for a horseback riding expedition in the countryside surrounding San Miguel de Allende. A horseback rider since childhood, my hesitation stemmed from a fear of boredom, as such trips are usually geared towards the less equine-experienced, leaving you to poke along on half-dead nags. Yet, as with the previous day’s ATV fiesta, Mexico again demonstrated it’s unmitigated adventurous spirit. In store was a day out of another era, as we galloped full throttle, in and out of cactus fields, past startled cattle, along the riverbed at the bottom of a vast canyon, and through various working ranches and tiny villages where residents hung their laundry and waved as we passed.
Sometimes, it takes an ATV to explore a village.
One of the most wonderful things about Mexico is that the adventurous, Wild West, vaquero spirit endures in pure form. Perhaps you wish to rent an All-Terrain Vehicle for exploring and generally terrorizing your sleepy Spanish colonial town. Show a driver’s license, hand over 700 pesos, strap on your ill-fitting helmet, get a quick lesson in Spanish on how to drive the thing, grab some cursory directions to a nearby preza (take a left on Insurrgentes, speed round the traffic circle, spend four terrifying minutes on the HIGHWAY…), and you’re off! Shoot, with the amount of info the rental shop had on us, we coulda driven that thing clear to Texas, had we truly had on our rebellious, Wild West hats. Tearing around San Miguel and it’s surrounding desert, farmland, and historic center cobblestone streets — a truly unique, and only moderately dangerous, way to explore the region in a day. Only in Mexico.
La Cocina de Mis Sueños
Living in an apartment whose kitchen is totally abused, punished even, by messy roommates, I’d forgotten the inspiring experience of cooking in a clean, beautiful space. It’s spiritual, y’all. While I was confused by the stove so did only limited cooking (read: reheating) in the kitchen in our rented house in San Miguel (pictured above), our incredible cook, Juana, arrived every day around noon to transform the vegetables, cheeses, and tortillas we’d bought fresh at the market into an unforgettable, home-cooked Mexican meal. With love. Her tortas de papas, made with queso ranchero, potatoes, and eggs, fried, and topped with just-spicy-enough homemade salsa and a little fresh guacamole with limes picked from the backyard were flavorful, golden, and light. We were too full to eat her chiles rellenos stuffed with more of the queso ranchero (no shortage of delicious eats around every cobblestoned corner in San Miguel), which left us heartbroken. All food was served al fresco in the bougainvillea covered patio or on the rooftop deck with cathedral views in 75 degree weather with a slight breeze rustling in from the campo.
Almuerzo en San Miguel de Allende
The upshot of the media uproar about drug cartels is that now when you visit Mexico you’re one of few Americans: the rest seem to have been successfully scared into avoiding an entire country due to violence that is mostly confined to border areas. In reality, the interior of Mexico houses some of the most generous people, vibrant culture, and flavorful food you’ll ever hope to encounter. Here, at cafe Ten Ten Pie in San Miguel, in the clear mountain air and under the warm Mexican sun, we receive a serenade from two talented musicians who perform with heart and zest. When my godfather hands them 20 pesos after the performance, one sheepishly mentions that the cost for a tune is 60 pesos (about five dollars). Mi padrino tells them that it was worth more than that, and gives them 70. And I, in my mostly made up Spanish, congratulate the two on their “talento muy grande,” which elicits much mirth from the locals and my lunch company alike.
"Descending Light," by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, political provocateur, poet of collapse, and general badass…
"When I saw him that night in 2008, he was preparing a work called "Descending Light,” a massive ziggurat-like chandelier lined with 60,000 ruby-like crystals that looks like it is falling to the floor. Collapse is all over his work, from the Han urns he smashed in his early years to the massive sculpture he made from the old wooden doors of demolished homes that was accidentally destroyed by a storm, to the Shanghai studio the government razed, a work he now calls one of his masterpieces. The chandelier was literally shedding light on opulent power as it collapses on itself.
"In general people are blind," Weiwei once said to me. "The government, and even people who are insightful and intelligent, we are all blind." In a society in constant flux, a country with "great potential" but limited freedom, he said his work "is a way to not be so scared. To feel you are making something happen within unknown conditions.""
Hell of a piece of journalism, LA Times!
“Red Paden, owner of a club in the Mississippi Delta, is wistful and angry. His best friend, bluesman Big Jack Johnson, died recently, and his business, considered the real deal, isn’t quite what it used to be…”
Audio is now up for Terry’s interview/in-studio concert with Gillian Welch. Enjoy! (There’s a secret bonus track at the end…)
Paul Farmer (via ndeming)
Tomorrow: Physician and anthropologist Paul Farmer on Haiti’s health crisis