Monday, December 14, 2009

Breakfast on the Plaza Grande


I walked to Plaza Vasco de Quiroga for breakfast recently. I ordered this appetizing platter of huevos divorciados which was every bit as good as it looks. Cost: 35 Pesos or US$2.68 at the exchange rate of the day. Glen and I usually split such a dish, which then works out to US$1.34 per person. My tasty cappuccino was extra.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sing for your Supper


One evening recently, we opted for a big Patzcuaro night out and went for a bowl of soup on the Plaza Grande. The customers at the next table stopped a strolling guitarist and the three of them regaled us with all of the couple's favorite Mexican ballads for almost half an hour. We enjoyed listening and watching them have such a good time.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Waters of Cupatitzio

A short drive from Patzcuaro, we can enjoy the springs and pristine water of  Rio Cupatitzio in the Parque Nacional Barranca del Cupatitzio, Uruapan, Michoacan, Mexico.



Be at home in Patzcuaro.

You might also like to see the waterfalls of Tzararacua.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Foods of Michoacan


Patricia Jinch wrote a good article entitled "Foods of Michoacán are Forever" on npr.org. See also her recipes at Pati's Mexican Table. (Thank you, mi amiga, Elvira.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Painter Lalo Garcia


Biblioteca Publica Federal Gertrudis Bocanegra is currently featuring an exhibit by painter Lalo Garcia. I like the simple forms, the composition and earthy colors of his abstract style. He also showed a few paintings in a more figurative style. Visit Lalo Garcia's online gallery.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Patzcuaro Market


The Patzcuaro market offers a profusion of fresh produce, throngs of people and heterogeneous wares every day of the week. Visit this market to feast your eyes and senses or to buy for an edible feast.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Visitors to Patzcuaro

Dr. Klaus Willeke and Dr. Audrone Willeke have visited Patzcuaro a number of times and always happily return. This year they planned to be here for the Noche de Muertos celebrations. The following is a look at Patzcuaro through their eyes, from an email with their permission:

Dear friends,
About 1 ½ weeks ago, we arrived in Patzcuaro, in the Mexican state of Michoacan. We rented a comfortable house for a month in the historical heart of this small colonial city that is surrounded by Purepecha (Tarascan) indigenous villages, mostly on Lake Patzcuaro. We would like to share a few vignettes of our time here.
Patzcuaro, in the Purepecha language, means “portal to the world of darkness.” It was founded by the Spanish in the 1530s, on a site sacred to the Purepecha. The mix of pre-Columbian and Christian beliefs is most evident in the celebration of the “Dias de los Muertos” on November 1 and 2. Before the celebrations started, we spent a day each in several pueblos, observing the preparations and talking to the villagers about it. In the Purepecha belief, the spirits return during the night vigil and commune with the family. The purpose of many of the rituals is to help the spirits find their way back. We spent time on Isla Janitzio in Lake Patzcuaro, in Tzintzuntzan with its impressive pre-Columbian pyramids, and in Erongaricuaro. The latter has a pleasant patio café called Red Star Café, run by a leftist commune. At the entry was an altar for Trotzky who was assassinated in Mexico City. We enjoyed talking to Charles, an American member of the commune, who wore a t-shirt with a picture of Rosa Luxembourg. The food was good, not revolutionary.
On the morning of November 1, we took a collectivo (a small van that runs a route and picks up anybody who flags it down) to the village of Ihuatzio and went to the local cemetery. The graves were decorated with flowers, candles, and pre-Columbian symbols, also baskets of food for the deceased. Since that morning was the vigil for deceased small children (angelitos), the offerings included toys and sweets that the deceased would have enjoyed. The brothers and sisters sat around the tombs with their mothers for hours. We were the only outsiders but felt welcome. Families shared bread in the form of a small child, and also fruits, with their neighbors and with us. In talking to them at length, we were touched by their stories.



Daytime vigil for angelitos (little angels), the souls of departed children, Ihuatzio. Audra accepts food that is offered. (Willeke photo)

That night, we went to several village cemeteries on or near Lake Patzcuaro. The most memorable was the hill village of Arocutin that we reached about 2 a.m., wearing many layers against the cold night air at an altitude above 7000 feet. A full moon illuminated the cemetery, hazy from many candles and small bonfires. The families were huddled around the bonfires, next to the graves of their loved ones. Most of the people sit there all night, wrapped in rebozos (shawls) against the cold. It is beautiful, eerie, and mystical: hundreds of candles faintly light the graves, the offerings, the marigold flowers, and above all, the faces.


Noche de Muertos (night of November 1st to 2nd) vigil at Arocutin cemetery. (Willeke photo)

In the meantime, back in Patzcuaro, thousands of young people from Mexico City and elsewhere congregated in the plazas and streets, celebrating in their own, noisier way. All week long, the city offered a program of cultural events, free to all, under the unique title “La Muerte Tambien Se Divierte" (Death Has Fun, Too). We attended a concert of classical music in an old church decked out with flowers. In a former monastery from the 1600s we heard Gregorian Chant sung by a group dressed as monks. At the opening of an art exhibit, we took special note of a painting with Superman displayed with his cape, but all bones underneath, entitled Super Muerto. Another showed Marilyn Monroe kicking up her skirt to show the skeleton underneath. We did not buy either of the two paintings.
We are back among the living and hope that you are enjoying life as well.

Klaus and Audra Willeke




Monday, November 2, 2009

Brisk Business in Patzcuaro



On 1 November 2009, Noche de Muertos, this food cart was set up on its usual corner of the Plaza Vasco de Quiroga, Patzcuaro, Mexico. Hungry customers thronged around it three and four deep, eager for their turn. Trying to serve all, the chef-owner of mobile Hamburguesas y Hotdogs Mayo really moves--and does it with a smile. Great personality! He deserves the business.

A burger with everything = meat, butter, ham, cheese, hot chile salsa, mustard, catsup, mayo, lettuce and bun.

A place for you.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Noche de Muertos: The Cemeteries


Visit in images cemeteries of the pueblos around Lake Patzcuaro. On the night of November 1 to dawn of November 2, families gather in the flickering light of hundreds of candles,  amidst a profusion of offerings, remembrances and pungently scented flowers, to commune with loved ones who have died. Trails of marigold petals help the returning spirits find their way. Over centuries these observances have blended Catholicism and Purhepecha cultural traditions.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Noche de Muertos: The Flowers


During the week before Noche de Muertos, people buy armfuls of zempasúchitl, a species of marigold. The golden blossoms are used to set up altars and decorations in homes and businesses. Many elaborate arches and decorations are made to take to the cemeteries, where tombs are also decorated. A profusion of flowers perfume the street with their pungent fragrance on Calle Serrato beside the Basílica. People cart away loads of flowers.

Visit this street of flowers.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Patterns and Textures of Michoacan


Click for slideshow: Images of Michoacan.

The order of patterns is visually pleasing to the eye, and the eye can also evoke palpable texture.

Live in Patzcuaro.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Artisan Teofila Servin - Tzintzuntzan


This gifted artisan embroiders complex scenes of celebrations and life around Lake Patzcuaro, and many incorporate Purhepecha tradition and legend as well. Friday evening, 24 October 2009, her exhibit at the Antiguo Colegio Jesuita opened. Included were some unique embroidered vignettes, approximately 5"x5", that to me evoke pre-hispanic motifs. They are exquisite.

See more images.

For Patzcuaro living.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Purhepecha String Quintet

Most Friday nights at the ex-Colegio Jesuita bring performances of some sort and/or an art or folk art exhibit. Entry is free--we are spoiled.
Last night we enjoyed seeing Grupo Erandi perform.  The group's full name is El Quinteto de Cuerdas Erandi de Paracho, Michoacan, Mexico (The String Quintet Erandi of Paracho, Michoacan, Mexico). The quintet of four brothers and a son describes its music as a fusion of  traditional Purhepecha with chamber music. Javier Bautista directs the group. Here are some excerpts.





Live in Patzcuaro.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Guillermo Cordero Enriquez, Artist

A walk to the Centro Histórico always yields gratification. I like these paintings I discovered today, hanging in La Surtidora on Plaza Vasco de Quiroga. I will watch for work by this artist, Guillermo Cordero Enriquez. La Surtidora regularly displays art inside.





Saturday, October 17, 2009

What's Cooking at La Jacaranda

Today for our comida at 2:00 pm, we will eat these Chiles Rellenos, poblano peppers stuffed with a picadillo of meat with raisins, and smothered with a sauce of tomatoes. Agua de guayaba, rice and a salad will nicely complement this dish. We will, as usual, eat outside on the back portal overlooking the garden. Hummingbirds come to the Flowering Maple all year long.
I popped the Chiles in the oven to finish off the cooking. They smell good!

For Patzcuaro living.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Hotels versus Motels

In Mexico (as in Brazil, and as in most of Latin America, I suspect), hotels are for sleeping and motels are for, well....illicit dalliance. The buzz around Patzcuaro has been that the gringos have discovered motels. But the word is not that they are using them for clandestine assignations, but rather for very practical purposes.
Motels have some very specific features. They are enclosed by high walls with an attendant at the entrance. One pays first, usually at a drive-through window, then drives straight into a garage with a garage door. One gets out of the car inside the garage, closes the door, and enters directly into the bedroom--seeing no one and not being seen, except by the attendant inside the compound. No friends or neighbors will see your car to recognize it. And there is an abundance of newly built, nice motels everywhere.
The advantage of all this privacy for gringos coming back from the U.S. with border orders, or traveling with a car full of gifts to take north, is that overnight parking is very secure. The accommodations are also very cheap.
We have now been initiated. It was late on a Sunday afternoon and we were tired. We saw no one inside, it was very quiet and we heard only one car. Family meals are traditionally scheduled on Sunday afternoons, so that apparently is not rush hour at motels. I think we paid about US$20 for the night. The room was comfortable and the cable TV was good (there was one surprising channel). And I must say we had the best reading lights and mirrors ever on our cross country travels.
Caveat: There is no in and out. Once you are in, you are in. Eat first.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Galería La Mano Gráfica

Artémio Rodriguez, talented Tacámbaro print maker, and his wife, Maestra Silvia Capistrán, recently opened an art gallery in Pátzcuaro on Plaza de la Basílica.

Galeria La Mano Gráfica faces the Basílica.
La Basílica
Silvia

On Friday, October 9, La Mano Gráfica presented a collection of photographs titled "We are Different, We are the Same." Richard Geoffrion's photographs depict wonderful faces and personalities of Cuban people. Monsieur Geoffrion is of Montreal, Canada.

Photographer Richard Geoffrion

Personalities in Print

Well-known and much appreciated musicians Diego (son) and Hector (father), of Patzcuaro added to the pleasure of the evening.

Links
Artemio Rodriguez, Linocut & Woodblock Prints
La Mano Gráfica
Your Patzcuaro Home.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Tacambaro Artist

Artemio Rodriguez: Linocut and Woodblock Prints

Artemio expressively talks about his work.


Yesterday six of us spent the day together with the Patzcuaro Birding Club. We had an ambitious and successful plan. First birds, then comida, then art in Tacambaro. Our visit to meet Artemio Rodriguez was rewarding. He is hospitable and talented--and I have always been particularly partial to the mediums of woodblock and linocut prints. His work is shown in the Davidson Galleries in Seattle, Washington. Also see Print Making by Artemio Rodriguez on YouTube. (I had heard about a print maker in Tacambaro for a year or so, but had never seen his work. Thanks from all of us to Georgia Conti for this introduction.)

Artemio shows us some of his prints.

A framed print in the Galería.

The Galería has a wall of children's art.
One of many such pieces, the colors and imagery of this child's painting
are clearly based in Mexican culture.

Links
Galeria La Mano Grafica, Patzcuaro
You can live in Patzcuaro.

Digital Donations to Patzcuaro Library


Muchísimas gracias for the generous response from residents of Travis Country, Austin to our appeal in TC Notes. We have delivered your donations of computer equipment to the library in Pátzcuaro, Mexico. Maestra Gloria Blancas López, Director of the Biblioteca Pública Federal Gertrudis Bocanegra places a hand on a newly acquired CPU. On the far left is Hilario Martinez Onofre, her technical assistant.
We also brought your donations of books to benefit the library. Spanish language books are placed in the library; English language books are used to raise money for the library. They are sought after by ex-pats who live here.

The Biblioteca is an invaluable resource for the education of Patzcuaro's students of all ages.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Farmer's Market

Ibo, formerly of Switzerland, now of Erongarícuaro, makes fine breads. I have purchased the whole wheat and multi-grain loaves, which are particuarly good toasted. Ibo's little pizzas are also very tasty.
Shannon's almond-basil-cheese pesto was a treat on toasted Ibo bread. We had this for lunch with a green salad.

Some of the items available.

One can also purchase garden fresh herbs and tender fresh greens for salads.
The market is open 11:00 am to 4:00 pm Friday.
It is located just above the Tanganxuan roundabout on the main tree-lined Avenue Lázaro Cárdenas that leads to the Centro Histórico. It is between the Hostería San Felipe and Galería Vicky-Rafael, on the right hand side going uphill (South).


Friday, October 2, 2009

Crowned

I have been crowned. After unexpectedly losing, in the middle of nowhere, a beat-up old gold tooth crown dating back to an unlikely time and place, I now sport a modern porcelain replacement. Adding to my enthusiasm over action I was forced to take is the total cost of the dentistry: 3500 pesos (USD$265.00).The whole process took about two weeks. I am grateful to a friend for referring me to her excellent dentist in Morelia--an easy drive from Patzcuaro.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Trafficking in Gold

This is about what my "nugget" looked like.


The economy must really be in the tank. I have been brought to trafficking in gold. First I must explain that I have an international mouth. Not because of languages. It is because over decades I surrendered to some rudimentary dentistry in out-of-the-way places. At some point I distinctly recall the use of a jackhammer.

The circumstances that brought me to trafficking started on a driving trip. We were in Bustamante, Coahuila, for the night of El Grito, on the eve of September 16 Independence Day celebrations. I was eating a tasty taco and bit down on a rock. It turned out to be a gold crown that I had gotten somewhere that came off. (Fortunately, this glitzy diente hid as a back molar all these years.) There was no dentist available in time or place until we traveled though the lunar landscape of the Altiplano Potosino and hit Morelia. I had a jagged stump lacerating my tongue for two days, until a sainted dentist worked me in for an appointment on the first business day after the holiday. At the end of my appointment, to my surprise, he deposited the beat-up gold crown in the palm of my hand. A nostalgic memento of some far-away place.

After arriving back in Patzcuaro, I noticed a sign that said Se compra oro near the Biblioteca. So I popped in, feeling totally ridiculous, and asked if they would buy a gold tooth. I can't believe I did this--or admit to it. The young man who attended me did not even blink. He tested my "nugget" to see if it was really gold (it was) and then he weighed it. I received 350 pesos, about $26 dollars at the current rate. Hey, I took a friend to a great lunch and have plenty left over.

Never underestimate the possibilities of commerce in Patzcuaro.

Sequel.

Come to Patzcuaro.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My Happy Birthday

I woke up to a lovely card and today Glen took la güera to eat at La Güera for her birthday. Good company with my man, and good food. An unprepossessing exterior. One of Patzcuaro's good secrets.


These shrimp brochettes were as good as they look.
A taste and texture treat.
I also appreciate the phone calls. And this morning early I received the traditional Las Mañanitas wish via email from my dear friend, Edna.

See a video of Las Mañanitas below.











Monday, September 28, 2009

Masks of Mexico

As part of the celebrations in Pátzcuaro for 16 de septiembre and the ten days of events commemorating the pueblo's 475th anniversary, we visited an exhibit of masks, one of several exhibits at the Ex-Colegio Jesuita. Entry is free of charge.

This exhibit currently on display is the best collection of Mexican Masks that I have seen. It is far more extensive than the collection that we went to see in Colima. To see a slideshow of just some of the masks included in this extensive display, visit flickr.

There may be an large collection at the Museo Nacional de Antropológia in Mexico DF, but I have not been there in a long time and the times that I did go, there was so much history on display that I could not take it all in.

Come to Patzcuaro.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Happy 475th Birthday - III

video
Click arrow to play video.

Another excerpt from a folk dance performed by students of the Secundaria Técnica of Pátzcuaro, one of many free events scheduled from September 18th through September 29th, 2009, for the pueblo's 457th Anniversary.

Happy 475th Birthday - II

video

Click arrow to play video.

For Patzcuaro's 475th Anniversary, a number of dance presentations were scheduled at the Teatro Imperador on Plaza Gertrudis Bocanegra aka Plaza Chica. Students from the local Secundaria Técnica performed these showy folk dances.

Happy 475th Birthday - I

This evening of folk dances was one of many dance and other
events scheduled at the Teatro Imperador.

Pátzcuaro offers an abundance of cultural events, plums for the taking. We are spoiled. For the 475 Aniversario of this Pueblo Mágico events are scheduled from the 18th through the 29th of September, 2009. All events are free, with the exception of a few food tastings.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

El Grito de Independencia


On the eve of September 16th, all over Mexico, the Cry of Independence is re-enacted. People dress up in their national colors of red-white-and green and stream into the streets.

These pretty girls head to the plaza for the evening celebrations on September 15th. On September 16th, Independence Day, they participated in the lavish local parade.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Library

Biblioteca Gertrudis Bocanegra, Patzcuaro, Mexico

The library needs donations of books and digital equipment. Their budget barely covers costs of operation and is not adequate for purchases. Spanish language books are put into the library. English language books are sold to the expatriate community to raise money, with a few being shelved for English-speaking borrowers. The Director, Gloria Blancas Lopez, has dedicated her whole professional life to the library. In order to obtain the software she needs to put the books catalog on computer, she has to show that she has a dedicated computer, which she needs to acquire.

The library fills a need great need for students in Patzcuaro. It is their only resource for books and research. The library also provides children with free computer classes as well as classes in the arts and crafts that are well-known and traditional to the region.


Many of our friends in Austin have been very generous. They provided us with a good load of books and other items which we took for the library in our pick-up. We hope to take items donated by Travis Country residents soon.
Links:
Where in the heck is Pátzcuaro?
The library's magnificent mural.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Saga of the Chicken Bus

Ricardo and Juanita Move to Mexico

An unlikely chain of events took them to Mexico from big, bustling Houston to live in a small mountain town of which they had never heard. There Dick and Carol Joan morphed into Ricardo and Juanita. These new names tumbled easily from the mouths of new neighbors and friends. It all seemed to start with the Chicken Bus.
They had lived in Houston for twenty-seven years where they led a conventional life. They raised three children, Juanita ran an interior decorating business, and Ricardo worked at a high-pressure job selling industrial packaging. He ended up having cardiac bypass surgery and he burned out. He may have been convalescing and vulnerable to suggestion when he came across the article that a friend had sent him some five years before. It had lurked quietly in wait for him, tucked away in one of his drawers. He happened on it, picked it up and read it again. It told about a town in Mexico where people socialize, have parties and their sex life improves.


Sounds good to me, he thought. So Ricardo did some research on desirable places to live in Mexico and bought a book that listed a number of good gringo habitats. He compiled his own short-list which included Lake Chapala and San Miguel de Allende, went in to work and quit his job. He gave Juanita the date of his last work day and his destination list. He thought one house for rent near Lake Chapala looked interesting.

“You should go and check these out,” he said.



Neither Ricardo nor Juanita had visited anywhere in Mexico except for quick forays across the border. Juanita showed Ricardo’s list to the woman from Mexico who sewed drapes for her. The Drape Lady shook her head. “I don’t think you will like gringo cities. I will take you to the places you have listed, but I will show you the real Mexico, too.”

“How will we travel?” asked Juanita.

“By bus,” said the Drape Lady.

So Juanita and the Drape Lady took two weeks off work and clambered onto a Chicken Bus. The bus was full of people and kids and wares of all sorts and, of course, from time to time, the requisite chicken or two. Juanita was worried that she would get traveler’s intestinal complaint. So she pressed her lips together firmly and resolved that, no matter what was offered, on her two week quest she would eat only rolls and avocados.
They visited a string of places. First the Drape Lady took Juanita to visit a house that she owned in the interior of Mexico. They had a nice stay, but the resources of the small town seemed too limited. On a succession of Chicken Buses they moved on, staying with drape-lady relatives here and there. “The gringa only eats rolls and avocados,” hospitable relatives noted at abundant meals.

In San Luís Potosí, there were no relatives so they took a taxi from the bus to a hotel. The driver pulled up to an establishment with women standing out in front. Their behavior and dress advertised their trade. This rattled the Drape Lady out of her usual equanimity. “No, no!” she insisted, waving her arms in the air. The taxi driver delivered them to a less colorful establishment. Juanita crossed San Luís off the list.

The two women visited Morelia. “Too busy, not here either,” remarked Juanita.

They proceeded to Pátzcuaro to stay with drape-lady relatives who lived in a modest enclave behind the bus station. Their house was well-kept and very pleasant. A cousin generously drove them to Chapala and Ajijic. Juanita visited the house that rented for US$750 per month. Chapala and Ajijic were nice, but everything "was in English." Juanita wanted more of Mexico. They visited Jocotepec, at the west end of Lake Chapala. It was tranquil, very Mexican and everyone spoke Spanish. Juanita could not talk to anyone. Great, she mused. I like this pueblo.


They visited San Miguel de Allende. Here Juanita again found English everywhere. The people whom she stopped to ask about San Miguel were too busy to help her. Not promising.

When they returned to Pátzcuaro, the relatives showed Juanita a house for rent down the street from theirs. It was vacant and she peeked in the windows at dusk. Although she could not see much detail, even in dim light the colors inside looked bright. She called Ricardo. “We’re moving to Pátzcuaro,” she said.

“Patz-what?” said Ricardo. He examined his list carefully. “That’s not on my list.” He paused. “Where is it?” he asked.

“I found a house. You’ll like it,” responded Juanita.

“What does it look like,” he queried.

“I don’t know. I haven’t seen it in the daylight. But you drive on a three-lane boulevard to get there. And it’s in a gated community.”

This sounded good. Ricardo had high expectations.

When Juanita returned to Houston, she and Ricardo began negotiations and somewhere during the course of things their plans to rent turned into plans to buy. To surmount the language barrier, they telephoned the Drape Lady in English, who telephoned the cousin in Spanish, who called back the Drape Lady, who in turn responded to Juanita and Ricardo.

“Let me negotiate the house for you,” said the cousin. “I can get a better price.”

To answer the cousin, they started through the translation circuit all over again.

“Send me money,” said the cousin. They did. He obtained the house for them.

“It needs paint, a sink and the water storage tank needs to be cleaned. My father and brother will help me. Send me more money,” said the cousin.

They sent more money.

The move was not too difficult because Ricardo and Juanita had already downsized their household once their children were grown. But they needed to downsize some more. They told each one of their children to pick out the ten things he or she would most like to have. If two wanted the same thing, a roll of the dice determined possession. They sold one car and loaded a U-haul to take to a freight forwarder in Laredo.

“By the way,” said Juanita. “We need to take a sink.” Ricardo said that should have been his most obvious clue.

“I still don’t know where I’m going,” said Ricardo. They called the Drape Lady. “I need directions. Ask your cousin how I get there,” Ricardo told her. One would assume the directions included something to the effect that they should drive south some distance and eventually turn right at Morelia.
The Drape Lady called. “My cousin wants to know what day you will arrive, so he and his father and brother can help you unload.”

“It will probably take a couple of days.”

On June 11, 2001, Ricardo and Juanita set out early on a fine day with their dog and four cats. They delivered their things to the freight forwarder and continued. Ricardo was committed to driving only in daylight hours, but by nightfall no hotel would take their menagerie at any stop, so each time they tried to get a room they went back out to the car and pushed on. By early morning hours of the next day the bedraggled pair arrived in Morelia. There they managed to check into a horrible hotel. Three hours later loud morning activity under the window of their room routed them groggy out of bed.

They finally made it to Pátzcuaro. Juanita could not remember exactly where the house was. “I know it was by a bus station,” she said. They eventually got directions. The Libramiento of Pátzcuaro that led them toward the house, before its current improvements, did not exactly match Ricardo’s mental picture of a three-lane “boulevard.” The two found their gated community in back of the bus station. Ricardo went into culture shock. The various houses on their street were painted a multitude of bright, happy colors. This was not staid U.S. suburbia. Ricardo suddenly remembered that Juanita had made him bring a sink. “Please tell me there aren’t dirt floors. Please.”

So on June 12, 2001, with help from the Drape Lady’s relatives, they moved into their house. The one installed sink worked more or less. The bathroom was a bracing purple. There were cement floors of a sort. The Houston apartment suddenly seemed palatial.

Juanita’s interior decorating experience kicked in. Construction began. They moved walls to make a larger kitchen. They added a downstairs bathroom. Juanita designed bathroom counters and picked beautiful Mexican colors. It was chaotic living in a jobsite, but the workers were willing and skilled, and finally the renovation phase was over.

The result was worth the wait. One walks through the front door into an oasis of tranquility in this two-bedroom, two-bath, two-story house. It is full of light and art and pleases the senses. The façade of the house is simple and understated; basically unchanged, it blends in with neighboring homes. Their finished house project cost them much less than it would have cost for a similar house in Houston. In addition, they can live comfortably on their social security income, something that would not be possible for them in the United States. Juanita and Ricardo certainly made an advantageous financial move.

What do they like about their life in Pátzcuaro? Three things top a long list. They like the people, whom they find to be helpful and friendly. They love the activity of the Centro of Patzcuaro: the market, the parades and the festivals. And they enjoy the small expatriate community. They comment that within a fifty-mile radius, there is much to do and see.

Ricardo and Juanita also enjoy their neighbors. On arrival, Ricardo walked their dog three times a day. The dog’s name was Happy, and the tall gringo and his dog soon became a familiar sight. Sometimes neighborhood children would call to him, “Hola, Ah-pee!”, addressing him by his quadruped’s name.

Their neighbors all watch out for each other, including Ricardo and Juanita. And on September 11, 2001, three months after Ricardo and Juanita moved into their house, the neighbors in their area came over to express their sorrow at the tragedy that had taken place in the United States.

As for some practical considerations, Ricardo and Juanita study Spanish when they can make time. Juanita has a neurologist in Morelia, forty-five minutes away. When she suffered a stroke, she received excellent care. The initial cat-scan and two-hour consultation cost $2,000 pesos. Ricardo found a cardiologist and he had knee-surgery (different physicians for heart and knee, you will be glad to know). He also is very pleased with his medical care. Their dentist is conveniently located in Pátzcuaro.

Ricardo and Juanita feel comfortable and secure in their daily activities. They regularly drive to all the villages around Pátzcuaro. They go with friends to eat, sightsee, and look for arts and crafts. They say they enjoy life in Pátzcuaro more than in Houston, with more time for themselves and more social life. They acknowledge that this may in part be due to retirement, but largely it is because of the interesting variety of activities available, the friends they have made in the small community, and the lower cost of living. Their dog Happy is no longer with them. Today another dog, Buddy, and two cats keep them company. Guests visit from time to time.

What do they miss? Shopping in the U.S. for clothes and some favorite foods they instantly answer—coincidentally a favorite pastime for mexicanos, too, when they visit their neighbor to the north.

In magical Pátzcuaro, a colonial pueblo that nestles at 7200 ft. in the mountains of Michoacán, an area of lakes, oak and pine forests, and waterfalls, Ricardo and Juanita enjoy their lifestyle. For this they give thanks to the Chicken Bus—and to the kind and enterprising Drape Lady.

1. A Pátzcuaro site for expats http://www.lakepatzcuaro.org/
2. Join for community and practical tips http://groups.yahoo.com/search?query=michoacan_net
3. There is a house for you in Patzcuaro
http://www.novinger.com/patz-homes.htm