Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My Lush Floripondio

 The Floripondio/Datura in the garden flourish. The sap is said to contain scopolamine. I content myself with inhaling the scent of the blossoms that trails heavily through the night air. I love my garden.
 My Noche Buena/Poinsettia for Christmas.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Living Catrina?

There is always a surprise on Pátzcuaro’s Plaza Grande.patz 001

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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Night of the Dead

In the Lake Pátzcuaro region, Noche de Muertos / Night of the Dead is observed on the night from November 1 to 2.  The ritual is steeped in the beliefs and traditions of the indigenous Purhépecha. Most of Mexico observes Day of the Dead. A visit at night to the cemeteries of the pueblos around the lake is a poignant experience of sight, sound and scent.


Night of the Dead slideshow on Flickr.
About Night of the Dead.

A quiet villa in Pátzcuaro.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Around the Plazas

“Trick or Treat” from El Norte has trickled south to Pátzcuaro. Only in the last couple of years did one see children around the plazas asking for moneditas (small coins) for their calabacitas (little pumpkins, plastic or real). The adopted custom has morphed into something more local. There is no trick, just treat. And the children get far more mileage from the activity than in El Norte. They run around the plazas with their calabacitas for days—and nights—on end.


Someone whom many of you know, so I will not give a name, has a quirky sense of humor. I saw three children come up to him. He smiled broadly, dipped his hand in a calabacita and fished out a few coins. “Gracias,” he said, pocketing the coins, to the children’s speechless shock. When they found their tongues, they finally chorused “No, no….”. He laughed and returned the moneditas.

Another favorite activity of ours is eating. Today we breakfasted at Café Gourmet San Diego on Calle Ramos, between Plaza Chica and Farmacia Guadalajara. They serve as early as 8:30 AM and I have yet to see a foreigner present.

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They have several fixed menus, starting at Pesos $35. My breakfast was fresh-squeezed orange juice, huevos a la mexicana, refried beans, and a basket of bread including rolls with whole wheat that were, I am sure, from Rivepan. The café is Nescafé. We modified our order and I asked for hot milk with my coffee. To my pleasure, I received a cup with frothy steamed milk to which I added Nescafé. When we left Pesos $10 was added for each of us for our special coffee order, which was fine (in my experience, a charge is added for any modification to the fixed menu). I am an aficionada of good, dark roast coffee, which I make with an espresso machine but I go to Café San Diego for the breakfast, having already had my first cup of coffee at home. A good almuerzo for a total of Pesos $45 per person.

Love Pátzcuaro?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Altars and Offerings

Altars and offerings for Noche de Muertos / Night of the Dead have been set up in many in public and private places, an integral part of the rituals that precede November 1st and 2nd in the Lake Pátzcuaro region.

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More about Altars & Offerings.

Living in the Centro Histórico.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Las Flores –The Flowers

The flowers (zempasúcitl / marigolds)  and their fragrance fill Calle Serrato next to the Basílica. Don’t miss a stroll along this street where people go to buy flowers for Night of the Dead / Noche de Muertos. The flowers will be used for decorations, altars and at the cemeteries.

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A field of zempasúchitl flowers.

Flower slide show on Flickr.

Pátzcuaro living.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Folk Art on the Plaza Grande

The tianguis were up yesterday on Plaza Vasco de Quiroga and during the night wares streamed in with the artesans and vendors. The plaza should be in full swing today presaging observance of Noche de Muertos/Night of the Dead.

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The two biggest celebrations in Pátzcuaro are Semana Santa and Noche de Muertos. It is an indulgence to peruse and enjoy arts and crafts from all over Michoacán—and beyond—gathered in one place.

Typical Tianguis on Plaza Grande
See Callejón del Sol, just two blocks from Plaza Grande.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Harbingers of Noche de Muertos

Night of the Dead will soon be here. The earliest harbingers are the confections, los dulces, which have just appeared on Plaza Vasco de Quiroga.


We sit under the portal. Sugar and chocolate skulls fix on us with vacuous eyes from their display tables. Deep in their conversations, local warlocks congregate thickly at tables of six and eight, elbow to elbow with the sweet and bedecked skeletons and bones. Few women are here this evening at 7:00 PM.

Sweets for the Night of the Dead
Near Plaza Vasco de Quiroga

Friday, October 7, 2011

The rains have passed…

…and myriad flowers regale our eyes. I stand and drink in the fields of Cosmos as their faces follow the sun.

Mirasoles Lake PatzPatz 012 (2)PICT0029 (2)

Flora and Fauna
Patzcuaro…life is good.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Bus from Morelia to Austin

This summer I traveled on an Omnibus Mexicanos bus from Morelia to Austin, Texas. The whole trip is on the same bus with no changes. It departs from Morelia at 3:00 PM and from Morelia to Austin the trip takes approximately 23 hours. Traveling northward, the bus made several stops in the Bajío of Guanajuato; it also stopped in San Miguel and San Luís Potosí. We stopped for 30 minutes for comida around 9:00 or 10:00 PM on Hwy 57.


To enter the U.S. one got off the bus and claimed one’s baggage from the hold. First passenger documents were checked, then bags were scanned. The total process for all the passengers took approximately 30 minutes. All buses crossing the border into the U.S.—and there was a line of them—were scanned by a large vehicle that pulled up beside each one and slowly scanned the whole bus through the top. As I recall, this process took another 30 minutes. Passengers stood waiting on the U.S side. We were never more than a few bus lengths away from our bus. Most purchased coffee and tacos at a small restaurant right at the bridge. We then re-checked our bags, boarded and the bus was on its way.

The bus ended up only half full, it was roomy and it had a bathroom. Caveat: take a jacket, a small pillow, water and ear-plugs for the movies.

Cost: Pesos $1270 one way Morelia-Austin. Only 5% discount is given for an INAPAM card on this international route. You can make reservations in Patzcuaro. A small deposit is requested and you are given a voucher. One must then purchase  the actual ticket before boarding in Morelia, where credit is given for the deposit.

Patzcuaro Living

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Buén Provecho Salad

Just look at this mouth-watering assortment of tasty greens complete with edible flowers, ready for a dressing of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. At Patzcuaro’s Buén Provecho Mercado at Posada Yolihuani on Friday mornings, Gaby sells her home-grown, hand-picked, washed and disinfected salad greens, packaged and crisped, ready to place by the handful in a salad bowl. This effortless salad was a  taste bud treat.patz museo 002I like the Buén Provecho Mercado. Yesterday I purchased salad greens, a loaf of Ivo’s whole grain bread, brownies to indulge in with dark-roast-espresso-machine-home-brewed fragrant coffee, and tamales. I am crazy for tamales and my all-time favorite is the Oaxacan tamal wrapped in banana leaf. Much to my delight, these are now being offered. There are other treats to be procured in this venue, I am just citing some of my favorites. And I get to see nice people in a charming setting.

Incredible Edibles
Walk to Patzcuaro’s Mercado(s)

Friday, September 2, 2011

A what?

One never knows what one will see when out and about, patzcuareando. Yes, that is an elephant ambling along Patzcuaro’s Libramiento. I particularly like the yellow chair.

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Monday, August 29, 2011

Batty in Pátzcuaro

Yesterday, before dawn, the sound of something falling awakened me instantly. My eyes went from sleep to wide open. Somebody or something was in my house. I arose silently. Something else fell. It was in my bathroom. I padded over to the door quietly. There was something large flying around frantically and it knocked a third item over on the counter. As I turned toward the window where a small window pane was open, it landed on my back and grabbed on to my shirt.  We like bats, but that made me jerk my shoulders. My interest did not extend to providing piggy-back service.


I am most familiar with this Mexican Free-Tailed Ba species.
Our Pátzcuaro birder par excellence, Georgia Conti, identifies one local species as a murciélago nevado.

Mr/Ms Murciélago let go and flapped all around the bedroom. I isolated it in there by closing the bathroom and the hall door and opened wide two large side-by-side window panes. I slipped out and went to prepare my first-cup-of-the-day-heavenly-coffee. When I came back the bat had found its way out to freedom.

This morning, about the same time, I awoke more gradually  to the sound of flaps cruising around above me in the bedroom. Funny. Since I knew what it was, today’s bat seemed definitely smaller than yesterday’s. I arose and opened the windows but never saw the bat go out. When daylight came I checked all the vigas and tejamanil inside the house but found no little creature clinging. I hope it got out. I will check again.

There are roughly 4,000 mammal species in the world. Of those, almost 25% are bats. (You can search for precise numbers.) Many plants of desert eco-systems would disappear if bats did not pollinate the night-opening flowers. Bats get a bad rap because of the three known species of vampire bats; you are more likely to suffer from a mosquito-bourne disease than to be bitten by a bat.

Check out Bat Conservation International.

Patzcuaro flora and fauna.
Get batty in Patzcuaro.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Bus Austin to Morelia

I recently had occasion to travel from Austin to Morelia by bus for the first time. Striking out with online searches, to find the bus that I thought existed I ended up driving to a bus station on East 7th Street in Austin. A very nice person there called three different bus companies and I finally found what I was looking for: a bus from Austin to Morelia with no bus changes and no stops in Monterrey or Saltillo. Once I obtained this information I was able to find the site http://www.omnibusmexicanos.com.mx/
which did not come up on my Google searches in either Spanish or English.

I phoned the Austin ticket vendor for information and, between side discussions of orders for taquitos and barbacoa, I obtained a departure time and price. The bus leaves daily at 10:30 PM. I reconfirmed this information with the bus office in San Antonio, which seems to handle only bus tickets.The company is Omnibus Mexicanos and the Austin ticket vendor is the abarrotes store, “La Moreliana”; they also call this bus La Moreliana. (The inside of the Austin store was full of dulces michoacanos and it was run by a michoacano.)

La Moreliana, Austin - 512-851-2909
Omnibus Mexicanos, San Antonio – 210-271-9559 


The skinny: Purchase the ticket at La Moreliana at 3600 S. Congress, Austin, approximately two blocks north of Ben White/Hwy 290, on the West side. The price is $118.00 payable in cash only. I purchased my ticket a few days in advance. They ask you to arrive at 10:00 PM. They say the trip takes 20 hours, plus any extra time spent crossing the bridge into Nuevo Laredo. I recommend taking at least 2 quarts of water and ear plugs to defend against a few of the movies. The bus is comfortable, seats recline, it has a bathroom, and the driver(s) pleasant.

I arrived at 10:00 PM, as recommended. It is best to have someone take you who can wait with you so you can sit in a car. The store is closed, and the bus came at 11:00 PM. The temperature at that time of night was 100 degrees F, and the bus was cooled down to the high 60’s F. I saw that most people had a pillow and a fleecy blanket. I needed both.

Bus La Moreliana (2)

The bus originates, I believe, in Dallas. It stops in Austin, we stopped in San Antonio and then in Laredo. In Laredo a new “bridge driver” takes over just to cross into Mexico. Those on board who needed tourist visas said it was quick and that they received help filling out the forms. On the Mexico side, a person in camouflage uniform boarded with an automatic rifle. He picked two men who took their carry-on luggage with them and got their suitcases out from stowage to have them searched. Quick and no problem. Then the driver announced that if the passengers wanted to pay a cooperación, “entirely voluntary”, that we would get a green light and go through customs quickly. No collection was made. It did take an hour to get across into Nuevo Laredo. I could not tell what the wait was; there were buses in all lanes ahead of us and maybe it just took that long to process us through; we did not have any apparent problems with customs. I asked about this afterwards. The (new) driver explained that one of the passengers has to initiate the voluntary collection for customs and the going fee is US$10.00 per person. A Mexican friend of mine from Salamanca had told me some time ago that she paid this $10.00 when traveling home by bus. People often do it if they are in a hurry to be on their way or if they are loaded with gifts for family.

In Nuevo Laredo we went to the bus terminal. They dropped us off at the terminal for 20 minutes while they cleaned the bathroom. The special bridge driver was replaced by two new drivers. At this stop, everyone takes their carry-on items of value off the bus with them(not pillows, blankets, etc.) The luggage compartment had been sealed with an Aduana tape. The bus returned promptly and we departed.

Bus La Moreliana (1)

At approximately 9:30 AM we stopped for breakfast for exactly 30 minutes at a roadside restaurant south of Saltillo. We bypassed Matehuala and stopped at San Luís Potosí. At approximately 4:30 PM we again stopped for exactly 30 minutes for comida. The bus would have stopped at Querétaro but no one was getting off there. The next stop was at Salvatierra; we did not stop at Moroleón, a regular stop, but no one needed to get off. We arrived at the Central de Autobuses in Morelia at 8:30 PM; the soonest arrival possible would be 6:30 PM.

Buén viaje.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Philip Russell’s Presentation on Mexico

What a pleasure to gather with such a congenial group in Pátzcuaro, Michoacán. Thank you Philip for an original and interesting presentation, and thanks to all who participated. You were good company and contributed thought-provoking questions.

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Cultural Events
Patzcuaro Photos
Callejón del Sol

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Mexico Specialist to Speak in Patzcuaro

Mark Saturday, August 20, 5:00 PM on your calendar. You are in for a treat.


You are invited to hear author Philip Russell speak on Mexico past and present. His sixth book on Mexico was just published: The History of Mexico: From Pre-Conquest to Present. It is available in print and on Kindle, in English.

House at Callejón del Sol #3, Pátzcuaro Centro
This address is located 2 blocks south of Plaza Grande, between Dr. Coss and Romero streets.
On Calle Esperanza, next to #16, enter the gate to Callejón del Sol.

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See Google Map

Glen and I have known Philip since the early 1990’s. We recently attended an engaging talk that Philip gave during which he explained the relevance of Mexico’s history and economy to its place in our present, global world. His presentation (in English) , independent of his book, is well worth hearing. He has spoken widely on Mexico, having received repeat speaking invitations from Stanford and three Ivy League schools.

We are pleased that Philip has agreed to speak in Patzcuaro. He is a knowledgeable and multifaceted person. He became fascinated by Mexico many years ago when visiting to explore caves. Subsequently he spent many months hitching around with a backpack and hiking to Indian villages that lacked roads. He is still an indefatigable hiker. His exposure to Mexico became more conventional, but still diverse. He repeatedly served as expedition interpreter for the National Science Foundation expeditions searching for monarch butterfly overwintering sites. He won an award for ecotourism development from the city of Bustamante, Nuevo León, for building a trail to the city's tourist cave. This year the Sierra Club recognized him as outstanding outings leader for the state of Texas. Philip traveled with all six Mexican presidential campaigns in 1988 as part of the press and twice has been an official presidential election observer, including once in Patzcuaro. He has served as expert witness on immigration matters in federal court. His writings have appeared in sources ranging from the Austin Chronicle to the New York Times.

All this and Philip has a wry sense of humor, too. Don't miss his talk.

From Mexico Labor News and Analysis - [A] very thorough, useful, and readable history of Mexico. The author presents a clear, well informed, and well argued interpretation of Mexican history which emphasizes the country’s economic and social foundations, its political evolution and which takes up at every turn the issues of class, race, gender, the environment, and foreign relations…

Some other events enjoyed.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Patzcuaro’s Lacquer Folk Art

Pátzcuaro is known for its hand-loomed textiles and for its ornate and beautiful lacquerware that is hand-painted with brilliant colors highlighted with gold leaf.

From time to time, I visit Lacas Pátzcuaro, located at Dr. Coss 10-A, just south of Plaza Grande. I like to watch the owner there paint free-hand his intricate designs. He tells me that his business has been continuously in operation for over fifty years, started by his father before him. I note the rubric Maestro José Ramírez Guido & Sons on his business card.

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We wanted a special gift to take to a cousin in Europe so I called on Maestro Ramírez. I chose a plate with a design that included the Monarch butterfly. The Maestro suggested personalizing the piece with the name of the recipient. Not wanting to mar the artistry of his work, I asked him to put the name and dedication on the back and was pleased with the results.

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Maestro Ramírez will do custom pieces for you. Don’t miss visiting him if you have the opportunity.

You might like Folk Art & Crafts.
Sol y Luna is just 2 blocks away.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

El Asadero Restaurant

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Over the years, I have enjoyed many a meal at El Asadero, across from Mansión de los Sueños, just off Plaza Grande. I like picking exactly what I want and my custom plate is then brought to my table. There is usually a vegetable or two.They tell me that I am more likely to find vegetables during the week because on week-ends people come from the campo to town and they want to eat meat. Pleasant and economically priced.

Be close to El Asadero.

Like to eat?

Thursday, May 26, 2011


Catching zzzz’s, waiting, still waiting…


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Morning Serenade

I love morning sounds—and I do like El Ga-a-a-a-a-z, a typical Pátzcuaro morning serenade. Does this not make you nostalgic? For something?
Be serenaded.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

My Film Career un-Début

I was finally discovered. A woman chased me across the Plaza Grande and followed me down a side street as I headed for Plaza Chica. She entreated me to be an extra in a documentary to bring visitors to Michoacán. I was well-qualified for my road to stardom: I looked foreign and I was to be a Turista.


To make a long story shorter, we agreed that, although I was not available that day to go to Santa Clara, we would meet the next day and I would go with the film crew to the Yácatas at Tzintzuntzan. I invited good-natured and, as it turned out, hapless friend NV to share in the glory of a Turista part, as well. This was lucky for me, but we will get to that.

The next day we were to meet at Noon. The time was changed to 5:00 PM, then re-changed to 6:00 PM. We were flexible. NV and I hopped in a van with film crew and took off, on our way to fame and fortune.

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The film crew had a lot to set up.

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Pelota de Fuego players wait.

We arrived at the Yácatas. The Director did not like the blouses we were wearing with our capris and we were decked out with something else. We finally passed muster.

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The dressing-room.

We got to see the rehearsal for the Pelota de Fuego. I captured this short video clip, but when I wanted to get more I was shooed away. The Director did not want to burn up the Turistas he said. “Mala publicidad.” (Note the singed grass.) I like the coup de grâce when the Pelota de Fuego is smothered with a bucket.

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We went back to the dressing-room to wait. Another Turista, JA, was re-dressed several times. Then final touches were added to his hair with gel.

It got later and darker.  When will we start I asked. “Just another thirty minutes.” It got much darker. Just another hour they said.

At some point, after being dressed and coiffed, these lovelies were dismissed; it was decided they would not be used.

It was now pitch black outside and the time was 9:30 PM. My friend’s husband had arrived—in his car!—earlier. I talked to a sub-director and said that we could only wait another thirty minutes. He talked by radio with the Director. We would start in an hour. And the shooting would only take two hours. We would be on our way back to Patzcuaro before 1:00 AM. I said that I was sorry, that I wanted to give my apoyo for a documentary to promote Michoacán, but that I needed to leave by 10:00 PM if shooting did not begin by then. (I had been up since 6:00 AM; I had commitments all day the next day.)

Some of the last comments I heard from the Director over the radio were to send “Felipe” (or someone) to find another Turista. And to go get carnitas for dinner for the crew and the extras. As NV’s husband drove us back toward Pátzcuaro, I wondered where one snatches up wandering Turistas at that time of night at the Yácatas or in the little town of Tzintzuntzan, and where does one buy carnitas?  Or how would I have gotten a taxi if I were not riding home with friends?

I realize that there was a cultural disjuncture in this scenario, but probably not the one which first comes to your mind. The principal disjuncture was between Pátzcuaro and the D.F. At 10:00 PM in the D.F. the crew members would probably normally think about getting dressed and where to go for dinner. The night would be young. Patzcuaro rolls up its sidewalks by 9:00 PM.

This film crew worked in Pátzcuaro and surrounding areas from April 16th to the 29th. They were very nice. I am sure the documentary will be well done and I very much look forward to seeing it. I wish I were in it. I am matutinal, not a night owl. Darn. Tell me if you see the documentary.

You, too, can patzcuarear.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Burning of Judas

It’s a party on the plaza. Throngs of people loose little children who scurry around like ants. The excitement raises with exploding, brilliant fireworks. We shriek and dodge behind thick stone pillars to escape rockets that shoot right at us. It is not likely that one will enjoy such interactive entertainment in one of the eighteen so-categorized industrialized (and rule-bound) nations.
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Judas is paraded around on a pole and set on fire. To the crowd’s delight he is stuffed with more fireworks and not only burns but blows to pieces.
What attributes does one associate with a Judas through lore and such experiences, I wonder. Somewhere deep down, does one learn that it is acceptable to deal with perceived “Judas” characteristics with fire and mayhem? It seems that lurking in the psyche, saved to file, there must lie a Burning of Judas model that colors perceptions and behavior.
But I wax philosophical. Maybe it is just a party. We did have fun—and I didn’t see anyone lose an eyebrow to a rocket.
This year the Burning of Judas took place at Patzcuaro’s Plazuela de San Francisco. Although I did not go this year, I have in years past. I enjoyed brilliant fireworks in the sky from my house.
The Burning of Judas takes place the evening of Easter Sunday.

Joyous Easter Sunday

Celebrating the Resurrection on Domingo de Páscua, clothes in dolorous black and purple give way to bright white and white accents. As the evening mass takes place in the Basílica with doors wide flung open to embrace worshippers, in the front courtyard spirits lift.
Spirits Rise

If I stand by the doors to the church, I can hear mass and merriment at the same time. In the courtyard, people gather and wait to form ranks to parade through the streets.
Finishing touches are added to the float for the procession that will go from La Basílica to the Templo de San Francisco.
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Viewing the front of this truck, I wonder if the driver needs a periscope.

Procession of Silence

On the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, the Procession of Silence, many blocks long, wound its solemn way through Pátzcuaro streets from the Templo de San Francisco to Plaza de la Basílica. The periodic single beat of a drum paced the deliberate walkers and from time to time the short, mournful wail of a trumpet pierced the evening air.
The participants made ready to start their march in the courtyard of the Templo de San Francisco.
The disquieting hooded figures are called the Hermanos Encapuchados (the Hooded Brothers). Lay men of the community are inducted into this group.