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
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.

Patz 018

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.

sol3 locate

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.