Archive for November, 2009

November 22, 2009

Weavers of Peña de Bernal

Peña de Bernal Is considered the third largest monolith in the world following the Rock of Gibraltar and Sugarloaf in Brazil.In mass, it is second to Ayers Rock in Australia and towers at a height of about 450 feet.San Sebastián Bernal sits at the bottom of the mountain, a small quiet town that claims an average life span for it’s inhabitants, of 94.7 years.

The mountain is believed to have magical properties,
Bringing thousands of pilgrims each spring equinox,
Dressed in white robes, to an evening community ritual
At the small chapel mid-way up the mountain.
The town has been bestowed with the gift
Of being one of Mexico’s 35 or so Pueblos Magicos.

On the weekend, the town is full of people,

Mostly tourists who live within a day’s ride.
Rock climbers come to scale to the top of the mountain,
Hikers skirt around the lower half.
Most likely you’ll see walkers in tennis shoes or boots,
But being as we are here in Mexico,
We also saw groups of younger women
In high heels. Go figure.
During the week, it is a peaceful, colorful ghost town.
We went last year on a Wednesday for the night.
The town closed up at seven so our dinner,
Was up on the highway, a taco stand
Which sold tacos de cabeza – eye, tongue and brain,
Or chorizo.

That didn’t stop us from enjoying the town,

Climbing part way up the Peña,
Or buying some of the fabulous wool traveling blankets.
The weavers here make many things,
The women of the town knit sweathers, shawls and vests,
But Bernal is famous for it’s wool textiles,
Blankets, rebozos, bufandas,
Which I have to say are top quality,
In beautiful natural colors and designs.
It is worth a visit to the workshops
Where the rhythm of the shuttles and pedals
That work the loom create a quiet music
As meter after meter of cloth forms at the other end.
Besides the wool, they make colorful cotton bedspreads,
Pillow covers and decorative wall pieces and rugs.

Click on the photo to go to our site where these can be purchased.

Besides the hand woven textiles,
One can find artisan foods,
Including cheeses,
Hand made candies
Artesanal jams and jellies.

The Peña has been used as a backdrop
In many Mexican movies including
La Cucaracha with Pedro Armandas and Dolores del Rio,
El Gallo de Oro with Ignacio Lopez Tarzo and Lucha Villa,
Adios Nicanor,
El Lugar Sin Limites with Isaura Espinoza
To name a few.

Although never mentioned in travel books,

Bernal has a wonderful cemetery
Which sits at the bottom of the monolith.
It has some of the more unique burial mausoleums
That I have ever seen, not to mention
Being a very peaceful place to spend some time.

Although Bernal is a tourist town,
It maintains a sense of self and place
That we didn’t find in Tequisquiapan,
Which although has many thermal baths to draw people,
Didn’t maintain the sense of place that Bernal has.
Perhaps this is because of the mountain,
Or the hand crafted textiles that are made here,
Or perhaps that it hasn’t totally given itself over
Completely to the tourist.

Click on the photo below to view a slideshow of photos which includes a short movie of the town and one weaving studio at work.

CLICK ON THE photo to view the slideshow including a video of the town and weavers of Bernal

©2009 all rights reserved.

November 2, 2009

Dia de los Muertos Altar

I spent most of the day on Calle Relox, with Elvia and her girls, watching and helping a group of young men build an altar for Jesus (Kiro) and in honor all of the other deceased of this neighborhood -parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters and friends. The decorating and painting of this fountain is a tradition with these guys and is also decorated by them for every major holiday or religious festival.

The day began at 9am – a group of men on a mission carrying buckets of soapy water, hanging two story long black curtains, placing the muertos figures, plants and Xuchiles. Then the draping of boxes and tables on which photographs were placed along with tequila, beer, food and last, a giant seed and sawdust painting of Jesus (nickname Kiro) as an ironworker (his profession) and the dates of his life, 1971-2009.

Here’s a few pictures of the day.
The links to the entire slideshow are at the bottom.


Teri, Jesus’ daughter, plucking flowers

Elvia, surveying the scene


Little Lupita
Who wanted a picture of herself below her father’s picture


The seed and sawdust painting.
Kiro as a skeleton ironworker, hammer and anvil, 1971-2009


The altar at night


Elvia and her four girls at the altar at night.
Beto, her son, didn’t want his photo taken as he had just had
An operation on his jaw, but nevertheless, played a large part,
A rite of passage for him to be included with the men
In the construction of the altar.
CLICK ON THE PHOTO to view the entire dia de los muertos slideshow


CLICK ON THE PHOTO to view the entire dia de los muertos slideshow

November 1, 2009

Six Months Later

P1040438I met up with Elvia and her four daughters at the cemetery today. She was late so I waited in front for an hour, arms full of flowers – you know me by now, trying to video people coming in with flowers, buckets, shovels, eating a bag of home made potato chips with salsa and lime, trying not to grease up the lens of my camera, wiping my dirty hands on my white blouse. Boy are those potato chips good, I usually don’t let myself eat those, but I coudn’t help myself.

There were hundreds, if not thousands of people inside. Gravesites were covered with flowers, candles and food. Little boys were running around with plastic buckets, offering their services to get water for the flowers. Mariachis, Norteno bands and street musicians were playing. I’ll never tire of watching a group of mariachis in their white embroidered suits, carrying trumpets, guitars and violins, sing to an elderly couple who have crawled over the iron fence which surrounds the grave, to place flowers, light candles, and sit down holding hands, while they enjoy the music with their loved one.

But that isn’t the point of this post. About seven months ago, my neighbor Petra lost her daughter Maricela to complications with lupus and on the ninth day of her novenas, Elvia’s husband, was murdered by a seventeen year old boy who wanted money for beer. It was and is a terrible tragedy for Elvia’s family. Elvia has a son and four daughters, ages four to seventeen. Today, was the first dia de los muertos for them. For a while we just stood around looking at each other, waiting for someone to bring a ladder to reach Jesus’ crypt which was at the top level. While we are waiting, Elvia tries to hold back tears as she notices that someone had come earlier in the day, leaving flowers and a can of Modelo beer. She is pretty sure it was her brother Fila.

Karin decides it is not worth waiting for the ladder and climbs the crypt asking for flowers. The older girls and I break off flower tops and hand them to her while Elvia holds her in place. Little Lupita stands by finishing off my bag of potato chips. Imagine having to decorate a gravesite this way. If it weren’t so sad, it would be comical. It takes us about fifteen minutes to get it just right, with Elvia putting on the finishing touch – the can of Modelo right up front in the center.


There is a deep resigned grief, a few minutes of reflection, hugs and kisses around and agreement about how nice it looks followed by an agreement that he will like that Modelo, which makes us all laugh even though it is hard not to cry a on a day like this.

Go here to view the slideshow of this week’s dia de los muertos celebration