Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Flowers, volcanoes and Cinco de Mayo


The rainy season officially started today. It is raining at the moment and will continue to rain every afternoon or evening for the next six months. The plus side is it turns everything into a lush tropical paradise, with flowers everywhere – wrapped around trees, draped over fences and sprouting from every available inch of soil. It’s funny to see all the tropical plants we Northerners cultivate as house plants growing like shrubs everywhere. Even Birds of Paradise, which we use in exotic floral arrangements, are part of the landscaping along sidewalks and streets. 

Speaking of flowers, the botanical garden just approved my proposed treatment for painting the wildflowers of Cholula for a poster. They will do the layout and design and have a poster to raise money for the garden, and I will have a very cool souvenir to bring home. This was the second proposal; I used a watercolor wash for the first treatment with the color extending beyond the flower. That apparently put a bee in the “committee’s” bonnet. They didn’t like the fact that I colored outside the lines. That has to be one of the nicest things anyone has ever accused me of.

You may have read about Popocatepetl, or “Popo,” the volcano near Puebla that has been spewing gas and ash the last few weeks. I live too far away to worry about lava, but not too far to avoid the volcanic ash, which is a nuisance and a respiratory irritant, the amount depending on which way the wind blows. It’s difficult to clean up because it turns to concrete when mixed with water and must be swept and bagged so it doesn’t enter the plumbing. 

There is a beautiful legend about Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl, or “Izta,” the extinct volcano next to Popo, which happens to resemble a reclining woman. (The names are from the N├íhuatl language, which pre-dates the Aztecs and is still spoken in Mexico and Central America.) Like many cultures, Mexico has its own spin on the Romeo and Juliet theme. As the story goes, the great warrior, Popo, was in love with the beautiful princess, Izta. While Popo was away at war, Izta was told he was killed in battle, whereupon she died of a broken heart. Popo returned and, learning of his lover’s fate, vowed to stand watch over her body for eternity. 

The State of Puebla just celebrated the 150th anniversary of Cinco de Mayo, which commemorates the Battle of Puebla, in which the Mexicans prevailed over the stronger, bigger French army. Puebla is the only place in the world where the event has some actual significance. Everywhere else, especially the U.S., it’s an excuse (for those who need one) to drink Mexican beer. Puebla celebrated with performances throughout the month and a huge parade and fireworks on the 5th.  Jacob, Jonas and Kristin were here for the occasion and now have bragging rights during every Cinco de Mayo for the rest of their lives.

I loved having my kids here to share my Mexican life; this was Jonas’s second visit, in fact. We took a day trip to Teotihuacan, the famous pyramids near Mexico City, spent time enjoying downtown Puebla, climbed the Pyramid of Cholula and sampled the local fare. The unanimous best thing to eat was freshly made blue corn tortillas at the China Poblana restaurant. A close second was chocolate tamales. Before Jonas and Kristin arrived, Jacob and I visited the beautiful little pueblo of Tlaxcala and the nearby ruins and explored Cholula. 

Everyone left shortly before Mother’s Day, but having them here was the best gift I could have ever received. I got to celebrate the day twice: Mother’s Day is celebrated in Mexico on the actual day. This year it fell on a Thursday, so all the mothers at my center were given the day off. I Skyped with my sons on Sunday when it was celebrated in the U.S.  

I have been able to see a little more of Mexico, and traveled to Oaxaca with a friend last month. I fell in love with the place. It’s a beautiful, clean city with wonderful galleries, restaurants and interesting architecture. We took a day trip to the archeological sites of Monte Alban and Mitla, saw the Tula tree, reported to be the largest in the world, and sampled mole negro. I painted a magnificent tree I saw at Monte Alban, which you can see on Flickr, along with the volcano (CNN photo), the 5 de Mayo parade, Teotihuacan, Monte Alban and the Tula tree.

Well, once again I have failed in my attempt to write a shorter blog entry. I really do try, but there’s just too much wonderful stuff to tell you about.

Until next time,
Hasta luego

1 comment:

  1. Hi Donna, nice to see that all's well with you and I enjoy reading your blog--don't worry about cutting it short. if it's fantastic, share it! glad your family was there to celebrate mother's day with you. miss ya! vicki