Thursday, January 31, 2013


Galeria Atotonilco is a very impressive art gallery located just north of SMA. Ordinarily the gallery is open by appointment only, but last Sunday there was a special exhibit open to the public. The gallery is spread out over 2 large buildings, including the one seen above which is also the home of the gallery owners.
The gallery has an incredible variety of arts and crafts from all over Mexico. It seems that just about every state was represented with works from local artisans. Our friends Antonio and Ericka accompanied us and they, too, were amazed. Ericka commented that she wanted to thank the owner for his demonstration of respect and love for her country. I agree.
One of my favorite art forms, Trees of Life, were featured at this exhibit. Several can be seen above. Traditionally the Tree of Life is a tree sculpture featuring Adam and Eve with the tempting serpent, but the artform has expanded to themes including Day of the Dead and other local folk art themes. The Trees come from several different areas of Mexico. Some of them are very intricate and of course are priced accordingly. The ones in the photo above are colorful but not terribly intricate. The one below is a modern depiction.
The entrance to the house part of the gallery with more museum quality art
and a large sculpture of a praying mantis. One of my favorite pieces of Mexican art is a praying mantis from Oaxaca that I bought a few years ago. It's not quite as big as the praying mantis at the entrance but very similar in design.
Following our visit to the gallery we made our way to the Sanctuary of Atotonilco, which is a World Heritage Site.  The main feature of the church complex is the Mexican Baroque mural work on the walls and ceilings of the church. Because of the vivid mural work the church is often called the Sistine Chapel of Mexico. People still worship at the church, and it attracts as many as 5,000 visitors per week. Once again it's very difficult to impart the scope of what we saw through pictures, but hopefully the photos that follow can give a rough idea.
Looking toward the altar, murals cover just about everything

Close-up of the ceiling
Very elaborate altar of the Virgin of Sorrows
Brian, Antonio and his son Andoni walk past the church entrance
It's always amazing to see the inside of the Mexican churches. Many are plain or fortress-like on the outside and exquisite on the inside. We have commented several times that no two are the same. They all are unique in their own way.
Links for more information

Saturday, January 26, 2013

San Miguel de Allende, Settling In

We've gotten settled in to our spot at San Ramon, just over a mile north of San Miguel de Allende - SMA. There isn't much to choose from around here in terms of RV parking with all the hookups, so we're happy to have found a spot.

Last Monday was a holiday commemorating the birth of General Ignacio Allende, one of the great leaders of the Mexican Independence Movement. There was a parade in town which we missed because we chose to attend a brunch and watch Obama's inauguration. Oddly enough we were in SMA four years ago and watched the inauguration here as well.
Although we missed the parade we did see some of the band performances, which were fun.

The jardine and surrounding area was nicely decorated for the occasion. After looking around we met Les, a fellow Mexico RVer who has moved to SMA full time, and had a nice chat.

That evening we returned to the jardine to attend a concert by the Orquesta Sinfonica  and Chorus of the National Defense Secretary, which was followed by an impressive fireworks display.
One day an RV with a variety of stickers pulled into San Ramon and we had a very interesting talk with the people traveling in it. They are from France, and have traveled all over the world, from Africa and Europe to Tierra del Fuego in South America and are now heading for Alaska. Very adventurous to say the least and they've had some fascinating travels. Their RV has stickers from places they've been, which caught our eye right away.

We continue to enjoy roaming the streets of SMA, going to the local markets or tianguis,talking to people, and taking lots of photos.

Interesting figures on the balconies during the day

under the spotlight at night
Along the walkway at the town market

Watching the world go by

Sunday, January 20, 2013

San Miguel de Allende

As always, it's wonderful to be back in San Miguel de Allende, SMA. It seems as though we never have enough time to spend here so this time we hope to stay for a month. I'm sure we'll find more than enough to keep us busy.
We love the architecture and cobblestone streets

the central jardine and Parroquia

and the little courtyards we sometimes get to peek into..

We're looking forward to the next month and will be posting more of our explorations. Brian has a long-standing history here, and while he sees the changes that have occurred over the past 40+ years he's still enchanted by this place and so am I.

Here's an overview map of where we are

and our route from Roca Azul near Jocotopec to San Ramon Hotel and RV Park in SMA
Roca Azul to La Piedad
La Piedad to Irapuato
Irapuato to San Ramon in San Miguel de Allende
It was just under a 240 mile drive.

Fiesta Charra

Before leaving the Ajijic area we attended our first Fiesta Charra. It was a benefit exhibition featuring local children and adults. We saw several different traditional Mexican folk dances performed by the Ballet Folklorico Xicantzi, each featuring different costumes and steps.

The costumes and performers were delightful and representative of different areas in Mexico. This young lady was performing her dance on top of an inverted pot or urn, something we hadn't seen elsewhere in our travels.

There were local young men performing lariat twirling feats. The young man in the photo below is dressed in traditional Charro clothing.

This young man performed most of his routine on and with his horse.
The main event was an equestrian ballet routine performed by the escaramuza female drill team Las Margaritas de Guadalajara. Escaramuza translates to 'skirmish'. Skirmish teams don't have a specific number of members but generally consist of eight women or girls. This group consisted of young girls, some of whom didn't look to be much older than 7 or 8. In order to participate in tournaments there are strict guidelines and regulations regarding their horses, saddles, and dresses. Members must be able to control their horses with great skill, as their skirmishes require perfect coordination among all members of the team.
The routines were fairly complicated, and their timing had to be just right during the skirmish. It was very impressive!
There are some interesting videos of escaramuza skirmishes featuring more team members and elaborate routines. The following links should be able to convey what my still photos can't .....
The day wrapped up with an exhibition of trained Freisian and Andalusian horses, along with some other dancing horses.

The horses were beautiful and well-trained, but the treatment they received from their owners was questionable. When we saw the liberal use of spurs on some of them, we decided it was time to go. Other than that, it was a fun event.

Monday, January 14, 2013


Equipales are a form of traditional Mexican furniture and have been a favorite of Brian's since he started coming to Mexico in the 1970s. They are very comfortable and durable, often lasting 30 to 40 years or more.
Our friends Ken and Kris were kind enough to take us, along with our Roca Azul neighbors Dean and Valerie, on a day trip to the town of Zacoalco de Torres where equipales are still hand-manufactured. Zacoalco is where Ken and Kris bought their equipale set so they were familiar with the town. There are more than 300 families making equipales in Zacoalco which has a population of about 26,000. It's kind of like a factory town without a big factory.
We were able to wander into several shops and watch the process of making equipales which come in many shapes and sizes. There were chairs, sofas, loveseats, chaise lounges, tables, barstools - even swivel and rocking chairs.
Traditionally the frames of the equipales are made from wood, branches, bark, leather and woven palm or reeds. One of the artisans told us that the best wood is cut during a full moon when the sap is in the plant, thus the wood will last longer. The frame is tied together with leather or a fiber removed from the maguey cactus. The leather is pigskin or cowhide and is either died or painted. Cowhide is more expensive, but many prefer pigskin because it is more porous which allows air to circulate. In addition to leather the equipales are often upholstered with colorful fabrics - it all depends on what the customer wants.

The men in the photos above are making barstools, complete with footrests. The base shows the wooden support, reeds are woven for the seat, and then padding and leather are attached to the frame.
Since this is where the equipales are made there's a tremendous variety of styles, quality, and prices. I have to admit that we didn't find exactly what we wanted and may custom order something the next time we visit.
We were really happy that we visited Zacoalco. The friendly people were obviously proud of their town and it was reflected in the cleanliness and beauty we found there.
Kris, Ken and Valerie enjoyed soaking up some sun and watching the world go by on the town plaza.
As we were walking by the church, which is obviously very old, a woman stopped and told me I should go in and see the beautiful view inside the church.
As usual, I was pretty amazed. I think this church had the most gold of any church this size that we have been in. There was even a worker up on a scaffold applying or touching up the gold leaf.
Even though we didn't return with any equipales we thoroughly enjoyed our day. We hope to go back and spend some more time there in the future. Maybe we should figure out how to purchase this equipale and find a place for it............
 Zacoalco was about a one hour drive from Roca Azul. It was only 33 miles but we had to go around a mountain range. Our route ...

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy New Year!


New Year's Eve got off to a good start this year with our party at Hacienda Contreras. Lots of good company, good food, good beverages, and even some games.
Plenty of good cheer to go around---

Jerry and Brian

Kevin, Ruth and Don

Juan, Norma and Chris.
It was a fun evening and a great way to kick off the New Year.

As usual there was plenty going on here besides the party on New Year's Eve. A group of us led by Kevin and Ruth took a day trip to the nearby Cascadas, or waterfalls. They had been there before and wanted to go back to find a hiking trail to the bottom of the falls. We had an interesting greeting committee as we approached the restaurant above the falls.

It was an easy hike down to the upper falls and pool.

There was no obvious route down to the bottom of the falls but Brian tried to spot one while taking in the great view. Not a place for a wrong move.

Ruth and Kevin took off to see if they could find a way down but were unsuccessful. They caught up with the rest of us having a relaxing lunch at the Cascadas restaurant.

We took a different route back to the campground which went through a small town called Concepcion de Buenos Aires. It's a pueblo magico and a very charming town with friendly people and a lovely square.

The church was beautifully decorated, I believe for a funeral.

This young cowboy was giving kids rides around the square on his horse. Very cute.

We had a couple of other special treats last week. Chris and Juan invited the entire campground for a fabulous breakfast of huevos rancheros, cooked to order. I was really impressed by both the food and their culinary skills.

It was a large group to cook for and they did a great job, fixing each individual breakfast to order.

Our other special treat was a 'field trip' to a small dairy operation. Barb and Sal arranged for us to visit and taste a local beverage called Pajarete.
The recipe for Pajarete is simple. Take a glass or cup, add ground up sweetened Mexican chocolate, some good strong alcohol (92 proof sugar cane alcohol in this case - to kill the bacteria) and top the cup off with milk right out of the cow's udder.

 Brian thought is was surprisingly good as did the other campers - another unique experience for us, although I do have to admit we didn't master the art of milking a cow. Harder than it looks.
We've had a bit of rain since New Years but have been keeping busy. I'm sure there will be more to blog about soon.