October 21, 2004 

Today we spent half a day relaxing/doing chores around the vehicle and the other half at the Lavanderia doing laundry and visiting the Internet café.  While doing chores can be dull, we thoroughly enjoyed the conversation we had with the owner of the Lavanderia, a single businesswoman in a large city and she was very helpful when she steered us in the direction of the cybercafe.

 

October 22, 2004

 Chores completed, it was time to visit Guadalajara!  We took the advice of the park owner where we spent the night and took the bus in the city center.  This proved to be a wise choice as the city dwellers take their driving very seriously.  He who can squeeze fastest into the smallest space wins!  We were very happy to sit back and enjoy the sights on our way into town.   

Once in the city center, we started wandering from place to place.  We started with the Plaza de Armas, the Palacio de Gobierno and the Presidencia Municipal.  We then visited the Cathedral whose building was begun in 1558 and took 60 years to finish.  Then it was off to the Central Market where we explored and found a place for lunch.  Don ordered an incredible meal that consisted of carne asada, chorizo, nopales (cactus), beans, chiles and avocados and was served in a heated lava rock bowl.  When it was delivered to our table, the surrounding diners all oohed & aahed.  The dish was so hot, that Don had to remove the food from the bowl and let it cool on another plate before he could eat it. 

After lunch we headed to the Plaza de los Mariachis.  This plaza is where it is said Mariachi music was born.  The term Mariachi has a disputed origin; some say it stems from the French word “mariage”  (marriage) and the weddings the Mariachis would play at, some say it arises from festivals honoring the virgin Mary (Maria) with the Nahuatl “chi” added on, and still others claim that it stems from the use of the word “mariache” which is the word for the stage people perform on.  Whatever the term, Mariachis are an important part of Jalisco. 

Our last stop was at the Instituto Cultural de Cabanas.  This beautiful building served for over 150 years as an orphanage.  Between 1936 and 1939 Jose Clemente Orozco painted 54 murals in the main chapel.  These murals are beautiful and haunting and present many opportunities for interpretation.

 

October 23, 2004 

Today we were off to the state of Michoacan.  The word Michoacan is an Aztec word meaning “Place of the Masters of Fish”.  The term probably stems from Lake Patzcuaro, an outstanding feature.  Another of the natural features of the state is the Cordillera Neovolcanica, the volcanic range that gives the state its fertile soil and its mountainous landscape.   

We chose to drive the free road today and as we drove along, we noted that the scenery was gorgeous and that we were ringed by volcanoes and cinder cones.  We were also amazed by the abundance of wildflowers in all shapes, sizes and colors.  Driving the free road also allowed us to stop in the small towns along the way.  

In one puebla (town) there was a celebration going on that we discovered was a celebration of bread, called Pan.  Dancers carried bread in baskets atop their heads and musicians wore bread decorations around their necks.  There was also a huge pile of offerings that included vegetables, fruit and soda as well as bread.    

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Arriving in Patzcuaro late in the afternoon, we pulled into a trailer park and will explore the town tomorrow.

October 24, 2004

Patzcuaro is a lovely colonial town in the highlands.  It was the capital of the Tarasco people from about 1325 to 1400.  The Spanish came in 1522 and in 1529 the people came under the rule of Nuno de Guzman, a conquistador of legendary cruelty.  Guzman’s inhumanity to the indigenous people was so severe that the Catholic Church sent Bishop Vasco de Quiroga to fix the mess.  Quiroga set up cooperatives and schools and encouraged the indigenous people to develop its own craft specialty.  He is venerated to this day.

Currently the area is inhabited by 130,000 Purepecha people, direct descendants of the Tarascos.  Their celebration of the Day of the Dead is legendary in the area and is especially colorful on Isla Janitzio.  We visited the island and were struck by its liveliness.  Fishermen greeted the boats coming from the mainland with a choreographed ballet of butterfly fishing nets, dancers in masks and colorful costumes made fun of old men and colorfully dressed indigenous women sold everything under the sun.  

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Back in town, we visited the market, purchasing fresh vegetables and cheese.  We then visited the main square to discover a line of market stalls selling sweets for the Day of the Dead celebrations.  Sugar and chocolate skulls were available as were skeletons depicted drinking beer or eating their favorite foods.  These sweets are given as gifts and used to adorn the altars made to honor the family descendants.  

 

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