Vamos a Mexico!


Well, I have received a Fund for Teachers Grant! I found out about it this past Tuesday by mail. I didn’t think I would hear anything until today or later. As far as I know, I am the only person in our school system that applied for a grant. Here is my project description:

“I would like to travel to Central Mexico for five weeks this summer. I will study Spanish for four weeks at the Baden-Powell Institute in Morelia, Mexico. There, I will enroll in one-on-one instruction for 20 hours a week. I have chosen a private course because it is more intensive. Individual instruction will allow me to tailor my course, including asking to learn the vocabulary necessary for conducting interviews in Spanish on the various topics I have chosen.

I will rent an apartment in Morelia for one month instead of opting for a homestay. Apartment rental will allow me wireless Internet access and the space to plan. I will also have the space I need to practice crafts projects and to organize my notes without disturbing a family household. A rental is much less expensive than a hotel stay. I will also have the ability to come and go as my project demands and an apartment will provide secure storage of my laptop computer, camcorder, and other equipment.

When I am not in class, I will visit Morelia and nearby towns to research the state of Michoacan, which is famed for its arts and crafts. In Morelia, I plan to visit the Museum of Arts and Culture, which houses displays of craft specialties from all towns in the region. I will also visit the Mask Museum and the Museum of Sweets, which is a museum of Morelia’s candy-making legacy. I will visit the Government Palace, which houses three murals painted by Michoacan artist Alfredo Zalce, with portray different periods in the history of Mexico. Morelia is also known for its ice cream. I will visit La Michoacana, one of many of a popular chain of ice cream parlors, to write an article on ice cream.

I plan to visit Patzcuaro on two different weekends, as there is so much to see and do in the area. Patzcuaro is the center of craft making in Michoacan. I will visit The House of the 11 Patios, which is a former 17th century convent now converted into a regional center offering high quality craftwork. I plan to interview and videotape the artisans at work. I will also record and document the “Dance of the Old Men”, a spectacle which is performed daily. I hope to interview some of the dancers who are the same age as my students. Patzcuaro is home to the statue of Don Vasco de Quiroga, the Catholic priest who organized a plan for the indigenous people to learn a craft so that villages could support themselves. Another opportunity for research is the Juan O’Gorman mural in the town library.

From Patzcuaro, I will visit the surrounding villages with Francisco Castilleja, a professional tour guide. Francisco specializes in eco-tourism, and knows a lot of interesting information about the geography and ecology of the Patzcuaro Lake area. He and his wife support the arts and agriculture among the citizens of the surrounding villages. Their mission there includes teaching arts and crafts to the local children. With Francisco, I will visit the home of a mask maker in Tocuaro. I will also see the ancient monastery and the Aztec ruins in Tzintzuntzan, a town know for its wood carving and straw crafts. Santa Clara del Cobre is where copper craft is practiced, and Paracho is the guitar making center of the state. In Uruapan, lacquer bowls and boxes are painted. I plan on documenting and purchasing examples of these crafts. If there is tiime, I would like to visit Janitzio, an island in the middle of Lake Patzcuaro that is famous for its Day of the Dead celebration.

I plan to visit the city of Guadalajara for a weekend. This city in the state of Jalisco is famous for its music and dancing. I would like to research the Jarabe Tapatio – a famous regional dance and to videotape a group of dancers during a performance. Mariachi music is also from the state of Jalisco. I would like to videotape a band of mariachis, and to write an informative piece that describes the various instruments used by the band members.

After my language course in Morelia is finished, I will visit the state of Puebla. I have friends that own a large house in Atlixco, which is a town not far from the city of Puebla. For that week, I will be staying with them and using Atlixco as a base for further research. While visiting my friends in Atlixco, I will have the unique opportunity to tour my friends’ home, which is a former hacienda and working flour mill. I would like to photograph the hacienda grounds and interior. I would also like to interview my hostess, who is a strong advocate for historical preservation in the area.

Puebla is another Mexican state rich in art and culture. It is the center of the Talavera pottery industry. There, I will research the craft and collect samples of local work. There are also many retablo artists in the area. Retablos are primitive paintings illustrating and giving thanks for miracles or grace, with a short narrative of the event at the bottom of the painting. I plan on utilizing retablo art in my program, so I would like to meet an artist and to purchase samples of the paintings.

I plan to write a profile of artist Amparin Serrano – founder of Distroller, a retail store that incorporates Mexican culture and religious icons in jewelry and fashion design. As part of my research, I will visit the Distroller store in Puebla. There are so many other possible subjects and places of interest to include in my visit. This is the home of “Cinco de Mayo” which is the annual commemoration of the Battle of Puebla. Puebla also has a popular Day of the Dead festival. The two volcanoes, Ixta and Popo, are nearby as well. From Puebla, I will return to Mexico City, where I will catch my return flight.”

Pretty impressive, huh? My husband is going with me. Maybe, the dog will go, too. The apartment we are renting allows pets. That is what I am trying to decide now. If we drive from Atlanta to Morelia, that will be about 5 days and 1800 miles – whew! When I was 12, my parents took us in a van from Lafayette, Louisiana to Mexico and we spent one month driving around the country. I know that it is do-able, but that will add 10 days to our already 5 week adventure!

If we fly, Delta won’t allow animals in cargo beyond May, so the dog probably can’t go with us. Then I have to decide whether to board her or ask someone to house-sit or whatever. I am sure it will all work out!

I started on Spring Break early yesterday with a teacher workday and a trip to IKEA. I am ready to get organized!!!



One response »

  1. We are considering a month trip to Morelia Mexico in summer 2010. I saw your blog entry and wanted to see if you enjoyed your time? We spent July 2008 in Oaxaca and loved it. Looking for something similar but wanting to explore another area of the Country.


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