Art and Culture in the Big City

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So, Saturday afternoon, Wheat and I took a taxi to Tlaquepaque, which is the arts and crafts mecca of Guadalajara.  The first thing we did upon arriving was to look for a place to eat.  There was a very helpful young lady at the Visitor Information kiosk, and she gave us a map and a bunch of pamphlets to guide us.  We decided upon one of the many restaurants surrounding this patio with a gazebo.  There must have been twenty restaurants surrounding the square, and you could only tell them apart by their tablecloth colors.

We chose one at random that was called “something” Monterrey. I was a little disappointed that the “birria” was not goat.  I think that it is a method of barbecuing, and it usually involves goat, but this one had only beef. I ordered fish, Veracruz-style, and Wheat ordered some sort of beef.  While we waited a mariachi group played for different tables, two photographers brandishing big sombreros urged diners to put on the hats for a picture, and the usual vendors of crafts and potato chips (at a restaurant?) circulated.  I did stop a vendor who was selling Loteria tickets, but I will never know if I won!

Our food came, and it was unremarkable.  I found that I could tolerate Diet Pepsi if it was on ice and had lime in it, and I used the tortillas to eat my fish.  While we were eating, the “floor show” started on the gazebo.  A different group of mariachis took the stage – forcing the wandering mariachis to search for a new place to play.  The new mariachis featured two different female singers, both dressed in charro costumes.  I remarked to Wheat that most women who sing with mariachis seem to be altos – I guess it blends better.

After we ate, it was still afternoon, so we circulated among the galleries and artesania shops.  I didn’t buy anything then, but ear-marked several places to return to.  There were a lot of sidewalk vendors, mostly Huichol Indians selling a variety of beaded jewelry and masks.  There were also beggars, and singer busking for money.

We stopped by the station of one man who was in the process of making a yarn painting.  Since we had the video camcorder with us, I asked if it would be okay to shoot some video.  He was very nice, and agreed to let us record our conversation with him.  His name was Rosendo Lopez Garcia, and his son was working with him – making change and filling in the backgrounds of the yarn paintings.  We bought two of his paintings – one large one, and another small one.  He explained that the paintings came from his dreams.  Each had a piece of lined paper folded and glued to the back of board or canvas explaining in great detail what each painting represented. These descriptions were hand written very neatly and signed by Rosendo.  I got him to explain his process on camera, as well as to explain some of the Huichol symbolism in his work.

No, I did not ask if he had tried peyote. But I did get his cell phone number, if anyone is interested (in buying his work, not trying peyote!).

We went back to the hotel in time to go to the Teatro Diana to see the Ballet Folklorico Infantil sponsored by the University of Guadalajara.  It was the one place we went to that was within walking distance.  We were not so sure this was a good thing when we espied a couple of rough looking characters across the street.  One was shirtless and when his friend walked off in the other direction, he stepped into the street – as if to cross.  Instead, he carefully shook out a load of broken glass that had been wrapped in his shirt.  Then, right in front of two lanes of traffic, he laid chest-down on the glass.  We crossed hurriedly, and did not wait around to see the results.  I did wonder if it really hurt that much if you did not actually fall on the glass.  See how cynical I am?

When we got to the ticket window, we were told that they only accepted American Express.  Ironically the event was sponsored by VISA…  We made a quick trip down the road to an ATM and still had time to buy tickets and be seated before the event began.  Just like any dance recital, the littlest children led off.  And, just like any dance program, the majority of the dancers were girls.  They were precious, of course, in their white dresses with embroidered flowers and their hair up with ribbons and braids.  The boys wored white also, with red and yellow bandannas tucked in the waists of their pants.  This became a liability as some of the boys legs were shorter than their bandannas!

The first half of the program spotlighted folk dances of the Yucatan and Veracruz.  The little children were replaced by older children, and then by young girls and a couple of boys.  Several boys in their jaunty white fedora hats came out and recited poems that were introductions to the various numbers.  The only adults on stage were the men in the back playing live music to accompany the dancing.  There were several dances with props, including a fake pigs head for the “cabeza de cochino” dance and a boy under a bull costume for the “el torito” dance.

During the intermission, we stayed where we were.  The second half of the show focussed on regional dances of Jalisco.  The costumes were very beautiful and colorful, and the girls were really working those skirts!  They had quite a handful, having to hold the skirt and their rebozos while they danced.  They were accomanpanied by an all-female mariachi band that was really great.  Occasionally adults came out in costume and sang in the background. There was a “bottle dance” where the dancers danced around a bottle of tequila, and a machete dance, where boys wielded two (fake?) machetes.  They did the “jarabe tapatio” as the big finish.

When it came time for the curtain call, I was surprised at how many children had participated.  I had just assumed that there were costume changes involved.  Maybe there were, but at least 150 dancers filed on stage.  It was a great time, and the audience, the majority of which must have been related to the dancers, were very enthusiastic.  I wish that there were more groups like this in our city, but they tend to come with a second generation of Mexican-Americans.  Also, by the time kids get to middle school, their most fervent desire is NOT to stand out from the other students.  Costumes and pageants featuring national costumes are usually the territory of elementary school, unfortunately.

We returned to our hotel without any harassment, stopping by an OXXO convenience store to buy a snack before bedtime.  I bought a Diet Coke in a glass bottle and bag of Sabritos (Lays Potato Chips) with lime flavoring, Wheat bought a package of peanuts and was able to snag a non-alcoholic Cerveza Sol (just when we were wondering when Mexico would get on the non-alcoholic beer bandwagon!), and I chose two packaged flans for dessert.  The Lime-flavored potato chips tasted like, well, lime candy and potato chips, which is not an attractive combination.  I then cranked up the A/C and we went to sleep.

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