Thursday, April 15, 2010

Butterflies on the March

March 21st, the first day of Spring, coincides with Benito Juarez's birthday.  Juarez was president of Mexico in the 1850-60's, the first native Indian president, and a Mexican hero. His birthday is a national holiday.  Like in the US, the big national holidays are now all celebrated on Mondays to give students and workers the benefit of three day weekends. But the real first day of Spring is always the day of the Spring parade here in Morelia.  

This year the parade fell on a Friday and I MISSED IT because I was sick and slept in and wasn't  thinking  about the calendar!  So I was depressed the whole rest of the day because the Spring parade is one of my all time favorite events.  All the nursery school kids and kindergarteners dress like butterflies, bees, and furry animals and march the mile from our end of town to the front of the main cathedral.  In a city of a million, that's a lot of cute costumes.  When I finally got up to go to the pharmacy I met one post-parade straggler who happily posed for a photo.  Fortunately I have an archive of photos to share from other years.

If I was the governor of Morelia, I would make it a crime for mothers and teachers to get in the way once the parade has begun.  It's so hard to take good photos with all the adult intervention.  I like my bumble bees and butterflies unobstructed!  

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Mexico City for Semana Santa

Semana Santa, the week leading up to Easter, is a national holiday in Mexico and many businesses and all schools are closed the entire week.  This means the air in Mexico City is cleaner than usual and traffic is way down.  Wealthy residents head for the beaches and the city provides a lot of free entrances and activities for the residents who stay.  It's a great time to visit!

I knew right away it was going to be a great time because we traveled there on one of the new two decker buses and got the front seats on the upper level.  What a view!  The scenery between Morelia and MC is mostly farmland, rolling hills and with a wide array of crops and little plowed fields.  There were even some snow covered mountains in the distance!  

The first day we went to the Delores Olmedo museum which is a large estate in the southern section of the city.  Delores O has one of the hugest Diego Rivera collections and as a painter I was very interested to see some of the large sketches he used to work out some of his  murals.  He was a master at breaking his subjects down into simple shapes.  I was just sorry that the Frieda Kahlo collection had been sent to Europe for the year.   But there was plenty of other interesting displays not to mention the grounds and the huge family of Mexican hairless (Xolo) dogs (a species popular with the Aztecs) in one of the gardens.

Also in the southern part of the city we visited Xochimilco and rented one of the zillion shallow boats and spent a couple of hours enjoying the garden centers along the canals.  Other boats had mariachi bands aboard, and some had little grills.  From one boat, Alice bought a roasted corn on the cob slathered with thick cream and sprinkled with cheese and chili powder.

The next day we went to Ciudad de Los NiƱos an indoor amusement park set up like a city in child scale.  Kids spend their five hours working at whatever industries interest them.  Each "work" session lasts around 20 minutes.  Most of the exhibits have corporate sponsors.  Kids can be firemen, dentists, brick layers, DJ's, newspaper employees, DHL delivery men, electrical repairmen, archeologists, hair dressers, McDonald's employees, perfume makers, Walmart clerks, veterinarians, performers, house painters, etc. etc. etc.  Five hours isn't nearly enough time.  Unless you're the parents.

There were several more art museums (Museo San Carlos, the MoMA in Chapultapec being my two favorites), the economics museum (more interesting than it may sound, even Alice will tell you), free bicycle rental for 3 hours in Chapultapec park AND next to the free bike rental they were giving away samples of Oreo cookies with little glasses of milk!  Does life get any better?

We rode the subway everywhere.  It was still pretty crowded even with most of the population on vacation.  But it's a cheap and easy way to get around (about 25 cents a ticket).   And at the end of every day we were exhausted.  Since we don't have a TV in Morelia we spent evenings watching Law and Order and House reruns in ENGLISH!  And we'd never seen any of them before!