Veracruz Chronicles

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Semana Santa en Veracruz

We had a lovely week with a visit from Joy's parents. We started off in Veracruz (the port city) where we took granny and paw paw to the old fort. We also introduced them to cafe lecheros and pescado a la veracruzano here.
San Juan

From the port city, we moved onto Jalapa, the capital city of Veracruz. Jalapa is a fabulous city, with a small-ish city feel, in the mountains (read cooler than other parts of Veracruz) with enough coffee for our family (read expresso shop on most streets)! It is also a capital of music, refered to as the Austin, Texas of Mexico. We took granny and pawpaw to the Anthropology museum, which has an excellent collection of Olmec artifacts and many impressive Olmec heads. The next day we traveled up to the town of Coatepec, known as a center of coffee production. We walked about town and saw several impresive churches and chapels.

We arrived in Papantla. The children invited school friends and granny brought lots of Easter decorations and plastic eggs. We had an egg hunt and needless to say, our little friends caught on quickly! They all enjoyed themselves.
Egg Hunt

We rounded out the week with a trip to the local ruins, Tajin, and the whole family traveled out to one of the communities where I work to visit the family and participate in holy Thursday activities (read, making a whole lot of tamales). Mom and dad got to see a vanilla orchard, corn and bean fields and sample fresh made tamales and tortillas off a wood fire. I think they enjoyed themselves and have a good understanding of life in the countryside in this part of Mexico.

The children were so sad to see their grandparents leave and have experienced some real homesickness this past week. Our time here in Mexico is down to two months, hard to believe. We are planning a trip to visit the abuelos (grandparents in Spanish) in Cuernavaca at the end of the week. Time with them will help with the homesickness. We are looking forward to seeing a bit of central Mexico and just spending time with the abuelos before we head back to the states.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Cumbre Tajin

We'd heard about it before we came but didn't realize what a big deal it really was: Cumbre Tajin. CT is a week long music festival held outside Papantla in a fair ground near the ruins of Tajin. The festival opens in the morning with craft and cultural workshops throughout the day. The kids participated in workshops ranging from traditional weaving of palm fronds to making toys out of recycled trash (a hobby horse). There were workshops in dance, from salsa, tango to African stomps. In the Totonac section of the park there were demonstrations throughout the day of dance, ceremony, cooking and of course the Voladores flew. On the first day of the festival, they held a tree cutting ceremony and set up the Voladore pole.

A troupe of clowns from Mexico City's Bellas Artes (Fine Arts Center) were a big hit with everyone attending. They were somewhat medieval, with large rumps (or chests) and grotesque paper mache noses. They traveled around the fairgrounds several times a day, stopping to perform acrobatics (with PVC pipe and yoga balls), oogle at pretty women or soak the audience with water filled insecticide pumps. They always had a loyal following and their performance was fun and smart.



Payaso, watch the water

Mark volunteered at the festival and was assigned to a group of monks. They are from Nepal, living in India in exile, traveling the world to raise awareness of their struggle. (They are in exile due to lack of religious freedom in Nepal after the takeover of Chinese.) They spoke very little English, no Spanish, so Mark's job was to translate for groups and explain the significance of their project, that of making a mandala. They worked for five days constructing the mandala, which is a picture made out of different colored sand. The work is meditative and a metaphor for the detachment they should have to the material world. At the end of the construction, they have a ceremony and then sweep all the sand into a pile. The sand was put into bags and given out as reminders of the mandala. Mark enjoyed his time with them and the whole family got to know the men. It made an impression on all of us.


The highlight of the weekend was the final night when one of Mark's favorite singers performed AND he got to have an interview with her afterwards. For those of you that did not know, Mark is writing a book about a Mexican music genre called Trova and this singer figures into several of his chapters. Don't know if I'll be able to get Mark home this summer, he is having too much fun.
Eugenia Leon

We just looked at the calendar and realized we have but three months before our return. It has gone by too fast. Willa wants to know if she can bring all her friends home with her. My work is good, I am lucky to be working with such kind and interesting people. Anyone want to visit Cumbre Tajin with us next year???