Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Mexican Notes

Statue at Hacienda Jaral de Berrios
San Felipe, GTO, Mexico

SMA was a cacophony of whistling fireworks and clanging church bells performing into the wee hours of dawn. It took on a life onto its own without the cares of the complex city life. This past weekend a carnival atmosphere took hold on both citizens and visitors from the surrounding areas including Mexico City, Guanajuato, and San Luis, it was a time to festejar simply festejando. Colorful merchants selling even more colorful wares ranging from balloons to dolls while the aroma of fresh food from street vendors filled the air with happy yet unfamiliar scents that would make the curious succumb.

All of this was a welcome relief from the stress of my week's business travel.  You do have to be prepared for contingencies. In Mexico anything can happen to think otherwise is sheer reckless optimism. Routine is less than routine in Mexico but nonetheless taken in stride.

Upon our arrival in Mexico City on Wednesday, we rented a car which we never should have accepted. We had difficulty closing the trunk but the rental agent cajoled the lock with ease and showed us that it was fine at least by Mexico automotive standards. When we arrived at our hotel our faith proved optimistic. No amount of effort could bring the latch to work.

But in Mexico, there's always a plan B through Z. The hotel manager had a solution straight from Tim the Toolman Taylor: duct tape. No worries an out of the box universal male solution.

Second business day, Thursday was relatively uneventful. As we approached our hotel I saw a water truck pumping potable water to our hotel. Our always ready hotel proprietor had a prepackaged solution to a water main break. Thanks to him we had water to bathe with and for our toilets. Again we were reminded not to take things for granted. There's nothing routine in Mexico.

By Friday, work was over and I took a 40 minute cab ride from Queretaro to SMA for R&R. Got to my hotel to find out that the front half of the hotel had been repossessed! Had to enter hotel through the side door. Not a problem, I had a room near the main plaza right at the center of SMA life.

That evening the city was packed  because of the celebration of the city's namesake, the arch angel San Miguel. This celebration of parades, fireworks, and church bells lasted until about 3 am when I'm sure the last musician and mariachi finally ran out steam and or music. This is Mexico always celebrating some part of life.

The next day there was no need for alarms to awaken me. The church bells rang on cue like a gleeful father waking up children for school. They rang without mercy for the already sleep deprived.

Wide awake I figured a good hot shower would put me in a great mood to offset my sleep deprivation a form of torture that could easily replace water boarding. (Note to self, send message to Geneva Convention regarding clanging church bells and fireworks.) Again I assumed incorrectly as I was jolted by a cold shower. Although I managed to shampoo my hair I didn't have the stamina to let the cold water chill my back. Suppose I wasn't in the mood for that kind of awakening or just my sorry ass was sensitive.

Hastily gathered gear and off to grab a cab and meet with other photographers to photograph the old abandoned Hacienda jaral de Berrios in San Felipe. Our guide pleasantly stressed good behavior and that she recently had to handle an unruly crowd because the local children had been falsely accused of stealing what turned out to be a misplaced camera. More drama to start my journey. Do not piss off the natives. 

Fortunately one of the photographers accompanying us that day was a retired psychoanalyst so I did my best I have this friend who...all without the benefit of a couch.

Time lingered as we toiled our way through the endless hacienda. Finally after a day broken up by a wonderful arrachera buffet, we headed back home.

We hailed cab from the Mega supermarket on the SMA outskirts but a routine trip home was detoured by the revelry of an endless parade and cordoned off streets. In Mexico it's entertainment first.

Finally had to ask the cab driver to drop me off within a mile of my hotel. Had no other alternative. Bravely fight my way back through the throngs of spectators and dancing Indians twirling to the deafening bass drums. Made it safely back to my room where I made sure that there was no repeat of the hot water debacle. Argued for a lower rate too.

Hungry I thought I would grab a bite to ameliorate my throbbing headache but folks were to busy looking at fireworks and listening to bands. Resigned, I too joined the masses and took in the fireworks in between the claps of thunder and flashes of lightening. I sought the refuge of ample umbrella like ficus trees in the plaza near the gazebo and in front of the splendidly lit cathedral. Was able to enjoy about 45 minutes before threats were no longer and raindrops transformed into torrential rains. Most of the masses dispersed. However diehards and optimists continued the party through the night.

My driver reached me late that evening and we agreed upon a time to leave one that included enough time for contingencies. We had been through many drills before during over a decade of travels from SMA and Leon's airport.

The next morning my driver called to let me know that my hotel was on a direct collision course with the parade. The agreed upon location would not work. Perhaps we didn't have ample time after all. I found myself lugging my luggage and back back down cobblestone streets and narrow sidewalks and at times strolling with feathered Indians and crossing their paths weaving in and out between the throngs and parade participants. Finally at the intersection of Zacateros and Pila Seca across from the fountain I headed south to find my smiling help. I boarded his 4x4, a white F-150, smiled and said good bye to a city, an adventure, and a country.

Arrived at the airport in plenty of time. Long enough to have to wait an inordinate amount of time with other sojourners making their way back home to the states some with makeshift suitcase overstuffed.

All was good and after about a 30 minute wait headed to our gate where I fiddled with my iPhone and jotted notes of my travel travails. Gate call and some nervousness set in as I saw an attentive a security agent with latex gloves which reminded me of my dreaded annual position B exam. What else could happen in Mexico? 

1 comment:

  1. Al, I wish I had known you were coming to SMA. You could have stayed in mi casa!
    It is a 10 minute walk to jardin but oh, so, quiet!
    I'm so glad you got to go to Hacienda Jaral de Berrios. i photographed it about 8 years ago. Magnificent place. I was supposed to have gone on that day trip with Jo Brenzo and then the opportunity to go to Texas happened.
    If you're ever heading this way again, let me know. I might be gone again and the offer stands...........


Please feel free to comment.