“I am sure many people compliment you on your eyes,” I said to a woman I met last week.
“Just as they must comment on yours,” she replied.
Between two international residents, such an exchange would sound strange, but my new acquaintance is not from the United States, Canada or a European country.
Her brightly embroidered huipil, friendly smile, and physical features type-cast her as a Yucatecan village woman, and indeed, she comes from Muna, close to Uxmal. But while most of the country’s population is dark-eyed – this lady has striking blue eyes.
We did not have a long conversation, but I figured her family tree probably includes a few of the Casa Carlota settlers.
Casa Carlota was established during the Second Mexican Empire (1864-1867) when two Yucatecan hamlets – Santa Elena and Pustunich – received 443 German immigrants. They were farmers and artisans who came to the country at the invitation of Mexico’s Emperor Maximilian, brother of the Austrian king Franz Joseph. The emperor hoped to colonize the Yucatan with 600 European families a year.
Funding for the project did not last long because Emperor Maximilian met an early demise by firing squad. The German settlers dispersed. Some went to other Mexican cities, some to the USA, others back to Europe, and of course some stayed on.
These individuals and families quickly formed relationships with the people living in the surrounding countryside. Marriages were performed, and many German-Maya children arrived into the world.
Readers interested in learning more about this unique period of local history can download and read this PDF containing information compiled by Alma Duran-Merk:
The only constant is change. Over the years, I’ve quoted this apparent oxymoron over and over again. In fact, the first paragraph of Magic Made in Mexico – my book for international residents in Mexico – emphasizes this very point:
I’ve often wondered what would happen if we could recognize pivotal times in our personal journeys – the forks in the road that present themselves – do we see them coming? Does a vague premonition warn us that certain decisions are destined to truly change our path? If we could anticipate those critical junctions, would we have the nerve to follow through?
I certainly did “follow through” – but for the past several years, I have sensed more than a “vague premonition” – I’ve known that changes are not far off. In fact the Universe has been banging me over the head with a cast iron frying pan. Yet, I have resisted. I’ve tried to divert my thoughts and actions.
Part of me doesn’t want to make any changes. For a whole gamut of reasons, I want to continue ambling along just as I’ve done up until now. And yet, another part of me feels like a diver poised with her toes curled around the no-slip tip of the highest platform – waiting for the whistle to shrill – the signal that it’s her turn to leap.
Forty-one years ago I moved to Merida. I was young – incredibly young. I did not comprehend how radically different my new world would be, but at twenty-three, I thrived on adventure. I craved it like chocolate. Now, I am almost triple that age. The life I charged into has been amazing, enriching, challenging, and wonderful – mostly because Lady Luck introduced me to Jorge – the man who has shared the roller coaster ride. Now retired, I guess we should be settling into our dotage, resting on our laurels – taking it easy.
But gale force winds are blowing again – I feel the need to regroup, refocus and repurpose my life.
For a mishmash of practical, sensible, prudent reasons, and for some emotional, familial, climate-related, and age-induced ones – I’ve decided to move back to Canada for the “warmer” half of each year. I will continue to live in Merida for the “cooler” half.
Those readers who know me will immediately wonder – what does “the man who has shared the roller coaster ride” have to say about all this? To be honest, Jorge is less than thrilled. This is my doing, but he is willing to give it a go. After all, if we don’t adjust, we can always change our minds and pick up where we left off. Potential for un-change is also limitless, isn’t it?
Jorge and I will probably not be able to leave Merida until June, which means we’ll be away until December. We plan to settle in Kamloops, a city of approximately 90,000 people in the interior of British Columbia. The place has much to offer– lots of sunshine, a small university, cultural venues, and a good library located two blocks from our 2 bedroom apartment. There are paths along the river for pleasant walks, and lakes for swimming – cold swimming. The shopping is plentiful – in both farmers’ markets and malls. Local wineries and pick-your-own-veggie fields will make for some vastly-different-from-Yucatan day trips. But the best feature in Kamloops is the close proximity to my sister, Barb, and other family and friends.
And to mark this milestone, what does an earnest blogger do? Why, she starts a new blog, what else? After nearly a decade, it feels bitter-sweet to be leaving Writing From Merida. But it’s all about change, right?
After today, I do not plan on writing any new posts for Writing from Merida. From now on, you will find all my new content and some of the posts from my former blog at:
With all my heart, I believe that as we “grow up”, we don’t have to “grow old”. On a friend’s blog today, I read a piece of creative fiction about dreaming. Her words inspired me to write today’s post.
Earlier this month when I traveled to Belize and Guatemala, I felt I was taking an adventure, not just a trip. Jorge had not ever been to Belize and his last time in Guatemala was 50 years ago. Neither Efrén, nor I, had ever been to either country. Why, you ask – both are so close to Yucatán.
Concerns about civil unrest, being robbed, getting stranded, and worrying that the physical challenges will be too much for us are partly responsible – but so is the rut – the place we dig into and forget to stray out of.
But Carlos, our son who still loves to dream, kept after us…
Place the following ingredients in a large pot and completely cover with water (about 3 quarts). Put on the lid and bring to the boil, then lower the heat and stew everything for 1/2 hour.
2 chickens, cut into quarters, skin removed
½ med. white onion, chopped coarsely
4 whole cloves of garlic, skinned
1 T. salt
10 whole black pepper corns
2 tsp. dried oregano
While the chicken is stewing, cook and char on a stove top griddle:
1 lg. white onion, skinned and left whole
1 lg. red pepper, veins and seeds removed
2 lg. whole Roma tomatoes
Cut the vegetables (charred skins and all) into large chunks and put them in the blender. Add:
2 oz. of dark chocolate (La Abuelita)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 T. chicken consommé powder (Maggi)
the contents of 2 jars (235g. each) of (DoñaMaria) mole paste.
When the chicken is cooked, remove the pieces and set them on a platter to cool for ½ hour – then remove the meat from the bones in as large pieces as possible. Set the chicken pieces to one side. Discard the bones.
Strain the broth, discard the onion and other bits, and then take out enough broth to cover the ingredients in the blender. Process until smooth. If your blender’s glass is not a large one, do one half of the ingredients at a time. Transfer the mixture to a clay cooking pot or other large pot.
Reserve 4 cups of the broth so you can use it when making the rice, and add all the rest to the blended mixture in the cooking pot. Stir well and put the pot on medium heat. The mixture will be “soupy”, so you need to let it reduce by about a third, or until it has the texture of a creamy sauce.
Add the chicken pieces to the mole sauce and simmer for 20 minutes.
2 cups of rice
And prepare it as you please, but instead of using water, use the:
4 cups of reserved chicken broth
To the steaming rice, add:
2 envelopes of condimento español
(this is basically turmeric and is available at you corner store or in the market)
¼ cup of toasted sesame seeds
Mold ½ cup of rice on one side of the plate. Spoon the Mole beside it. To garnish the mole, I sometimes run a line of cream over the top and sprinkle it with the toasted sesame seeds. Sometimes I place thinly sliced red onion on top or I use cilantro leaves.
I serve guacamole, fried plantains and hot corn tortillas with this meal. I pair it with a robust red wine.
This coming week, if you wander into the Siglo XXI Convention Center from the parking lot, you’ll see the length of the corridor is decorated in a bright red and yellow motif, with traditional Chinese paper lanterns hanging overhead.
If you come through the side access, you’ll feel as though you’ve wandered into a Campeche landscape; reminiscent of colonial times.
The changes in décor are part of the attractions of FILEY – the International Readers Festival of Yucatan, to be held at the convention center from Saturday March 11th until Saturday March 18th. Each year, a state in Mexico and an international country are the honored guests at FILEY – for 2017, the featured state is Campeche and the country is the People’s Republic of China.
FILEY is sponsored by the University of Yucatan (UADY) and the organizational committee has spent more than a year planning the event. This week, the convention center looked like a beehive or ant hill with so many people working ‘round the clock, to set up the Chinese and Campeche pavilions, the mega book fair, and an art garden. This year the FILEY is offering more than 1,200 activities, and many will be held in the convention center’s salons and cinema.
130 book publishers, sellers and other culture-focused business have stands at the book fair, located in the Salon Chichen Itza. Most of the titles are in Spanish, but even if you cannot read the language, you will thoroughly enjoy the people watching and the energy of this once-a-year extravaganza.
A bilingual presentation, “Intercultural Writers in Yucatan – Escritoras Interculturales en Yucatán” is slated for Thursday March 16th at 8 pm. The invited writers are Marianne Kehoe, Linda Lindhlom and me! I won’t give away the surprise by giving you the details of our presentation. But we hope you’ll come out and support us.
In high school – Art was definitely my favorite class. In fact, had my father gone along with the idea, my career would have headed in that direction. Maybe I would never have met my husband, Jorge, and spent forty years in Mexico?
But I definitely would have traveled there because Frida Kahlo lived there. Mr. Lange, my 11th grade art teacher introduced her to me through one of his slide shows.
I could not imagine a character quite as “out there” as Frida – I loved her work – especially her strong brightly colored self portraits. And the Edward Weston photographs portrayed her other side – solitary, romantic, and thoughtful.
When I moved to Merida, Yucatan in 1976, Frida was not as commercialized as she is now. Her husband, Diego Rivera, certainly an accomplished painter, used his talent to promote his political causes. Frida used painting and prose to portray her inner demons, and her heart’s desire.