Highlights from México

San Miguel de Allende

I’m glad I arrived after sunset20180818_202730. The travel guides always show pictures of San Miguel during the day, but they illuminate the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel at night, which I think adds to its singular beauty. It’s not hard to imagine why Travel + Leisure Magazine elected San Miguel as the #1 city in the world. The cobblestone streets, the pink cathedral, and the trendy restaurants make for a Mexican fantasy town that feels too idyllic to be authentic.

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Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel – the centerpiece of San Miguel’s plaza mayor

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Even the Airbnb at which I stayed resembled the kind of Mexican hacienda one could imagine at a theme park. 20180819_095804

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Giant stylized skulls don’t greet one at the bottom of the stair beneath one’s room just anywhere.

And San Miguel has no lack of culinary curiosities. Before I left, I tasted my first chiles en nogada, a type of chile relleno with a sweet ground beef filling and almond sauce that is served in August and September to commemorate Mexico’s independence from Spain. The colors of the dish correspond to the colors on the Mexican flag.

 

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Chiles en nogada at El Pegaso

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Breakfast at Oso Azul

 

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A cobbled street of San Miguel de Allende

 

Lastly, an excursion to the Santuario de Jesús Nazareno de Atotonilco, an UNESCO World Heritage Site sometimes called the Sistine Chapel of Mexico for its intricately muraled walls and ceilings, topped off the San Miguel de Allende leg of the trip.

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Dome of the Santuario de Atotonilco

Guanajuato

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When I was researching travel to San Miguel, Luisa at Amaixico.com recommended I make a trip to Guanajuato since I’d be in the area, and I’m really grateful she did. While San Miguel is beautiful and idyllic,

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Street art of Guanajuato

Guanajuato is rich in culture and history, and the town has a distinctly European feel, largely due to the annual Cervantes festival for which it is famous, the Spanish troubadours that wander the city singing, and the beautiful tunnels beneath the multi-colored houses that litter the hills (if you don’t believe me, you can read Ray Bradbury’s description from his short story “The Next in Line,” from The October Country (1955).

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Universidad de Guanajuato – Motto: “La Verdad Os Hará Libres”

The story features the Museo de las Momias de Guanajuato, which is something certain to tantalize those of the goth persuasion. Incidentally, it disturbed Bradbury enough to instigate his leaving the country. But I digress.

My favorite thing about Guanajuato by far is the Museo Iconográfico del Quijote. This curious feature of Guanajuato is the result of a Spaniard named Don Eulalio Ferrer Rodríguez, a Cervantes enthusiast displaced from his native Spain as a result of the Franco years. I’ve included highlights of the museum below.

 

Highlights from the Museo Iconográfia del Quijote

 

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El Pípila – local revolutionary hero that overlooks Guanajuato from atop the hillside. This reminded me of the Peace statue in Nagasaki, Japan, incidentally.

Guanajuato really is a treat, and I hope to visit again sometime, since I didn’t have time to explore everything the town has to offer. Oh, and the colors of the houses that litter the hills of Guanajuato have to be seen.

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Mummies of Guanajuato

Mexico City

After Guanajuato, D.F. (Distrito Federal, although now it’s officially called la Ciudad de México) came next on the itinerary. An afternoon arrival preceded an excursion to locate The Palacio de Bellas Artes.

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I’d pre-purchased through Ticketmaster for the Ballet Folklórico de México that night (FYI: If you purchase tickets for this through Ticketmaster from out of country, you need to pick up the tickets at a Ticketmaster office that offers printing services before arriving at the venue. I went to Liverpool in the Centro Historico).

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https://www.balletfolkloricodemexico.com.mx/

It was well worth the effort. This was one of the best live performances I’ve seen anywhere—beautiful costumes, sets, live music—not a dull minute. Also, while the venue is not the florid Palais Garnier of Paris, it’s a far cry lovelier than the prosaic Dorothy Chandler Pavilion back in Los Angeles, worth a visit for its own sake.

 

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(On a side note, I thought it was interesting that across the street from the Palacio, there is a multi-story Sears that is larger than any I’ve seen in the U.S. I also saw a Woolworth while commuting from Condesa to the Centro Historico.)

 

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Possibly the most gothic Catholic church I’ve seen. It’s also the oldest and largest Catholic cathedral in Latin America.

 

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Catedral Metropolitana de la Asunción de la Santísima Virgen María a los Cielos from the Templo Mayor
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Inside the Palacio Nacional. I have no idea what this was doing there, but I liked it.

Murals of Diego Rivera at the Palacio Nacional

 

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Pozole at Fonda el Morral, a restaurant down the street from the Frida Kahlo Museum

 

I’ll conclude this post with images from the Museo Nacional de Antropología in Chapultepec Parque below:

 

A Pilgrimage to the Grave of Oscar Wilde

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To ascend the spiral stair from Philippe Auguste station,
     to go to Père Lachaise at the end of your vacation.

To crisscross cobblestone causeways in the crepuscular Parisian air,
     through forests of consecrated, moss-covered crenellations,

which riddle the peripheral of winding pebble paths,
     beneath the rain-bruised clouds enshrouding all that pass.

And to wonder if you’ll find one single marker
     before the twilight falls and all grows darker.

To stumble on Avenue Carette—at last—worry subsides—
     an endeavor you won’t regret after all.

Ahead, the barrier glass, the wingèd eunuch,
     the limestone tomb—dead flowers ring the monument en masse.

And to realize what a peculiar task 
     you’ve undertaken—
To cross an ocean to pay respects

     to a man you never knew,
          from a time in which you never lived,

                    for pangs you've never suffered.

To bestow in such perfunctory fashion
     splendour that impassioned such a number
who strove their lives entire to lie
     in such a station—

     Ensconced by lip-smeared safety glass,
          besmirched by love in which you’ll never bask,
     lauded by those in life you’ll never pass—

What more can the triumphant ask?

This 3rd of July

America, tomorrow sate your lust
   for roasted flesh and trite casuistry
to remember what our independence cost—
   or stroke your patriotic vanity
instead. Rationalize your vices by Christ.
   How better sanctify your ministry?
But beware the wiles of science on illusion;
verifiable facts pose such an intrusion.
 
But there'll be no inconvenient truths
   tomorrow. Media outlets won't pull threads
that might unravel market economy myths
   of thriving individualist thoroughbreds
galloping gallantly right over groups
   intent on interfering with our heads
by eroding quaint American culture—
freedoms—and eating 'til our waistlines rupture.
 
So, staunch red-blooded Americans disport
   yourselves freely. Pretend the earth weren't teeming
with fossil fuels. Never attempt to thwart
   exploding populations. Keep on thumbing
your nose at scientific led reports.
   Go on—bury your head in magical thinking.
To bring to culmination your theocracy;
and spoils of abusing our democracy.

To a Feckless Colleague

Do you have qualities that don't offend
   the axiomatic principles conceived
by decent men? This I cannot defend
   without some irrefutable proof involved—
To read a book, you'll never condescend;
   and love for reason in you did not evolve.
And, while some seek redemption for your numbskullery,
I'm not saint enough to endure such drudgery.

Review of AHMM: 13 Tales of New American Gothic


17703880._UY400_SS400_Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine Presents: 13 Tales of New American Gothic
by Elaine Menge

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a very enjoyable collection of ghost and weird stories that span several genres, everything from paranormal/science fiction to historical mystery. The highlights for me were “The Wall” by Rhys Bowen and “Ten Thousand Cold Nights,” by James Lincoln Warren. The latter is a Japanese themed ghost story that, while not a historical mystery per se, incorporates a good deal of Japanese history.

“The Gorilla Murders,” by O’Neil De Noux, also deserves honorable mention–a historical mystery set in New Orleans. It pays homage to Edgar Allan Poe’s “Murders in the Rue Morgue.”

View all my reviews

The Key to Altruistic Reciprocity: Religion?

I wondered back in grad school while reading about the evolutionary origins of speech and music if religion hadn’t played a role in the evolution of civilization, and more to the point, man’s desire to be charitable to his fellow man. I remember reading that evolutionary scientists had struggled to discover why people were charitable. Game-theory experiments result in a single selfish player adulterating the entire population within a handful of generations.

The idea really congealed for me several years back when I traveled to Japan for the first time. That was my first encounter with a Buddhist culture, and I saw that karma played the same role in a Buddhist culture that the concept of an all-knowing God does in western society—that is, it gave people a reason to be honest and play fairly. If our pre-historic ancestors developed a fear that they would be punished, either by karma or an all-seeing/all-knowing God, then even the selfish might have followed the rules in exchanges of altruism. And it’s precisely these rules that make society work.

A biological-wiring theory might explain the prevalence and resilience of religious belief around the world, even in light of overwhelming evidence regarding the inaccuracy of virtually every religious origin mythology.

It might also explain cultural phenomena, such as the fact that people, even the non-religious, statistically have difficulty trusting atheists.

Anyway, it’s fascinating to see that evolutionary psychologists are pursuing this line of reasoning.