Thursday, March 20, 2008

Going to the Fair

Last year, we saw reference to a fair in Tepic called the Feria Nacional de la Mexicanidad. But I couldn’t find any information about it online and we didn’t go.
This year, knowing more people, and more Tepicans, we found out more about the Fair. It is essentially the State Fair of Nayarit, and this year it went 3 weeks and admission was free for everyone.
Since it was free, and we knew a little of what to expect we thought why not go? We’ve been to Tepic before and enjoyed it and it’s only about a 2 hour drive from Bucerias.
Checking our busy schedules, we picked a Wednesday and Thursday for our trip. It’s funny how retired people can be so busy that an overnight trip takes as much scheduling as a moon launch.
And as usual, the trip didn’t go as planned. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun, but things often seem t work out differently than expected.
We left Wed. morning and first made a stop in the town of Compostela. Our friend Alex was taking his wife and kids to Guadalajara to visit her mother over Easter and his car broke down along the way in Compostela.
By the time we got there, the car was fixed but Alex wanted Harold to come visit the Civil Protection and Red Cross station in Compostela. The guys there had put Alex up overnight when he was stranded and he had been trying to get the car fixed. They have a new to them fire truck and were learning about using it. Alex figured Harold could help them some. We stayed at the station for an hour or so. We promised to see what we can do to help find them some equipment as they have very little.
Then it was off to Tepic. We had reserved a room at the Villa de las Flores Hotel. We found it with no trouble. For less than $50US per night, we got a decent room and continental breakfast. The hotel also has off street parking.
That afternoon we explored around Tepic and saw the new mall under construction, looked at areas of town we hadn’t seen before, and ate lunch at a place with the very Mexican name of “The Barbecue Factory.” We chose the ribs over the BBQ chicken and it was very good. We aren’t sure if it’s a franchise or how they got the name.
After lunch, we went back to the hotel to rest up for the fair. Although we had been told the fair opened around 4, we’ve been in Mexico long enough to know nothing much would happen until much later.
We took a cab to the fair, because the car was safely parked in the mini parking lot at the hotel. Not being sure there would be space when we got back and not sure of the parking arrangements at the fair, the cab was a good bet. For all of 25 pesos we figured we couldn’t go wrong.
It was about 6:30 when we arrived, and there were some people out. We visited the pavilion with exhibits from each municipality in Nayarit. Our municipality’s booth was not nearly as nice as many of the others. We attributed this to the week long Festival of the Bahia de Banderas which just finished up here and probably got all the planning and attention.
There was a geodesic dome with displays from the Riviera Nayarit area and a coffee shop in there. We enjoyed a frappe while looking at the displays.
Next was a tent with many products made in Nayarit. I bought some mole sauce and we got a few other little items. Next was a display of many of the state departments. Lots of things for kids to look at there. We didn’t get to see the show at the portable planetarium, maybe next year.
There was a big area with lots of booths with souvenirs, sunglasses, clothing, and other priceless stuff. The booths were much neater than the average tianguis. Of course we had to buy some little things for friends.
Not only was admission to the fair free, but there were a number of shows that were also free. The night we were there didn’t have any big name entertainers, but many other nights did. We did go to the Rex Bronson Show de Osos (bear show).
The bear show was like something you might have seen in the pre-PETA days in the US. The bears all looked like they were in good condition and they weren’t mistreated during the show. But they did have muzzles and leashes and did bear show kinds of things. And we know PETA doesn’t like that!
First, a group of good looking young women dressed in Indian costumes complete with feathers in their hair came out leading animals around the ring. A bear, a wolf and a llama paraded around, along with a number of the girls beating drums. That was the last time we saw the llama.
The show featured Rex Bronson, who looked decidedly un-Mexican. Rex wore a back leather outfit, from cowboy hat, to fringed jacket, pants and boots. I’ll bet he doesn’t do this show in the summer! Rex has long wavy grey hair which he wore in a ponytail. He smiled through the whole show and his musical selections were theme songs from old Westerns like Rawhide, Bonanza and others.
Rex’s bears did the usual tricks like walking on their back legs, playing basketball, riding bicycles and of course dancing.
There were also trained wolves. They pulled a cart, did some jumping tricks and then jumped through flaming hoops.
In between the animal acts, the Indian girls came out and beat on drums and danced around in their short Indian dresses. Harold said their purpose was to keep the fathers from wanting to leave during the show. The Indian girls also sold plush bears which came with American chocolates and assorted trinkets.
We enjoyed the show, but wanted to go backstage and ask Rex if he was on the run from American authorities. The name of the show really should be the Rex Bronson 100% Politically Incorrect Bear Show. The show was about 45 minutes long.
We got out of the bear show just in time to catch the Robert’s Circus. There were acts in the circus, but there didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to the acts. Some were pretty good, some were odd, and others were really strange. There were the standard acrobatic acts and a few clown acts. Then there were 2 acts featuring motorcycles. And the strangest of all was the Kids Dressed as Butterflies. These kids were maybe 5 years old. Three kids came out and flitted around the circus ring to some nice music. Then the ubiquituous smoke machine was turned on. Every self-respecting Mexican entertainment includes a smoke machine. And randomly flashing lights. The smoke machine put out a big puff of smoke and all the kids fell over on the stage like they were dead. A man came out from the back and grabbed two of the kids by their ankles. Those 2 kids grabbed the third kid. The man dragged the kids off stage. The third kid got left behind, so the guy came back out, picked the kid up by the ankle and carried him off stage. End of act.
The exciting conclusion of what we called “Robert’s Circus for the Easily Amused” was Mickey Mouse directing the dancing fountain. After the circus was over, all the performers came out for a bow. Then came Snow While, who hadn’t been in the show before, and Beauty and the Beat, also for the first time. You could have your picture taken with Beauty and the Beast, but neither the photographer or the Beauty and Beast were very enthusiastic about recruiting customers.
It was pretty chilly out that evening and Harold had forgotten to bring a jacket. After the circus, we walked around the fair a little more, but it was too cold to check out the midway or the rides. We did look at the food booths and they had the usual tacos, salchipulpos (see photo), ice cream, churros, beer and coffee. The prices were very reasonable.
Because it was so cold, we didn’t stay to watch the entertainment. Possibly it was karaoke, or some other type of audience participation thing. We did say hi to the Civil Protection guys who were there with the ambulance.
On the way back to the hotel, our cab driver told us he used to live in our area. Turns out he lived about 2 blocks from Alex in San Jose. We got back to the hotel around midnight. Next year we think we’ll have to plan 2 nights for the fair.
In the morning, we went for our continental breakfast. The desk clerk told us it was normally one free per room, but she gave us each a ticket. For that, you got coffee or tea, orange juice and toast. Harold also had some hot cakes.
We planned on going on the Tepic tour bus. It’s a free bus tour around the city. We had tried another time to go, but the bus wasn’t running that day because of Christmas decorations.
I went to the office to sign up about 10 a.m. Tours are supposed to be at 11, 1, 3 and 5 each day. I was told the only available tour was at 3. Since that would put us back on the road pretty late and possibly not off the highway before dark, that wouldn’t work. I tried pleading with them, but it appears special events were planned that day and only one tour was taking place. They did give me a phone number to call in the future to possibly make reservations ahead. Or not, who knows? We plan on having our friend Hector from the local tourism office cal on our behalf next time.
Instead of the tour, we decided to continue our driving tour of Tepic. Despite my complaints that it would be boring, Harold wanted to check out the airport. The Tepic airport is out in the middle of nowhere. When we pulled up to the entrance, there were several cops there. We stopped and were asked for ID. One of the cops had a mirror on a stick to look under cars. We went into the airport and saw probably 50 or more cops standing around. We also saw a Civil Protection ambulance, so we went over to ask them what was going on. They told us that President Calderon was coming in about an hour. We wanted to hang around, but knowing how things always happen late, we left.
We went back near our hotel, noting along the way that there was a soldier or a transit cop at every intersection, and there are a lot of intersections. In the park across the street, soldiers were in many places. It appeared the President would be in the area. While crossing the street, we talked to one of the transit cops. He told us the President would be coming through very soon. We decided to stay there and wait. We bought the cop a bottle of water since he was stuck out in the sun. Turns out that he used to work in Bucerias not far from our house. His family is in Tepic. While Harold was talking to him, a woman walked up and handed the cop another bottle of water. It was his mom, and he introduced Harold to her.
A police car with lights and siren came by and announced that the President would be coming in 2 minutes. All the intersections were closed then. Thenext police car through announced the motorcade was just behind him. Then came the motorcade of several motorcycles, followed by some vans and Suburbans, all with deeply tinted windows. Then more vans, more motorcycles and one last police car. They all went down this city street at about 50 miles per hour. You could have missed them if you blinked.
After all the excitement of not seeing the President, it was time for lunch. We ate at a place Harold had seen an ad for called the Golden Restaurant. By the name, I would have guessed Chinese but it was more of a bar/grill kind of place. The hamburgers were good as were the fries.
After lunch, we headed home. We did make a stop in La Penita to go to a nursery we like there. We bought some plants for our yard. Then we stopped to visit our friends Jeannie and Dennis in La Penita. We hadn’t been out their way recently so stayed for a short visit, ten back home to Bucerias.
Sorry we don’t have any original pictures to go with this, our camera doesn’t work well at night and is half broken as well. We’ll be getting a new one soon.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

On the Road to Patzcuaro and Guanajuato

Earlier in the year, I talked to my former sister-in-law (but still friend) Kathy about a trip within Mexico. Kathy lives in Asheville, NC and is a teacher. She’s thinking of spending some time in Mexico after her retirement and wanted to check out a few places.
We decided on Patzcuaro, Michoacan and Guanajuato. I told my friend Jeanie, who lives in nearby La Penita, about the trip and she decided to join us.
Jeanie and I took the bus to Guadalajara, arriving early afternoon. We stayed at the Hotel Tonala. It has a good location right in the center of Tonala. We spent the afternoon looking around the shops. Since we didn’t know what we might find on the trip we held off buying anything. Kathy flew into Guadalajara later that evening and met us at the hotel.
Early the next morning we caught a bus for Morelia. The scenery isn’t very impressive along the way. We did pass one very large lake near Morelia. From Morelia we took another bus to Patzcuaro.
Our hotel, the Casa del Refugio, was an excellent choice. It is right on the smaller plaza in central Patzcuaro. Our room was on the second floor. The hotel is built around a central courtyard and is very nice. We ate breakfast there a couple days. The staff at the hotel was exceptionally nice and friendly. When we wanted to take a tour around the lake, the desk clerk made several calls for prices for us and even took messages for us and helped us decide which tour would work best for us. Mainly in Patzcuaro we shopped for crafts. There are many little shops and we wandered around town looking. We also stopped for a cold drink once in a while and did some sight-seeing.
The weather was nice during the day. It was sunny and warm. At night it cooled off quite a bit, and the evenings it rained it was sort-of chilly.
There is not much “night life” in Patzcuaro. We expected more activity, well, any activity, in the plazas in the evening. No taco stands or other vendors at all in the evening.
One day we hired a taxi driver to take us around Lake Patzcuaro to the various towns which each have their own craft specialty.
We went to some ruins near Patzcuaro first. There are many, many rock walls and some remains of structures. We mainly liked it because it was so quiet and peaceful!
One area we passed through had several cantera stone carving places. There were so many statues, pots, fountains and things. Most of them were different from the others, no mass-produced things here. We wanted to buy plenty, but really, can you bring a 200 pound statue home on the bus? Jeanie and I both said we’d like to return there and buy some things for the house.
The village of Tzintzuntzan is the village where many straw things are made. There were lots of Christmas decorations and many baskets. We also visited a very old church with 400-year-old olive trees in the yard. We only went to a couple shops, it would have been interesting to see more of the town.
Quiroga is somewhat of a regional center for crafts. It also has an area with a whole row of carnitas vendors. It is funny that there are about 10 stands right in a row, all selling the same thing. We ate some carnitas and then wandered around town. We found some really pretty flower posts in one shop on a side street.
I can’t really remember which other villages we visited. The mask-making village was one we were looking forward to, but it was disappointing. Many people weren’t working due to a fiesta, and we only visited a couple mask workshops and didn’t find anything we liked.
The next day we took a boat to the island of Janitizio in Lake Patzcuaro. It is the site of a big Day of the Dead celebration. The boat ride was fun. Once on the island, we walked up to the top to the statue of Morelos. There are many shops lining the walk up there. We passed the cemetery and wondered how a large Day of the Dead festivity could take place in such a small cemetery. Once at the top, we went in the statue and saw the view from the top.
We were told that the only people allowed to live on Janitizio were people who were originally from there. It is a very crowded little island. We walked back down, visiting more shops and then took the boat back to Patzcuaro.
Near the boat dock was a row of wood-working shops. We each purchased something hand made to take home. Again, there were many things I would have considered getting, but didn’t want to carry them home.
We left Patzcuaro to go to Guanajuato. Kathy later commented she felt like we were on The Great Race. We took a local bus to Morelia. The bus was delayed because of a wreck with overturned tanker trucks. No fire or leaks, but traffic was slow while the trucks were being cleared off the road.
We got to the Morelia bus station and had to figure out how to get to Guanajuato. We were told to take the bus to Irapuato then on to Guanajuato. The bus was leaving in 5 minutes. We bought our tickets then off we went. Once we got to Irapuato we had a choice between a first or second class bus. The second class was leaving right then, so off we went. Looking back, we should have taken the more comfortable and air-conditioned first class.
In Guanajuato we got a cab to our hotel. We were amazed to go through one of the underground streets for several miles. The tunnels are pretty narrow and seemed to be unmarked. We got to our hotel, the Posada Santa Fe. It is on the Jardin Union , a very busy plaza in the center of town. After we checked in, we walked around the area. The central area is very well maintained to have the traditional feel and look. There are no signs except the ones on the front of the stores, which are very unobtrusive. There are no traffic lights or neon signs.
Both nights we were there, there were many people in the plaza. We saw a parade, students getting ready for graduation, and many people just enjoying the area.
We went on a city tour that included going to the Mummy Museum. These aren’t the kind of mummies like in Egypt. Apparently a combination of the soil and air conditions caused the bodies to dry out and mummify before they could decompose. Very weird to see! We also went to a silver mine, a very pretty church in Valencia, and to a museum of replicas of torture devices from the Inquisition. On the bus tour was a Mexican family with grandma, grandpa, various aunts, uncles and grandkids. It was obvious that Grandma was the Queen of the Family. We had fun watching the family, except when we had to wait a long time for them to shop at one stop.
The tour also included some great panoramic views of the city. It is built on many hills and the houses are very colorful. It is a very scenic and picturesque town.
We walked many places each day and all enjoyed the feel of the town.
We did visit the Don Quixote museum, which was the inspiration for the annual Cervantes Festival. There are many churches right in the centro area, too.
Jeanie and I took the bus back to Puerto Vallarta from Guanajuato. We ended up having to take the bus to Guadalajara and then change buses for PV, even though the first bus was also going to PV. It was full, so we had to get a later bus which was OK since it wasn’t full.
The trip was really fun. I would recommend Guanajuato to anyone, it is so scenic, historic, clean and interesting. I also liked Patzcuaro a lot, and if you want to shop for crafts stuff, you’ll love it!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Mothers Day in Mexico

Mother’s Day is celebrated May 10th in Mexico. And it is a very big deal. I’ve heard some people compare it to Christmas for Mom. There is lots of advertising of restaurant deals, appliance sales, and candy and flowers are prominently displayed in the stores.
I had heard from a couple different people that our municipality, Bahia de Banderas, was having a big Mother's Day event. Our friend Alex said that there were raffles with some decent prizes and it was open to all moms and didn’t cost anything, so I thought I’d check it out.
I’ll start out by saying this event was not like any other I’ve been to.
I knew it was scheduled to start at 3, but then again I know that if you get to an event at the starting time, you are almost always early. I got to the small town of San Jose right before 3, figuring that would give me time to get it ahead of the crowd.
Much to my surprise, I easily found a convenient parking spot near the entrance to the Esplanada, which is a big, enclosed park area used for futbol games and big events. There were hundreds of people walking in the streets near the Esplanada entrance. As I got to the entrance, I saw a huge line of women. This line went a block down the street then turned down another street. I went to the entrance where we went in for other events with the fire department or with our press credentials. From there I couldn’t even see the end of the line! I was told to go back to the main entrance. I did not have to wait in line and went in. There are some advantages of being part of the press.
They had just started letting the women in and I entered with the first group. As I stood in line with a group of women from one of the senior citizen groups I talked to several of them about their kids and grandchildren. A couple ladies who had walkers were placed in plastic chairs and carried down the hillside to the flatter area by some men. We each had a ticket to enter the raffle and the first thing we did was put our tickets in the hopper. Then each lady picked a colored ball out of a box. The color determined which prize you got. I saw mixing bowls, knife sets, glassware, plastic containers, utensils and other small kitchenware. I received a set of bowls with plastic covers. Then each person got a bottle of water and a bag of candy.
The main area was set up with a big stage and lots of chairs. Women were quickly scouting out sections of chairs for their groups. I noticed a number of the groups had matching outfits. These were groups of ladies from the “Casas de la Tercer Edad” or senior citizen centers throughout the municipality. Many groups had been brought to the event by buses.
I quickly found my friends in the municipal press department. They told me that about 7,000 tickets had been given out ahead of the event and that before long the whole area would be packed. The event was a joint effort between the municipality and DIF, the social service agency. Today’s newspaper reports attendance at about 10,000!
People just kept steadily coming in, getting their gifts and filling up the seats. I had been there about an hour and nothing much was happening. There was some taped music and the announcer made a comment or two. Then I noticed that the other gate had been opened and people were now flooding in through 2 gates. I offered to help collect the raffle tickets as people came in. The present giving out area was really busy!
The entertainment finally started around 4:30. First up was Alvaro Martinez, a young boy who sang mariachi type songs. He was followed by Ruth Nayeli, the girl who won the Festival of the Bahia de Banderas talent contest in February. She is only about 11 years old and a great performer. Next up was the Municipal Orchestra. After that, the announcer gave away some raffle prizes. The names were called out and the ladies came up to collect their prizes.
Oh, the prizes! When Alex told me there would be prizes, he said maybe you will win a refrigerator. I thought he was kidding. Nope. The prizes ranged from irons, blenders and pots and pans sets up to home theater sets, TVs, stereos, stoves, refrigerators, microwaves, a dining room set and a living room set.
Only a few smaller prizes were given out at that time, then the entertainment resumed. The main act was a woman named Lucila Mariscal, or Dona Lencha. She is an actress, comedian and singer. She and a partner entertained the crowd with their comedy, then after that she sang and told more stories and jokes. My Spanish isn’t really up to all those jokes! But the crowd really enjoyed it.
Throughout the whole time, more and more people were arriving. The available chairs were quickly filled. The announcer said chairs were for mamas only, and staff people were going around making sure that kids and men were aware of that. As far as staff, there were literally hundreds of staff doing everything from controlling the line, handing out water and prizes, helping people find chairs, and just being in the crowd to help if any problems arose. Many police were around and the entire fire department was also there with all the trucks. They were stationed at each corner of the area with medical bags ready.
I saw trucks steadily coming to the event delivering more chairs. Ladies crowded around the trucks to get a chair, but there was no jostling or arguing. A set of bleachers was quickly assembled at the back of the field and ladies anxiously awaited that seating. Still, with all that, there was a standing room only crowd. Many of the ladies were prepared and brought parasols for the sun and small blankets to sit on. Those in addition to the “home in a bag” that many women carry – tissues, toilet paper, snacks.
After the entertainment ended, about 7:30, the real business of the event started – the raffle prizes. As names were called out, a seemingly endless parade of ladies went to the front to claim their prizes. I didn’t hear one complaint about what they won, whether it was a set of knives or a new TV. There were hundreds of prizes, and the crowd stayed pretty quiet so everyone could hear the names being called out.
As ladies got their irons, blenders and other smaller gifts, I wondered how a person was supposed to get their new stove home. The announcer said if anyone won a prize and could not get it home due to the size, go give your name, address and telephone number to the fire department and it would be delivered to your home. I did see women hauling off their stereos and microwaves, not taking any chances that it would be lost or delayed in delivery! Prizes large and small were given out steadily. One short break was taken when the medics had to attend to a person in the crowd and carry her to the ambulance. The announcer said he would wait a minute so no one would miss hearing the names called.
About 9:45 the prizes were finally all gone. I didn’t win the dining room set or the “kitchen package” which included a stove and a microwave, I didn’t even win an iron.
People packed up their presents, kids and belongings and headed home. I had to wait at my car for a little while since there were so many people walking in the street that it would have been dangerous to drive.
All in all, it was an unforgettable event, something my local friends thought was interesting. “It’s just a party,” they said. “What’s the big deal?” I had a hard time explaining to them how you would never see an event like that in the US. One where everyone who came was given a gift by the government, where people would be willing to sit patiently and wait for hours to see if they won an additional prize, where arguments wouldn’t take place over the few available chairs. To me, it was nice to see so many women of all ages out enjoying the afternoon and evening. But I did have one question – who cooked dinner?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The holidays continue!

Harold got the outside Christmas stuff up in plenty of time. We had a big inflatable snowman on the roof, rope lights and our Feliz Navidad sign. Downstairs we had snowflake lights, candy canes, and an inflatable Santa. When we mentioned to people we met where we lived, several people said, oh the house with the Christmas lights!
We have a little Christmas tree that hangs on the wall and we have many snowmen and other decorations.
It still doesn’t really seem like Christmas when it’s hot and sunny though. The stores do their best to keep everyone in the mood even with live Christmas trees for sale.
We were invited to a Christmas Eve party at the Refugio Infantil Santa Esperanza (RISE) where we have done volunteer work in the past. It was a pretty low key event. First all the children were fed dinner. There was turkey and dressing, sweet potatoes, tamales and more. We all helped feed the kids since there are so many little ones there now. The kids just love to have people there who can pay individual attention to them. They all ate a big dinner then went inside to watch videos.
The 15 or so adults then ate dinner out in the courtyard. I guess before we went I thought a dinner at an orphanage would not include alcohol, but I was wrong. There were soft drinks and wine, plenty of food and good company. It was a nice way to spend the evening.
Our friend Alex is a fireman and had to work a very heavy schedule through the holiday period. Called Operative Blanca Navidad, the fire fighters worked shifts of 36 hours on, 12 hours off. Alex’s wife and daughter decided to go to Guadalajara to spend the time with her family since Alex would hardly be home at all. Each fireman got one day off in the 3 week period, and Alex was off December 24.
We invited him to stay at our house since not only was his family gone, but so were most of the neighbors. He went to the Refugio with us and had a nice time. After the wine was gone, he decided to try the whiskey. Apparently other times he had whiskey it was not very good and he wasn’t very hopeful but decided to give it a chance. Someone had brought a bottle of Johnny Walker which Alex decided was excellent. So excellent in fact that we had to stop at a liquor store on the way back to Bucerias to buy a bottle of Johnny Walker and some Coke. Yes, the liquor store was open as we headed home about midnight on Christmas Eve.
One reason Alex went with us is because his parents live right across the street from the Refugio. But they didn’t get home until late so we only had a chance to say hi.
The way the week went was that each fireman/paramedic worked his normal 24 hour shift in the fire station, and then the next day worked on beach duty. The civil protection department also provided lifeguards for the holidays. A group of college kids volunteered to help as well.
When Alex got off after his 36 hour shift he went home, cleaned up the house, fed the birds, washed his lifeguard uniform then came over to our house. We usually grabbed something to eat then when we got home, Alex spent most of the night drinking beer. He seemd very happy to be able to relax, visit with us and drink some beer. Several times he said he was really enjoying his few hours offf work. This repeated for most of the vacation period. We helped him out some by taking care of a few bank tasks and taking his clothes to the laundry since he was at work so much.
On Christmas Day we had a pretty quiet morning then had a cookout for some of our friends. We had probably 20 people altogether and everyone brought something to share to eat. Everyone seemed to have a good time.
We had plenty of leftovers so we packed them up the next day and took them to the fire station.
On New Year’s Eve last year we went to the beach in Nuevo Vallarta with Luis and Monika. This year, Luis said they had some new rules prohibiting bonfires and they weren’t going to go. We all decided to have a bonfire at the beach in Bucerias. Joann and Patricia had guests who wanted to celebrate on the beach so we decided to do that. Altogether our group had 20 people or so and we all had a great time. At midnight we could see fireworks all across the bay. Some of the displays went on for a long time. It was cool out, but not cold enough to keep anyone home.
Mary Lou and BZ were here for 3 weeks staying at Casa Tranquila. We met them last year and were glad to see them back. They plan on moving to Bucerias in the late spring.
They were here for 3 weeks and it seemed like the time just flew by.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

It's The Jaime Cuevas Show

The area we live in is part of the municipality of Bahia de Banderas. It stretches from Jarretaderas to the south to Lo de Marco in the north, from the ocean way up into the mountains.
Dr Jaime Cuevas is the Presidente of the municipality. It is an elected office for a three year term, they cannot be re-elected. He has just completed his first year in office. In honor of this, an event called an Informe is held. I compared it to the State of the Union speech a US President gives.
I thought I’d go check it out. Harold didn’t want to go, so I went by myself to San Jose. I wasn’t sure exactly where it was taking place but as I got to San Jose it was clear I would have no trouble finding it. As I got close, many of the streets were closed so I followed the traffic. Luckily my press credentials got me a good parking spot in what is the local soccer park.
After getting parked, I looked around. The main event was taking place in a huge tent. I mean huge enough for Ringling Brothers huge! There were hundreds of plastic chairs in the tent. As you entered, each person was given a book about the accomplishments of the administration, a CD with the same info, a small paper fan like funeral homes give out, and a bottle of water. The fan featured a picture of Dr Cuevas, so now I must be a member of the Jaime Cuevas fan club.
I went into the tent and saw that it was a very nice set-up. Besides the usual stage with all the dignitaries, there was an enormous fruit sculpture in front of the stage. On either side of the stage were big monitors so everyone could see.
There was a center entry in the back of the tent. I went over there to watch the dignitaries enter. Someone told me I could come to the front where the Presidente and the Governor would be entering. So I was right there when the entourage entered. I had to choose between taking photos of the Presidente and the Governor or shaking hands. I chose shaking hands.
After everyone important was in and settled, the talking began. There was a color guard, the Mexican national anthem and some more pomp. Some introductory remarks followed, and then Dr Cuevas began his speech. I can’t understand Spanish well enough for a big speech, so I went outside to look around. Every vehicle belonging to the municipality was there – pickup trucks, cars, police cars, garbage trucks and fire trucks. There must have been 100 police officers there and almost all of the fire department.
I stayed around for a while because lunch was to be served after the speech. I visited with some of the firemen, then decided that Dr.Cuevas had more to say than I had time to hang around.
After leaving the Informe I went to Karina’s house (Alex was at work) and visited with her, Mirtha and the neighbors for a while. As I was leaving San Jose, I could tell the event was over since traffic was really tied up.
As part of the celebration, the municipality sprung for a big concert the following night. The whole concert was free. As you entered, men went to one line, women to another and some people were patted down, bags were looked at, etc. No drinks could be brought in. Beer was sold at the event and there was some food for sale. It appeared there was a good attempt being made to keep it from getting too rowdy.

The municipal orchestra played and we really enjoyed them. If we had known how good they would be, we would have arrived earlier. Next up was a singer named Ninel, who was very good and had a lot of energy. She put on a good show.
While we were at the concert we hung around with some of the firefighters. They were all there along with many police officers.
Next on the program was a comic an impersonator. We knew we would not understand that show, so we left before the big act, a norteno band called Los Tucanes.
It was a lot of fun and there were thousands of people there.
By the way, I think Dr. Cuevas is doing a good job as Presidente.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

It's the Holiday Season

In Puerto Vallarta, the winter holiday season begins with the Virgin of Guadalupe festivities. December 1st is the official start. Traffic is tied up in town because every day there are peregrinations to the church in the center of Puerto Vallarta. Until December 12th, Dia de la Virgen, there are many groups walking to the church. Every group has a person dressed as the Virgin or a poster, or other image. Many people carry candles as they march, others bring offerings of food. A good number of the groups have bands or recorded music and marchers sing as they walk. It is a very interesting thing to watch. Every weeknight and all day on the weekends different groups participate. Towards the end, marchers arrive continuously throughout the night.
This year we went three times to the festivities. The first time was with Kelly and Deanna. That was the first day of the peregrinations and not all the vendors were set up. We still found plenty of tacos, crepes, potatoes and cake to go around. The second time was on a Saturday night. That night was groups representing stores in Vallarta – Woolworth’s, Lans, and Comercial Mexicana were some that we saw. The crowd that night was pretty big and more vendors were out. Santa hats, balloons, kid’s toys, and any kind of street food possible were all available.
December 12th is the big day. Last year, we were downtown on the 12th but because of where we were located we missed seeing the fireworks. So this year we wanted to go see the fireworks as well as the marchers. The last night is the hotels and they have large groups and some cool floats.
About 8 o’clock we were getting ready to leave. First I told Harold I needed to call Karina and Alex about Friday night plans. When talking to Alex, I told him we were heading to Vallarta. They also wanted to go, so we agreed to go pick them up. At first we were leery because we thought there might be too much traffic out since it was a holiday and also that 6-year-old Mirtha would be up too late and maybe would be cranky.
The evening turned out really well. There was much less than the usual amount of traffic heading out to their house, they were all ready to go when we arrived. We got downtown about 9:30 and found a spot to watch the parade. We all had some tacos, Harold had a crepe and we watched the parade and the other parade-watchers. We asked a cop what time the fireworks would be and he told us there weren’t going to be any. We were disappointed but know how budgets change. Well, imagine our surprise when about 30 minutes later we hear fireworks. We were at a good spot so we could look and see them. Harold motioned to the cop to watch, the cop said “they never tell us anything!” We had no doubt that was true.
After the fireworks and the last of the parade we walked down the street which was still closed to traffic. We walked back to the south side where we were parked by way of the Malecon. Mirtha was full of energy, looking at all the sculptures and running around. After getting into the car, Mirtha and Karina fell asleep on the way back to San Jose. They all seemed to have a great time, and so did we.
Harold and I talked about it on the way home and we agreed we were really glad we had taken the time to go get our friends since they would not have gone otherwise. The Dia de la Virgen is an important day to Mexicans, especially Catholics, and we were happy to have helped them be able to celebrate.

Edited to give credit for the beautiful Virgn of Guadalupe painting - Hop David, website

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Traffic lesson

Yesterday, I was on my way to the "Informe" being held by Presidente Jaime Cuevas of the Bahia de Banderas, also attended by the Governor of Nayarit, Ney Gonzalez.There is a point just outside of San Vicente where 2 lanes of traffic merge into one. There is often the usual jostling and jockeying for position there.Yesterday there was more than the usual amount of traffic. I saw one of the collectivo mini-buses trying to squeeze out a Nissan pickup. The driver of the pickup didn't yield, but came to a stop in front of the van, causing [b]all[/b] traffic to stop.The passenger of the truck jumped out of the truck and was yelling at the van driver (who had a full van of passengers). I was watching since I was directly behind them. The truck passenger kept yelling and went and opened the drivers door of the van. I grabbed my camera as I thought someone was about to get his butt kicked.I about fell out of my seat when I looked closely at the truck passenger. Despite being dressed in jeans and a polo shirt, he was [i]carrying a gun! And handcuffs[/i]! I bet that poor van driver about had a heart attack!I snapped a photo quickly while waiting for the butt-kicking or shooting to start. Of course, everyone behind me was honking their horns. I was thinking "cut that out, we're all gonna die here!"The gun-toting guy finished yelling and got back into the truck. I figured I'd be following them all the way to the Informe, but he stopped in El Porvenir at the Osiris Nightclub.I told a friend about this and he said, oh yeah, there are plenty of plain clothes cops in unmarked vehicles. Well, the gun sure gave [b]that[/b] guy away.Lesson here: You never know who is in the other car you are about to cut off, so mind your manners.
The truck passenger and Close up of "hardware"