Monday, 5.3.04: Puebla, Mexico
[<<< previous] All of you know that when Cortés arrived in Mexico in 1519, the Aztecs already had a city where Mexico City is today. About 12 years later, the Spaniards decided to found their own city -- Puebla. It is laid out on a neat grid pattern of streets and avenues, with a typical square or zócalo in the middle. It is very rational, but somehow manages to be confusing because the even cross-streets are north of the zócalo and the odds are south of it.
Whatever. We began at the beginning -- a walk through the zócalo and a visit to the cathedral. There are hundreds of cathedrals in Pueblo -- a very Catholic place -- but this one, Santa Basílica, is apparently the main one. There was a commotion going on outside the cathedral when we arrived.
Apparently, in honor of May Day and the trade unions of Puebla, there had been a contest. Who could make the best crucifix with the tools and materials of their trade? Welders, plumbers, electricians, carpenters had all put their imaginations to work on the project and this morning the winners were being announced. I don't know if the contest brought these men closer to Jesus, but there were some broad smiles as the winners carted off giant TV sets.
Then we discovered the double-decker turibus and hopped on for the grand tour of the city. Puebla is cool in the shade, but warm in the sun. The tour was an interesting hour and a half, but we roasted. I think we were also a little dizzy from the altitude. After the tour, we were headed for a museum, but dragged ourselves into a coffee shop for bottled water and strawberry ice cream. To add to our overheated discombobulation, the alarm on a parked taxi went off outside the door -- twenty solid minutes of a horn echoing off the sides of 17th-century buildings in the narrow street.
The Museo Amparo was cool and well organized, so we could finally smile again. The main attraction was pre-Columbian art, but it also had a few contemporary pieces -- a chair turning into a person, a person growing into a plant.
It got me thinking about themes of transformation and emergence. I finished one of my Spanish short stories, about a girl who turns 11. Her consternation is that suddenly everyone expects her to be 11. Inside, she knows she still contains the 10-year-old, the 9-year-old, and the 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1-year-olds. Those selves are all still there, all reacting the the world in different ways.
I have started reading Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory, a novel about Mexico in the late 1930s. There is also a girl, emerging into womanhood. "It was a new pain... but it didn't scare her; it was as if her body expected it, had grown up into it, as the mind grows up to the loss of tenderness."
Puebla seems like a good place to think about these things.
Tonight I will have sangrìa. They serve it in layers here: heavy syrup on the bottom, sour lemonade in the middle, and red wine floating on the top. You can emulsify it with a straw or spoon to whatever taste you are in the mood for.
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Altitude of Puebla: 7000 feet
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