Sunday, 5.9.04: Puebla, Mexico
[<<< previous] Our last day. We had a leisurely morning exploring the various buildings of the civic center park. It is Mother's Day here and everyone is out. The park road is lined with vendors selling fried and baked goodies, made on the spot. We visit the children's museum, a regional history museum, and the old fort from which the French army was repelled in 1862.
Then we take a long foot-punishing walk back to our hotel. Miles and miles. I keep thinking there will be little cafes where we can stop along the way for a break, but the neighborhood is either all residential or the shops closed on Sunday. We are nearly at the zócalo before finding a place. It is a tiny storefront selling ice cream and malteados. We order up malteds like two teenagers. The shop is run by a young couple with a baby and a shiny red pick-up, which they are polishing in between customers.
At the regional museum there was a display of old legal documents, including some fanciful maps of the original city of Puebla. They reminded me of the "my village" topic from 1998. We were in Ecuador and I noticed that much of the folk art were depictions of the artist's village, full of events and symbolism. I wondered what my village would look like and was shocked to realize that all my village consisted of was a great big institution (my workplace). Family and non-work friends were only shadows on the edges.
I always think of that trip as the turning point between being a colorless institutional lackey and deciding to live a more artful life.
I'm happy to report that, when I think of My Village now, a very different image comes to mind. Jim and I are happily in the center, leading our "artful" lives. The village is small but populated with family and friends. It is peaceful and domestic, as villages should be. It is full of craft, but could use more.
The big institutions have been pushed off to the periphery. There are more of them that the single one that dominated my life in '98. The black institutions loom and threaten. They are anti-freedom, authoritarian, and corrupt. Of little protection are the weak gray institutions -- once idealistic, but incompetent and ineffective, poorly supported and crumbling, willing to be corrupted in order to survive. I am not naive. The future of these bad and weak institutions will affect the peace and prosperity of my village.
It makes me think that an important business for my village is the creation and export of stories to other villages to bind us together, to fend off the evil ones, and to help bring back the once-good institutions from the edge of corruption.
We are homeward bound.
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5.9.04 Papantla to Puebla, Mexico