Saturday, July 25, 2009

Snapshots (Cuernavaca)

Two weeks in Cuernavaca have gone by in a blink of an eye, a shrug of a shoulder, a tick of a lip, a slip of a tongue. This is the fourth time (9 weeks total) I've been here to study, and I've been to just about every tourist attraction at least thrice. So, I spend my weekday mornings in class with my favorite teacher, Gregorio (nickname: Goyo), and a small group of Spanish teachers or others whose Spanish is as good as or better than mine.


Taking dance lessons with the rubber-legged teacher who says that every series of steps he teaches us is easier than the one we just tried to learn. He lies.

Drinking hot chocolate in a cafe with Goyo. The walls feature paintings by a French artist whose "language is color." After I learn Arabic and Mandarin, I want to speak in colors...

Stopping in at the Brady Museum --my umpteenth visit. The former home of an eclectic, gay (although no one says so), American ex-pat, who acquired an impressive collection of artwork (a Frida Kahlo, several Diego Riveras, art by Toulouse Lautrec, and other famousisimo artists), crucifixes, folkart and antiques (from Mexico, Haiti, Africa, and Asia) and more, remains as it was when he lived there. One of the bedrooms was decorated for and used by Robert Brady's friend, Josephine Baker (the famous dancer-stripper). The talavera-tiled bathrooms were admired even by my then-16-year old son, when we first visited.

Spending time in the zocalo, the true town center. Bordered by the imposing Palacio de Cortes, with its Diego Rivera murals, at the rear; rung by cafes, restaurants and the municipal building. A towering statue of Morelos is a meeting spot for the tattooed and pierced and a landmark for tourists. There's a tremendous open space for concerts and performing clowns. Wrought iron benches, some shielded from the brutal sunlight by the branches of trees, are crammed with kissing couples. You can buy all sorts of fried stuff, from potato chips to thin, orange, pretzel-shaped or even orangier cheez-doodle-shaped dough and ask for a healthy spritz of lime and a hearty spray of spicy chili sauce. Vendors hawk handicrafts (colorful textiles and ceramics, clothing and mini plastic chickens, CDs and films, roses of unimaginable and highly unnatural colors). Older folks danzon with grace and dignity. A circle of younger people burns incense and dances the steps of their Aztec ancestors. Dreadlocked youngsters braid yarn into their clients' hair or apply temporary tattoos. Skateboarders skateboard; Mariachis mariach; breakdancers, well, try. Double-decker buses await tourists. Men play chess at two tables near stands selling how-to books and painters selling still lifes. Little street children, dusty and ragged, loudly scream obscenities as they chase each other through the greenery; tinier street children sell chiclets or jewelry. Three generations of families stroll along, eating: corn on the cob, speared on a stick and slathered with mayonnaise, chili, lime and salt, or custard cones from McDonald's, or sugar-dusted churros (long, thin doughnuts), or gelatin in pretty shapes and multi-colored layers, or shaved ices in flavors such as guayaba, mango, and tamarind. A thin man with high cheekbones, thin lipped and nosed, dressed in cowboy hat, plaid shirt and jeans, holds his head in his hands, as if the weight of the world rests on his hunched, knobby shoulders. Young men preen. Nose, eyebrow, lip, tongue and chin pierced teens laugh in twos, threes, and mores.

Eating food prepared by P., the seƱora with whom I stay whenever I'm in town: Chayotes (squash) stuffed with cheese, breaded, and sauteed. Huitzoncles (a kind of herb, maybe? You break off a branchlet and remove the leaves with your teeth). Chicken in mole or green sauce. Eggs scrambled with tortilla strips -- the Mexican taste equivalent of matzoh brei.

Dancing salsa outside of Los Arcos. My partner, overweight but light on his feet, turns to me after watching the dance teachers and professionals swivel and swirl. "They dance pretty," he says, "but you dance tasty."

1 comment:

  1. Ha! You're hilarious. I really enjoyed reading your blog as well as hanging out with you in Mexico!! Keep in touch. Laura (