Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Final San Miguel Thoughts

Our month in San Miguel came to an end this morning.   But there are 5 things I would like to say about our month here.

#1 - The city is walkable - during November I walked more than 240 miles in the city.  Except for the hills it is a great place to be without a car (even with the hills it is pretty good).
#2 - Without stop lights or signs driving here is pretty polite.  Each morning and afternoon I would go out for a walk around the city.   Drivers almost uniformly stop to let pedestrians pass.  (Markets do work - if given the chance.)
#3 - We met some wonderful people.   For probably two thirds of the nights we were here we had dinner with the couple we first met.  They invited us to an Expats dinner on Thanksgiving.  They entertained us with fun conversations and lots of lore about the city and this part of Mexico.   At the same time we found a friend of my wife from kindergarten - who has made a life in San Miguel.  She is a contributing member of the community - as our friends who we met the first night at dinner are.   We found an Anglican parish which was also quite welcoming.
#4 - This is a buyer's market for real estate.   Yesterday we spent a good part of the day looking at five houses (a tiny jewel box, a dump/fixer upper, an architectural gem, a big place that was way too expensive, and a house which we ultimately did not connect with.   The real estate person who took us around was quite gracious.   We talked more about our future than about which house was appropriate.
#5 - I could live here and depending on what happens in other things I am pursuing we could well get something here soon.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Cheepie Cheepie then Revisit and Dinner

This morning we awoke to what people in Xalapa call Cheepie-Cheepie.  Xalapa, like many areas in tropical areas of Mexico has a soft and gentle rain called Cheepie-Cheepie.  I went out for my morning walk and found that walking when the pavement and cobblestones are a bit wet is tougher than it should be.   We decided to stay in the house until the rain cleared away.  Rain at this time of the year is not normal - but this was not a substantial rain.

By mid-day our friends took us back to Atotonilco - with my sister.  I wrote about our earlier visit and the only thing different today was that it was a gray day.  There is also a Sunday market.  Our friend Federico - who has lived here for the last eight years - expressed regret that we could not sample some of the things that the vendors were selling(the food smelled great) - but we both decided that it would not be wise.    The market was nothing to write home about. There was a lot of ticky tacky in a fairly small one street town.

In the late afternoon we went to a restaurant that had been recommended to me by a friend in California called Restaurante de Andrade.   It is in an old hacienda a couple of miles out of town.  For most of the last month we have eaten in a variety of restaurants.   Many have been quite good but none hold a candle to this one.  The place does not have a menu.  We each ordered a salad (I had a caprese salad which was excellent).  I then chose lamb which was equally good.  Finally I ended with the best panna cotta that I have ever had.   There was a middle course of ravioli  with spinach which was prepared from fresh pasta - we watched it being made and then it was served with a superb sauce.  All of it was wonderful.  When we come back this is a sure repeat.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Los Pozos

Today we went to Pozos, which is a ghost town about 45 minutes outside of San Miguel.   Pozos, for a good part of its history was a very wealthy town - a lot of mining of silver and gold.   Under Mexican law, gold is owned by the government but silver is able to generate independent wealth (thus the market here for silver is much greater than for gold).

The original miners in this town were Jesuits.  As a result they generated a great deal of wealth.  (They eventually got ordered out of the country - with a demand that they get to Veracruz and then get out in about two days.)

Several decades ago the mines got abandoned and thus the town became the Bodie of central Mexico.  In the last few years, there has been some effort to remake the ghost town into an artistic community - a San Miguel2.  I remain a skeptic.

We first went to the old mine sites.  That is the top picture.  We spent about an hour looking around one of the open sites.  It is remarkably peaceful - more than Bodie (that ghost mining town in the Eastern Sierra) - but it is also high and dry like Bodie.  And like Bodie - it has wind.   We learned from our wonderful guide (Dali Amor) a lot about the growth of the town, the infusion of the French (about the time of Maximilian) and the eventual bust of the mines.  

But the second picture shows the town as it is today.  Again, it is very peaceful.  There is not much activity in the town.  Some investors have put a lot of money into making the town more of an artistic center.  Unlike San Miguel - where I found an immediate list of things I wanted to do - this place is boring.  Double of triple the size and it is still a snooze.

Our guide has a great idea of doing speciality concerts in the old mine site.   Groups would come to Pozos  on a first class bus and then listen to a concert and go to a restaurant for a first rate meal.  He has the sites picked out - all he needs is some investors.  (note go to my homepage and click on the email link in case you want to be that angel).

One other comment.  As we were at lunch a young student in tourism from Anáhuac de Queretaro.  She came up to our table and asked why we came to Pozos.  We had a good discussion about the town and its attractions.  She was doing research for a class.  She was well spoken and asked good questions.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

LaCañada de la Virgen and Expat dinner

One of the things I have enjoyed about Mexico is visiting pyramids around the country.  I have been to several in Oaxaca, Veracruz and the Yucatan.   This morning we went to one of the northernmost pyramids in the country.   Like many others this one was abandoned well before the Spanish arrived in the Sixteenth Century - and there is no particular explanation why they closed down.  This one closed about the same time as Teotihuican.

Like many other pyramids in the country this one seems to have been an observatory.   But unlike others this one did not revolve around the equinox.  This one, called LaCañada de la Virgen, has only been open to the public for about six months. The land was in private hands (and still is) and it took a lot of wrangling to get access for the government.   The owner is an Argentinian who is related to the Krupps.   It is one main pyramid and a couple of other structures at this point.  To get to it, because it is surrounded by private land, you have to go to a center and then are transported by bus.   It was a pleasant trip - about 20 minutes outside of the city.

There is a lot of mumbo jumbo around the archeological sites in Mexico.  Some of the guides we have had in the past ascribe all sorts of things to these areas.  There is some discussion about the role of certain numbers (13 especially) and cyclical calendars based on the lunar calendar. Some of their speculations may have been true.  But  I prefer to look at these things with a bit of a jaundiced eye.   These places a magnificent to see - even if we cannot explain all of the things that go into the places.  Remember, that many of these sites were remarkably able to project movements of the sun and moon.   (All this was done without a sextant.)   The sheer act of being able to produce these edifices which seem to have been pretty advanced in a number of sciences makes me want to walk the grounds.

The other thing which annoys me is the constant attention to sacrifices that were done in some places.  Our guide today did a wonderful job of explaining both the conception of these peoples of the individual and also of the afterlife.  (Both of which are very different from our current thoughts about these things.)

There is a lake below the city of San Miguel that is way down because there have been a couple of lousy rain seasons.   The lake is man made and so you can now see part of a church which was submerged when the lake was created.   Evidently, if there is a good rainy season next year the lake will fill up quickly.

At about three PM we joined with a group of Expats at a restaurant off the Jardin called Pegaso.  We've been there several times since we have been here.   Today they created a special meal.  It was superb - starting with deviled eggs and then a salad and some calabasa soup, followed by turkey, corn dressing, string beans, mashed potatoes, cranberries (arándano in Spanish).  The dessert had either pumpkin pie or poached pears.   It was very tasty.  We finished the night looking at the gallery of our friend Federico Correa which is in a former coach house near the Jardin.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

50% airlines and something silly...

For more than two decades I have flown more than 100,000 miles per year.  When you fly that much you begin to build enough experience on various airlines to form some conclusions.   For example, I will go out of my way to avoid flying  on what was once dubbed Hughes Air Worst (now US Air).   At the same time in Mexico I try to avoid Aeromexico.   (The national flag carrier of Mexico.)   Most national airlines were started when air travel was somehow romantic and many countries thought it was wonderful to have a flag carrier.  Fortunately, market forces beginning in the 1970s began to blow up those flag carriers and air travel improved as a result.

The last couple of days confirmed my prejudices about Aeromexico.   As I talked about in an earlier post, we went from San Miguel to Merida on Sunday.    We had a total of four flights to get from here to there and back.  (Many flights from one place to another go through Mexico City.)   A day before the Sunday flight we got a note from Aeromexico that they had cancelled the flight between Leon and Mexico City.   So we arranged other transportation to Mexico City and got to Leon on the original second leg of the flight. 

This morning, the airport in Merida was fogged in for an 8:20 flight.  The gate personnel were not very informative about what was going to happen but when we did take off two and a half hours late, we were told that we would arrive at 12:15 (all times with this airline are approximate).   We arrived about ten minutes after our flight to Leon left (or about a half an hour after the revised projected arrival).

We got off the plane in Terminal 2, which is the domestic terminal at Mexico City.  It is not exactly the picture of efficiency.  We were told to go down a hall for connections and then that required us to go through security again (even though we had been checked in Merida) but by doing that we were able to stay on the same level (the other option would have been to go down to the first level and get with the agents downstairs.)  We quickly went to the first gate and explained that we had missed our flight to Leon and the agent told us to go to gate 65, when we got there we were told to go to 75, and then on return to go back to 65. The Aeromexico staff seemed intent on letting us get some aerobic exercise but I do not think it was out of concern for our health. I will admit that I do not have a high threshold for being part of human ping-pong so I grumped a bit. (Well actually a bit more than a bit.)   After a couple of other volleys we arrived at the real information desk – which is between 65 and 75 and they were able to get us on a flight at 3 (about 2 hours later).  So in the end Aeromexico was able to serve us on 50% of the original flights.    I am not sure how most people would grade their performance but in my book 50% is well below par. 

Adam Osborne, the computer entrepreneur once said that adequate is sufficient and anything beyond it is superfluous.   That certainly did not prove true in computers and it also does not apply to most other things in life including airlines.

So what was the alternative?  We could have avoided Mexico City by flying to Houston and then to Merida and then returning by the same route.   It would not have been the most logical route but then did I say I rank Aeromexico beside US Air?

Now to the silly; the room that we were in in Merida was a junior suite – thus it had a nice sitting room and a bedroom.  It was a very comfortable hotel room.   But the whole thing is probably about 600 sq.ft.  In the sitting room was a portable telephone.   There was an extension in the bedroom.   But then just in case someone called you while you were doing your business there was an extension in the toilet.  I do not want to get gross here but in those rooms with a potty phone I have always wondered about why they were necessary.   Explanations abound.   #1 – These rooms are only rented to people who are not very mobile so they need phones everywhere.  #2 – Some people think bathroom sounds are great accompaniment to their mundane talk.  They may be correct.  #3 – The nature of the room holder’s talk is so confidential that it must take place in a secure room and these special rooms are constructed to dampen noise.  #4 – Some people believe that the nature of talk is best when it is done in darkness (usually hotel room bathrooms have no window).  #5 - These people suffer from multi ringee-dingee phobia (discovered by an obscure Austrian psychoanalyst which found that some people cannot stand to have a phone ring more than once).   As I said there are plenty of explanations just none that I can find logical.

A better way

We've been in Merida for a couple of days.  I attended an international advisory board for a prestigious university (University del Mayab) and my wife got to see the area.   Her luck on weather held again.   About three years ago we went to Tajin, which is a great archeological site in Veracruz.   I've been there three or four times and each time was unable to get good pictures because it was so humid (steamy lenses do not make for good photography).   We got off the plane in Poza Rica and it was about 70• and low humidity.   So we got here, which is very tropical, and the weather was pretty nice.

We spent the day before the meeting visiting Progreso - which is a beach town about 30 minutes from Merida and then walking around downtown.  The photo is of a major bureaucratic mistake of a couple of hundred years ago.   The cathedral in Merida was slated to be built in Lima, Peru but the plans got sent to Merida, a much smaller town then.

The Zocalo in Merida is wonderful.  This magnificent cathedral plus a municipal palace with a salon on the second floor that is adorned with a series of paintings about the history of the region.  On Monday night they were preparing for a civic event but we got to sneak in and see the inside.   We also were given a private tour (by a guard who was very proud of the theater) of the Teatro Péon Contrearas which is a bit larger than the one in Guanajuato but dates to about the same time.

Yesterday, I participated in the board meeting.  The university is doing some very interesting things including developing an incubator for start-ups called Unico.  When I was last here, they were in construction and the building is now completed.   The project will encourage a group of start-ups by giving them space and advice.   One of the companies is about to negotiate a sale of its product to a major health company and a couple of others are growing concerns.   They will add the expertise of the university in design and law (for intellectual property issues) to help these companies grow.  They are also looking at some growth issues and like many of the best universities in Mexico are thinking about how do they develop and maintain standards that put them a the small group of universities around the world.

So what is the better way?   In the hotel we are staying in they bill you on the internet for usage.   I am often grumpy about paying for internet in hotels.   After all you do not pay for water or towels.   I've even had a series of exchanges with the CEO of Hilton hotels about the issue. They offer free internet to customers who reach a high level in their loyalty program.   I argued (to no positive result) that they would get more of my business if they offered (as some parts of the Hilton chain do) free internet.  Well, the Fiesta Inn, offers a series of plans that allow you to use internet for a period of time.  So we bought 24 hours - which was available for the entire stay.  We ended up, over the three days using only about half the time (between my wife and I) but from my perspective, for a little more than what most American hotels charge for 24 hours on the clock - that sounds like a fair price.

Today we head back to San Miguel for our last week there.   Dar Gracia - comes up tomorrow.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Reflecting on the Day of Revolution

The 20th of November is a day commemorating the 1910 Revolution in Mexico.   We were woken this morning by several blasts of fireworks about four in the morning.  That seemed to begin the celebrations.

 Last night in the Centro there were a lot of people hanging out - with a street fair and a couple of bands.  We chose to eat at a place called La Grotta - a small place with an interesting menu - I had a chicken breast wrapped in spinach very tasty.

But back to the revolution.  The three pictures that you see are of three of the principals of the 1910 revolution.  There were certainly more.  Basically the country was divided into three geographic factions led by Emiliano Zapata, Francisco Madero and Pancho Villa.   The relations between them were complicated.   Villa was given almost Robin Hood status in the US at the time.   There were all sorts of plots and counterplots.

Fundamentally the order of the country was breaking down as at the end of the long presidency of Porfirio Diaz who was pushed out of the country and then the power struggles began.  All of this would make a good opera.

Ultimately, Villa was gunned down in a small town.   Zapata was also ambushed. Madero was also assassinated.  One of the controversies about both Zapata and Villa was whether they were bandits or pursuing a social agenda (Zapata was a big force for land reform).   There are a couple of good histories of Zapata and Villa.  And there is a long but interesting treatment of all of Mexican political history done several years ago by Enrique Krauze.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The middle

In a recent book about the perils of higher education (Abelard to Apple) Richard DeMillo argued that the most vulnerable part of higher education was what he defined as the “middle”; those institutions without significant resources and with only nominal selectivity.   He argued that they are beset with a range of issues – competition for admissions, rising costs and a commodity like brand.

In one sense he is right.   Those institutions do have a higher possibility of failure.  Although any analytical person who looks at the flagships notices some significant cracks around their super-structure – huge demands on resources (as Howard Bowen once said “Institutions raise everything they can and spend everything they get.”), arrogant faculty who teach as a hobby while pursuing other interests,and students who demand every amenity.

But we were discussing the middle.    Last night I was honored by one of those in the middle, in Mexico, Universidad del Pedregal.   At the entrance of the University there is a statue of a man with a sledgehammer breaking rock – indeed the university refers to its job (as many universities in Mexico do) as formation of students.   The university has a relatively young rector who has just completed his third year.   I first knew him when he was a student.  
On an annual basis, most Mexican rectors offer an Informe, which sets out the accomplishments of the last year and proposes some plans for the future.  This is a formal meeting, where the Rector gives an address and then a senior member of the board responds.  As you can see from the picture, in this instance the auditorium was beautifully decorated. (I counted more than 600 roses.) What I heard about last night was a university on the move.   They are determined to stay true to their mission, which is to educate middle class students.   But they have grown in size (both in terms of matriculations and graduates).   They have improved the academic qualifications of their faculty.   They have used their resources carefully but they have taken some risks.   In short, while many other universities talk a good game about continuous improvement – they are working on it.

So was DeMillo right?  As I look forward on higher education, I believe that all universities face some real challenges.  I fully expect that the sector faces, especially the independent sector, a pronounced set of issues that will sink some places.   I fully expect that some of those failures will come from among the most prestigious universities.   But I look at a place like Pedregal and think they will continue to “stick to their knitting” (as Waterman and Peters – In Search of Excellence once said) and continue to serve their market quite well. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Expats and coffee

Yesterday we had lunch with one of my wife's friends from her grade school.  This woman moved to San Miguel 27 years ago.  She and her now ex-husband were trying to reconcile and it did not work.  She was left in a foreign country with two small daughters.  

But she built a life.  First, she developed a riding academy.   Then she met an old guy who offered to help her get her business up and running.  He mentioned that a son was finishing veterinary school and they eventually met and married.   They built a house slightly out of town which is really quite wonderful.   It is built around a patio like a classic hacienda.  The place is all adobe construction.  She is in the process of doing a lot of work on sustainable flora and fauna.  She is active in the community being especially mindful of neglected children.   By the way, it turned out that the old guy she met actually ran the other riding academy in town - which he did not mention.

We've met a lot of ex-pats here.  They are a diverse lot.  Yesterday we also heard about when Starbucks came to town.  A lot of people here were glad to have a place in town where teenagers could congregate without alcohol.   And indeed, at some times during the day the place seems to serve the function of a soda shop.  The store is right off the Centro - sort of diagonal from the Parroquia.

But a group of the ex-pats protested the store.  Mind you that the company that runs the franchise is a Mexican company which employs Mexicans.   But the silly Americans grumbled none-the-less.   One of our new friends here (who did not protest) said a) he enjoys the coffee and b) some of the grumps now frequent the place a lot.   I do not drink coffee so I cannot comment on their product although I sure like their iced green tea.

To Mexico City

This morning we are going to Mexico City on an ETN bus.   As we have travelled in Mexico we have been on a couple of classes of busses, including the third class ones where the goats and chickens included at no extra cost.  But before you sigh, this is a first class bus.  We were able to make reservations on line and when you arrive at the bus station you check in electronically.  The bus has about 24 seats and movies and WIFI.  In addition they give you a drink and a sandwich.  Nothing like this in the US.

We have about 10 people on this trip but I have been on trips where the bus is full.  You are given an assigned seat.  The accommodations are comfortable.  The flight from Leon to Mexico City is about an hour and change but the drive to the airport is an hour and a half.  So the differences are pretty clear - no airport security, relaxed travel and we get to Mexico City in just a bit more time.  The cost for the trip is considerably less than the corresponding flight. All in all, as I said, nothing like this in the US.

One irritation raised its head this morning.  Aeromexico sent us an email that the first leg of our flight to Merida on Sunday (We are going there for a board meeting on Tuesday) has been cancelled.  I have found Aeromexico's service to be spotty.  What would you expect of a government airline?   But then we are on the bus.  We thought about bussing to Merida but the trip is a very long one so we will figure out how to get to Mexico City to pick up the rest of our flight.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Singers at Dinner

One of the traditions at many restaurants in Mexico is to have strolling singers - sometimes solo and sometimes a group (often a Mariachi) - come to your table and offer songs.   I've always had mixed feelings about that tradition.   Most Americans mark themselves because their list of songs is short.   There are perhaps ten songs that I believe we choose about 99% of the time - Cielito lindo and Béseme mucho; not so much Las Mañanitas (which is sung at birthdays).   My mixed feelings come from a couple of thoughts. First, the singers can be pretty wide in their abilities. Second, especially with Mariachi, they can be loud. But third, I suspect that many of these singers get tired of singing the songs from the ten most requested.

The singer last night (there is a short clip here of one of my wife's favorites which is also in the top ten -  just to prove the point) was excellent.   More importantly, he offered up a couple of songs I had not heard before.  The music is often sentimental.  The song he offered last night is from Guanajuato and very sad.  Germans have their Heimat Filme and Mexicans their ballads.

Mariachi originated in the state of Jalisco - also the state of Tequila.   Some suggest that it comes from a corruption of the French word for marriage.  A lot of this music comes from celebrations.  But WIKIPEDIA says the word comes from the native language Coca.   I was told once that the addition of brass to the bands came when the music was first played on the radio - the guitars and other stringed instruments did not pick up well on the primitive microphones.  There are other branches of Mexican music which Americans mix into traditional Mariachi music.   They each have their own distinct traditions.

One of the major singers of Mexico, Pedro Vargas, was born in San Miguel.  As we talked with our singer last night he said Vargas seemed to get better as he consumed more adult beverages.   Vargas actually started his career as an opera singer in Cavelleria Rusticana in Mexico City.   There are a couple of statues to Vargas in San Miguel.

In Mexico City there is a zone where the Mariachi bands congregate called Plaza Garibaldi.  It is a large plaza which also has a wonderful restaurant close by called the Salón Tenampa.   In this large hall each time I have been there there are four bands playing in each of the corners of the room.   Oddly, each time there have been three Mariachi and one band playing in the style of Veracruz - which is without brass.   If you want to hear those guys you have to sit close.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wonders in the morning

I generally get up before my wife to read and do email.   This morning I looked out the window and saw the following scene.   With Mozart on my iPod seemed like a perfect start to the day.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Fountains and Doors

This afternoon we went on a doors and fountain tour.  San Miguel's downtown requires wooden doors (although like some other requirements in Mexico - this one is not always enforced).   The fountains abound in the city.  There is even a place where there are spaces for people to wash their clothes, children and pets- which seems to be busy on the weekends.

 One of the things which intrigues me about the city is the architectural features that seem to pop out in many places.   One of the interesting features on many doors is the fanciful door knockers.  We found big hands, lions, dogs, cows, dragons and a host of other types.   I put a set of photos up at my Flickr site with 82 photos.   But here are some examples of what we saw.

Traffic in San Miguel

I have been walking twice a day for the time we have been here. This is probably only the second time in fifty years that I have not driven for more than a couple of days.   There are no stop signs in downtown and precious few in the outskirts.   The average speed on the streets is probably less than 20 miles per hour.  (This is a place with narrow cobblestone streets and lots of topes- little traffic mounds).  

Amazingly what I have found is that with few exceptions the drivers are courteous.  They yield to pedestrians almost unfailingly.  That is certainly not true in other parts of Mexico or in the US.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Reflections on San Miguel and Mexico

One of the interesting paradoxes I have experienced in the last couple of years has been the US perception and reality of Mexico.   We've treated the drug problem as Mexico's but as the Ambassador to the US said to me in a lunch about six months ago - the drug problem has both a supplier (Mexico) and consumer (US).

Tonight we had dinner in an Argentine type restaurant (what we would call in the US a good steak house) and for most of the meal we were the only ones there.   This afternoon, we visited the Mask Museum in San Miguel and spent an interesting hour and a half with the owner - who has assembled a fine collection of traditional masks with some great explanations of how each of the indigenous cultures uses masks.  There is a huge collection in Zacatecas, but this one is better because it puts all the collection in context.

You might wonder what these two events have in common.  Both reflect the relative condition of tourism in San Miguel.   My wife and I have walked throughout the town at all times of day and night.   One of the interesting things about the city is how well people seem to get along.  The Episcopal parish that I discussed in earlier posts has Spanish and English speakers together. We've found the people in shops and on the street to be uniformly friendly and helpful.   But as the owner of the B&B/Mask Museum said to me this afternoon between the economy and the over-reaction that news sources have had about violence in Mexico related to the drug cartels, business is off.  This is clearly a buyer's market in real estate.

When we were getting ready to come for our trip - we asked a lot of friends to come visit us.  We have a huge house so we could accommodate guests.  Some had schedule conflicts but more than a few said they were afraid to come to the city or to Mexico.  That is not denying that there has been some significant violence in Mexico City and north of where we are.  But as a city, this place is tranquil.

Eating in San Miguel

One thing I never seem to do is get hungry in Mexico.  There are tons of restaurants in San Miguel from simple to elaborate.  We've been here for a bit more than 2 weeks and have not found a bad place yet.   At the same time we have not found a place that was thoroughly compelling.  We had some great fresh fish at La Felgura which is in the Hotel Posada Carmina.  It is an outside patio with great service.   There is a nice informal restaurant off the Centro called Pegaso where the tables are close together and we've met some nice people there.   There are a couple of Argentine and Italian places that we have liked (notably Cafe Vivoli one La Garufa).   We've also been to a couple of tapas places including Cafe Iberico.  There have been several others including Casblanca that were fun and the food was good.

We thought the food at the Rosewood was a bit pricey and bland.  Rosewood is a new development in town associated with a hotel.  Their condos are very well done.  They have completed on phase of the development and are working on another.  One attraction is that there are four restaurants nearby (in the hotel) for residents of the complex.

One of the odd things about some of the restaurants is that they keep erratic hours.  So it is best to check before starting out.   Some restaurants that we like (including the Restaurant and Chamonix - both of which were excellent) are closed on Sundays.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Gospel in Two Languages

One of my favorite gospels is the Parable of the Talents.  The church we attended this morning reads the gospel in both english and spanish.  I have always liked the parable because it says two things.  First, that one should use what we have been given and second that we should take risks in life.

In the english version a master brings together three servants and gives them one, two and five talents.   He comes back after a while and two of the servants have doubled their master's money.  The third had buried it in the ground and so returned only the talent he got.  I've liked this gospel because it encourages us all to take risks in life.  We come into life with a set of things that come to us without regard to our needs or desires but regardless we should take risks to make the best use of what we are given.

The spanish version has two major differences.  First the servant (servidor) becomes and employee (empleo) and the master becomes a boss (jefe).  Second, the amount is expressed in thousands so one becomes one thousand.  I am not sure it makes much of a difference theologically.

They also did a baptism this morning, which was done in Spanish.   I was able to keep up with the responses reasonably well.

Eternal Verities and telephones

This morning we were down to the Starbucks (to use the WIFI in order to be able to make a couple of phone calls - more on that later) and my wife was in the restroom.  There was a young family in the courtyard with two boys about 3 and 5 and a girl who was probably in between.

There was a small puddle in the void between four bricks that had less than a shoe full of water.  The two boys were immediately drawn to it and their sister looked at them as if they were crazy.  But there they went stomping it until the water was all splashed about.  No cultural nuances here - just gender ones.

I have tried three ways to phone in Mexico - Google, Skype and Ooma.  All three use WIFI to connect and then depending on the connection are quite inexpensive.  For example, the Skype for a call to a Mexico City cellphone was 8¢ per minute.   The Google was about 15¢.   I have only used the Ooma service to call US numbers and there the service is free.  But their Mexico rates are about 9¢ per minute.    AT&T on a cellular call is 60¢ per minute.   All three of the nontraditional providers have superb voice quality.

The Mexican phone system continues to confuse me.   In some places you are required to put a prefix in and in others not.  Cellular calls (to and from) require another prefix (usually 44).   So the addition of the WIFI services has been a great boon.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Jazz times two/times two

On Wednesday afternoon we at a restaurant for lunch that had two guitarists who played a lot of Django Reinhardt.   I first encountered his music at the Sacramento Jazz Festival several years ago.  These two guys played some enjoyable music.   Last night we went out to dinner to a place called Casa Rama which is near the Rosewood development - which was featured in Sunset magazine.  The food was good and so was the music.

The life of an artist

I've always wondered about how and why people create art.  On Wednesday night we went out to dinner with friends who are visiting (one is an artist) from Sacramento and with the couple we met on our first night here (ditto).

We had a good discussion in the SMdA artist's studio about how he works through images and also about how things eventually come back in many iterations.  He showed us a collection of images, drawings, paintings from many years that are works in progress.   The best description I heard from both artists was how their activity evolves - it does not simply go from idea to completion.


Yesterday we got a guide and went to Guanajuato (the largest city in the state that holds San Miguel de Allende.   I first went there almost twenty years ago and before he became president, I met Vicente Fox there (when he was governor).   The city is much larger than San Miguel and grew up initially as a mining town (you can still see the walls of a working mine - near the top of one of the hills that surrounds the city).

On our way out of San Miguel we encountered a pilgrimage that happens about this year which brings people to a ranch away from the city where there is a small church, where miracles happen.   People make the trek to this place annually either seeking miracles or expressing thanks.   They come by horse, foot and bicycle as well as car.  The walk is about a three day trek from San Miguel.

As you come into Guanajuato your are struck with three things.  First, there is an observation area from the top where you can see the beautiful colors of the buildings.  Second, the downtown area, which is very old, has a lot of streets that are pedestrian only.  Third, as you enter, from at least one part, you actually go under the city in a series of tunnels that were designed to divert traffic but also to handle water (originally).   When you come to see the sights - you park and walk.

There is a classic theater there which was completed near the end of the reign of Porfirio Díaz.    We sat in this magnificent smallish theater and discussed the relative merits of Benito Juarez and Porfirio Díaz.   Juarez was president from 1857-1872.  He is credited with a lot of things - but from my perspective his presidency evokes more founding traits than substantive results.  A lot of what he did was to redefine the nation.   Díaz was President from 1876-1911.   He ruled as a dictator but he also completed a lot of infrastructure during his presidency including public markets, roads, and transportation systems.   He was eventually deposed and spent the last four years of his life in France.   There are plenty of good histories about the evolution of the presidents of Mexico.   My favorite is a book by Enrique Krause.   What you are struck with is how uneven the histories become.   Many of the presidents of Mexico ended their terms violently.

One of our first stops, after the Teatro, was the Museum of Don Quixote.  The museum was funded by a publisher named Pedro Garfias who emigrated to Mexico from Spain.  He spent time in Spain in one of Franco's concentration camps (as a Spanish Jew) and at one point traded cigarettes for a copy of Cervantes' novel.   When I read Don Quixote, I was struck by the notion that it is hard to tell who is crazy in the book.   On the surface, Quixote is nuts - going on these quests.   But the book can be read on quite a different level where Quixote is the sane one.   Garfias read the book as an inspiration about the possibilities of life.  When he reached Mexico he became very successful but also began a collection of Quixote-ana in all sorts of media.   This is a first rate museum with hundreds of Quixote artifacts - paintings, weavings, sculpture, ceramics.

We also went up to the main building of the University of Guanajuato, which is one of the most prestigious public universities in Mexico.   It's main building is famed for its steps - which are many and steep.

We also visited two of the churches in the city - since this is a large city there is a bishop here.  From my view the smaller church next to the Teatro (San Diego de Alcala) is more impressive.

We then went up to the Aldondiga.   When Mexico began to separate from Spain four major figures started a movement.  They eventually amassed a group (mob) of about 25,000 people and went to Guanajuato.   They stormed the newly constructed (1809) grain exchange.   There are lots of heroic stories about this relatively short encounter - and lots of violence.   The mayor of the city first blockaded the city then decided to gather the 200 most prominent citizens in the Aldondiga along with 300 soldiers.  The building is built around a patio - so the rebels were able to lob stones into the center.   But for a while the soldiers were able to hold them off until (according to legend) one person strapped a large rock to his back and was able to avoid the soldier's shots and burned one of the main entrances.    During the siege the mayor peeked out and was shot in the eye.  The rebels eventually broke through the burned door and killed everyone inside.

Eventually the four main protagonists against Spanish rule were betrayed and captured and executed.  As a sign to the population they were beheaded and their skulls were placed in four containers (second photo) where they stayed for a decade.    When you enter this building all that history is omnipresent.  Like the GPO in Dublin, you can still see bullet holes in the outside masonry.   The building now houses a pretty good museum.  Yesterday there were a couple of groups of school children so you could get an idea of what it might have been like to be shut in with 500 people.

The city has a third attraction, which is out of downtown.  Like much of Mexico, the state of Guanajuato is in the desert.   For much of the city's history people were buried above ground in wooden caskets.  Some of those bodies were eventually exhumed when the descendants were not able to pay taxes necessary to maintain the cemeteries.  What they found is that, as opposed to those buried in the ground, the bodies above ground mummified.  The city has a museum of some of these remains.  The museum is eerie, tragic and a bit macabre.   In the middle of the museum there are some infants in this condition and a series of photos, that were common at one point, of mother's holding their dead infants all dressed up.

What struck me about the day is how all those things we saw tied together.   From the pilgrims in the morning to all the things we saw in Guanajuato they involved the possibilities of the human spirit - some elevated, some optimistic, some violent.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Oomaing from Mexico

One of the real frustrations in Mexico is the phone system - you need a separate three number code for cellular calls and you also need a city code.  I have never been able to master it.  At the same time, costs for US users are high.  Even with a discounted rate the costs can be 60¢ per minute to the US.

But here comes my Ooma which I mentioned in an earlier post.  This afternoon, I set up my Ooma mobile APP (about $10 on the APP store).  I then tried to make a call over my WIFI network in the house.  Cost for three phone calls of about 10 minutes each - $0.  The voice quality is outstanding - better than Skype.   The system also works on 3G but the usual call costs apply.

As I said in the earlier post on Ooma - this device is simple to set up.  What was more interesting is that I asked one family member to call me on our home number - it rang on my cellular phone.   I am a techie but this device blows me away.

Night and Walking

This evening we went downtown for dinner and finished about 9 PM.  For a good part of the first week we have been here, there has been something going on in the Centro - first Halloween, then Dia de Los Muertos - then the weekend.  But tonight, as we went down to Starbucks to get some coffee ground the Centro was quiet.

One of the things I like best about Mexico is the surprises of finding a place of interest unexpectedly.  Here is one shot from tonight (iPhone photos) that caused me to think about those serendipitous situations.   This was on the way to the men's room at a restaurant that we found on our first night here.

Since the first morning I have been here I have done about 2-3 miles of walking.  At the end of the day I have done between six and seven miles of walking between our other explorations.  That has allowed me to explore the town.  This morning I set out on a slightly different route from our house and found a beautiful park and cultural center.   The Parroquia is a good landmark that is visible from many parts in the city - so every time I have been a bit lost, I simply try to find that and then recalibrate on next steps.

To Market, To Market

There is a serious tradition in Mexican towns of the market.   My first experiences with these were in Oaxaca where there is a superb market near the central bus station on Saturday and then a huge one a few miles out of town in Tlacalula on Sunday.

These markets are a mix of social gathering, place to shop and a bazaar.  One can get all sorts of food - superb fresh fruit and vegetables, usually many kinds of cooked food, clothing, auto parts, hardware, sometimes antiques and rummage.   The two in Oaxaca are interesting places.

They differ a bit from the in town markets that are present in many Mexican towns which often mix food, clothing and souvenirs but not auto parts.   (The Tlacalula market was for some time called Tokyolula but the natives because you could buy new cars there.

In 1995, I first noticed how slick the vendors were.  The peso was under tremendous burden and yet each of the vendors seemed to have understood the international monetary flows.  Let me offer two examples.   You often get a small coin purse to hold spare change.  For about a year I watched the price of the purses fluctuate with the value of the peso.  I also noticed that if an American came when the peso was really in the dumps (just before the devaluation) that they would offer a premium that was close to 20% for dollars.  About a year later, when the peso had stabilized that discount disappeared.   What amazed me about those two trends is that most of the vendors do not look like they studied international finance.

This morning we went to the Tianguis del Martes or Tuesday market.  It is done on the edge of town in a huge space.  I wanted to present a short video with three intents in mind.  #1 - Contrary to the notions that many Americans have of Mexico - not all music here is enchanting.   #2 - To give you an idea of the hustle and bustle in Mexican markets.  #3 - This will give you an idea about the variety of options in the market - the picture above gives you an idea about the colors.

Compared to some of the other markets we have been to in Mexico (including the Saturday market in San Angel in Mexico City) we did not find any exciting treasures.

Great Use of Space

Yesterday we walked around the city with our friends who are visiting and then had a wonderful lunch near the Centro.   (The best mojo de ajo I have ever had - made with Sea Bass)   We then went to a converted textile mill which is now used for art and design space.  It is called Fabrica La Aurora  (Click on the name to get to the site.)

What intrigued me about the space was the mix of galleries and spaces for working artists in all sorts of media.  One gallery had very smartly designed outdoor furniture.   Several had jewelry or textiles.  Of course there were lots of spaces for painting and sculpture.  The space also has a restaurant and a coffee place.

The photo at the Left is of one artist who works in bronze.  His sculptures have a certain whimsical tone.  Luckily our friend the artist was able to explain how the bronze is treated with chemicals to resist deterioration in the elements.

This would not have been a place that I would have gone - but it was well worth the short trip from downtown.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

St. Paul's San Miguel

This morning we decided to visit the Episcopal parish in San Miguel.  It is called St. Pauls and is located near a new development called Rosewood.  The parish had scheduled a single service today but the priest, recognizing that there were nine of us there for the early service, agreed to offer communion.

The sermon had been drafted by the Associate rector and had been based on one of the readings from Amos.  It paralleled a discussion I had on a Facebook I am a member of called the Wheelspinners relating to personal responsibility.   One of the interesting twists in this was that the priest who had written the sermon for delivery at 10:30 came into the church in the middle of the service.  He thought the regular rector had done a good job offering someone else's sermon notes.  I agree.  

San Miguel is mostly walkable.  We took a cab this morning and arrived about an hour before the 9 AM Service.   So we walked around the neighborhood.   When we returned we decided to walk back home - not a bad distance.

The parish is smallish but very accommodating and has services in English and Spanish.  My wife is likely to go there on Wednesday when the Shawl ministry convenes.  She is active in the same project at home - which produces shawls for people who need them - either because of illness or some other major event where they need comfort.

In the afternoon we went downtown for Caso Fundido and Soup awaiting the arrival of our friends from Sacramento.  I spent the afternoon after church reconstituting financial statements of a place I am looking at.   That does not sound very interesting to most people but I am always amazed about how numbers can be put together to help our understanding what is going on in an organization.

Our friends arrived at about 5:30 and we went out for a wonderful dinner.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Yes we have no Siqueiros

One of the main muralists of Mexican art is David Alfaro Siqueriros.   Along with Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco he looms large as an artist that helped define the muralist heritage in Mexico.  So one of the things you need to see when in San Miguel is a mural he painted in San Miguel in the Bellas Artes.

Siqueriros did a lot of murals all over the country including a magnificent one in the Children's refuge in Guadalajara.  (SEE SECOND PICTURE) We visited that about fifteen years ago and the young art student who showed us it was so excited because the artist did it on his back with one hand.   The mural in the refuge is amazing both in its use of color and in its progression of themes.

Like Rivera, Siqueriros was a lefty politically.  Indeed he was implicated in the plot to kill Trotsky.  If you know enough about the intensity of debates on the left you can understand how someone on the left would try to assassinate the intellectual godfather of the Russian revolution.   But enough of that.

When you come to SMdA you need to see this mural.   So today we set out to see the it.  Your picture is better than ours.  It seems that the roof of Bellas Artes collapsed and the museum is closed. We got to tour the church next to Bellas Artes which dates to 1511(although not sure how that worked since Cortez came to Antiqua eight years later).   We hope Bellas Artes will reopen by the end of the month.  In Zacatecas there is this great art space called the convent of San Francisco which has some amazing art work as well as a huge collection of masks and its ceiling collapsed - and that adds to the ambience.

The third in the triumvirate of heroic art in Mexico is José Clemente Orozco.   In Guadalajara, the municipal palace houses a heroic painting of the father of the Mexican revolution, Miguel Hildago (the guy who I said in an earlier post should have listened to deAllende).   Orozco's mural is compelling.

None of this is marked by subtlety.  It is not unlike the WPA stuff that Ben Shawn.  For a period of about thirty years muralists thrived in a number of countries.  The Mexican muralists, at least from my limited perspective, seem to have had the most lasting effect.

We found other stuff to do today including finding a knitting shop for my wife and going to the Mega for some more provisions.   But we hope we can see the mural before we have to return to the states.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Not another Church?

If you've been to Mexico you have been to at least one church and probably one archeological site.  Today we went to a town that is northeast of San Miguel.  The one attraction in the town is a church that was built in the 1740s and illuminated by one artist (Miguel Antonio Martinez de Pocasangre).  The priest who initiated the project was named  Fr. Luis Felipe Neri de Alfaro.  Who was a native of San Miguel.  This is not the oldest church in the state of Guanajuato. (By a long shot) But among all the churches I have been in Mexico or even around the world, it is one of the most impressive.

The ceiling frescoes are dark but if you go through the church carefully you will find the major parts of Christ's life.  For example there is a scene of Judas receiving the 30 pieces of silver and in the background of Judas after he hung himself.   Like many churches in Mexico this one changed as the population changed.  So it grew from the initial sanctuary to a series of side chapels.  It has been named as one of the 100 most endangered monuments by the World Monuments Fund.

The church remains important as a religious location for a couple of reasons.  First, it is the beginning of an annual pilgrimage from it to the city of San Miguel where a statute of the Lord is brought to the city.   The tradition began when a wealthy merchant was ill and asked that the statue be brought to him to comfort him in his final hours and he recovered.   Second, the church is the site of a series of pilgrimages from Catholics all over Mexico seeking repentance.   Our guide said that as many as 7000 people come for these annual events.

For me the most beautiful part of the church was the most subtle.  Evidently the entire church building was painted but the outside paintings have been mostly destroyed by sun and the elements.  But as you walk into the main sanctuary you see a series of door panels which have been partially protected from the elements.   These images are faded but even in their current condition you can see their absolute beauty.

Atotonilco is also a location that was important to the 1810 revolution.  Miguel Hildago is supposed to have aroused some of the native people against the Spanish here - so there is a statute of him in front of the church.   

Later in the day we went on to Dolores Hildago.  This town has an important church in it.   And if you want to see pictures of that church you will have to go to my Flckr site to see those shots.   The original name of the town was Dolores, but in honor of Miguel Hildago the name was changed.  (Not unlike San Miguel de Allende after another of the four leaders of the 1810 revolt.)

One of the highlights of our visit there was lunch.  We stopped at a small cafe that specializes in Carnitas - which is basically fried pork.  You buy lunch by the kilo and they bring you out fresh tortillas, condiments, onions, chills, salsa, pico de gallo and even possibly some soup.  This place was called Vicente.  If you have ever had what passes for Carnitas in the US, if you try this you will become a lot more picky.

Our guide today was named Mario- he had a good sense of humor.  When we got into his car he told us solemnly "I was born in the last century."   Good line.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Misunderstanding on Both Sides

This evening we began our walkabout looking to an Italian restaurant that I found in my morning walk.   We ended up across the street at a place called Cafe Iberico.  The Maitre d' got us there because he promised the food was good.  It was.   It turned out that he learned his English in Houston where he spent several years but overstayed his visa.  When he was discovered he spent another eight months in detention (which he described as worse than jail) and then was deported.  He came back at about the same time as his grandfather was dying.  He said he was fine with being back in the town where he was born but has a lot of family still in Houston.   He was a good waiter.   I am not a real fan of Paella and they evidently have chef who wins competitions for the dish in Spain.   The Tapas were superb - we had a range of five dishes and are likely to go back there.

The other story was the wife of the owner.  She is originally from North Carolina near Raleigh.  Her husband would like to live in Spain and goes there frequently.  She said business in the restaurant is down because Americans are staying away in droves.  Business is way down.   They are thinking of moving to Queretaro because business in San Miguel is so down.  She worried that the American news casts have so driven a false impression of the country.  So on both sides we have not achieved the kinds of conversations that neighbors should have.

Clearly, the US and Mexico would have benefitted from having Santiago in either place.  And, like we found in Ireland after Drumcree, the problems facing venues that depend in part on tourists are huge if there is a perception about a problem.

The Fate of Heroes and more Surrealism

One of the heroes of the Mexican Revolution of 1810 was Ignacio Allende.  He was a native son of San Miguel and so is commemorated in many places in the city.  He fought with Miguel Hildago but had differences with the father of the revolution about military tactics.  Allende was a skilled soldier so Hildago should have listened to him.  Ultimately, Allende was betrayed and then captured and executed.   The Spaniards were aghast at the insurrection so they beheaded Hildago (and three other conspirators - Allende, Aldama and Jimmenez) and then put their heads on the corners of the Aldondiga in Guanajuato.  One of our side trips while we are here will be to see Guanajuato and the Aldondiga.  I first went there when Vicente Fox hosted a dinner there for a group of academics (while he was Governor of Guanajuato).  Allende is memorialized in the statue in the picture.  But evidently, like all these kinds of memorials the pigeons seem to care about the hero of the revolution than the citizens.

Another highlight of the morning was a visit to the town library.  The library is supposed to be a unique community resource.   One of the rooms is being restored with a vibrantly colored mural.  We went in to see the muralist at work.  Blaring from a boom box was Mozart's Requiem.   The German painter said it gave him inspiration.   Works for me.

San Miguel, Verdi and Gyms

Yesterday we sought out a GYM for me.  We had vague directions to where it is located and after a lot of false starts found the place which costs about $400 pesos for a month membership (or $200 per week).  The place is a bit of a walk from our house and the facilities were just adequate so I decided that I would start out each day with a walk.

So this morning I went out with my iPod listening to a collection from EMI of Verdi performances that are supposed to be the best.  They are mostly old time performances Tibbet, Caruso and the like.   It was a wonderfully surrealistic experience to be traipsing down the cobblestone streets of this colonial city.  The collection, by the way, for Verdi fans (at least) is pretty good.   But it is especially good for here.   I am not sure whether I would have had the same experience on a walk in Omaha.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Modern Wonders and Ritual

Today Walt Mossberg, the dean of technology writers did a retrospective of technology over the two decades that he has covered the field.  He named a number of innovations that have changed our lives.  Among them, he reminded me that my first cellular phone (more than 20 years ago) cost about $3000 and was about the size of a hard bound book (remember them?).

But I was also struck today by five unrelated events we experienced in San Miguel.  #1 - Video Conferencing with SKYPE - We had a video conference with a friend in San Francisco .   We are working on a project and he had a lunch yesterday with my successor and we talked about possible next steps.   One false start but for the most part the video was clear and the voice quality fine.

#2 - Speaking with our grandchildren and their parents.   We had two FaceTime experiences today with our son and his family in Sacramento and our daughter and hers in  LA.  We got to give them a short tour of the house we are staying in as well using the opportunity to chat and see them.

#3 - A phone call - We had a friend call us while we were at dinner on my iPhone.  That is a fairly expensive event (60¢ per minute) but we got to catch up and to see if he could come to visit during our stay.

#4 - iCloud - at Breakfast this morning I think I began to convince my wife that using the cloud for synching contacts and other things in life is a positive thing.  She is attached to her paper address book - but it becomes outdated almost immediately as it is written.  With iCloud - on her iPad and iPhone and home computer - all of her contacts are kept in constant synch.   She said she still prefers the book - but I think began to appreciate the utility of getting those things all together where ever she is.   iCloud is not perfect but for my money it is very, very good.

All of the first four were mostly not possible even five years ago.  The phone certainly was but it was a) even more expensive, and b) the quality of the call was uncertain.   But the last thing has been around for a lot longer time.

#5 - Watching the Observance of Dia de Los Muertos - This is the second day in what we call in the US - All Saints Day but is a much bigger event in Mexico - called Dia de Los Muertos.  I've been in Mexico several times for this couple of days and I think even in San Miguel once.  As in the American equivalent it is a time to remember members of your family (broadly defined).  What struck me about this time was two things.  First, there is an element of fiesta or celebration but there is also a solemn part of the events.  This is a time in Mexico for families to reflect on members who have died.   In the main church on the Jardin they open the crypt for both days (as I mentioned yesterday).  But we also went to a smaller church off the square where there was a mass going on.  So there is something to this that is more than a party.  As we went into this more simple church we found a number of statues which I believe some Americans would find grotesque.  But they are meant to remind people of the story of Christ.  They are symbols but they are also tied up in ritual.  As we came out of the second church an old couple going to the Centro stopped and prayed a moment in front of the church.   This was not a big thing but it is also not infrequent.   The elements of ritual in American life have often become less prominent or simply forgotten.

So how do numbers 1,2,3 and 4 fit with 5?   From my perspective there is indeed some element of ritual associated with advances in technology - but the difference is that the rituals around Dia de Los Muertos are designed to get us to think about higher purposes.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Moving into the House

This morning we left our Bed and Breakfast (called Casa Schuck) and moved about half a block up the street to our home for the month.   Inside is a first rate art collection, four bedrooms and marvelous views of the city.

The B&B was the home of a couple who moved here from Connecticut.  In 1966 they rebuilt a historic house and turned it into a ten room hotel.  It is rated highly by Conde Naste. (deservedly)  It has had numerous famous guests and seems to be a destination for weddings.  The room we stayed in was comfortable.  The interior courtyard was beautiful with lots of bougainvillea.

By the time we got down to the centro it was mid-afternoon.  So we went to the large church in the Centro (San Miguel) - during two days in the year they open the crypt and so we went down to see it.  Evidently the Emperor Maximilian commented that he thought the space was fit for a king.   We had a small lunch and then got a cab to the Mega.  We thought about going to the Tuesday market but decided it was simpler to go to the big store.  We bought all the essentials - Tequila, Beer, Fresh Fruit, Yogurt, Cereal and Milk.  

San Miguel has a ceiling style that I first noticed when I came here in 1999.  The ceilings are intricate patterns of bricks.

We came back to the house for some guacamole and then sat around looking at the view, doing email and Q read for a while.   About 7:30 we went back down to the Centro for dinner.  I had a Chile Poblano which was prepared with shrimp and a sauce that was made of beets and raspberries.  It was delicious.   The square was filled with people celebrating Dia de Los Muertos including the couple above.