It is my last full day today here in Mexico and I thought I would share with you some of observations… Yesterday I was awakened by the sound of a loud Boom! At 7:00 in the morning. I thought maybe it was some kids playing around with M80’s, because I had also heard some of the Booms in the middle of the night. Or maybe they were excavating a mine nearby with dynamite. But after a day of these firecrackers going off I find out at dinner that it was for a 14 year old boy from nearby who was killed by a car while riding a bike on the main road. The neighbors are setting off the firecrackers to open up the heavens to accept his soul. This is also why the church bells were ringing in the middle of the day, to call everyone to the little chapel next door for the boys wake. So sad. Other observations: There is a very regal rooster overseeing the chickens and turkeys who crows every morning with his cock-a-doodle-doo, announcing all is safe for the birds to come out.
There are also the wandering sales trucks that drive through everyday announcing their wares to sell. They do this with very loud old horned shaped speakers tied to the hoods of their vehicles. The music and announcements they make are so loud that you can hear them coming from far away, and this really upsets one of the dogs here so much named Coca, that he starts to howl to drown out the din of the noise.
There is a one room school house across the street. With one teacher who drives in at 9:00 am to open the gates. She teaches 1st through 3rd grades in the mornings, and 4th through 6th grades in the afternoons. To start off the day with the young ones, she plays the same Banda music really loud for the children to exercise and dance the traditional Jarabe Tapatio or the Mexican Hat Dance as I grew up calling it.
In the afternoons the kids come out to play soccer on the field in front of the Hacienda. They are practicing for a match to be played on Saturday. On Wednesday Alicia organized for me to do a little paper making workshop with the kids. They helped me pound and beat out the bougainvillea petals I have been soaking since I first arrived into pulp. When they were pressing their handmade sheets, they compared it to making tortillas. There was a previous artist who left some simple screens he had made along with some pellons and felt. The screens were a bit rough around the edges having been made with aluminum metal screening. When I told Alicia I was worried about letting the kids use the screens because of the sharp points of the wire mesh, she said don’t worry, these kids are super strong and are used to dealing with such rough things. As a NYC visiting artist in the schools, I am so used to making sure my materials are super safe for the kids. Just in case there is an accident you don’t want an irate parent to sue, but basically I just want to keep the kids I teach safe. I myself have been punctured by the mesh multiple times while using the screens.
I have been preparing the bougainvillea pulp since I arrived. Soaking the petals in water to get them soft, which of course started to smell from the fermenting process. Then when I needed to boil them down, I used old fashioned wood ash and baking soda, instead of my usual soda ash. Since I needed to let the petals simmer for a while Alicia said I needed to use the fireplace to boil the fibers, instead of using the kitchen gas, which is not the most reliable for long stints of cooking. So out I went into the woods to gather fire wood. Luckily the wood is so dry from no rain at all since I have been here, that I got a roaring fire going super fast to set my pot down on a rack that they had. I was so proud of myself being able to light a fire from scratch. Besides having the extra dry wood, using the recycled paper egg cartons for kindle made the job super easy.
I spent most of yesterday experimenting with the pulp we made. It is very purpely due to the violet and pink petals, but also from me adding in recycled purple egg cartons along with our recycled tea bags. These are only experiments, but they play off my series called Papers of Place. Where I cast paper pulp made from locally gathered materials, and dry the sheets on windows that allow for light to shine through, as well as interact with the view outside. I also made a kind of paper collage from gluing the petals together, to interact with the architecture and landscape from the library windows, which I have been using as my studio. The work really comes alive when photographed at the right angle.
Tonight we have a little “showing” where Alicia is inviting some local artists and Residency patrons to see our work, comment and party. I have to admit I am not feeling my best. My stomach is finally taking umbrage to all the rich and spicy foods I have been eating. Don’t get me wrong the food has been super yummy and delicious with fresh moles and salsas, but Alicia has been serving a lot of pork and beef, which I am not used to eating. But I think last night’s lamb, which was only butchered and frozen last week from the Hacienda’s herd took me over the edge and I woke up rather woozy this morning. Let’s just say the one thing I am constantly needing restocked is the toilet paper. It is not quite the Montezuma’s revenge that my parents described from their honeymoon in Mexico, but I just hope I can manage the plane ride home okay.
It has been a pleasure sharing with you my travelogues from Mexico and from last summer in Europe. Thank you for your kind responses, support and messages of encouragement. One of these days, I hope to publish these memoirs in a book, maybe once I am finished with my travels.
All my best,