Dia de los Flores, Day of the Flowers

Aside from the week leading up to Christmas, there is no greater celebration in Mexico than that of “Semana Santa,” Holy Week.  Only it is now more like “Dos Semanas Santos” as it spans almost two full weeks with the lead-up in preparation and festivities being almost as exciting as the Holy Week itself.

Makeshift flower stalls begin to appear Thursday midday before the festival.

Makeshift flower stalls begin to appear Thursday midday before the festival.

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In Guanajuato, the Easter holiday kicks off with “Dia de los Flores,” or “Day of the Flowers,” as a prelude to Holy Week.   The festival is a two part event filled with a dichotomy of gaiety and sorrow.   Sometimes, it’s tough to sort out the emotions, as people stroll through the streets arm and arm with balloons and toys eating ice cream as if it were the 4th of July.   Then, the orchestra in the bandstand strikes up a mournful tune reminiscent of a funeral march, a reminder that it’s all about a crucifixion.  I’m not a religious person, let alone Catholic, so these traditions are new to me.  I don’t know whether to grin with delight from the festival atmosphere, or wipe the smile off my face out of respect.  Such is the nature of the 24 hour “Day of the Flowers.”

Streets are closed to vehicular traffic as vendors line the sidewalks with eggs, baskets, toys, etc.

Streets are closed to vehicular traffic as vendors line the sidewalks with eggs, baskets, toys, etc.

The crowds aren't too bad in the early afternoon, but of course they get heavier as the afternoon gives way to evening.

The crowds aren’t too bad in the early afternoon, but of course they get heavier as the afternoon gives way to evening.

All these baskets contain confetti-filled eggs.

All these baskets contain confetti-filled eggs.

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The Friday festival starts ramping up on Thursday afternoon, as vendors begin setting up their tables, blankets, and chairs to display their wares.   Flower vendors rim the entire Jardin de Union, the triangular shaped tree-filled heart of the city.   There are white carnations, tall stalks of Easter lilies, buckets of red, pink, coral, and yellow roses, giant sunflowers the size of dinner plates…bursts of color in every direction.  The heady perfume from the mix of sweet, spicy scents wafting through the air rivals the most elaborate of florist shops.  I can honestly say I’ve never seen this many flowers in one place at one time before.

Jardin de Union, the main triangular-shaped square becomes "flower central" as flower vendors line both sides of the streets.

Jardin de Union, the main triangular-shaped square becomes “flower central” as flower vendors line both sides of the streets.

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I wander the streets watching the festivities unfold in what appears to be “districts.”  The majority of the flowers are concentrated in the Jardin Union, with a few spilling over into the small Plaza Baratillo a block away.

As I walk down the main street of Benito Juarez, I come to the “toy district,” with eggs and Easter baskets lining the sidewalks for as far as I can see.  There is more plastic than I care to reconcile.  But many of the eggs are the real deal, their “cascaras” (shells) filled with confetti of colored paper.  There appears to be some tradition of smashing these eggs over another’s head, the confetti raining down over their shoulders an onto the streets.  Eggs on the end of a wooden stick are decorated in every imaginable cartoon character.

More confetti-filled eggs.

More confetti-filled eggs.

Most of these cartoon characters' heads are real eggshells.

Most of these cartoon characters’ heads are real eggshells.

I particularly love this one, because he reminds me of Bernie Sanders. ;-)

I particularly love this one, because he reminds me of Bernie Sanders. ;-)

By nightfall, the sidewalks are strewn with confetti from the eggs.

By nightfall, the sidewalks are strewn with confetti from the eggs.

Not sure about this one...

Not sure about this one…

Further on down Benito Juarez is the “food court.”  Here, vendors have set up to serve everything from arracherro (grilled steak) to menudo (my personal “red line,” stew made from cow intestine.)   There are giant tables with divided sections filled with assorted candies.  Fried churros (think donut) dipped in colored sugars.  The aroma of the flowers at the opposite end of the street is only eclipsed by the smell of sizzling meat as the charcoal fire fuels the “comals” (flat grills) and deep fat fryers for gorditas, tacos, and even homemade potato chips.

The aromas from this charcoal-grilled arracherra steak vendor are intoxicating.

The aromas from this charcoal-grilled arracherra steak vendor are intoxicating.

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People dip everything from fried noodles to hard candies into these four trays of colored sugar.

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Giant sticks of fried potatoes. (Does it count as “Vegan” if it’s fried in lard?) ;-)

This party goes on all night.  The music echoing up the hills from the Jardin never stops.  I don’t think the vendors or the party-goers go to bed all night.   I learn new words like “borracho” (drunk) and “crudo” (hangover.)  This is the “happier” side of the festival.

Night falls and the lights come up on Teatro Juarez, and the flower vendors don't sleep.

Night falls and the lights come up on Teatro Juarez, and the flower vendors don’t sleep.

Looking over the crowds along Benito Juarez from the steps of the Basilica.

Looking over the crowds along Benito Juarez from the steps of the Basilica.

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Music and singing continue on all night.

Music and singing continue on all night.

Next up, “Nuestra Señora de los Dolores,” Our Lady of the Sorrows, the more sorrowful side….

Turnaround Trifecta

One would think a month living in the Winnie parked down on the farm in Texas would be enough time to get the blog caught up.  But there were farm chores to do, families to visit, projects to complete, and adventures to experience.

I hauled off and burned enough tree trunks and limbs to warrant notifying the fire department beforehand.  I reconciled a few storage sheds and helped my brother Don install some 8’ X 12’ sliding doors on the equipment shed.   I got both my passport and my tetanus shot renewed for another ten years.  And got my Mom’s dog Annie  Continue reading

Bye Bye, Baja

I crossed the border at Tijuana on foot, then caught the “Tijuana Trolley,” in San Ysidro bound for San Diego where my dear friend Margie picked me up. We caught up over lunch at Stone Brewing Co, then she dropped me off at the car rental place.  After a few days in SoCal, I boarded a plane from San Diego back to Texas, almost two months to the day that I left on the bus bound for San Miguel de Allende, ending in one big sweeping clockwise circle through Mexico. Continue reading

Nacho Mama’s Tijuana

When I told my Mom I was stopping in Tijuana on my return from the Baja, her advice was “Don’t get arrested and thrown in jail!”  Now what would prompt a mother to give such advice?   She went on to say she had always been curious about Tijuana….a place with quite a rowdy reputation over the years.

Last year when visiting Baja, I rushed through Tijuana as fast as a Continue reading

Gringo Enclaves; Good and Bad

Gringo Enclaves, or expat communities are common throughout Mexico. These pockets within towns where “birds of a feather” flock from the US and Canada to be together are on the rise. Ask any local and they will tell you…more and more gringos are coming.

Whether a gringo enclave is “good” or “bad” is in the eyes of the potential residente’. Some prefer blending with the local culture while having access to just a touch of familiarity, while others complain that the CostCo does not have all the same brands as it does back home. I recently read a post of someone complaining about Continue reading

In Situ Camera Review

I’ve been in the market for a waterproof camera for a few years now.  I can’t seem to find one that meets my need.  My last attempt was a Canon Powershot waterproof, which I had to return because it fogged up at the first sight of moisture.  Since that time, I’ve been looking, but hesitant to buy without some known recommendation.

Recently, I read a review on the Wynns blog whereby they reviewed the GoPro camera, along with several much less expensive knock-offs.   When comparing the quality versus price, one camera peaked further interest Continue reading

Bienvenidos a La Paz!

I really enjoyed the 17 days I spent in Baja last year.  I wasn’t ready to leave, but decided to head back for fear the unanticipated cloud cover in San Diego was prohibiting my solar panels from sustaining life in the Winnie without me.  So I left La Paz last March before I was ready to go.   I was eager to return this year and pick up where I left off. Continue reading

Rockin’ Across the Sea of Cortez

When I left La Paz on the Baja Peninsula last year under a cloud of melancholy, I set some intentions declaring aloud, “The next time I come to La Paz, it will be on a boat!”   As is often the case, though, I needed to be a bit more specific.  What I had in mind was a sailboat.  What I manifested instead was a ferry. Continue reading

Mazatlan Memories: Music, Markets, and Mujeres

I made several trips across the shipping channel from the sleepy little Isla to the historic center of Mazatlan. The small boats, or “pangas” cost less than $1 to cross. There are pulmonias (open air golf carts on steroid-type vehicles) waiting at the Embarcadero to take you to your destination, but for someone who loves to walk, it’s a great way to spend an afternoon exploring “old” Mazatlan. Continue reading

The Password is “Fresnel”

On my last visit to Mazatlan in 2013, there was one thing I wanted to do, but due to a commitment to meet Don in Oaxaca for New Years, there wasn’t time.    I wanted to climb “El Faro.”   And if you haven’t figured out by now, El Faro stands for
:::(drumroll):::   “The Lighthouse!” 

I knew very little about Mazatlan’s lighthouse….only that it was atop a very large hill at the end of the shipping channel, and was reported to offer spectacular views.   So given that it’s a lighthouse, and I am a self-proclaimed “lighthouse nut,” it was a must-do this visit. Continue reading