Category Archives: México

Guadalajara: Carnival

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A Ferris wheel and other carnival rides occupy one end of Plaza México.

 
 
 

The rides arrived by truck caravan several days ago. Workers began immediately to transform one end of the parking lot at Plaza México into a carnival.
 
Tonight, the carnival opens. As darkness descends on the second-largest city in Mexico, workers will flip some switches, and the Ferris wheel, and a dozen other rides, will come to life, arrayed with thousands of dazzling lights.
 
In one of his poems, Mexican poet Luis Cotto-Vasallo speaks of being “Instantly transplanted/ to the amazement of us all.”
 
That’s what carnivals do. They transplant us—to our amazement—out of the everyday world of bills and bitterness, longing and loss, into a world of wonder and delight, if only for an hour or two.
 
Even though my apartment is several blocks away from Plaza México, I won’t be surprised to hear children shrieking for joy, and adults laughing with abandon, as the carnival works its magic.
 
 

Little brown sparrow,
even crows stop their squabbling
when you start to sing.

 

Text and photo © 2017 by Mark M. Redfearn, all rights reserved

Guadalajara: Parking

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A sign threatens illegally parked vehicles with towing.

 
 
 

When I leave Guadalajara in a few days, I’ll be heading for San Francisco, where parking is a major headache. The last time I drove to see my sister and her husband, I couldn’t park in front of their house. I felt lucky to find a spot three or four blocks away.
 
Recently a parking space in Hong Kong sold for $664,000—an indication of what a nightmare it must be to find a place to park a car in that city.
 
Guadalajara isn’t as bad as San Francisco or Hong Kong, but it’s bad enough. Homeowners protect themselves against drivers who would block their driveways by posting signs such as the one in the photograph.
 
“What simple bliss this mortal craves,” Mexican poet Luis Cotto-Vasallo writes in one of his poems, “not exactly asking for a piece of heaven….”
 
Every driver in Guadalajara, especially in the narrow streets of the Centro, craves the simple bliss of finding that often elusive piece of heaven called a parking spot.
 
 

Little brown sparrow,
do not forget your nestlings
in the lemon tree.

 

Text and photo © 2017 by Mark M. Redfearn, all rights reserved

Guadalajara: Calla Lilies

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A flower seller steadies a bucket of calla lilies on a lurching city bus.

 
 
 

The bus is almost empty when the flower seller gets on. In the dark interior (the windows are heavily tinted), the white calla lilies in his bucket seem to blaze with light.
 
Although the flower seller is young and strong, he struggles to stay upright with his heavy load as the bus lumbers away from the curb and begins to pick up speed.
 
Planning his exit, he selects a seat near the rear door. With a steadying hand, he protects his precious cargo from tipping as the bus careens through the streets.
 
The flower seller seems to be uncertain where to get off. Twice when other passengers buzz to be let off the bus, he starts to follow them, but then settles back into his seat.
 
Finally, he sees his destination in the distance. He rises, hugs the huge bucket of lilies to his chest, and positions himself at the rear door.
 
He presses the buzzer to signal the driver. The bus slows, lurches to a stop, and the flower seller steps out carefully, bearing his precious, fragrant cargo.
 
Where does he go from here? Perhaps to a nearby intersection to offer lilies to motorists stopped at the traffic light.
 
Some sellers of fruit and flowers and fripperies make a decent living at intersections.
 
But maybe it won’t be a good day for the flower seller. Maybe so few lilies will leave his bucket that any profit he anticipates gets gobbled up by expenses.
 
Or maybe he’ll be lucky, and sell every blossom within an hour or two.
 
Here’s hoping!
 
 

Little brown sparrow,
how many crumbs do you need
for breakfast today?

 

Text and photo © 2017 by Mark M. Redfearn, all rights reserved

Guadalajara: Getting to Know You

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A student born in Los Angeles loves to read The Cat in the Hat.

 
 
 

One of the best things about travel is not “seeing the sights,” but getting to know other people.
 
When I volunteered to teach English to children in Guadalajara in the summer of 2016, I was fortunate to be able to make a six-week commitment.
 
During that time, I learned that two of my young students, B and his sister N, were American citizens, born in Los Angeles. Both of them knew some English.
 
B and N are in my class again this summer. One day B came dressed in a T-shirt emblazoned with “Thing 1” on the front.
 
“Thing 1,” I said with surprise. “Have you read…”
 
The Cat in the Hat?” B finished my sentence.
 
We laughed together.
 
But here’s the thing: I never would have known about B’s fascination with Dr. Seuss if I had been only a casual tourist passing through Guadalajara.
 
I had to stay here a while, and be with B nearly every day, to be rewarded with his laughter, a token of our friendship.
 
 

Little brown sparrow,
the song rushing from your beak
startles a cricket.

 

Text and photo © 2017 by Mark M. Redfearn, all rights reserved

Guadalajara: Abanico

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A litte shop in Guadalajara Centro displays colorful abanicos for sale.

 
 
 

“Years ago,” Mexican poet Luis Cotto-Vasallo writes in one of his poems, “a debate stirred up Mt Olympus.”
 
I’m not interested in debates. The only thing I want to stir up is the air around my face on this hot summer day, so I set out to search for an abanico, a hand-held fan.
 
Near one of the bus stops, I see a religious goods store. Surely, they will have an abanico, perhaps emblazoned with the visage of the Virgin, or maybe depicting the Good Shepherd, leading his flock to green pastures.
 
I step up to the counter.
 
Buenos días,” I say apologetically, “pero hablo solo poquito español. Abanico?
 
The woman shakes her head sorrowfully, and says she had no fans in her store. But, she says with a smile, I can find a fan in another little store one block to the right, and two blocks to the left.
 
I follow her directions, and find the little shop. Unmistakable. The window is plastered with abanicos.
 
Once more, I apologize for my limited Spanish as I ask for an abanico. The woman behind the counter smiles and points to a box full of abanicos (probably made in China) in a variety of colors.
 
Que precio?” I ask. What price?
 
Quince,” she replies. Fifteen pesos.
 
I rummage through the box until I find a fan in my favorite color, blue, and hand the shopkeeper a twenty-peso note. She drops my change, five pesos, into my outstretched hand.
 
Gracias!” I say.
 
No stirring up debates this afternoon. Just stirring up the stifling air in the bus on the long ride back to my apartment.
 
 

Little brown sparrow,
although you have no road map,
still you find your way.

 

Text and photo © 2017 by Mark M. Redfearn, all rights reserved

Guadalajara: Rain

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The view through my apartment window as the first raindrops fell

 
 
 

Tapatíos (people from Guadalajara), look forward to the beginning of the rainy season in June, when evening showers provide relief from the sizzling daytime temperatures.
 
The rainy season officially began last night.
 
Even though the forecast had called for only a twenty percent chance of rain, by 6 p.m. a few scattered clouds began to release their precious moisture. Then the cloud cover thickened and rain began to fall faster and faster, punctuated by thunder and lightning.
 
After several hours, the rain tapered off, leaving puddles in its wake, and little rivers coursing down the gutters.
 
“Either the rain or Vivaldi, which shall I pick?” Mexican poet Luis Cotto-Vasallo asks in his poem “Betwixt Worlds.”
 
For the tapatío sweating through a seemingly endless summer day, there is only one answer.
 
And it’s not Vivaldi!
 
 

Little brown sparrow,
the old men still remember
the last song you sang.

 

Text and photo © 2017 by Mark M. Redfearn, all rights reserved

Guadalajara: Volunteers

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A volunteer tutor helps a student with his homework at the Salvation Army’s Hogar de Niños.

 
 
 

Because money is usually always in short supply, volunteers are the lifeblood of any nonprofit organization.
 
Volunteers free up limited resources for maintenance of buildings and grounds. In some cases, they also allow for the hiring of more paid professional staff.
 
Nonprofits just can’t exist without volunteers.
 
Every Wednesday, two volunteers go to the Salvation Army’s Hogar de Niños to help the children with their schoolwork. One of the volunteers is American, and one of them is Mexican. Both speak Spanish, of course, and both are eager to see the children succeed academically.
 
They help the students primarily with reading (a difficult and disheartening task for many of the children), but also with math—whatever it takes to get them on the right track.
 
The students love their volunteer tutors, and it’s a sad day if, for some reason, a tutor can’t show up.
 
 

Little brown sparrow,
the children’s raucous laughter
does not bother you.

 

Text and photo © 2017 by Mark M. Redfearn, all rights reserved