Monthly Archives: August 2006

This is the cathedral across the street from the V…

This is the cathedral across the street from the Veracruz state government building and adjacent to the main city park. The photo at the right shows the portion of the building to the right of that shown at left.

There are a great many magnificent colonial building here, and they appear to be well maintained. I have run cross, in my limited wanderings, four other cathedrals that rival the one shown above in their grandeur.

This building is a school for senoritas. I think it may be a part of the University of Veracruz since it is located across the street from a U of V building.

I’ve also run across quite a few colleges and universities, and my wanderings haven’t yet taken me out of the Centro aarea.






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Rosie

During my visit to Xalapa on my trip North I had been walking the streets of Centro for a few hours looking for apartments for rent, and hoping to not become lost in the process, when I spotted an “apartment for rent” sign hanging above the gate. I rang the bell and someone answered but I’ll be damned if I was able to understand what he had said. Soon Jorge arrived to open the gate which provides access to the passageway, perhaps 12 feet wide, that separates the two buildings of the apartment complex. Directly Jorge introduced me to my new landlady, Rosie. Jorge I learned is Rosie’s uncle and the complex handyman, though he doesn’t appear to me to be real handy.

As I entered the complex I noted an odor reminiscent of my days working at the McLean Animal Hospital during my high school days. It is an odor that will not cause one to wretch but which can’t be missed. Though we animal hospital “kennel helpers” conscientiously cleaned the kennel and the outdoor runs with disinfectant, as instructed, an odor would linger. I think it emanated from the floor drains.

Despite the odor and less than desirable apartment, needing a place to deposit the stuff I was driving North to Elma to retrieve I struck the deal. The rent is certainly cheap enough and the apartment is located conveniently in Centro.

Rosie is quite a case. Sunday she bought me a liter of Sol beer, so Monday I returned the favor. When I delivered her beer she insisted I come in and drink it with her.

Rosie’s home smells like dogs and I soon learned why. Rosie informed me that she has 26 dogs she has collected from the streets, though I’ve actually seen only about five. She didn’t tell me how many cats she has but I’ve seen at least two.

Rosie, I learned, was an airline stewardess for Aero Mexico many years ago and more recently has been teaching English at a local secondary school, though cataracts have forced her to give up teaching.

During our conversation I noted that my preferred libation is vino tinto. She jumped right up, retrieved a liter box of California red table wine from the refrigerator, poured me a glass, and explained that she drinks a liter each evening. She she said used to drink a 750 ml bottle of hard liquor each evening but has switched to red wine for the antioxidants it contains. I told her that’s why I drink it.

Rosie had quite a bit to say about the anti-immigrant bigots in the USA, understanding clearly that racism is a major factor, as do most Mexicans with whom I’ve discussed the issue. I explained that it being an election year the republicans are cynically trotting out their usual wedge issues to energize their ignorant bigot base.

Although Rosie can’t hold a candle to Sr. Lopez as far as landlords go, nor can her apartment building compare to that of Sr. Lopez, she is certainly a more colorful character.

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"Ending the Neoconservative Nightmare"

Daniel Levy has written a very interest opinion piece entitled “Ending the Neoconservative Nightmare”. Levy is no mere pundit, the guy has serious credentials.

Aside from noting that the “neoconservative approach has not been good for Isreal, Levy notes the strangness of Isreal’s alliance with the USA Christian right.

“Beyond that, Israel and its friends in the United States should seriously reconsider their
alliances not only with the neocons, but also with the Christian Right. The largest “pro-Israel”
lobby day during this crisis was mobilized by Pastor John Hagee and his Christians United For
Israel, a believer in Armageddon with all its implications for a rather particular end to the
Jewish story.’

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No Inernet Connection

I do not have an internet connection in m apartment and do not plan to have one installed as I hope to not be there long. Consequently I am relying upon internet cafes, though there is an unsecured wireless network in the Centro area which I can use if I hang out in a particular concina economica.

I am finding that I ma unable to send email from many of the internet cafes. I can receive with no problem but cannot send. I have no problem sending when using the wireless network in Centro.

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Parque Tacajetes

I arrived in Xalapa Saturday afternoon at about 1:00 . The parking space nearest to my
apartment that I could find was about 5 blocks away, next to the Hotel Xalapa and across the street from the Parque Tacajetes, a fairly large forested park in El Zona Centro.

I walked the few blocks to my dump of an apartment, which smells a bit musty, has a refrigerator that growls, and a bathroom which permits me to sit on the toilet while showering.

Oh well, as someone who lived in a shack in the Satsop Valley for a number of years, not to mention the roach infested apartment I lived in D.C. in the early ’70s, I can put up with it until I find something better. The apartment at least is well located in Centro and I now have kitchen tools from storage so, I an get more creative in the kitchen.

I could get even more creative I had a stove with an oven, rather than a two burner electric counter top unit I bought after the landlady tried to pawn off an encrusted one burner electric unit with a broken knob and bare wires and an equally encrusted two burner gas unit, even though there is no gas line to the kitchen.

I have yet to determine why it is that the apartment rules limits visits to 4 hours and prohibit visitors after 11 PM, rules even my late ’60s dormitory didn’t even have.

After hanging out in the apartment for a couple of hours, and growing a bit tired of the refrigerator’’s growl, I walked down the hill for a tour of the park, and a magnificent park it is.

The park is described by the entry signs as an urban ecological preserve and discuss the interactions of urban human activities and the natural environment. The park is laced with stone and paving stone walkways and water ways which feed a number of ponds.
One, particularly creative, waterway consists of a narrow aqueduct constructed atop a stepped retaining wall from which the water cascades into the channel atop each succeeding step in the wall; crosses the path atop an arch; and discharges into a pond which in turns discharges into a lower pond.

The walkways are flanked by native vegetation, including some very large trees and flower blossoms of all hues. With the forest canopy, vines climbing the trees in search of light, and the abundance of water the place has the feel of a rain forest. It really is an enchanting place.

The park includes a couple of playgrounds; a skateboard area; a empty swimming pool that young folks were using as a soccer field; a picnic area with three really nice elevated, stone BBQs; and a small circular stage and concrete bleachers.

I plan to return for further explorations during the week when the park is not so busy. Today the park was very busy with families and lovers young and old holding hands and strolling. There were also a number of young lovers in out of the way places holding more than hands and definitely not strolling. It was all very cute.

There is, reportedly, an exceptional botanical garden nearby Xalapa on the road to Coatepec which I plan to visit soon and supposedly another large forested park in Xalapa I will also visit.

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Final Merida Garden Report

Tomorrow morning I leave for Xalapa and new adventures, so I thought I should post a garden report.

Upon my return form my trip North, which covered about 8,000 miles, five Mexican states, and seven USA states, my garden was engulfed in a sea of weeds. Once I had removed the weeds this is what I found. One expansive watermelon plant with seven developing melons. Yes, the picture at left is of one plant.

The plants in little patch of corn I planted in early July have done really well and are now developing ears.

One cherry tomato plant survived my absence and the consequent lack of water.

Papayas are developing on the volunteer plant you can see at the right and the four plants that I grew from seeds.

So in my gardening pursuits here in Merida I have had success growing watermelon, cantaloupe, corn, onions and papaya. Pretty much everything else I’ve tried to grow has been a bust.

I expect greater success in Xalapa with its cooler temperatures and more rain. Once I find a place with a garden space I’ll see what I can do.

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Ria Lagartos

Late last week I visited Ria Lagartos, a long, narrow estuary along the North Yucatan coast, nearer to Cancun than to Merida. Like Ria Celestun, which I visited in February, Ria Lagartos is located within a “Biosphere Reserve” that supports a number of fishing villages and is home to flocks of flamingos, cormorants, pelicans, many other species of water fowl, crocodiles and other terrestrial fauna. Also like Celestun, local entrepreneurs offer boat trips during the day to view flamingos and trips after dark to view crocodiles. Unlike Ria Celestun, which has one outlet to the Gulf of Mexico at its Southern end, the peninsula that separates the Ria Lagartos from the Gulf is transected by a number of channels.

To travel there I opted to drive federal highway 176 rather than 180, the direct route to Cancun, and then North on federal highway 295 from Tizimin. Just before reaching the town of Rio Lagatos I headed West to the town of San Felipe where I arranged a room at the Hotel San Felipe. As you may see in the photo to the left, heavy rain was falling upon my arrival.

After checking into my room the proprietor asked if I’d ever eaten Manta Ray, which, of course, I never had. Soon I was served a delicious meal of a shredded Manta Ray/vegetable stew, mixed cooked vegetables, onions marinated in vinegar, refried beans, corn tortillas and a cold Superior.

After lunch I walked along the San Felipe malecon photographing birds perched on pilings and the fishing boats that lined the malecon. Later I drove to the towns of Rio Lagartos, from where boats trips up the Ria leave; and Las Coloradas, a tiny puebla on the Ria at the end of the road where salt is extracted from sea water and placed by a conveyor onto a huge purewhite pile. The salt is transported by conveyor across the road to a dock in the Ria.

As dusk approached the sky cleared and I headed for the roof of the hotel to await sunset in hopes of getting a good picture. The roof afforded a nice view of the small town; the Ria; the heavy, open hulled, fiberglass fishing boats along the malecon; and the Gulf beyond the peninsula.

Soon a woman and her two daughters from Merida joined me and immediately engaged me in conversation. They suggested that for my return to Merida that I take the road along the Gulf coast from where one may see flocks of flamingos and the many coastal fishing villages. Soon we were joined by a fellow from Mexico City who was also anxious to talk.

As it turned out there was pretty nice sunset. The moonset the next morning wasn’t bad either.

Thanks to the woman from Merida and her daughters, though, the best part of the trip for me was the return. From San Felipe I drove South to the small town of Panaba; from there took a very narrow, sparsely traveled road through completely undeveloped back country to the even smaller town of Yalsihon; and on to Dzilam de Bravo where I rejoined the Gulf coast. The drive afforded views of lots of vultures, Crested Caracara, Ibis, and some sort of small mammal with a bushy tail that looked like a cross between a fox and a cat.

At one point I noticed a small animal slowly walking across the road which seemed to me to be a small crab, which I thought a bit strange given the distance to the water. A bit later I spotted another of the same crawling creature, stopped to get out for a better look, and discovered it was a very large black and orange tarantula.

The drive from San Felipe to Chelem, with a stop for a lunch of fried fish, marinated vegetables,
and refried beans, took about three and a half hours.

So it seems to me that a great trip from Merida would be a drive to Progreso, East along the coast to Dzilam de Bravo, along the back road to Panaba, and South for a night in Valladolid.

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