Day of the Dead, Lake Chapala, Mexico

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A tribute to revolutionary hero’s Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata

The day of the dead is a long standing tradition in Mexico similar to Halloween or all saints day in other parts of the world  and was inscribed into the intangible cultural heritage of humanity by UNESCO  in 2008. In Mexico, it is also a national holiday celebrated on November 2nd. On this day Mexicans pay homage to deceased family members, friends, national hero’s, luminaries and even world leaders with  personalized altars that offer gifts to the departed. These offerings usually include flowers, favorite foods, beverages and possessions of the dead. Alternately, family members will visit the grave site of departed souls and leave similar offerings.

Today , Katrina’s are the most highly recognized symbol associated with the Day of the Dead. Years ago, however, a Katrina referred to an elegant and well dressed woman of class and privilege  until a mexican artist  created an illustration of a well dressed skeleton during  revolutionary times that was supposed to symbolized the death of mexico’s ruling  class of privileged  aristocrats. Eventually,  the Katrina figure came to represent the joy of life in the face of its end.

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Taxco, the Worlds Silver Capital

 

The Santa Prisca Cathedral was built in the 18th century with funds provided by the by the silver tycoon Jose de la Borda

The Santa Prisca Cathedral was built in the 18th century with funds provided by the silver tycoon J0se de la Borda

Founded in 1529 by one of Hernan Cortes captains, Taxco remained an unkown village outside of Mexico until the discovery of a silver mother lode in the 18th century fueled the cities development. Sometime in the 1920’s as the silver mines were being played out, an American silversmith by the name of William Spratling came along and began teaching local people the art and science of  silversmithing in his own workshop. The result was that the crafting of silver started a creative and economic boom that still exists today. Taxco now has over 300 silver shops including open air markets, metal workshops, and high end boutiques where buyers from around the world come to stock their retail stores with a variety of earrings, necklaces, rings and other creations .of silver finery. Besides the silver shops Taxco has other tourist attractions such as that old world ambiance of Spain with its winding cobblestone streets and small plazas, an  aerial tram, good restaurants, some impressive architecture, Los Pozas Azules and several silver museums including the William Spratling museum dedicated to his contributions. For additional details, see the photo gallery below.

 

The Lake Chapala Society, Ajijic, Mexico

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Located in the heart of Ajijic, the Lake Chapala Society was founded in 1955 by a group of 21 expatriates and today has over 3,000 members.The mission of LCS is to contribute to the social enrichment of its members and the Lakeside community through a variety of services and programs designed to facilitate the integration of  expatriates into the Lakeside community and foster interchange between ex pats and mexicans to name a few. More details about LCS are available at http://www.lakechapalasociety.org and in the photo gallery there are images of the LCS facilities, garden and the recent Woodstock 45th anniversary party.

 

Ajijic, Lake Chapala, Mexico

An historic  Chapel across form the Ajijic plaza

An historic Chapel across from the Ajijic plaza

Ajijic is located on the north shore of Lake Chapala, Mexico’s largest freshwater lake,  less than an hour’s drive away from Guadalajara in the state of Jalisco. It’s a small village with a population of approximately 10,000  and over half of these people are either retired Americans or Canadians who relocate here for a variety of reasons including attractive scenery, tempered climate, lower cost of living, english is spoken,  and a variety of recreational activities tailor made for the cultural background of North Americans to name a few. So relocating to this part of Mexico also means less cultural shock then would be experienced in many other parts of Mexico or Central America and  this is why Ajijic and Lake Chapala has  been the top choice for most expatriates seeking retirement outside of the states since the 1940’s.  The photo gallery below focuses on the plaza in the heart of Ajijic.

The magic village of Comitan, Chiapas, Mexico

Here's  the flat top trees in Comitan's main plaza

Comitan’s main plaza is the heart of the city and is noted for these flat top trees.

 

A Pueblo Magico since 2012, this artsy colonial village is located about 60 miles southeast of San Cristobal de Las Casas and is close to the border of Guatemala. It has some good restaurants and hotels, a few interesting musuems and is less than an hours drive away from El Chiflon Waterfalls, the lakes of Montebello, and El Chintuchek archeological site. Comitan also has one of the most impressive zocola’s in Mexico. These town plaza’s are an important part of the Mexican culture and the heart of almost every city both large and small. They serve as a place for people to socialize, find taco stands or restaurants, see special events and hear Mariachi music.  More often than not, most zocola’s  are centrally located across from the cities main cathedral, they usually have a large gazebo where local musician’s perform, lots of park benches and beautiful landscaping. With it’s distinctive flat topped trees, fountain and unique metal scupltures,  Comitan’s zocola is one of the most impressive in Mexico. There are a few photos with additional information in the gallery below.

A Spring Festival, San Cristobal, Mexico

 

San Cristobal is at an altitude of 2300 meters and is surrounded by peaks, pines and oak trees

San Cristobal is at an altitude of 2300 meters and is surrounded by peaks, pines and oak trees

This annual week long celebration of spring  involves quite a variety of events and runs concurrent with the Semana Santa holiday in Mexico. There seems to be something for everyone including art exhibits, sports,  concerts, parades, cultural events, rodeo’s,  bull fights, fireworks and more. Best of all,  most events are free of charge and in San Cristobal de las Casas the weather is spring like almost year around. For more information and a few photos of event activities, see the gallery below.

 

House of the Deer, Valladolid, Mexico

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House of the Deer and one of 2 wet bars on the first floor of this house

Translated, the house of the deer is Casa de los Venados in Spanish. This is a privately owned  collection of mexican folk and contemporary art in a home which is over 18,000 square feet and has more than  3000 pieces of museum quality art on display. Most of this art work  has been acquired directly from the original artists over a 35 year period. The owners,  John and Dorianne Venator, are originally from the United States where they  have lived in both Chicago and Portland as well as  their new museum/home in Valladolid.The Venators generously open their musuem/home to the public for tours at 10 a.m. everyday and it is free of charge.  So, if you  are ever visiting the maya riviera don’t miss the chance to tour this impressive, one of a kind display of art. The photo gallery below is just a small sample of the Venator’s art collection.

Valladolid, A Mexican Magic Town

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The Cathedral of San Servacio

In August of 2012, Valladolid became part of Mexico’s “Pueblo Magico” program which recognizes traditional villages that meet their specific requirements of natural beauty, cultural riches, or historic relevance to the country. It is a well preserved colonial city of Spanish arcades and 16th century spires located between  the beaches of Tulum and  the archeological site of Chichen Itza. A few of the main attractions include the cathedral of San Servacio, Rosado Park, Cenote Zaci, the colonial homes with great architecture on Calzdada de Los Frailes and the Siskal neighborhood temple and ex-convent of San Bernadino de Siena. Additional activities include a variety of tours such as the chocolate factory tour, the mexican folk art tour of Casa de Venado and the Tequila tours of local agave plantations and distilleries. Photos and additional information is included in the photo gallery.

Chichen Itza, Mexico

Temple of Kukulcan or El Castillo

Temple of Kukulcan or El Castillo

Located in Yucatan near Valledolid,  Chichen Itza has been a world heritage site since 1988 and has also been voted one of the world’s new seven wonders. The most dominant edifice at this archeological site is the Temple of Kukulcan, which happens to be the name of a maya feathered serpent  deity. One of the most interesting facts about this pyramid more commonly known as El Castillo is that it is a monument of cosmological symbolism existing during this era. There are four sides containing 365 steps depicting the solar year, 52 panels for each year in the Mayan century as well each week in the solar year and 18 terraces for 18 months in the Maya religious year. Additional information about this archeological site is included in the photo gallery below.

Riviera Maya Jazz Festival

Earth, Wind and Fire

Earth, Wind and Fire

The annual jazz festival in Playa del Carmen would have ended Saturday night with one of their greatest hit songs called “September” but the crowd kept chanting for an encore. This event takes place in the last week of November at Mamita’s Beach and this years concert dates were scheduled on the 28th, 29th, and 30th. All three days of music are free of charge and music fans can bring their own refreshments or buy them from vendor stands on site. Each night features 3 different musical groups that play from 7pm to 11pm depending on how many encores the fans request. The photo gallery below shows each of the different groups performing on stage along with a sample of the light shows that are also part of the entertainment.