Apartment hunting

It’s a small apartment, I’ve barely enough room to lay my hat and a few friends.

Dorothy Parker

418+zMeGRGL._SL500_SY320_The road to Liverpool

From Centro one simply walks up San Francisco which is an easy grade until you reach the end of the street where it meets the Salida Real a Querétaro (the highway to Querétaro):  at that point it is a steeper climb. The Salida itself is a steady uphill climb for about a mile (1.8 km), leveling off at perhaps the 1.2 km mark. It takes perhaps a half-hour to 45 minutes to walk from El Jardin to Plaza La Luciérnaga where the Liverpool department store, Soriana (a chain grocery), and McDonald’s are located; there are other stores as well, befitting a contemporary shopping center.

Thursday was quite warm (29 C, 85 F) and I didn’t take the side streets that might have shortened the walk. For my first trip I followed the Salida and was glad I did as when one gets to the top there are views across the city and across the plains. The sun beat on the hillside and its buildings and late in the afternoon the Salida was heavily trafficked, so it was not a pleasant route as exhaust fumes from autos, diesel buses and trucks were trapped in the narrow roadway with buildings on both sides. The shortcuts would have taken me away from the unpleasant aspects of the Salida.

I was surprised by how few people were at the shopping center at 5 pm. When I shop in my colonia or even if I’m at Aurrea Bodega, there is a vibrancy to the experience:  people on the street talking, dogs running free on narrow streets, sidewalks with utility poles and tree to be avoided, so it was a shock to be in those barren stores, full of stuff but devoid of life, an island of stores surrounded by parking spaces.

Liverpool, my last lead for an oven thermometer, didn’t have one; however, it does have a small cosmetics area that could be useful should I ever experience Sephora withdrawal.

Friday’s apartment viewing

As much as I love my physical space, as much as I like my walk to town, as much as this neighborhood provides interesting things to write about, I have begun a search for another apartment. The near-persistent dog barking has taken its toll. Watching cats sit on glass-studded walls and – just by their presence – tease dogs into howling paroxysms has grown tiresome.

There are several nearby compounds with multiple dogs, there are the nearby neighborhoods with dogs on rooftops, and there are the dogs in our own compound.  One group is always barking. Those in our own complex, of course, are the most bothersome as they are the loudest and seem to bark during the middle of the night when other dogs have ceased.

Then there are the weekend concerts that loosen foundation bolts from 2 or 3 in the afternoon until sometimes 1 in the morning.

I know that people claim other neighborhoods are noisy, but on my excursions through town I haven’t noticed any neighborhood as noisy as this locale.

The apartment I looked at was in a complex of three apartments and a casita, located in one of San Miguel’s lesser populated colonias. Situated on a privada (private road) that is patrolled by a security guard and surrounded by lots that have been waiting for development for a number of years and further buffered by an adjacent cactus grove, the apartment was just “too country” for me. I like my walk through Santa Julia and San Rafeael on my way to town, seeing teens hold hands, following moms with kids in tow, walking beside street vendors on weekends as they make their way to markets. The apartment was also on the second of three floors and so was darker than my current apartment and it didn’t have the cross-ventilation that I currently enjoy on warm days.

El Señor de la Conquista (Festival of Our Lord of the Conquest)

Friday was the first Friday in March and unbeknownst to me, as such it marked the date of the annual Festival of Our Lord of the Conquest that celebrates the anniversary of the Chichimecan’s conversion to Christianity almost 500 years ago. The day was overcast and was the first day of the cold front that moved in and that dropped temperatures into the low 30s (0 celsius) at night. As I walked from Mexiquito to El Centro I noticed more and more Concheros in traditional ceremonial dress including plumed headdresses and tunics (naguillas or “little skirts”). They were there to drum and dance near La Parroquia and to pray to the  “Christ of the Conquest,” which is made of cornstalks and orchid bulbs and represents the indigenous people’s acceptance of Christ. The life-size crucifix in the Parroquia is placed on the central altar of the Parroquia for this occasion and the Concheros enter the church to pray and worship.

The concheros are unique to neither San Miguel nor Guanajuato and, in fact, may be found in other areas of Mexico and even in Mexican communities in the United States, although the latter is a much later evolution of the dance society. The origin of the dance is thought to be the Bajío, in which San Miguel is located, and that it tells of the conquest of the Otomis and Chichimecas near what is now Querétaro.

The indigenous peoples of the region held agricultural rites at this time and, like in many parts of the world, Christians (in this Roman Catholics) adapted existing rituals to facilitate the conversion of indigenous people to their faith. Thus, the dance, adapted from the “mitote” dance was a religious ceremony and has been performed in Mexico since early colonial times. While the dance has strong pre-Hispanic roots (feathered costumes, indigenous dance steps and indigenous instruments) the word “Concheros” comes from a type of flute made with an armadillo shell, showing Spanish influence.

The Concheros dance (also known as the Chichimecas) had, until the mid-20th century, a purely religious meaning; at that time political and social changes in Mexico led to the formation of other groups of dancers who gave it cultural significance as a folk dance. The late 20th century saw Aztecas or Mexicas emerge as groups that sought to eliminate European influence; those dancers dress more appropriate to pre-European contact.

Martha Stone wrote At the Sign of Midnight: the Concheros Dance Cult of Mexico (1975, University of Arizona Press). The book, while a white woman’s Euro-centric narrative, describes the dance in the 1940s before the newer groups co-opted the dance for political purposes. More scholarly books have been written since Ms. Stone published her book.

The Liverpool Connection

Eighteen years after the end of the Second World War the Beatles were relatively unknown in the United States despite their success in Europe. That was 50 years ago. The Billboard charts for 1963 listed Sugar Shack and Surfin’ U. S. A. as the top two selling singles for the year, Lesley Gore and Martha & the Vandellas each had two hits in the top 100, and the Chiffons had He’s So Fine at number five and One Fine Day at number 98.

The Beatles became a presence on the U. S. music scene in early 1964 after the assassination of President John Kennedy, four years after the Soviet Union”s Luna 2 mission and six years before Apollo 11, and just one year before United States combat troops landed in Vietnam.

The video below is … innocent. I forgot how absolutely charmingly handsome each of the four were … their smiles so captivating. The music begins about 2:50 into the video. The energy and enthusiasm of the first chords of She Loves You still awaken something wonderful in me.

Listen for the narrator’s “lonely copper,” and watch for things such as the police with fingers in ears walking down the aisle, and the policeman towards the end bobbing his head in time with the music. That was not the reason the police were called “bobbies.”

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