Beauty is an eagerness, an aspiration. And undoubtedly Mexico is an ideal place to find beauty. Mexico has so much character. Traditions impose their presence with such vigor, that you never forget where you are. In Mexico, everything happens in the present. It will be because, as the writer Carlos Monsivais said, today becomes immense when nobody guarantees tomorrow.
Tacos in Mexico City and restaurant Tlamanalli (Oaxaca)
There are very few countries where popular food has as much packaging. Some of my best lunches were spent in humble dining houses, in the street stalls. Let’s not forget the carnitas (rib tacos) of the Abanico or the gavias of the Caliph. Or those lunches of Casa Merlos.
In Teotitlán del Valle (Oaxaca), a small town located between the Tule tree and the pre-Hispanic city of Mitla, a Zapotec Indian family makes superb cuisine in a restaurant called Tlamanalli (in Nahuatl, abundant provisions).
Mexico was populated by Franciscan and Augustinian monasteries during the 16th century. Stunning structures, many with an open chapel, the Mexican contribution to Renaissance architecture. The friars needed a sacred space to evangelize the crowds and the natives did not want to celebrate the trades under roof so they were accustomed to outdoor ceremonies. In the State of Hidalgo, the old monasteries in the middle of nowhere made you wonder, bewildered, by the daring of the founders. I
We begin with the Mayan civilization, still full of unknowns. Palenque, one of its important cities, reached its apogee about the year 800 and declined. It was jungle land for nearly 1,000 years. The first European visit was in 1567 by Fray Pedro Lorenzo de la Nada.
At 171 kilometers is Yaxchilán, still immune to the hordes of restaurateurs and tourists. It was not accidental, it is in the Lacandona forest and by then it was almost incommunicado; Its population -descendant of the Mayasn- belongs to the last pagan ethnicity of Mexico.
As we descended the pyramid, the Lacandón guide referred to the stories of terrible violence that these lands suffered through the wars between the Zapatistas drug carterls and the Army. We descended from the pyramid in silence, listening to the tense rumble of the jungle, sometimes interrupted by the crackling of the branches as the spider monkeys passed by the echo of animal roars.
Puerto Escondido (Oaxaca)
A surfers town full of coffee, small hotels and good vibes. Three or four beaches with their respective bays, Carrizalillo, Bacocho, Zicatela, and, at the corners, cliffs of rocks that serve as habitat for coral and fish. Sunsets on the sea, applause and drinks between bonfires. On some mornings, fishing trips. Mornings spent swimming with the dolphins, turtles and tunas. At night, sand between the sheets, looking at an clear sky. It is called Puerto Escondido, part of the State of Oaxaca. Now, you understand why I have chosen this beach?
On weekends we were going to Tepoztlán, near Cuernavaca. It is in a valley surrounded by mountains with the unusual quality of looking elastic. You have the feeling of being able to embrace the rocks with your hands and, at the same time, being overwhelmed, immersed in a nature in permanent expansion.
Tepoztlán is a beautiful town, with quarry arches and houses of volcanic stone, where we learned the local ways, to decipher the noises and smells of the markets, the spices, and the coal smoke of the grills.
San Juan Chamula (Chiapas)
The best sculpture I’ve seen in my life is not the work of an artist, but the interior of the church of San Juan Chamula, in Chiapas, governed by the Tzotzil community, a Mayan ethnic group. The floor is covered with pine leaves and candles of various colors that symbolize their demands for crops, loves or diseases. Around the walls, wooden urns called showcases and, inside, polychrome sculptures of saints, men on the left, women on the right. On the glass, written with the white paint of the bars, the names, St. Stephen of the Divine Glance, St. Casilda of the Remedies.
In the capital, the old Jesuit seminary was turned into a National Preparatory School by Benito Juarez. Its walls are covered by the frescoes of the muralists, including those of Diego Rivera, the most skillful artist to combine the ingredients of success, a good office, and an indomitable personality. Orozco, on the other hand, had less notoriety but his painting is deeper: clear, precise, cruel strokes. A disillusioned romantic who dared to choose universal values as subjects -maternity, freedom, justice-, and yet did not fall into the clichés.
In the middle of the sixteenth century, 61 year old judge Vasco de Quiroga, was ordained a priest to make the Utopia of Tomas Moro a reality in the Purépecha territory of Michoacán. His idea was simple: to consolidate cities for the natives, integrating the common services in a single building called huatápera (meeting place).
He founded almost a hundred towns and guaranteed subsistence through specialization in trade. The system of exchange was so effective that the act of extinction of the last town hospital dates from 1872. A dream.
The trip culminates in a topical place, the Tenampa Hall, the legendary canteen of Garibaldi Square. We devoured rancheras and corridos, boleros, marimbas and partied to rock until well beyond the dawn. The place, in short, was a memorable slice of heaven.