Saturday, November 08, 2008

Mexico's Cloud Forest

I'm still a little rummy from our trip to the mountains north of Veracruz in Mexico to observe Day of the Dead. I owe e-mails and have a desk stacked with mail but thought I'd share photos before moving on. This photo was taken in the town of Xico, high in the mountains where coffee, bananas and vanilla orchids are grown.

Here is our merry band of travelers; Guy, John, Stephanie and me, chowing down at one of the many colorful restaurants in Xalapa where we stayed. Guy rented a car and drove us all over the area for several days.

This painting was done by a child. I think it's awesome, without exaggeration.

One of the few cemetery shots on Day of the Dead. The crowds were enormous but I tried to avoid taking pictures of families as this is a day of respect for them and the departed.

It's okay to shoot pictures of the many celebratory skeletons though. I loved the variety we saw.

As well as the beautiful restaurants where we ate. This was a place where we had a huge breakfast of eggs and huraches, thick planks of corn masa with black refried beans and cotija cheese. Fresh squeezed orange juice. Coffee from the surrounding plantations. Everything fresh and intensely flavored.

And this was taken at a waterfall in Xico. You can see why they call it a cloud forest. It is high in the mists.

Dear Stephanie and me. She was a great and intrepid sidekick. But as for me, the roads up to Cosautlan were of the hairpin variety with overhang on one side and sheer cliff on the other. You might think the overhang side was the safest until you realized that the mountains are made up of volcanic pumice and are always slipping and sliding onto the two lane roadway. There were crosses in many places and I was a flibberty-gibbet feeling scared until I told myself that many others have to travel the same roads daily. Entire towns have been abandoned there however (in the place they call the Grand Canyon) because the ledge was sliding out from under them. Yikes.

Tarzan vines and jungle. We saw strange creatures with stranger names. One of my favorites was the Caca de Luna caterpillars which I cannot find on the net but which was described in one of the museums we visited. They crawl together in a pile that moves very slowly and they resemble black centipedes. Cool.

This is only the lower part of the enormous waterfall at Xico.

I had Stephanie stand at the base of this tree for scale. Imagine how large the leaves are. We felt very humble in the understory there.

After awhile I stopped photographing food. I was too busy eating it.

If you've been to Mexico you know this street is typical of small towns.

I took lots of photos of stenciling but will only post this one. Most of the subject matter involved the unpopularity of the Bush administration.

On the night of November 4th we gathered around the small television set in Stephanie's room and cheered on our choice for the next President. It was a noisy and happy night.

This shot was taken in a park in Xalapa. The town has many large, beautiful botannical reserves and parks.

And several wonderful markets. Here Guy is purchasing little goodies for the altar we set up for Hermanito.

This night is sort of a blur but I remember something about Cuban food and lots of mojitos.

A lonely marker in the jungle near Xico.

We visited the enormous Anthropology Museum in Xalapa where I took these photos.

Room after room of wonderful sculptures and ceramic art.

The wonderful thing is that so many of the people still look like the figures in the museums. That gorgeous Toltec face.

This shot shows a doll and the press mold used to make it. Imagine this. Not one of these artists had an art degree. Something to think about. (I'm of the belief that we are naturally all artists.)

I think this church was in Coatepec. All my churches are running together.

This was taken in a bakery with two rooms, each housing a wood fired oven. The pastries and breads were smoky and heavenly. The darkened rooms and ovens were like scenes from Dante's Inferno; rich and atmospheric.

We saw and photographed dozens of altars that were set up all around town and in the schools.

I cannot wait to get back into my studio now. I worked a lot in my journal while traveling but my hands and mind are itching to paint in the studio again. I take simple art supplies with me when I travel but nothing is like being in the studio.

It feels like I've returned home to a different America now. There is such an upwelling of hope for the future. The Mexicans we spoke to were thrilled to have a President elect who stood for dignity, unity and peace with others in the world. My prayer is that it will be so and that we will all share and be as one family.


celeste said...

looks like a great trip. love the altars and photos.
we share that same prayer.

Meri Arnett-Kremian said...

Judy, The photos are amazing! The intensity of the colors dazzles. Out of all of the images, I'm hard-pressed to pick a favorite. Well done! (But I would have enjoyed the anti-Bush graffiti).

Candace said...

So much to say. You DID come home to a different US. Grand, isn't it?

How wonderful you were able to see the election in a different and yet such a closeby land. It looks like you had such a wonderful time. I have never been there and have wanted to go for some time... these photos will help me make it so!
That kid's painting... Holy Toledo!

Take care, dear Judy!

Ro Bruhn said...

Wow look at all of that colour, Day of the Dead is colour heaven. You certainly visited some wonderful places. We too are glad with your choice of president, what happens in the US affects the rest of us. Now there's hope.

Dayna Collins said...

I love the vibrant colors of the buildings and the food! I just returned from a month in Italy, so I understand about mounds of e-mails and lots to do, but I wanted to take a few moments to let you know how much I enjoy your blog and how much fun it is to read of someone else's travels!

Toni said...

The colors! The color saturation! And an altar for Hermanito (that really touched me). What a fun fun time you clearly had, rock on! Can't wait to see what you paint, with all that inspiration. Mexico just revivifies the internal palette for me whenever I go, and the languages make me swoon, too, which does wonders for my poetry-writing.

Allegra Smith said...

Welcome back home to the new, grand, beautiful, healthy and all of that and then some, USA. Don't you just love the feeling? We went to HQ here in Portland Tuesday morning to bring food and help for a little while and even the air then was one of both incredible hope and a little trepidation, not out of doubt for our candidate but...I don't want to remember the past. My eyes are firmly planted ahead, looking at our future. As for you, knowing you the colors are there forever, the food, the language and the inspiration. Looking forward to seeing you and John very soon. Love from both of us.

Sea Mist and Sunsets said...

Mexico, though we haven't been in a few years, it is carried with us, my better half and I, daily. We love her back roads and small villages, though the road you spoke of would give me the willies too. Thank you for sharing all the lovely and colorfully captured glimpses of your journey.

Each visit to your blog is a treasured bit of travel itself. And like you and so many, many others, I am feeling a long dormant hope for a brighter future rise and fly free.
Hugs and peace,
Who is hoping you may be teaching at Diane's again this year. Enjoyed your class last fall so much. Would love to take another, this time with my brain intact and not playing tug o war with a lingering cold. :)

&rew said...

Fantastic photos! So many colors, textures, and shapes! Love that first photograph of colorful buildings, and yes, your food pictures made me hungry!

seth said...

What a wonderful trip. Seems like an experience for all the senses. Thanks for sharing the photos!

Karen Cole said...

"ooooooooh, Mexico....sounds so simple I just gotta go..." know that James Taylor song?

Love the colors of that country. Why do you suppose some cultures are so colorful and other not?

Looks like you had a grand time, Judy. Looking forward to your artistic response.

Maija said...

Gorgeous photos! I'm so hapy you had such a wonderful adventure!!

mary ann said...

mmmm mexico has such a warming sweetening effect. that tree! those ribbons of bread! that beautiful food!
every honeyed drop
AND...a new president to boot

John G. said...

Gorgeous! I'm jealous.

debra cooper said...

Beautiful Mexico photos! I so love the whole culture.

Anonymous said...