• Speak To Me Like an Aztec


    By Pat Hall

    I've been wanting to take a course in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, for a long time. Finally, with lots of time being quarantined at home these days, I did, virtually. My instructor lives in Mexico City. He would email me exercises and we would have an hour-long lesson on the phone twice a week. I learned a lot.

    My interest in Nahuatl began when I lived in Cholula, Puebla in the 1970s. There I went to the Friday Market every week and always bought my veggies from the same woman. Wanting to expand our acquaintance, I tried starting a conversation in Spanish with her, but the only reaction I got was a blank stare. I found out that she only spoke Nahuatl. She came into Cholula for the market from one of the outlying villages, where only Nahuatl was spoken. The only Spanish words she knew were those she had learned for the market, prices and the names of the merchandise she sold.

    First things first, for a long time I had a burning question about the meaning of the name itself, Nahuatl. I was amazed to learn its origins; Nahui means the number "four" and atl means "water." Therefore Nahuatl means water in all four directions (north, south, east, and west). The fact that the Aztecs built Tenochtitlan (Mexico City) on a big lake fits right in; water in all four directions. ...

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  • Art in Quarantine


    By Andrew Osta

    When Coronavirus hit the United States earlier this year, I knew that Mexico would suffer greatly as well. Tourism would be affected, businesses would close, our normal cycles disturbed. For the first time in many years, I worried about the future. "Could it be that people will stop buying art?" I wondered. "If financial markets crash, if our currency devalues, who will spend on a luxury like an original oil painting?"

    These dark thoughts initially put a roadblock in front of my creativity. One wonders "What's the point of making art when people are dying, when tomorrow is so uncertain?" But then an artist has to do something while in lockdown and so inevitably returns to making art. In my own case, I found that being engaged in creation greatly relieved my anxiety. The process of putting paint on canvas is tremendously therapeutic.

    Because it's a generally slow process, there is plenty of time to think, to process information. Painting has the same effect on the mind as sleeping and dreaming, in the sense that one's intimate hidden thoughts slowly get revealed, faced, and re-organized. Painting can become an extended meditation if you allow it too. Not many of us can sit with our legs crossed watching our breath for any significant length of time, but standing in front of a canvas with a brush in hand can be remarkably similar, especially if you do not impose expectations on your creativity but allow whatever emerges to emerge organically.

    Continue reading (and see more art pics) at Lokkal: Art in Quarantine. More #Lokkal.

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  • Feeding Your Hungry Neighbors

    The Guardians of Guadiana.

    Wendy Bichel wrote: I'm one of those people who only works on my own projects, like my musical Bikers in Camelot, which took decades. I have a phobia about being distracted, which keeps me off of social media. I don't watch the news. And I definitely do not volunteer. It's against my personal code. Still, desperate times call for desperate measures, so when I heard from my friend Nory Contractor, Executive Director of Patronato Pro Niños, that you can feed a family of four to seven people for as little as $10 a week - groceries and produce - something happened to me. As my husband Ken says when he's infused with the inspiration to do a concert, I knew I was about to "put on the rhino mask and plow." I could not have another delicious meal delivered to my door knowing how many of my hungry neighbors could be fed for what it cost. Even though it was going to mean volunteering in a big way and violating my code, I had to make sure that my neighbors weren't hungry. Like everyone else, COVID-19 is kicking my ass and forcing me to stretch every which way.

    Ken and I live in Guadiana, a prosperous colonia with a large ex-pat population. But I knew there were hidden pockets of poverty and some not so hidden. And I knew there had to be plenty of people in extra trouble because of the whole phenomenon of joblessness due to COVID-19. I sent an e-mail to the Guadiana Women's Group, an organization that had been in semi-retirement, announcing my intention to start a program to feed the hungry in Guadiana. With that letter I was stating for the record that I was actually going to start a program, and not just talk about it. Although there was little response at that early stage, for me it was a "hallelujah moment" – change was a'comin', I was going for the ride, and there would be no backing out. From then on everything I needed came to me – every mentor, every piece of information, the resources and the money. ...

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  • Why Do We Hurt the Ones We Love?

    Dr. David: The other day was somewhat overcast. Late afternoon I messaged my daughter to see if she was available for a phone call. Then, glancing out my office window, with only a view of my patio garden and a small patch of sky, it seemed that night was coming on early. The sun breaking through the clouds, I thought I'd go up to my roof to see the sunset. Although we can take them for granted, sunsets just might be the best thing about San Miguel.

    The wind was blowing. The air was cool. A storm was blowing in. I could watch both the sunset and the flashes of lightening against the dark clouds.

    They say that if you can hear the thunder, then you should get out of the water. I couldn't hear it. The lightening was a good ways off, but it felt dangerous. Up on the roof seemed like the wrong place to be. ...

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  • Discovering Grandma's Recipes: Carmita's Mexican Pies

    Natalia Ospina: I was born and grew up in New York City. My parents immigrated there from Colombia. Mine was an family that invested every waking moment pushing ahead its endeavor to establish the economic base that would make the many sacrifices worthwhile. My parents started their own business from scratch. They devoted night and day, weekday and weekend to make it grow. They plowed through all tasks, big and small, to make sure the business survived and grew so that we could survive and grow. Just like all New York City dwellers, our lives were a choreography of efficiency in chaos.

    In that setting, before underground cell phone service in the subway, there was down time underground. The mind could settle when you were fortunate enough to find a free seat on the train and there close your eyes. Our family situation in New York did not allow time for eating together, for immersing together in kitchen duties and the pleasure of sharing the table. I had a cup of Tropicana "orange juice" for breakfast as I walked out the door, a ten dollar sandwich-and-something-else lunch and a decent, balanced dinner. None of these meals were shared with the family. Food existed just to feed the body, the overworked motor, not to feed the soul. Later I learned to share meals with the computer screen while I worked. I felt a great void in my stomach and in my being.

    When I had the chance, I left. I chased my own, very different idea of life all the way to Mexico. Here I found my husband Adrián through him a new rhythm around food where every meal is a special occasion.

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  • The Show that Almost Wasn't: Raku Platters

    Lokkal: Edna Dickinson of Zoho Gallery planned to exhibit a series of Raku platters in the gallery in May. But when San Miguel started to close down due to the Corona Virus, her first thought on the matter was: "Who is going to be interested in art now?"

    On further consideration, however, considering people isolated in their homes, she realized that art could be a welcome distraction, and might even make some people feel less alone. So she went went back into her studio and finished making this grouping of platters. Zoho proudly presents them to the public online.

    For these platters, Dickinson used simple, bold, abstracted calligraphic markings, glazed in neutral colors with a touch of gold luster, red or blue. The elemental connectedness and exciting immediacy of the Japanese process of Raku finished the design.

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  • Cleaning Up the Neighborhood: 1, 2, 3

    Dr. David: My Mexican neighbor speaks perfect English and a little Yiddish, having worked in a kosher deli in LA for almost ten years. Two weeks ago, as I was descending from my daily yoga session on the upper roof, in the company of two other men, he called up to me, asking me in English if I wanted the house painted. Knowing that my landlady had no money for this sort of thing and that I wasn't going to pay, I declined, "No. No." "They will do it for free. The government will pay," he coaxed. "Yes. Yes," changing my tune, I blurted out and went to fetch La Señora. The color chart, homemade on a piece of brown cardboard box, all the official San Miguel tones, we settled on a light yellow.

    Yesterday, when I went out to the market I noticed that the painting crew was finishing painting the side of the tortilleria on the corner. The foreman, the man who arrived with the color chart two weeks ago, gave me a smile in greeting when I passed. As I did one of his laborers, a somewhat fat young man was down on his knees painting the lower half of the tortilleria's side wall. Returning a short while later he gave me a second, bigger smile and nod of approval when I stopped to lecture the fat kid about ruining his knees by kneeling directly on the stones, "You're young now and you are not thinking about it, but it will happen. You should use a piece of cardboard."

    Moments ago, sitting here wondering what I would write about this week, the answer came to me in the sound of various extention ladders being drawn open and set into place in the alley right outside my door. The crew is working on the three houses across the way, in one of which lives my Yiddish-speaking neighbor with his mother, in another lives his brother with wife and daughters. Perhaps this afternoon they will paint the facade of our house. I could have asked the foreman when I went to back my car up out of range of any spatter, but I'm in no hurry to know the future. ...

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  • Cabin Fever

    Dr. David: Anyone who says, "It's harder to be alone in a crowd" has never really been isolated.

    Isolated was my place up in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont; fifteen miles from Canada and as far from New Hampshire, up the mountain, one half mile through the woods past the dead end of a dirt road. After a week or even just a few days of seclusion things could get pretty lonely up there. Then there was nothing so interesting as the occasional hiker passing through my meadow on his way to the fire-tower on the summit of nearby Bald Mountain. I stopped whatever it was I was doing and watched them pass up the trail, with more interest than I afforded to a deer or moose in the same position, with a different quality of interest. Only a bear was more fascinating, probably because of the rarity of sighting them and that sometimes they appear remarkably human.

    It didn't matter that my buddy had dropped by for an hour the day before. Or that I might have gone into town a couple of days before that. Those brief encounters with humanity, as with the hikers passing up through the meadow, were like rocks thrown into a pond; they made their splash, they caused their ripples, but soon enough everything was quiet and still again, all traces gone. ...

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  • Another Time, Another Epidemic

    (Updated with the link to the rest of the story! Oops.)
    A Typhoid Survivor's Tale.

    Pat Hall wrote: In 1970 I had just finished a master's degree in library and information science and was interviewing for jobs in Canada. My mother called and told me that she and my father were going to Mexico for two weeks. She asked, "Would you like to come with us?" I thanked her, explaining that I really couldn't go along because I was busy looking for a job. When she replied, "I'll pay for your trip," how could I resist?

    In a rush of enthusiasm, I did all kinds of research and planned our trip in detail. We would rent a car and travel all around Mexico. I had never been to Mexico before and had no idea what to expect.

    We flew into Mexico City and there the three of us were— enjoying all the delights and attractions of that fabulous city. I loved the colours, the music, the food, the weather, the art, the friendly people and, most of all, the Spanish language. ..

    Read more by Pat Hall at Lokkal: Another Time, Another Epidemic. More #PatHall. More #Lokkal.

    If you like Pat Hall, don't miss:

    New Book Just Published!

    Danger on the Road to San Miguel de Allende

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  • Ghost Town

    Dr. David: I don't like these time changes, Standard to Daylight Savings and back again. Fundamentally they confuse me. 5:00 becomes 6:00 and then 6:00 becomes 5:00. My brain is just not ready for it. ...

    This year my difficulty adjusting to Daylight Savings Time has been made worse by my isolation, sheltering-in-place. Normally, following the change, I am out of sync with society for a few days, gradually being brought into conformity by my interactions with the rest of you. This year, without you, two weeks after the time change I am still out of whack.

    Television, if I watched it, might help. Having clocks around the house (there are none) wouldn't hurt. A regular daily schedule might do the trick. But, as it is, my inner clock yet stubbornly clings to another time. ...

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  • Timeless Dancers

    Carlos Aguila wrote: Two weeks ago as I walked toward the Jardin in San Miguel, I could hear some drumming in the distance. As I got nearer, the rhythm and the intensity grew and I realized I had felt this power before in a small town called Ixcateopan de Cuauhtémoc.

    Cuauhtémoc was the last Aztec Emperor of Tenochtitlan. He was tortured and eventually killed by Cortez in 1525.

    According to legend, after the Spaniards killed him, his body was stolen by locals and hidden, buried under the altar of the Catholic church in Ixcateopan. In the mid-1900s, the bones were rediscovered. The church was converted into a museum and the skeletal remains put on display under a glass case. ...

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  • A Death in the Circle

    Dr. David, April 5: San Miguel is a small town, very small when you consider just the extranjero community. We foreign residents know each other's faces, if not each other's names. When someone, whose face I do not know, tells me that they live here, they are almost always a recent arrival.

    There are, of course, other circles, besides we extranjeros. One of these is made up of persons, largely between 30-50 years old, who are interested in alternative lifestyles: things indigenous, healing, Patchamama...

    This little community is almost entirely Hispanic, but not rigidly so. By virtue of the fact that my girlfriend Veronica is a member I have found myself at many gatherings of the tribe. With my own alternative inclinations, and my Spanish not half bad, I can go with the flow.

    Paulina, is a central character in this neo-hippie clan. Everyone knows and admires her. Well-loved, she is a strong, active person, with strong, active opinions. She has her own ways of doing things and she gets things done. She is fully alive, singing, dancing, partying... She is an earth-mother type with a great knowledge of plants, gardening and herbal medicine. She has a healing center just outside of town and another a 5-hour drive north out in the desert. Having apprenticed with the Huichol Indians, Paulina, at her center up north, offers peyote ceremonies compete with sessions in private hot springs. Except for the 5-hour drive, it sounds idyllic. ...

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  • Report from Mexico #1

    Duke Miller: I've been writing this in my mind all morning. Sheets of white paper with wings. Of course, those sentiments, those clever words, are gone now. I sit unhappy, stirring my mind like cabbage in a pot. I hate topics. My writing has always been about hidden topics, waiting to come out of a hole when my head stops moving and my breathing pauses. My topics are emaciated animals that are afraid of humans.

    I can feel my heart beating. How many more beats do I have left? My eyes hurt. I feel as if I'm going to pass out. Let me think.

    First, I take the dogs out to greet the birds. ...

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  • Escaping the Corona Virus

    Patrick Green: The Corona Virus is everywhere, or it could be: lurking on the next door knob, the next peso note, the next rush of air. I might already have it, incubating away inside my cells. Will it send me to the hospital or will I not even notice the symptoms? Should I put on a face mask to walk out in public or maybe just in the confined space of a taxi? Should I take the scheduled flight back home or take the advice of my children and stay where I am? The tutorials on social media for hand washing and the proper protocol for sneezing and coping strategies for being responsibly socially isolated... The TV news... Enormous resources have been been brought to bear on bringing every aspect of this pandemic into my living room: statistics, graphs, modeling, probabilities, the heroes, the schmucks, the bystanders… the Corona Virus from 10,000 angles.

    To escape from all this one must make a deliberate and conscious effort. I made one of mine last Wednesday. I walked into Centro, planting myself on an empty bench in the Jardin. The plaza was deserted. I had found a refuge. I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. My phone rang.

    It was my daughter, Sophie, ...

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  • A Blue Purse Lost

    Patrick Green: Jorge is a Mexican friend of mine, born and raised in San Miguel. He's a smart guy, but his education has been minimal. He has worked in the same bakery for 30 years. He speaks some English, because when he was young he spent some time in Chicago and Arizona. We meet in the Jardin four times a week at 1pm. We sit on a bench near the gazebo and work on our language skills. I help Jorge with his English. He helps we with my Spanish. The session usually lasts an hour. Then he goes off to work. Some days he doesn't work. Then we will sit until 2:30 or even later talking about infinitivos or some new idiomatic expression we have hit upon. Eventually we wear down. Then we pack up and head for the bus that takes us up the Salida and to our respective homes.

    One day while we whiled away yet another afternoon, two matronly women approached and prepared to take a seat directly across from us. Before they could do so, Jorge hopped up and retrieved a purse that had been laying quietly alone on the bench the ladies were preparing to sit upon. The purse was blue with a shoulder strap and a big brass zipper. Jorge returned to his seat and put the purse on the bench between us. The two women had seen Jorge pick up the purse. Striking up a conversation, I mentioned to them that we would certainly stay put and wait for the owner of the purse to return so it could be placed back into the proper hands. They nodded approvingly.

    The two women were Canadian. They had traveled a bit together and mentioned what a trial it was to replace all the items lost when a purse goes missing: identification, credit cars, and, god forbid, a passport. I agreed and assured them we would do the right thing.

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  • Mastering 90% of the Past Tense in 5 Minutes

    Ezequiel Ruiz: There is a New Yorker cartoon from early in the internet era. It shows two men in medieval dress and setting. One is showing a large folio book to the other, who responds, "It's a great invention, but it will never replace the scroll."

    The book did more than replace the scroll. With the advent of printing it replaced the Art of Memory. When books were expensive and relatively rare people had techniques for remembering whole volumes. With the development of printing and the mass production of books people forgot how to remember. There was no need. They could look it up.

    Mneumonics are memory devices, techniques for remembering. I first learned about them in medical school where there were vast amounts of information to remember and you couldn't use your books during tests.

    Read and see more at Lokkal: Mastering 90% of the Past Tense in 5 Minutes. More #Lokkal.

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  • ¡Viva Beethoven! Mexican Musical Stereotypes

    Patrick Green: It is difficult to tell where those little epiphanies come from. At one moment we are oblivious and the next moment something has crystallized in our minds and a realization takes place.

    On a non-descript afternoon in SMA, I found myself at a local farmacia. As I waited my turn, absentmindedly pacing an aisle, I became aware of music in the background. The volume was low like elevator music, but it took just a moment for me to recognize it as one of Beethoven's symphonies. Beethoven in Mexico struck me as a bit odd. What is he doing here ? He belongs in Vienna or London or NYC, doesn't he? Just then the pharmacist became available. It was my turn. I conducted my business and left without another thought of Beethoven.

    A couple weeks later the same scene played out again in the same pharmacy. Once again, I stood lingering near the counter with my mind drifting who knows where. Once again, there he was again, Beethoven. I realized, someone in this pharmacy likes the music of Ludwig van. Once again the same disconnect hit me. He seemed out of place. Although I had not put much thought into it, the maestro seemed very far removed from what I had taken to be 'Mexican'. Mexican musical interests lay elsewhere - Mariachis, banda, ranchero…, no? Still here he was.

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  • SMA Writers' Conference: The Canadians Are Coming

    Madeleine Thien is the winner of every prestigious literary award Canada offers, as well as some from other countries. Her works have been translated into twenty-five languages.

    She is the author of a short story collection, Simple Recipes, and three novels, most recently, Do Not Say We Have Nothing. This stunning novel spans the length of China's modern history from Mao's revolution in 1949 to the Cultural Revolution in the late 1960s to Tiananmen Square in 1989.


    Ian Williams is a restless writer. Each of his four books not only experiments with form, but tackles a new genre. What is truly astonishing is that no matter what new genre he takes on, the result is a book that is either a finalist or wins a major literary prizincluding Canada's biggest fiction award ($100,000)..

    According to Williams, each of his four books can be read as a chapter in the progress of a life. With his debut poetry collection, You Know Who You Are, published when he was in his early 20s, he was coming to terms with his identity as a black man. In his short story collection Not Anyone's Anything he was letting go of what he calls his "adolescent self-delusion that he was special." In Personals, he explored the search for connection through lyrical variations on the personal ad. And now in Reproduction, he digs into his fascination with how children come into the world, both psychologically and physically, as a symptom of the biological clock that he believes ticks not only for women, but for men.


    Merilyn Simonds is the author of 18 books, including the creative nonfiction classic, 22 years in print, The Convict Lover.

    In 1987 she moved and discovered in the attic of her new house a cache of letters, from a young student to a man in prison, that became the basis of The Convict Lover. With the release of The Convict Lover in 1996, she became nationally known as a literary writer, exploring the zone where fact and fiction meet.

    Read and see more at Lokkal: The Canadians Are Coming. More #Lokkal.

    SMA Writers' Conference & Literary Festival | Schedule | Program.

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  • Universal Human Connection

    Alison Wright: My parents gave me the wings to fly. They are from Europe and flew to the states just so I could get dual citizenship. My British mother was a stewardess for Pan Am so I believe I got my wanderlust in utero. My Belgian dad always encouraged travel as part of my education. I'm just not sure he intended my education to go on for this long!

    Given my mother's profession, travel was a part of my life from the time I was an infant, and I obtained my first passport while still sucking a pacifier. I even had a special bassinet to fly in. Mom always knew the pilots, so when I got a little older I was allowed to sit on their laps in the cockpit and watch the world below.

    I got my first little point and shoot camera when I was ten and loved to take photos. I was fifteen and working on the yearbook and school newspaper at Watchung Hills Regional High School in New Jersey when Mr. Lee, my English teacher, took me aside and told me that I could actually make a living as a photojournalist. From the first time I heard that word I knew what I wanted to do with my life. And I've never wavered. It was never a place I felt I belonged, so from there I headed out to California with a surfboard tied to the roof of my yellow Honda the day after I graduated.

    Read and see more at Lokkal: Universal Human Connection. More #Lokkal.

    Alison Wright and Sam Donaldson to Speak in San Miguel Jan 29.

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  • Celebrations Decembrinas, a Mexican Christmas

    Ezequiel Ruiz: As I said in an earlier article in this magazine, life always brings very good surprises. This was true when I went to Mexico City to meet with my family to celebrate the Christmas holidays.

    As soon as I arrived there Thursday, December 19, I was invited to go with family to Veracruz. I agreed. I went with my two nephews and friends. Eventually we arrived at my nephew's cousins' house in Veracruz. There again, we were invited to a graduation party. I was looking forward to it because I had not been to a party in Veracruz before. This promised to be a great opportunity to broaden my experience since each state of Mexico could be a country unto itself for its diversity of people and customs.

    Really though I have to say that the party itself, in terms of clebrations was not so different from how we celebrate at parties in Mexico City. But the food was.

    Read and see more at Lokkal: Celebrations Decembrinas, a Mexican Christmas. More #Lokkal.

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  • Chanukah Miracle in San Miguel

    Carole Stone: The room throbbed with excitement. Children were scattered everywhere – some in a circle playing dreidl, a game played with a spinning top; others were playing tag in the patio; still others were hanging on to their parents' legs or snuggled in their arms. Teens were conspiring in the patio corner. Such was this year's Chanukah party, attended by 100 people, at the JC3 here in San Miguel.

    We gorge on latkes, the traditional potato pancakes that are so delicious served with a topping of applesauce or sour cream. Guests are encouraged to bring a dish – a salad, dip or whatever – to share. We wound up with two long tables filled with all sorts of vegetarian dishes. The food was fabulous – my favorite part.

    We lit our nine-branched menorahs (candelabras) at sunset. The room filled with the light from those many tiny, brightly-colored candles as we sung the blessing in Hebrew, "Blessed are You, our Sovereign, Who has sanctified us by Your commandments and commanded us to light these Chanukah candles."

    Read and see more at Lokkal: Chanukah Miracle in San Miguel. More #Lokkal.

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  • Traditional Mexican Christmas, Then and Now

    Ezequiel Ruiz: Childhood is a magical time. Life was bigger and brighter then. To speak about Posadas today is to compare them to the Posadas of my childhood memory. Maybe that is not a fair comparison, but then we learn as adults, don't we, that life itself is not always fair.

    To speak about Posadas today is to talk about change. Time has passed. Something is different now in this 2019. The people of my generation can notice those changes in the Posadas.

    I don't want to say that the Posadas of my time were better than now because I am aware that each generation lives things differently. Still, the Posadas of my childhood were richer in tradition.

    Read and see more at Lokkal: Traditional Mexican Christmas, Then and Now. More #Lokkal.

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  • Behind a Sculpture Cast in Molten Glass

    Paul Louis: Ana Thiel is one of few artists in Mexico to have her own glass melting furnace. Imagine a great vat that contains over 200 kg of molten glass at 1250°C. Glassblowers are relatively famous. Yet artists that work with cast glass are mostly unknown. They are rare. Bertil Vallien, Swedish; Koen Vanderstukken, Belgian, have, along with Ana, the highest profile.

    "I like the ability of glass to bring light into the sculpture, its optics as it works with the form within but also with the environment, bringing in the surrounding images and movement, that it can suspend color and air as well as floating forms. Glass is almost four dimensional for it not only has height, width and depth, it has transparency." - Ana

    Ana is hosting an open studio this coming Sunday, the 15th of December, 1-5pm.
    This is an opportunity to visit the studio and take a peek behind the scenes.
    See the glowing magic of the molten glass sculptures that she creates.
    Ana Thiel's Studio is located at Colegio Militar #1, Colonia Guadalupe.

    Read and see more at Lokkal: Behind a Sculpture Cast in Molten Glass. More #Lokkal.

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  • Padre, Madre, Awesome

    Ezequiel Ruiz: The other day a student asked me what "¡Que padre!" means. I replied that there is no translation. It is a colloquial expression. In this case what is translated depends on the intention of the speaker. The expression implies an emotion of amazement. Its equivalent in English might be "great" or "awesome." It depends on the degree of emotion in the expression.

    "¡Que padre!" translates literally as "that father." Perhaps in quest of sexual equality, this led my student to ask, "The word "madre" ("mother") is not used for these important exclamations? I answered, "It is used, but again it is a highly colloquial, slang expression." The expression "A toda madre" ("To every mother"), in fact, implies much more emotion than "¡Que padre!" I went on to emphasize that these expressions are very informal. They are not used by all people in all stratas of society. Generally they are the parlance of young people, but you can also hear them from some adults.

    To clarify this I offer some examples ...

    Read and see more at Lokkal: Padre, Madre, Awesome. More #Lokkal.

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  • A Psycho Thanksgiving

    Jeff Apton: Our annual Thanksgiving dinner is the time new people get introduced into our family fold. When my sister Robin welcomes that latest victim she always finds a way to share one story from our childhood. We agree on events as I share them with you below. But then Robin adds her own shocking" climax. Who do you believe?

    The summer of 1960 was a scorcher. The sidewalks of Brooklyn shimmered. I had nothing to do. My friends were away at camp, or kidnapped for family vacations to crappy theme hotels with names like Santa Claus Village. I was too bored to read, watch television, or even think. But that morning, my eyes were bright. I was walking upright again. Finally, I had something to do. Psycho had finally arrived at our neighborhood grindhouse.

    In June of 1960 Hitchcock's masterpiece opened to packed movie houses. It is impossible to overestimate the impact of that film on a nation preparing for a hot, sweaty summer. No American would close a shower curtain again without a visceral twinge of fear and a quick scan of the bathroom.

    Read and see more at Lokkal: A Psycho Thanksgiving. More #Lokkal.

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  • Isabelle Mahnes' Spectacle of Fashion

    Isabelle: "I started making clothes when I was a little girl, making my party clothes. In Mexico at those times there was not so much fashion. I identified myself by how I dressed up. It was fun to dress up as characters."

    "I went to a technical school to learn how to sew, because I know I wanted to work in the studio, actually making the clothes, not just designing from afar."

    "I went to Parsons [School of Design] in New York City where I had great teachers who really inspired me. I learned to follow my own path, to make my own language. I am working with my own being through the process of creation itself."

    "My personal life and sewing are intertwined as part of my identity, who I am in relation to the world and what the world is becoming and how I perceive it."

    Read and see more at Lokkal: Isabelle Mahnes' Spectacle of Fashion. More #Lokkal.

    Thursday, November 21, 4:30-8pm, Mixta, Pila Seca 3, $180, including catering

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  • Rice and Beans

    Duke Miller: B. Traven, George Gershwin, and the demented woman whisper into my ear, "Tell the story. Please."
    "Certainly, I'm just the man for it. Ni modo."

    I love to eat rice and beans, it makes me feel like a worker in the fields, the ones with the straw hats and sandals. The ones who careen between sullen looks and loud laughter. The ones who drink too much and are proud beyond recognition. They are bent over with account books pressing down upon their backs. They have few choices in life due to the giant non-stop metal wheels that grind up the countryside and eviscerate the cities. Broken bones and scars are the story of politics and servitude and company stores.

    B. Traven knew all of this. He felt these images like cuts dripping blood into the soil, like flesh dropped into a hole. He knew the significance of how the human body fertilizes the ground in order for plants to grown. Death, sickness, and malnourishment are often the bounty of unfair, low paid work. The poor stumble and fall. The pain wraps around the world thousands of times, each vertebra and tibia, each twisted smile, all connected like a string of stolen pearls. The story of the oppressed is usually lost on the rich. They have a tendency to overlook the overarching theme of how the world has been built.

    Continue reading at Lokkal: Rice and Beans. More #Lokkal.

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  • VW, Why Do I Photograph You?

    Scott Umstattd: The Volkswagen Type 1 has a lot of nicknames: Bug, Beetle, Ladybug, Bubble, Frog, Hunchback, Turtle, Vocho, Flea and, for some reason, in the Domincan Republic, Ice Shaver.

    The Bug has wonderfully infested our entire planet and has adapted to every environment it has been put in. People everywhere love their Herbies.

    I'm tempted to give up and say that I don't know why I keep taking pictures of Beetles, but I think I have it figured out.

    It must be the curves. No other car has embraced the curve like the Bubble. It’s the curves that attract my eye.. It’s the curves that make Vocho photos pleasing to the eye. Following the curves your eyes easily flow across the canvas (or the screen). It was made to be photographed. And, I concede, driven.

    Continue reading and take a look at the amazing photos at Lokkal: VW, Why Do I Photograph You? More #Lokkal.

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  • Un Brindis / A Toast

    Anne Boone Johnson: I was staying in a 300-year-old hacienda, now an inn owned by a friend of mine, in a room next door to a couple from Guadalajara and their two girls, ages eight and ten. I'd joined the family in the patio when the young girls suddenly shouted, "Es una callejoneada," hearing the music of the approaching wedding procession before I did.

    As the chicas raced toward the intricate wrought-iron gate separating the patio from the cobblestone street, their enthusiasm was contagious. Although over the years I had seen quite a few joyous callejoneadas unique to the state of Guanajuato –and particularly popular in San Miguel with its beautiful Parroquia– I ran after them.

    The heavy gate clanged shut behind us. Just in time we arrived to see a burro festooned with colorful flowers approaching, two bottles of tequila hanging from either side, leading the celebratory procession. Following immediately behind was a mariachi band in sombreros and black suits studded with metallic silver. Their lively music seemed to reverberate from the colonial stone walls up to the heavens. The band was followed in turn by two mojigangas, giant paper maché dolls dressed as a bride and groom that gaily danced and nimbly whirled about, the "groom" flinging his fake arms wildly.

    Continue reading at Lokkal: Un Brindis / A Toast. More #Lokkal.

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  • Revolution On The Walls

    Alberto Lenz: Around the Mexican Revolution of 1910, and in the following 30 years after it, a feverish intellectual movement emerged in Mexico that sought to transform the country's arts and culture, in pursuit of a new national identity.

    Possibly, the most important product of this cultural upheaval was the public art movement known as "Mexican Muralism," and nothing can be written about the Mexican muralism without mentioning José Vasconcelos, a key inspirational figure. ...

    But perhaps the most ambitious policy of Vasconcelos was that of commissioning young Mexican artists to paint murals on the walls of some important public buildings in Mexico City. In a country with a huge sector of illiterate population, the impulse that Vasconcelos gave to muralism was with the intention of visually transmitting the ideals and objectives of the Mexican Revolution.

    Read and see more at Lokkal: Revolution On The Walls. More #Lokkal.

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  • What I Didn't Know I Would Invent

    Lokkal: Carola Polakov was born in Buenos Aires. When she was 5 years old the family moved to London and later to Barcelona. It was in that vibrant Spanish city, in the era of rebellion and creative explosion in the Spain of Franco, that Carola started her career as fashion designer.

    "Everything I know I've taught myself... and what I didn't know how to do I would invent. I never had a formal education in design, pattern-making or photography, but I was really hard-headed as a kid. If I wanted to make something, I used my ingenuity and found a way to make it. I made my first dress when I was nine.

    "I started designing when I was 19. A friend and I wanted to go to India. So we thought, what can we do to make enough money to get there. We started designing and manufacturing items. She was making shoes. I was making belts and bags and eventually clothes. This was in the late sixties. Spain was very isolated from the rest of Europe and fashion design was practically non existent and very conventional. I traveled to London, Paris and Italy, returning with with inspiration and ideas. Manufacturers repeatedly told me, at first, that what I wanted could not be done because it was out of the norm. But at my insistence they did it. ...

    The upcoming show is in atelier of the very talented painter Lola Pico. There you can see her work as well as sculptures by Lisette Aguilar. Carola will be showing photos of peonies, dandelions and strangely distorted street scenes taken through wavy glass.

    Read and see more at Lokkal: What I Didn't Know I Would Invent. More #Lokkal.

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  • Unicorns are My Spirit Animal

    Jessica Antonelli: Take a stroll through a back alley of San Miguel de Allende with us to visit Sofie Engström von Alten, a traveling illustrator who nows calls SMA home.

    Sofie has been on the road since 2010, where a trip across the pond to live in Europe evolved into artist residencies traveling east through Morocco, Turkey, and India. Sofie is known for illustrating a travel zine everywhere she travels and has created a beautiful San Miguel de Allende coloring book.

    Sofie's creative take on life is reflected in the way she expresses herself, down to the business cards she hands out.

    Read and see more at Lokkal: Unicorns are My Spirit Animal. More #Lokkal.

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  • Weaving a Pattern of Mastery

    Colette Morya: Mexican textile art has centuries of history. Looms appear in Nahuatl codices. Mayan culture has been turning ribbons and wool yarns into ancestral crafts since prehistory. Textile production is a laborious process that is transmitted from generation to generation. The weaving style varies according to the region of Mexico and its traditions.

    Some years ago, I encountered this art for the first time in Teotitlán del Valle, in Oaxaca. In that place, artisans open the doors of their workshop to show the development of that region's traditional rugs. On more than one occasion I had the opportunity to marvel at the concentration and dexterity of a true Zapotec weaver. For me it was almost impossible to imagine how to coordinate the order of the threads to form the figures. Difficult as it was, still I was curious to learn. I found just watching the process very comforting. Perhaps a little relief from my obsessive-compulsive side would not hurt me. Repetitiveness is always very relaxing.

    Read and see more at Lokkal: Weaving a Pattern of Mastery. More #Lokkal.

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  • Jane Dill's Art Class

    Jessica Antonelli: In a city known for it's rustic textures and rich colors, there lives an art instructor who invites inspiring creatives to play with these artistic elements. Jane Dill is a much-loved art teacher in San Miguel de Allende, who has been offering classes at the Galeria San Francisco for years.

    Classically trained as a calligrapher and lettering artist, Jane worked commercially with designers for 30 years, creating logos, branding and identity for national brands, restaurants and wine labels. Since moving to San Miguel, Jane has concentrated more on her fine art and teaching. She has been represented by the Galeria San Francisco for five years.

    In this video, we take a sneak-peek into her classroom at the beautiful Fabrica la Aurora to see art-making in action at Jane's Abstract Painting with Texture (1-day) class.

    Read and see more at Lokkal: Jane Dill's Art Class. More #Lokkal.

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  • Spotlight on Muros en Blanco

    Jessica Antonelli interviews Colleen Sorenson.

    In a city known for its art and thriving cultural scene, the Arts District of San Miguel is an especially significant center of local and international street art. Here, contemporary local and global street artists showcase their talents in a medium Mexico has always championed, the mural.

    In this interview, Colleen Sorenson, a founder of the SMA Arts District, shares the story of how this beloved part of town came to be.

    Continue reading and view the video of the interview at Spotlight on Muros en Blanco. More #Lokkal.

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  • Interview: Betty Edwards Author of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain

    Jessica Antonelli interviews Betty Edwards: If you wish you were more creative, this conversation is for you.

    Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain is the number one drawing instructional book used in the world. Published 40 years ago, it revolutionized the way we think about learning to draw, by incorporating the then nascent field of neuroscience into arts education.

    Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain has been translated into 13 languages and has sold over 3 million copies.

    Today, San Miguel Sunday Arts is privileged speak with Betty Edwards artist and best-selling author of this fabulous book. We speak with Betty about her thoughts on creativity, learning to draw, its big-picture effects on society, the process of writing, and more.

    Continue reading and view the video of the interview at Interview: Betty Edwards Author of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. More #Lokkal.

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  • Art is the Heart of San Miguel by Jessica Antonelli

    Mine is one of those many San Miguel de Allende whirlwind romances. The colors, light, textures and culture sparkled for me like the fireworks that seemingly went on every evening. Within six months of my first visit, I decided to move here. Within a year, I was offering drawing classes. Five years later I still am. ...

    So, recently I found myself wondering, how can I publicize my classes and also my new online course, ? ...

    Here is our first offering, a drawing lesson I gave at the base of La Huerta, the gigantic tree just outside San Miguel.

    Read more at Lokkal Art is the Heart of San Miguel by Jessica Antonelli. More #Lokkal.

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  • Working Without A Net

    Pam Walters: Not everyone is faced with the challenge to start over relying only on faith.

    There's an image I remember of a person inching his way out onto the limb of a tree. The limb got narrower; the risk of falling got greater. But there's this big, juicy peach hanging off the farthest tip of the branch. The guy was willing to go out on a limb to capture the peach – his goal was in sight.

    But what about if there is no peach, no prize? And let's say that all you know is that the tree is dying. It's coming apart at the seams. You can't go back. So you keep moving away from what you used to know as the security of the tree. Then something snaps, and you're free falling.

    That's what it felt like when I decided to leave the States and my husband behind.

    Continue reading at Lokkal Working Without A Net by Pam Walters. More #Lokkal.

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  • Treasures of the Otomi Pueblo

    Glen Rogers: So when I was asked by Mexico City curator, Maximiliano Grego to represent Otomi women and their tradition of stamping their tortillas for a group exhibition, Poeticas del Arte Contemporaneo, I was pleased to participate. Each artist was given a theme. Because the show was to be in Dolores Hidalgo, he wanted the indigenous tribe of the Otomi to be represented. Combining the figure and the circular symbol, a tortilla stamp, seemed like a perfect fit for me. I just happened to have a double-sided Otomi tortilla stamp hanging on my studio wall which I was able to incorporate into the piece.

    As I was making a preliminary charcoal drawing for the painting, I held an image in my mind's eye of a woman at the hearth. It's an ancient universal vision that transcends local culture and is found in every corner of the world. Women cooking at the heart of the home or working over a communal fire is a traditional theme. She, as giver of life, provides strength and cohesiveness to the family and the community in many ways. In Los Tesoros del Pueblo, her arms encircle an offering of sustenance and healing. In Mexico, tortillas, central to each meal, remain a treasure of the culture.

    For details on the exhibition and the entire article, continue reading at Lokkal Treasures of the Otomi Pueblo by Glen Rogers. More #Lokkal.

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  • A Hotshot Photographer

    Pam Walters: I have to admit that when I first contacted local photographer Jon Welsh for an interview, I intended to have some fun with him, at his expense. Jon frequently posts photos on SMA’s Civil List. These shots, taken on his morning strolls, are of facades of buildings: doors, windows, the occasional tree or flowering plant that might be affixed to a building. The images are exquisite.

    But here’s the thing, the thumbnail photo of him that identifies his posts is… well… of a gorgeous older guy with a smoldering look on his face. Be still my heart. Then I noticed that I wasn’t the only female bewitched by his photography and his picture. It seems that 90% of his followers are women oohing and aahing over the images. I thought of the old “hot photographer” syndrome.

    The chip on my shoulder about photographers dates back to my early years as an ad agency creative director. Back then creative people worked in teams. I was the copywriter. Copywriters were primarily female and dressed conservatively. Copywriters were partnered with an art director. This role was usually played by a guy. We’d collaborate on most aspects of TV and print production, but the copywriter usually took the lead when it came to music, and the art director was in charge of visuals – including working with photographers.

    Continue reading at Lokkal A Hotshot Photographer by Pam Walters. More #Lokkal.

    If you are a member of the San Miguel de Allende Civil List Facebook group, you can see some of Jon Welsh's photos there in this Facebook search: Jon Welsh.

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  • Building Bridges, Not Walls by Jessica Espinoza

    Bilingual Youth Theater. The performance will be free to the public on Friday, July 19 at 1 pm at the San Miguel Playhouse.

    Last summer DreamBox Theatre was in the process of launching their first program in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. When the San Miguel Playhouse, which also promotes bilingual theater, in that a lot of their productions have supertitles, learned of DreamBox's plans to bring bilingual theater to Mexican youth, they got very excited. In addition to providing DreamBox with a performance venue, their board started a scholarship program for Mexican children where Playhouse donors could sponsor a child to attend the program.

    It was such a successful partnership that the San Miguel Playhouse was eager to do it again this summer, providing the venue, orchestrating the scholarship / sponsorship program, helping DreamBox line up resources when producing a show in only 5 days. ...

    DreamBox Theatre is getting ready to embark on its second summer of offering this program. This month they will be producing Mago de Oz, an original bilingual Latin adaptation of the Wizard of Oz story. The playwright, an elementary teacher in Spanish Harlem, NYC, was inspired last summer by the enchantment she felt in the city of San Miguel de Allende. She integrated all of this into the adaptation.

    Read more at Lokkal Building Bridges, Not Walls by Jessica Espinoza. More #Lokkal.

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  • Poker Faces by Ann Marie Jackson

    "That's so rude!" exclaims my seven-year-old son as the bull's body slams into the ground. The powerful animal lies unnaturally still, stretched taut by one lariat around his horns and another around his hind legs. The other end of each rope is in the hands of an expert cowboy, wound firmly around the pommel of his saddle. Each cowboy sits astride a beautiful horse with practiced ease, looking like perfectly cast extras in a Marlboro commercial from the late eighties. Next to my son, our friend Sam chuckles at his indignation.

    "Yes, how rude,” Sam agrees. "But you know, the bull is going to be fine, I promise. I know these cowboys, and these bulls are really like their pets. They don't want to hurt their pets."
    "Really?" asks Tristan, clearly unconvinced.

    Continue reading in Lokkal, Poker Faces by Ann Marie Jackson. More #Lokkal.

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  • Looking You in the Eyes

    Pat Hall wrote: "César, my very intelligent Mexican friend, told me his pet peeve the other day, "All you Americans and Canadians never make eye contact. We Mexicans always make eye contact. Why don't you look at us?" To emphasize his point, César declared, "If you look up the verb 'to stare' in a Spanish dictionary, you will find that there is no word in Spanish for stare. That's because we all just do it naturally. It's our way of looking at something."

    I thought about this and realized that I always look away if a stranger looks at me. I remember my mother saying to me when I was a child, "Don't stare at people. It's not polite." I guess I have always followed that rule, especially where everyone else is looking away and avoiding my glance. It's always been OK to look at someone squarely if you know them, but perish the thought if you look closely at a stranger. Even worse if they notice you looking at them."

    Read more by Pat Hall at Lokkal Looking You in the Eyes. More #PatHall. More #Lokkal.

    GW: I generally don't look directly at Mexican adult female strangers on the street as I fear it might be rude or forward. Should I? Am I being rude?

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  • Photographing Parades, Tips From SMA

    With the Los Locos parade coming up, a lot of people may be out with their cameras or smart phones with the plan, or hope, of capturing some nice pics.

    Digital photography makes it easy to take lots of pictures and sometimes get lucky with a few good shots. Sometimes I take some pretty good photographs. But, it usually involves lots of pictures and lots of luck.

    Here is some practical photography advice from Scott Umstattd via Lokkal: Photographing Parades, Tips From SMA. Like our forums rules, he starts off with

    1. Be nice.

    But quickly gets into more meaty, but mostly simple, suggestions about backgrounds, light, both eyes open, using corners, shutter speed, getting into the street and more. Most of the advice applies no matter what type of camera you are using. If you want to up your parade photo game, this is definitely worth a read.

    More #Lokkal. More in the category Art, Literature, Museums, Music, and Theaters.

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  • Danger on the Road to San Miguel de Allende

    Pat Hall wrote: "Merv was driving and he said, in a low, tense voice, "I'm not stopping." We crept along the street without stopping. We seemed to have made it away from the uniformed man. He didn't attempt to follow us. Whew!

    Just as we were counting our blessings, another man wearing the same black uniform, jumped out in front of us. Our hearts sank. The first officer must have radioed ahead and warned this one. Oh, no!"

    Read the whole (true, I think) story by Pat Hall at Lokkal: Danger on the Road to San Miguel de Allende. More #PatHall. More #Lokkal.

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Expat and immigrant English language resources and community for San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico. Visitors to this site may browse.

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