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  • Hada Morada hopes to help make wishes come true

    Bonnie Lee Black: Hada Morada, the newest member of my puppet family, has a job to do, and she’s intent on doing it.

    She’ll make her debut on the school stage at the end of this month, when classes start up again. She’ll sashay (so to speak) into the classroom, waving her varita mágica (magic wand) and ask the Mexican kids – ranging in age from eight to eleven – what they wish for.

    Although her name, Hada Morada, is Spanish for “Purple Fairy,” Hada will be speaking English to the kids because, well, that’s what they’re there to learn. She hopes to use her otherworldly wiles to charm them into paying attention, knowing they’ve likely never seen a fairy in person before, only in fairytales.

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  • Born on the first of the year

    Bonnie Lee Black: Elsa was born in Oak Park, Illinois, to Swedish immigrant parents on the first of the year, January 1, 1940, during the second world war; and although, as far as I know, she’s never served in the military, she has certainly emerged victorious from various life battles. Now, at eighty, she plans to finally retire and write a book about her experiences. ...

    Ten years before, after “a heartbreaking breakup,” when all she wanted to do was “drop out and bury my ashes under a cactus,” Elsa decided to buy a small piece of land outside of San Miguel and build a little house on it. At first she found, in this poor, indigenous village, where running water and electricity were intermittent and the people still collected wood for cooking, that the adults saw her as an outsider, an interloper. She felt unwelcome.

    Her story could have ended there, of course: single, older woman living alone in the countryside, in a little house behind a tall, sturdy gate, keeping to herself. But the local children knocked on the door of her heart, and she opened it.

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  • Run on

    Bonnie Lee Black: Having just finished reading (on Christmas Day) the astounding new novel, Lost Children Archive, by Valeria Luiselli, which is the Big Read choice here in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, this year, and which has, close to the end, a whole chapter, titled “Echo Canyon,” written in one, long – 19 pages’ worth! – run-on, stream-of-consciousness sentence, I feel inspired to try my hand at something similar – not 19 pages’ worth, of course (I’ll spare you) – but the same idea: allowing thoughts to flow seemingly effortlessly onto the page, some of the thoughts that for the past few days have been swirling around in my mind like the monarch butterflies that flit from milkweed to milkweed in the pollinator garden here in Parque Juarez, where I walk nearly every day; because it’s post-Solstice now and the light (and with it, hope) is growing longer by the day, and it’s post-Christmas with all its unbearable, to me, hoopla (which, I’m convinced, J.C. himself, were he alive today, wouldn’t go for either), and it’s almost post-2019 (gracias a dios), so I’m looking forward to 2020 – such a nice, rounded, even number, don’t you think? – and all of its positive potential, plus I’m ruminating ...

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  • Angels made me do it

    Bonnie Lee Black: You look at me with one eyebrow raised. “And what, exactly, did these angels make you do?” you ask.

    “They made me change my attitude and outlook,” I say.

    “About what?”

    “Christmas this year.”

    “But I thought you were intent on forgetting Christmas. Isn’t that what you wrote recently?”

    “Yes, but … That was before I noticed the angels.”

    “Where?” you say, still looking at me dubiously.

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  • Dreams Come True

    Bonnie Lee Black: They came to my Creative Nonfiction classes and workshops in Taos, New Mexico, harboring the same dreams: to write and publish books containing their own, personal truths.

    They were older adults, close to or already past retirement age, highly educated, successful professionals from a number of fields, such as business, medicine, academia, the arts. They’d written before, of course, some even Ph.D. theses, but never about themselves. They wanted to learn how to write more informally, less pretentiously, more friend-to-friend-across-the- kitchen-table and less lecturer-at-the-lectern.

    They had stories to tell, and they wanted to tell them clearly and compellingly, so that even their families would one day want to read them. They knew that this process – learning a new way of writing, like a new way of living – would take humility and determination, but they were in it for the long haul. No one seemed to have any illusions about writing a best-seller and becoming a rich and famous author. We were all beyond the age of illusions.

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  • The Color of Hope

    Bonnie Lee Black: On my first-ever trip to Scotland in the summer of 1986, the weather was abysmal. It was sunless and dank. The sky resembled wet cement and felt just as heavy overhead. I remember shivering incessantly and thinking, No wonder the Scottish diaspora has always been so large.

    Then one day, up in the Highlands, I happened to gaze heavenward and saw — like a miracle of biblical proportions — the seemingly impenetrable gray clouds break apart, revealing a flag-size patch of pristine blue.

    “That,” I said to one of my traveling companions, pointing to the patch, “is the color of hope!”

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  • Starship

    Bonnie Lee Black: On Thursday my friend Kim and I went for a nice long hike. Forgoing the turkey (she’s a vegetarian) and all the trimmings (trappings?), we packed some bread and cheese and a small container of red wine (all verboten, we later learned – but, then, who knew?) and ate it slowly while sitting on a big, old log by the water’s edge, serenaded by wild ducks.

    It was a glorious Mexican late-November day – bright, clear-blue sky, in the mid-70s F. (No snowstorms! No cancelled flights!), and we felt deeply thankful to be embraced by the beauty of Nature at San Miguel de Allende’s 220-acre botanical garden, known as El Charco del Ingenio.

    On our miles-long hike along El Charco’s well maintained trails, Kim and I passed countless towering cacti and succulents. Mexico, we learned, has the richest variety of cacti in the world; and this botanical garden’s collection is made up of plants gathered from all parts of the country.

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  • Hibernation

    Bonnie Lee Black: It’s seemingly inescapable. Even here in the central mountains of Mexico.

    Halloween was not yet a memory, and already my favorite, grand supermarket in San Miguel de Allende, La Comer, was piping Christmas music throughout its bright and spacious aisles and displaying stacks of glittery Christmas tree decorations for sale.

    So depressing.

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  • Bowing To Elephants

    Bonnie Black: The difference between an autobiography and a memoir, I used to tell my students, has everything to do with a couple of prepositions: of and from.

    An autobiography is the story of a life — usually the life of a rich and famous person — written by that person (or his or her ghost writer). Whereas a memoir is a story (or stories) from the life of a more-or-less ordinary person.

    A famous person can begin her autobiography at the very beginning (I was born in the dead of winter in a one-room cabin with no heat or running water in the hills of Appalachia, let’s say), and the reader will stick with it because all the while in the back of that reader’s mind there’ll be the nagging question: How in the world did this person ever get to be rich and famous?!

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  • The Alchemy Of Ekphrasis

    Bonnie Black: As visual artist and author (The Butcher’s Daughter) Florence Grende explained to the attentive audience gathered in her living room last Sunday afternoon for the first in what might become a series of ekphrasis readings here in San Miguel de Allende, the term “ekphrasis” may be a relatively new entry in the Merriam Webster dictionary, but the practice – using vivid, often dramatic, words to comment on a piece of visual art – is actually ancient.

    “One of the earliest and most commonly cited forms of ekphrasis,” Florence told the group, “occurs in The Iliad, when Homer provides a long and discursive account of the elaborate scenes embossed on the shield of Achilles. It should be no surprise, then, that the term ekphrasis derives from Greek, where it literally means ‘description.’”

    Although, generally speaking, virtually any type of artistic medium may be the actor of – or the subject of – ekphrasis (that is to say, one medium’s attempt to illuminate another medium by describing its essence and in doing so relate more directly to the audience), the ekphrasis event at Florence’s focused on her vibrant abstract paintings, many of which are displayed throughout her home.

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  • Signs Of Change In The Climate Crisis

    Bonnie Black: San Miguel de Allende is a relatively small old colonial city here in the central mountains of Mexico, but it is big – really big – in beauty and culture, civic awareness, and global involvement.

    Take, for example, the Climate Action Rally held here on Friday (September 20) in the city’s central Parque Juarez. The event was bilingual, multicultural, and multigenerational. Hundreds of people – from toddlers to octogenarians – took part.

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    San Miguel de Allende also joined the world march, right now in Benito Juarez Park they are gathered. And foreigners and Mexicans sing together in one voice for the climate.
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    School children (clearly not all of San Miguel’s school children got the day off, though) held signs and sang “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine!” Older people wore T-shirts that read “Global Climate Strike” (in Spanish and English). Speakers from a dozen local environmental groups spoke passionately to the respectful gathering. One of the organizers led the group in a loud call-and-response: “Do not let our planet die!” — “Climate change is not a lie!”

    The WOW Factor: Signs Of Change In The Climate Crisis. More #WOWFactor.

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  • A City Wedding

    Bonnie Lee Black: ... I was privileged to attend another joyous Mexican wedding celebration, this one being in my adoptive home city, San Miguel de Allende, when Luis Andrés, the beloved son of my Spanish maestra, Edith, married his sweetheart, Diana.

    This celebration was held in the central banquet hall of the traditional Mexican restaurant Los Milagros on Relox in SMA’s el centro.

    For the meal’s first course, a hearty tortilla soup was served – the tastiest tortilla soup I’ve had so far in Mexico ... The main course was steak molcajete, which the man on my right, Edith’s brother, explained to me dated from Aztec times. This dish – served in a sizzling-hot volcanic-stone mortar, also called a molcajete — was a mixture of beef strips, nopales (cactus paddles), fresh cheese, roasted chilis, roasted onions, and salsa verde (green sauce), served with warm tortillas.

    Read the whole post at The WOW Factor: A City Wedding. More #WOWFactor.

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  • Tortilla Story

    OxBow Farm: How to turn Corn into Tortillas, Basic Recipe and Process


    Bonnie Lee Black: According to a Mayan creation myth, the gods went through a trial-and-error process in creating mankind.

    At first, they tried forming man from mud, but that wasn’t successful. This initial effort only resulted in a man that was weak and mindless and didn’t hold up in the rain.

    Then they tried making man from wood. This creature was stronger, but he lacked the spark the gods were looking for.

    Finally, after much discussion, the Mayan gods crafted man from corn, which provided him with strength, intelligence and agility. Thus, the human race was born.
    The WOW Factor Tortilla Story. More #WOWFactor.

    Have you ever wondered about how to make tortillas or tamales from scratch? It is a lot more work than using prepared Maseca. It’s an artform and it takes time. A lot of time. Our friends at Cal y Maiz specialize in heirloom corn, and showed us how to make masa at high altitude.

    The heirloom corn varieties Cal y Maiz works with are grown in the small state of Tlaxcala east of Mexico City. There are a variety of colors; white, yellow, pink, blue, black and red.
    How to Make Masa and Tortillas at High Altitude

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