Queretaro

Santiago de Queretaro es una cuidad con mucha historia, cultura, y belleza…

Three days in Santiago de Queretaro, the capital city of Queretaro, is not enough time to experience all its history, culture, and beauty. A Unesco World Heritage site, the city central remains a pristine jewel of Baroque and neoclassical structures, with world class music in a variety of styles heard on every plaza and jardin, masterful handicrafts, and gardens tastefully landscaped with jaw-dropping tropical flowers. Known by the 17th Century as the “Pearl of the Bajio,” S de Queretaro continues to flourish to this day. It is recognized as having the highest quality of living and is the safest city in all Mexico.

Like Dolores Hidalgo, Queretaro boasts a historic role in Mexico’s struggle for independence. Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez, wife of Queretaro’s Mayor in the early 1800’s, is revered as the Mother of Independence. Using her prominent position and influence to gather intelligence, her home was used to plan and support the insurgency which resulted in Hidalgo’s “el Grito,” cry for independence in Dolores Hidalgo, launching Mexico’s struggle for independence against Spain.

Each city block contains mostly restored and preserved Colonial buildings and churches, each grander than the last. The main streets, along with the andadoras, (pedestrian walkways), are lined with plazas, gardens, fountains, open-air cafes, street artists, and musicians in colorful arrays of rich culture to saturate one’s senses.

Ink drawing

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San Luis Potosí

Last night we returned from a weekend in the colonial city and capital seat of San Luis Potosí. Founded in 1592, El Centro abounds with stunning architecture in a variety of styles including Moorish domes, ornate Baroque, and stately neo-classical, (to name just a few). Named a Unesco World Heritage site, the city appeals to both visitors’ and citizens’ aesthetic senses. El Teatro de Paz, a palatial neoclassical period theater, seats 1200 patrons. World-class museums abound, including Museo de la Mascara, a three story, fully restored Baroque government building, exhibiting masks from around the world. Lavish cathedrals, encircled by manicured gardens, elegant plazas, and tinkling fountains dot each city block . La Calzada de Guadalupe, a tree-lined pedestrian boulevard, leads the faithful from El Centro to the Basilica de Nuestra Senora Guadalupe. Music is celebrated throughout the streets. We were treated to open air opera arias, Latin jazz fusion, Chicago blues with a Mexican twist, a kids’ percussion band complete with homemade instruments, and traditional Mexican music. The International Chocolate festival, running the weekend we visited, featured some of the best chocolate I have ever eaten, along with beautiful chocolate sculptures and displays, all housed in a sumptuous neoclassical edifice from the 1800’s.

A weekend in the city of San Luis Potosí is not nearly enough time to explore all the city has to offer. We are already planning a return trip next year.

Plaza Aranzazu; ink drawing

Check out this travel guide with photos: San Luis Potosí

Dolores Hildalgo, Guanajuato

La cuna de la independencia………..the cradle of Mexican independence

We spent last weekend in Dolores Hildalgo, where the Mexican struggle for independence began. Our hotel room overlooked the Gran Jardin de Independencia Plaza Principal and the famous church, Nuestra Senora de los Dolores. It was on the steps of this church that Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costello uttered his famous cry for independence on September 16, 1810, sparking the beginning of Mexico’s struggle for independence. Known as el Grito de Dolores, each Mexican president reenacts the cry on the eve of Independence Day. Benito Juarez later declared the plaza be dedicated to Father Hidalgo. Around 10PM Sunday night, a multimedia presentation was projected on the facade of the church. With our balcony, we had the “best seats in the house!”

We visited many historical sites and museums. Dolores Hidalgo ciudadanos are justifiably proud of their city. To share the history, all museums are free. The city is also well known for its colorful Talavera ceramics- both blueware & polychrome. We bought several pieces for the kitchen and patio.

Ink drawing of the park: my inspiration was to capture the variety of interesting Mexican trees. I couldn’t find anyone to tell me the name of the tall cypress-looking trees. In Mexico, one sees a vast variety of topiary. Drawing the spiral shape was interesting.

Tomorrow we leave for San Luis Potosí. Up early, we will catch a bus to Leon at 8AM, then get a second bus to SLP, arriving around 2PM.

Mas Color

Raining down the hillsides of Guanajuato is a riot of color, as depicted in the painting posted yesterday. The joyful colors permeate city life and culture. Everywhere it is expressed in art and song by los ciudadanos de Guanajuato. Valentine’s Day inspired the posted collage. (Mixed media: watercolor, ink, ephemera, old-style cinco centavo)

What a big surprise to learn that Valentine’s Day is celebrated en masse with colored lights and/or balloon displays throughout the barrios. The whole city turns out to celebrate with padres giving ninos small gifts of heart-shaped candies, balloons, and toys; sweethearts exchanging flowers and huge stuffed animals; families receiving blessings of small crosses on foreheads given by the parish priests; restaurants and bars hosting special dinners and live music; and plazas filled with families eating al fresco at the numerous pop up eateries.

The centerpiece of my collage features an invitation to El Midi Bistro. We enjoyed a three course meal with champagne while serenaded to the sounds of French cafe music in the style of Edith Piaffe.

The preview showcases la Virgen de San Juan de Los Lagos. After witnessing the pilgrimage from San Miguel de Allende, I became interested and did some research into the Candlemas Festival and pilgrimage of San Juan de los Lagos. The town is visited by over two million pilgrims each Candlemas. While in San Miguel, we were awakened at 6AM by 1,000 or more of the faithful, singing, and carrying banners and a statue on their way to San Juan de Los Lagos. From my research, I learned the statue is a representation of the Virgin de Los Lagos. The original statue is just 2′ tall, wears elegant gold trimmed clothing, a gold Byzantine crown, and stands on a crescent moon. With a new awareness, I began to see the Virgin in many places. While walking in the Pastita Barrio, I noticed her image in ceramic tiles on a modest house. (See Pastita Barrio). According to legend, in 1623 a young acrobat, a girl of seven, fell and impaled herself on daggers. The bereft family brought her to the chapel in preparation for burial. The church caretaker, Ana Lucia Antes placed an old statue of the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception with the body, instructing the family to keep their faith and pray with her. Within an hour, the lifeless body began to stir. Her father unwrapped the shroud to discover his daughter alive and unscathed. News of the miracle spread, and the 90-year old tattered statue, made of plastered cornmeal and orchid juice was sent to Guadalajara to be restored. Miraculously the statue arrived fully restored and has remained in pristine condition to this day. Today, the faithful make pilgrimages to the Virgin throughout the year, with thousands walking, even crawling or being pushed in wheelchairs, throughout Mexico to San Juan de los Lagos during the Candlemas celebrations. (Read the whole story here: Virgin de Los Lagos)

Many walls and casas are adorned with ceramic plaques telling their histories. My favorite is the plaque from the Prussian Consulate of 1864. I used two motifs from different plaques in my collage.

Colorful cut paper banners, called “papel picado,” are hung during celebrations, (also see Papel picado). Walking through a papel picado strewn street, one can’t help but feel festive.

Flowers abound in Mexico. The flowers in my collage came from a mural in one of the small family restaurants where we shared breakfast with friends. Last night for Valentines Day, flower vendors were set up on every plaza. I bought mine from the florist on Plaza de Embajadores. I made a new friend, as we discussed the joys of working in a flower shop, a job I held many years ago. I left with a hug, a kiss, and a exquisite bouquet. As I arranged them in water, I marveled at their exotic beauty and ready availability.

From murals to street art; graphic design to folk arts; indigenous clothing to painted houses; music to theater; food to flowers, Guanajuato abounds with “de colores.”

Guanajuato Color

The city of Guanajuato is a Unesco World Heritage site, named for its opulent Baroque and Neoclassical buildings, elegant plazas, and abundant theaters, museums, and galleries. Over and above, (quite literally) the rich heritage in Zona Central Historical, the city’s innate expression of color manifests itself in vibrant markets and neighborhoods. The city sits in a “valley bowl” with bright houses crammed into the steep slopes, ringing the city, and coloring the hillsides.

“Guanajuato Color” watercolor 16″ x 20″ $350

Mexican love of color is expressed everywhere from folk arts, to charming business signs and posters, to flower-filled balconies overlooking every street and callejon. (Stay tuned…….I have a post planned for this theme. Today is Valentines Day. Our landlady just gave us a most charming invitation to her restaurant for a special dinner and musical evening. “Musica Francesa” will feature French cafe-style music, in the vein of Edith Piaffe, one of my favorite singers. Our reservation is for 7:30).

Museo & Casa de Olga Costa & Jose Chavez Morado

Today we visited the Museo de Olga Costa-Jose Chavez Morado. Artists Costa & Chavez Morado shared a partnership of art and marriage. The museum is Costa and Chavez Morado’s former home and studio, which they donated to the city of Guanajuato, along with their art collection. On display is a rich collection of ceramics, (both pre-Hispanic and 20th Century local talavera), furniture, masks, textiles, and their own artworks. Across the courtyard, exhibitions of rotating contemporary art is shown. Learn more: Olga Costa & Jose Chavez Morado

To find the museum, one walks along the picturesque Rio Pastita, which parallels Calle Pastita in the Pastita Bario. Along the route is the old Colonial-era aqueduct. Costa and Chavez Morado converted a massive old well into their home and studio. Based on the shape of the back walls, I imagine the artists removed the original back part of the well to build additional walls and enlarge their living/studio space. This back area opens to lovely gardens and a spacious courtyard.

Ink drawing: old well beautifully converted to artists’ home & section of old aqueduct

A Sampling of Guanajuato Lamp Posts

Los postes de la lampera son en el estillo de Beaux Arts.

During Mexico’s Porfiriato period, the arts blossomed. Under Diaz, Guanajuato became known as the Paris of the New World. In Guanajuato, neoclassical architecture and ornamentation abound, as seen at Hildalgo market, Teatro Juarez, and Plaza de la Paz, among numerous other sites throughout the city. Along with the neoclassical architecture came corresponding ornamentation, including monuments, park benches, and street lights, all in the Beaux Arts style. A very good explanation of Porfirio Diaz, architecture, and the Beaux Arts can be found here: Porfiriato Architecture

Dragon lamp posts found in the small park on Paseo de la Presa just below the large park, Olla de la Presa.

Beaux Arts architecture and ornamentation is characterized by formal design and elaborate ornamentation. This is clearly seen in the surviving lamp posts found throughout Centro Historico, which appear in abundance with much diversity within the genre. Illustrated in ink are four different varieties.

Two examples found on Calle Cantarrana, (Singing Frog Street): wall mounted lamp post shows corresponding neoclassical architecture. Free standing lamp post has the same design elements as the dragon street light; it is easily seen how elements are varied to create the different themes.

In the preview illustration, one sees the deep sculptural relief of the cast iron on this very typical Guanajuato street lamp.

Last year I came across delightful street lamps in Tonala, Mexico fashioned after bees! See them here: Street Lights of Tonala

Enjoy Vidur Sahdev’s lovely poem: “Light a lamp for yourself tonight…”

Colorful Hillside

From above the classical theaters and baroque churches crammed within the labyrinthine alleyways of the city center, haphazard stacks of sherbet-colored houses rise along the hillsides in perfect disorganization…..Moon Guide to Guanajuato, p. 123 San Miguel de Allende, including Guanajuato & Queretaro, Julie Meade

This perfect description draws me to paint the city. Small watercolor 6″ x 9″ on Arches cold press watercolor block using my new Koi pocket field sketch box of pan watercolors and small travel brushes. The brushes and pan colors took some getting used too.

A Night at the Symphony

Una noche en la sinfonia, Teatro Juarez, Guanajuato……Viernes 2 de febrero, 2018

Every since seeing Guanajuato’s crown jewel, the Juarez Theater during my visit last year, I have been wanting to attend a performance. Friday night was the season opener for Orquesta Sinfonica de la Universidad de Guanajuato. The name is somewhat misleading, as it is not a student orchestra. It is Mexico’s most prestigious orchestra: a full symphonic orchestra with accomplished residential and invited international musicians, soloists, and conductors.

The neo-classical jewel was commissioned by President Porfirio Diaz, reflecting his opulent tastes. It features twelve Doric columns with brass capitals, supporting a cornice topped with a row of black stone muses. The ornate lamp posts illuminate the theatre in an elegant glow. The interior is every bit as spectacular as the exterior promises. The bar and lobby gleam with carved wood, stained glass, and precious metals. Heavily influenced by Moorish design, the Gran Salon Auditorio dazzles with elaborately carved wood and stucco relief, painted brilliant tones of red, blue, and gold.

Designed by Antonio Rivas Mercado, work began in 1873, finished in 1903, and inaugurated by Diaz in 1910 with a performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida. (Pictured: Auditorium before the performance, as people were finding their seats). The 2018 Apertura de Temporada began with Johann Strauss, The Bat Overture. Sitting in sumptuous elegance with strains of classical harmonies washing over me, I felt I was transported in time, (and perhaps even place to nineteenth century Vienna). Next on the bill was Dvorak, Concert for Violin Opus 53, with invited soloist Karen Su. After intermission, the performance resumed with Gustav Mahler’s Symphony #1 in E Major, Titian. I was very moved by this innovative piece that continued to build through all four movements.

The performance was preceded by a lecture by the conductor, Roberto Beltran Zavala in the upstairs salon. The art nouveau salon is complemented by more neoclassical carved wood, gold, and marble architectural details. The floor is glass block, enhancing the airy, light-filled environment. It was the Art Nouveau Salon that inspired my collage, which appears in the preview above this post. Ink and ephemera from the night: playbill; theater ticket, bus ticket, & found-text.

Una Calle en la Zona Mineral

The narrow streets of Guanajuato invite exploration. Winding enticingly, they beckon me to see what is around the next bend. This street in in the neighborhood, Zona Mineral, the mineral zone. The mines are much farther up the mountain; I am not sure how this neighborhood got its name. Guanajuato mines still produce tons of silver and smaller amounts of gold. We came upon this street after visiting the Alhondiga de Granaditas. It is just up the street.

La Alhondiga de Granaditas was originally built as a granary, but only functioned about ten years in that capacity. It was the site of the original uprising led by Hidalgo for Mexican Independence on 28 September 1810. After the uprising, it went through many incarnations, before finally becoming a museum. Today one finds schools and streets named 28 Septiembre all over Mexico.

Ink drawing