Archive | June, 2009

Cuernavaca: City of Ravines

19 Jun

Cuernavaca: a city of ravines.¨Upper¨ and ¨lower¨ class is literal. Well, not always, but mostly.

Walk up certain hills, and you´ll see mansions and flowering trees.¨The city of eternal spring¨ is Cuernavaca´s motto, and there is nearly always some kind of flower in bloom.

The people in these fancy houses are often people who left Mexico City for bigger houses and courtyards, some imitating the tiled domes of Spain. Unlike Mexico City, we have enough water for some people to have swimming pools.The modern convent of the Guadalupanas del Cristo el Rey is here at the top as are some language schools.

It´s good ground to avoid earthquakes like the one that ripped Mexico City apart in the 80s. Granted, land at the very top of some of these hills is looser and cheaper judging from what my host mother Alicia told me.

Okay, time to go down to the middle ground where I am now. Here you find small-shopkeepers with painted signs, good for if you need anything.

Walk down a flight of stairs into a ravine. Available space, if it´s there, often gets used for chickens. People come here from the countryside. Many will wind up in the U.S. eventually. The ravines actually look kind of picturesque from a distance because of their greenery and general wildness compared to the rest of the city.

At far bottom you hit the rivers that carved out the ravines. The ravine-bottom is nice and shady, but you´ll get a headache if you stand down there for too long. Black rivers carry sewage that washes down from all the layers above. Usually the rivers flow with suds. Just imagine the combined fecal and garbage smell. I can´t show it. The worst of these ravines don´t even have roads at the bottom, meaning that the people who live there have to climb stairs.

Foreigners (except for me) avoid the ravines with the exception of the San Anton waterfall, which is awesome despite not being clean. It´s a bit different from other ravines in that it´s more or less one of the nicer parts of town.

The city as it stands now grew in a jumbled way out of Cuanahuac the pyramid site of the Tlahuica (meaning ¨They who work the land”). The Tlahuica were among Moctezuma´s loyal taxpayers. They built their temples near Cuernavaca’s modern center. Cortez had slaves rip them apart to build a castle for himself. His castle still stands at the city’s center.

The Palacio de Cortez as it’s called has a mural by Diego Rivera inside of it. The mural shows Cortez invading, destroying the Aztec Empire, and installing himself and the Spaniards on top. It’s beautiful in spite of showing the divides of wealth and race. Cuernavaca itself is much the same way.

Palm Weaving

9 Jun

My relationship with the summer program is a little different from other students.I do go with them sometimes, but only when it´s something that I hadn´t done during the spring program, usually. One of our excursions last week was just down the street to visit some women from an indigenous village who were staying there to sell baskets and other woven goods in Cuernavaca. They taught us how to weave their style of palm baskets as well.

They talked about life in their town and relationships with their husbands. I won´t go into that too much because I hate to be the white man criticizing the norms of indigenous society. I will say that they thought the location of houses in Cuernavaca next to the cemetery was problematic due to their own belief in ghosts.

For them, their artisan work is very much an art, because it requires time and effort, just as much in their opinion as painting or engraving (which we discussed) particularly with the harvesting of plants.

5 Jun

Despite saying earlier that this will not just be a tourist blog, I will sometimes review various tourist attractions in the area here. People may just want more information about these places. Some of them (certain museums for instance) have long histories associated with them, which can be revealing.

Old haciendas in modern Mexico have become any number of things. In central Mexico especially, many had to divide their lands under beloved President Lazaro Cardenas, while being allowed to keep their houses.This particular one is now a water park.

Yeah, you heard me right. A water park. The old walls and the house are now parking lots and a cafeteria (which was not open). The slides and pools are out in what was once the fields. We actually went as a class with the summer group, mostly just to see the style in which Haciendas are built. (This was actually our second class trip with the summer group so far. I´ll get to the first one with Universal in Mexico City later).

I slid down two slides, both fun and both tunnel slides. I coasted in the wave pool and swam in a pool which had some of the old arches still over it. It was a great chance to get to know the new students more too.

Most of the slides weren´t open though. They try to conserve water on week days, which are, for that reason, cheaper to get in. Some travel bloggers would tell you that this conservation is a bad thing. I disagree. Sure, I may have wanted to do more of the slides, but water is a precious resource here in central Mexico. For that reason, I´m not sure how I feel about us having so many water parks nearby.