Saturday, 17 April 2010


Saturday morning. Bliss! We can lie in Larry's four poster bed, don't have to go anywhere, and can read  'The Ascencion.' Not as fat as the Saturday Guardian but a good Gringo read nevertheless.
Yesterday, we took the first class bus, Primera Plus, to Guanajuato.  That's a hard one for us to pronounce so we've been using Guatanomo as a shorthand. I know, not very PC. We were sent off with a little bag of provisions by the hostess wishing us a safe journey. Well, she may have said something altogether different. We've been somewhat lax about listening to the Spanish tapes. Rhys has taken to writing down phrases like, 'Can you tell us where to get off the bus, please Sir?' which he tries to say, but when faced with a confused bus driver he shoves the paper in front of the driver's nose, and usually gets a 'Si,Si!' or a 'si,si', depending on how many other passengers are waiting patiently to board the bus or if he needs to get out his reading glasses.
 Rhys has taken to hooking his reading glasses and sunglasses onto the top of his shirt. It saves time but doesn't do him any favours in the cool department. Not that I can speak about looking cool either. In my straw hat, beads, long skirt and flat grubby canvas shoes with plaster marks on my heels I look like a throw- back to another generation, but an older round person also carrying a Nordic walking stick, very uncool.
Going back to learning Spanish, we're trying to learn the numbers but not with a great deal of success. The other day we managed to bargain upwards with a taxi driver. He must have thought we were right idiots.
This is beginning to sound like a Ronnie Corbett tall story or should I say, short story. That's not being sizist. I'm vertically challenged myself. 
Anyway, back to the journey to Guanajuato. It takes about an hour and a quarter across the gentle rolling hills of the Sierra Guanajuato scattered with cactus and I think (from the tree book we bought at the Jardin Botanico), Huizache chino and Mesquite and other unidentifiable (to us) shrubs & trees that grow in semi-arid conditions.
Guanajuato is a prestigious university town, and it was buzzing with young life doing young things: hanging out, chatting, smoking, laughing, shouting, making rude gestures,couples into each other on plaza benches and others sitting in the shade of food stalls, eating gorditos and enchilladas. We sat down with them and muscled in, eating from a stall for the first time since arriving. There must be a knack to eating hot filled tortillas. We managed to get chilly and tomato sauce all over ourselves. But that was the only consequence.
The city is shoe horned into a narrow ravine and a rainbow of square houses totter up the side of the hills. For centuries it was the wealthiest city in Mexico, its mines pouring out silver and gold. It's a UNESCO World Heritage Zone and there are no traffic lights or neon signs. It's laced with tunnels taking traffic in and out of the city. It is bursting with history. Our friend and local hero, 'El Pipilo' (Turkey Cock) is waving a light from the top of the city. Using a huge stone slab on his back for protection he blew up the door to the granary, helping the fight for independence, but dying himself in the process. Walking from shady plaza to plaza, up and down narrow streets, catching views of large colonial churches, peering up at wrought iron balconies, into small shops selling silver jewellery, the sun shining, a buzz of intellectual life- it felt like being in Nice- without the seaside.
 It is also the birth place of Diego Rivera and his house is a museum with a gallery of his paintings. Thirty odd years ago, in Battersea, I was involved in an action group trying to save a mural painted by local artist, Brian Barnes in the tradition of Rivera; a record of local life and aspirations, including the Wandsworth bus depo, where my father was an inspector. It was highly political in its local and national content. The local people loved it. The Morganite company, that owned the wall, hated it and wanted to demolish it so that they could sell the land for housing. Not for local people but for the gentry moving in from across the Thames. We even went to the High Court to save it but sadly the interests of big business won the day.
When I came to Wales, Rhys and I became involved in painting murals with local children. Diego Rivera has always been a hero of ours. His paintings are a great disappointment. They seem to imitate well known artists of his day, such as Braque and Matisse. They only start to become interesting, original and accomplished when the content is political and then you start to see his commitment, his energy and strength as a painter. If you're travelling this way I think you could pass over this museum. But, we can't wait to see his murals in Mexico City!. 

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