More Mojigangas

Mojiganga in front of the Parroquia, San Miguel

Mojiganga in front of the Parroquia, San Miguel

Another Mojiganga, as these twenty foot tall papier maché puppets are called, the operator inside often given away by a large pair of workbooks appearing beneath the delicate skirt. Skeleton images, in all forms known as calacas, are generally depicted as joyous rather than mournful figures, often shown wearing festive clothing, dancing, and playing musical instruments to indicate a happy afterlife. This draws on the Mexican belief, originating in Aztec times, that death should be a fun occasion, although you may not have thought so if you were having your heart ripped out. Mexicans often say “se lo/la llevó la calaca” after a death, meaning “the calaca took him/her”. This one at a wedding. No further comment.

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The Guerrero Massacre

Shrine to the massacred Guerrero students on the steps of the Parroquia in San MIguel

Shrine to the massacred Guerrero students on the steps of the Parroquia in San MIguel

The massacre of 43 students by the authorities in the state of Guerrero on September 26 has sent shock waves throughout Mexico. Hopefully the widespread anger over this event may begin to nudge the country toward more accountability. The problem here is that you can get away with practically anything, particularly if you have the cash and the connections. That the local authorities carried this out with impunity is a damning comment on much of what is wrong with Mexico. Shrines like this one, on the steps of the Parroquia in San Miguel de Allende, have sprung up all over the Country.

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Mexico City Subway, Ten Squats a Ride

The Ten Suats a ride device, Mexico City (Photographer Unknown)

The Ten Suats a ride device, Mexico City (Photographer Unknown)

The Federal District government in Mexico City, as part of a campaign against obesity, is installing thirty motion-detector machines on which Metro riders can perform ten squats to get a free Metro or Metrobús ticket. This is going to be a boon for thin, young, healthy people who can still do squats. Last time I tried it took a couple of good samaritans to haul me back up again.

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Back to Today

Taken on Mesones, San Miguel de Allende

Taken on Mesones, San Miguel de Allende

More or less fifty years on from the last two posts, this picture could just as easily have been taken back then. I wish I could understand Spanish well enough to listen to his story. He seems to have half the history of Mexico engraved in his weathered face.

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While We’re on the Subject

View along the Ancha, looking toward Las Monjas, San Miguel de Allende, 1963

View along the Ancha, looking toward Las Monjas, San Miguel de Allende, 1963 (Photographer Unknown)

Just fifty years ago, San Miguel was a very different place. Much of what we assume to be historic structures have been built since then, and some of them very recently. Here, in 1963, looking along Zacateros toward Las Monjas, from close to the location of “Hecho in Mexico” on the Ancha, we see more or less the edge of the City. The “Flatiron” site, now an Italian restaurant, was the garden to a recently completed and unusually tall three-story residence. Nearly all the buildings you can see, apart from the grand houses around the Jardin, just visible top right, are single storey. A thin ribbon of humble single-storey structures also ran along Canal down toward the river, and along the Ancha to just beyond the Instituto. Your nice little historic rental in San Antonio probably didn’t exist.

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Back to San Miguel, But Look Carefully

The Jardin, San Miguel de Allende, looking down Relox, in 1969

The Jardin, San Miguel de Allende, looking down Relox, in 1969

Again from the archives, an old Agfacolor slide, showing the colonnade in the Jardin in 1969 on my first visit here. Still almost indistinguishable from today other than for the food stalls between the columns. I think that dog is still there. In those days the bus dropped you off just to the left, right in front of the Parroquia. Many of the now familiar streets were unpaved, and if you had had the ready cash you could have made some smart investments and amassed a real-estate fortune.

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From the Archives: 1961

Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ, St Petersburg, Russia

Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ, St Petersburg, Russia

In 1961 I was very fortunate to be able to drive unrestricted, and without a guide, through the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War. Here, in St. Petersburg, then Leningrad, the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ, also known as the Church of the Savior on Blood (sic), is seen from the Griboyedov Canal. Although these old Agfacolor slides have faded a great deal since, some of the images have attained an almost hand-tinted look when scanned and the colors restored as best they can be in Photoshop.

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From the Archives: 1960

Sperlonga, Italy

Sperlonga, Italy

Sperlonga, a village poised on the top of a rocky crest on the coast, is located half-way down the boot of Italy, near the Via Appia and the Pontine Marshes. Site of the villa of the Emperor Tiberius, it is an amazing conglomeration of jigsaw structures forming what is essentially a single building housing hundreds of intertwining individual dwellings and stepped passageways. 2000 years ago, according to Tacitus, the roof of the grotto here collapsed while Tiberius was dining. Sejanus, having rushed to save Tiberius, was promoted by Tiberius in gratitude, launching Sejanus’ rise to power. Fifty-five years ago when I took this picture, and only ten years after the end of WW II, it was pretty much the same old place it always was. Nowadays, all restored and painted spotless white, it is a major holiday destination. Those little hovels up there probably now rent for a fortune.

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From the Archives: 1969

Rainbow, somewhere in the Midwest of the USA, 1969

Rainbow, somewhere in the Midwest of the USA, 1969

One of my major projects now is digitizing the tens of thousands of color slides taken over the years, and carefully stored in exactly the way they tell you not to. Nevertheless, with the help of a Nikon D5000 scanner, many have retained fairly good color. This taken nearly fifty years ago somewhere in the Midwest on a journey from New York to Mexico with a Nikon and a Westrogon 24mm wide-angle lens.

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Fall Color

Fall color, Sundown, New York

Fall color, Sundown, New York

The Fall colors have been wonderful this year, somewhat later than usual, and lasting for several weeks rather than several days which is more normal. Perhaps one of the few pleasant consequences of climate change.

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