Monday, October 27, 2014

Halloween (revisited)


This piece, originally titled Jack o' Lanterns, was one of my very first on this blog years ago and remains one of my favorites. I reposted it again on Halloween several years back since my readership was so low virtually no one read it the first time. My blog output is slow these days, so here I repost it for those who have not read it before.


Three years ago on a weekend off from teaching in the summer course at San Ildefonso Tultepéc, in the state of Querétaro, I took a hike on the outskirts of a tiny nearby pueblo named El Cuisillo. It's located close to the border between Mexico and Querétaro states. That makes it about equidistant from the towns of AmealcoQuerétaro and Aculco, Mexico, along a two-lane highway that in two or three hours takes you, if you flag down and jump aboard one of the dusty buses that occasionally passes by, from this very small place to the world's largest metropolis.

The people of El Cuisillo are very shy but friendly. In keeping with that spirit, it is an unpretentiously scenic walk along roads and paths through their land. From hilltops you can glimpse distant rock formations, ravines and cliffs, and the occasional small house with cornfield, or perhaps far away a small child with a stick trying to goad a slow-moving cow out to pasture. There are some interesting pre-hispanic ruins in the area. The ruins are just there. There is no visitor center with bored security guard, you'll fend off no vendors selling fake artifacts and bottled water, and you need not heed any "do not climb" signs nor thoughtfully consider pedantic interpretive plaques of questionable interest. There is no one else around; you can enjoy the quiet and imagine yourself the explorer.

For some reason here, I suppose it's the stillness of the air and the rock formations reflecting sound waves, once in awhile I mysteriously hear clear voices and laughter but see no people. Perhaps they are hiding in the bushes and watching this strange foreigner smiling and whistling to himself, writing in a little book and taking pictures of things that seem to them very ordinary and mundane. Perhaps, as many acquaintances of mine in Barrow, Alaska will attest, the "little people" do exist, and maybe they live here, too. It certainly seems like a place they would appreciate. It may be a mystery I will never solve, and I like that. I've walked in the vicinity many times over the years and always find something new to do or see. It's a place I have visited with others, but mostly I like to wander here alone.


Many of the families in the region are indigenous Otomí, like these boys, and live a subsistence way of life near the poverty line. Besides keeping some animals and planting a small garden and milpa, or cornfield, some families make fired-clay products to produce cash income. The area produces a lot of these ceramics, such as pots, planters, platters, small replica churches and houses, sun plaques and other decorative, kitchen and garden items. Apparently someone in the area realized that with well in excess of 20 million persons living within a couple of hour's drive, there might be a market for jack o' lanterns. It seems like every clay workshop produces them. Halloween is not a tradition in Mexico, but some families do observe the day.

When I passed by their house the boys ran up to the road with arms full of "calabazas," or

pumpkins, for sale. I purchased two at the asking price of about a dollar each. I managed somehow to get them back to Mérida in my luggage without breakage. They have served me well now for three Halloweens. I have yet to receive a trick-or-treater at my door, but if one comes, I am ready.

Happy Halloween.

13 comments:

  1. A post diginitely worth repeating. Thanks. Looking forward to reading more about the new house.

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    1. Peter, I was busy with one renovation project and my eventual home is still in the planning stages. It all takes time. I'll post about it as things get interesting.

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  2. That was a lovely story. Happy Halloween.

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    1. Thanks, Shannon. It's always nice to receive your comments.

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  3. Great post, but I'm sure a number of us are eager to hear more about your no-longer-quite-so-new house.

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Which is a great place to spend Halloween.

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    Replies
    1. Kim, as I mentioned when I replied to another comment above, it all takes time. And after being very busy for months I am taking it a little easier right now...hoping to have time to get this blog back on a more regular post schedule.

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    2. As someone who lives in a house that he renovated in the late 90's, I totally understand how much work it can be. As for regularly publishing blog posts, let's not even go there, LOL.

      ¡Buena Suerte!

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  4. Carlos and I miss your posts! But we'll be there soon as we just got our visas in Miami!

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  5. No trick-or-treaters? I would think that Merida would be the perfect venue, since it's so flat and easily accessible.

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  6. I read this post previously, and enjoyed it just as much the second time around. A very well written essay... as is most everything on your blog. Hope to see more posts when life is a little less hectic for you.
    Saludos,
    Bill

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  7. Nice to see this again. Nice to see you again.

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  8. He y Marc hope youre doing well! Ive always enjoyed reading every post. Hope youre relaxing in a hammock and enjoying the simple life! No new updates have gotten me to delve into my own Yucatan planning. Take care!

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    Replies
    1. All's well. I am just a little busy and taking a break from the blog. I'll get back to it at some point. Thanks for commenting.

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