Thorns, browns and key rings

Stems with leaves of Pithecellobium dulce , Ma...

Thorns, but maybe not miracle thorns (Photo credit: Vietnam Plants & America plants)

Seasonably, but unusually, cold and overcast. On the way to the convent a man sitting on a doorstep prophetically asked if I was from Australia. Later it occurred to me that I must have met him before, and that our last conversation ended the same way, with me saying nice to meet you in Spanish and hurrying off.

The waiting room at the convent had a green parrot sitting on top of a birdcage. The teenage assistant explained in English the charge was a tip now and a tip later to the guide. My tour was to be in English.

The elderly guide showed his party of one the mimosa plants that grow with brown thorns in the shape of a cross and small bumps where Jesus was crucified. We inspected the water system fed by the aqueduct, the above ground rainwater tank filled with meters of black water, the massive chimney that gathered the smoke of all kitchen fires into one vent. Afterwards I looked at the mimosa thorn artifacts for sale at the gift shop.

In the evening we went to eat fondue, drink red wine and listen to jazz in a converted fabric factory.

This day my teacher showed my photos of the current president’s Brady-bunch style family. I have heard rumours that he killed his former wife: an interviewer asked him how she died and he replied something like ‘oh, well, you know, she was sick and then she died…’.

This afternoon my friend worked from home so we went for crepes.

I finished reading Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, a book of tender feminine hopes. The mother says to Meg ‘To be loved and chosen by a good man is the best and sweetest thing which can happen to a woman, and I sincerely hope my girls may know this beautiful experience’.

At the wedding ‘Upon my word, here’s a state of things!’ cried the old lady… ‘You oughtn’t to be seen till the last minute, child.’ ‘I’m not a show, Aunty, and no one is coming to stare at me, to criticize my dress, or count the cost of my luncheon. I’m too happy to care what anyone says or thinks, and I’m going to have my little wedding just as I like it. John, dear, here’s your hammer.’ And away went Meg to help ‘that man’ in his highly improper employment.

My friend had written to me that the feeling of someone else choosing to love you is probably the nicest feeling there is. So it seems a violence to squash it once allowed to flourish despite whatever the error. Seeker Lover Keeper has a modern attitude in the song If the night is dark: ‘I might be right, I might be wrong, but I have no regrets to lean upon’.


Feasting with the virgin

English: Oil Painting on canvas, of Virgin de ...

English: Oil Painting on canvas, of Virgin de Guadalupe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today is the Virgin’s Day in Mexico, and this explains the ‘gun shots’ all night for days on end, actually they are firworks. Luckily.

This is what I know about the Virgin of Guadalupe which I have taken from a gratis tourist guide for the city of San Miguel de Allende:

According to legend, a beautiful dark-skinned young woman appeared surrounded by light to a young native Aztec, Juan, who believed her to be the Virgin Mary. The site was Tepeyac, home of a temple to the Aztec Mother Goddess Tonántzin, which Spanish conquistadors had razed. Speaking in Juan’s native tongue Náhuatl, the virgin asked Juan to build a temple on that site in her honour, and in return she would always care for and protect Mexican people. Juan asked the Bishop but the Bishop did not believe him. The virgin appeared three more times, and again and again the Bishop did not believe him.

On the fourth time, the virgin asked Juan to go up a hill and gather roses growing there. It was the middle of winter, but Juan found roses blooming that he had never seen before. He presented them to the Bishop who recognised them as Castillian roses that grow only in Spain. Then the roses started to cascade from Juan’s cloak, and the virgin herself appeared. The Basilica de Guadalupe now stands where the virgin asked Juan to build the church. And Juan’s cloak, made from agave fibres, is still intact which is also considered a miracle.

And now, to directly quote the tourist guide:

‘The Virgin of Guadalupe unified two disparate worlds. The native Mexicans identified the dark Virgin who spoke the native language Náhuatl with the goddess Tonántzin, who they could once again honour and worship within the Catholic Church. The Spanish identified her with the Virgin of Guadalupe from Extramuda in Spain, who had been venerated by the faithful since 1300. The Church acknowledged Our Lady of Guadalupe as the Patroness of Mexico. Her image, neither purely Indian nor purely Spanish became a symbol for the united Mexico, a country born of the melding of the two. Her blend of indigenous and European features is the face of modern Mexico and modern Mexicans.’

Today millions of people set out from all over Mexico on foot, donkey, bus, plane to make a pilgrimage to the Basilica (and apparently cause havoc downtown). We drove to San Miguel and I was disappointed not to see any pilgrims, although my friend, who was driving, was not.

The likeness of the virgin adorns taco stands to t-shirts, so I’m on the lookout.

Postscript: The BBC has a photo-series of pilgrims gathering to honour the Virgin of Guadalupe.