Saturday, February 25, 2017

Celestun, Flamingos and Ojos de Agua

Our last tour was to Celestun, a small seaside town on the gulf of Mexico which was about a two hour ride from Merida. Celestun is famous for the flamingos that concentrate there from January to March. Surrounding the town is a national park which serves as a wetland preserve for the flamingos and other birds.

Here's a  video of our boat moving through a flock .  It doesn't give  a very good sense of how strikingly pink these birds are. Not like this interesting poster from the outside of a Merida hotel.

After the flamingo fiesta our boat unexpectedly entered a small opening in the mangroves at full speed.  This seemed to be a calculated move to give the tourists a thrill in case they weren't that excited by the cackling pink hordes.  The boat slowed down and glided silently through the mangroves.

We drifted to a narrow docking area and were shown an ojo de agua.  This is a place where fresh, clean water from the underground rivers which course through the Yucatan bubbles to the surface.  These freshwater ojos have a major impact on the ecosystem and also provide a fun place to swim.

Next post - Mexico City!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Cenotes, Haciendas, Dinosaurs and Circle K Health Food

We're back in Tucson after a long 13 hour day of travel yesterday.  Left hotel at 8 AM. Taxista Juan Jose drove us to the airport.  I sat in front seat so I could hear him better and practice my Spanish. We laughed a lot.  He said he spent 26 years in Charlotte NC building houses but still couldn't speak much English because he wasn't very smart.

Leon/Guanajuato airport very sleek and modern like all the other Mexican airports we've traveled through. Trip to Mexico City only took one hour on Interjet.  Interjet still provides free booze and lots of legroom.  Much better than the cramped Volaris flight we took from Merida to Mexico City.

Walk from arrival baggage area to American Airlines check-in was nearly two miles in a straight line over a slippery, highly polished marble floor.  American flight to Phoenix was an easy 3.5 hours. The hardest part was paying $50 to check our bags.  Arrgh!

Greeted in Phoenix Sky Harbor airport ("America's Friendliest Airport") by a purple coated, senior citizen volunteer shouting "CONNECTING FLIGHTS AND MAIN TERMINAL UP THE ESCALATOR".  We were looking for our baggage so we kept on walking straight.  He turned toward us and started yelling again "CONNECTING FLIGHTS AND MAIN TERMINAL UP THE ESCALATOR".  Dorothy tried to tell him we didn't have a connecting flight.  He got frustrated and yelled, "LADY THAT'S WHAT I'M TRYING TO TELL YOU BUT YOU'RE NOT LISTENING!"
Whew,...We went up the escalator.  Welcome back.

Rented a car in Phoenix and made the 2.5 hour, 75 mph, trip south to Tucson cruising on a caffeine buzz from an afternoon coffee.  Picked up some tequila, beer, chips, fried tortillas and a chicken salad sandwich at a Circle K in Marana.   Pulled into our very cool AirBnB fried and hungry. Chugged and chewed our way through the aforementioned Circle K provisions and crashed.

Which brings things to present wherein I'm realizing it's a hell of a lot easier to write about what happened yesterday than it is to try to capture what went on several weeks ago. But fools rush in...

I previously mentioned that while we were in Merida we went on three day long tours,  One was to the Mayan sites of Uxmal and Kabah which I've already written about.  The second tour was to Hacienda Yaxcopoil and to several cenotes.

The website link for the hacienda gives a pretty good overview but fails to mention that this and the other Yucatan haciendas (some 1000) which brought so much wealth to it's owners were made possible by the virtual slave labor of the local Mayan population.

Dorothy and Ferd at entrance to Hacienda Yaxcopoil
The hacienda, like virtually all of the Yucatan relies on cenotes to provide fresh water.

This hacienda is near the heart of the Chicxulub crater,  which was caused by a six mile wide asteroid slamming into the Yucatan 66 million years ago.  It's widely believed that the climate changes resulting from this impact led to the extinction of the dinosaurs.

The Wikipedia link on cenotes is very complete and interesting. It was a thrill to be able to swim in one.  The water was cool and clean and it felt magical to glide through an ancient, sacred place that glowed with light coming through a small entrance hole above.

Next post - Flamingos!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017


We're currently ensconced in a beautiful hotel in Guanajuato,  Quinta de las Acacias.  This feels way too luxurious for us but we'll try to endure it.  If you click on the link there is an option to view 360 degree pictures of  different parts of the hotel.  It'll give you a pretty good idea of the beauty of this place.

We've now been in Mexico for 21 days and will be flying to Phoenix in two days.  From there we'll visit our daughter in Tucson for four days and then fly back home on February 28.

So far we've spent twelve days in Merida,  six in Mexico City and four in Guanajuato. (Here's a video of Guanajuato street scenes.  Part of the video was taken while riding a funicular.  Last section are scenes from our hotel. Music is by the Nicaraguan duo Guardabarranco. The video link seems to want to start in the middle.  You may have to slide the button to the beginning)

We've done so much since my last post it's hard to know where to begin.  I'll use my photo file as a tool to help me remember key events and reactions.

Merida was hot (mid 90s) during the day but very pleasant mornings and evenings. Once again,  the most memorable thing about this town,  as is seems to always be in Mexico,  is the kindness and friendliness of the Mexican people.

Memorable activities included attending a first class concert at the Teatro Peon Contreras.  Pieces performed included works by Gershwin, Copland and Beethoven. Quality performances in a distinctive, beautiful, historic venue.  It seems every city we visit in Mexico has a very fancy turn-of-the-century teatro.  Here's a couple of pics of the Merida's version.

Much of our time in Merida was spent walking back and forth from the always interesting Plaza Grande in the cool of the  morning or evening.
Walking through the shade in Merida's Plaza Grande
We went on three day-long tours.  The first was to two Mayan archeological sites Uxmal and Kabah

Uxmal was a major Mayan center.  It's one of many complex, interesting sites throughout Mesoamerica.

During this trip I've developed a much better idea of what is meant by "Mesoamerica"  Much of this better understanding comes from our visit to the world class Museo Nacional de Anthropologia in Mexico City.  It helped me understand how the complex civilizations of Mesoamerica evolved and interrelated and gave me a sense of how deeply these indigenous cultures shape the Mexico's national identity.

In the U.S. Native American culture is much less of a factor because, unlike Mexico, most of our population has been generated by immigration.   This line of thinking led me to the conclusion that the main unifying identity in the U.S.,  the fabric that, in large part, gives shape and meaning to our nation, is our immigrant heritage,

Mexico seems to understand the importance of recognizing and honoring its historical roots while today the US finds its immigrant heritage being threatened as never before.  Opportunistic fearmongers  have spread a toxic cloud of fear, divisiveness and uncertainty that is causing many of our fellow citizens to turn their backs on this proud and important heritage.

Next post - flamingos, cenotes, and the big manzana.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Artful Greed

I haven't been writing despite a fairly serious commitment to do so.  Been blaming it on various culprits- Tropical heat and humidity induced sloth and torpor (Buddhist hindrances).  Hesitancy to face and perhaps surface barely repressed fear and anger re you-know-who. Plus a whole slew of other hollow excuses..

 My rationale for avoiding the keyboard seems to change with the mood du jour.  Today I think my writing is a pathetic, hollow gesture,  signifying nothing.  I'm  convinced that my progressively more desperate search for a true, personal, authentic voice will once again end up in a blind alley.   And how can anyone justify such self absorption during these dark days.  Yadayadayada.

I think this swirling down the toilet mindset has a lot to do, ironically, with our wonderful trip today to Merida's Museum of Contemporary Art. (MACAY).    It left me feeling, once again, staggered by the power of art and again convinced of the personal and social redemptive power that can be found in true self-expression. These artists were able to capture something fine and rare and then set it free to thrill the rest of us earthbound slobs.  What a gift to receive and give.  Why can't I leave it at that.  Having the opportunity to experience and be deeply moved by art should be enough. But here I am sullenly pecking at these keys, hoping for a shortcut to the transcendent.  Desire leading to dukkha once again.

Here's some of the art we saw today.

This was entitled "Torres Gemelos" (Twin Towers)

Sunday, February 5, 2017


Arrived in Merida Tuesday evening. Balmy, breezy 72 degrees at 7:30 PM. Dorothy said it felt like Hawaii..  On walk into terminal airport employees smiling and saying "Welcome" in English..  Airport terminal  all white marble, minimalistic, modern, sparkling clean. Visa process, customs, taxi to hotel all smooth and easy. Taxi driver, Julio, making point of how safe it is to walk streets of Merida.  Check into Hotel del Perigrino,  Walk a few blocks to Mercado 60 for late night snack and beer. Mellow, low-key vibe. Probably related to tropical climate.

We spent the past four Februarys in Oaxaca and that wonderful city is quite different.  Merida is almost at sea level with a tropical climate.  Oaxaca is much more temperate at about 5000 ft.  Merida's population is about 60% Mayan.  Oaxaca mainly Zapotec..  Streets here seem cleaner and better maintained with much less graffitti and street art.  More orderly and prosperous feeling.  People seem very open and friendly. Oaxaca more dynamic and edgy.  Food much more interesting in Oaxaca.

On Wednesday while walking through the centro historico we came upon the spectacular Teatro Peon Contreras. This ornate concert hall opened in 1907 when Merida reportedly had more millionaires than any city in the world  Fortunes were made through the henequen trade. Something I was totally unaware of before this trip. This "green gold" wealth came at the expense of Mayans who worked as slaves on the henequen haciendas much like the slaves on the plantations of the American South.  Many of the henequen millionaires built ornate mansions along the Paseo de Montego in Merida.  (you can see many of these if you scroll through the photos of the link).

We bought two tickets to a Sunday concert of Beethoven's Piano Concerto #1 and Gershwins's An American in Paris.  We then noticed an art exhibit at one end of the teatro.  This exhibit by Roy Sobrino was great fun and seemed to capture the vitality and passion of Mexico.  Here's a video about the art show with Linda Ronstadt music.

Well it looks like my commitment to not write a travelogue type blog isn't quite working out.  Oh well,

By the way,  Most people we've met from the states don't want to talk about Trump.  Kind of how I"ve been feeling too.  Tired of walking around with a knot in my stomach..I think this picture of the news being delivered fits pretty well.

Next post - Uxmal.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Riders in the storm

We're finishing up our week in Tucson and will be catching a plane to Merida, Mexico on Tuesday.

It's striking how different this trip is from last year's journey. At this stage last year it was all about hopeful, excited anticipation - looking forward to new and interesting experiences.  This year its much more about how to stay sane and responsibly engaged during an ongoing national nightmare. The crisis in our country is permeating everything and grows exponentially with each new executive order.  Today I sit in comfortable Tucson sunshine while refugees are being handcuffed and confined at airports across the country.  Christian refugees given priority entry.   Outrageous.

We attended the service at the Tucson Unitarian Universalist church  today.

The chair of the social justice committee read a Declaration of Conscience from the Unitarian Universalist Association and asked everyone to sign it.  I encourage you to read and sign.  Here's the link.

It felt good to be among UUs. especially when singing "Gather the Spirit" and "We Would Be One"  The opening song was "Turn, Turn Turn".  For every thing there is a season indeed.. The sermon title was "The Return of the Chaos Monster." (not who you think it is)

We've stayed at AirBnB places the last five times we've been in Tucson and they've all been unique and interesting. The place we're staying at now tops the bill. It's called the "Bohemian Art Apartment."  Our host is a wonderful, kind, considerate man named Wesley.  Here's a link about the apartment.  Wesley is a skilled iron worker and made most of the furniture we are using.  Our bedroom is decorated with some very interesting Guatemalan indigenous art as well as an assortment of other pieces.
This is the door leading into the apartment.

One of the perks Wesley throws in with the apartment rental is a ride in his rickshaw.  He took us on a romantic excursion to the Coronet Hotel where we saw our daughter Katie and her friend Ben play some wonderful music.

Thanks for reading and a special thanks to everyone who took the time to respond to my initial post.  

En la lucha,


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

You can run but you can't hide


Dorothy and I will be traveling for the next five weeks.  We are in Tucson this week and will head to Mexico (Merida and Guanajuato) for most of the month of February. We'll be back home March 1. Mexico should prove especially interesting this year.

I've had a couple of people (well one actually) ask whether I'd be doing blog posts during this trip like I did last year. Initially I didn't think I would.  In retrospect I was disappointed in last year's posts  Too much superficial travelogue and not enough reflection/analysis.  I think I was trying to make the posts more popularly appealing and in the process made them boring. At least to me anyway (and to one callous golfing buddy who had the nerve to tell me how uninspiring he found them.) 
This year I'm going to try to dig a little deeper into my thoughts and feelings.  I want to put more heart and soul into the writing and perhaps take more risks.  Watch out!
(I'm sending  this first entry out as an email.  Future ones can be found at

I've been looking forward to this trip as an opportunity to escape from the dark drumbeat that's been throbbing in my head since November 8.  It's becoming crystal clear to me that there's no way to run away from the Trump shit storm. Each day's news seems to up the ante. No way I can turn my back this time. And it seems a lot of other people are reaching the same conclusion.
The tremendously successful worldwide Women's March last Saturday was the first time I've felt hopeful since the election.

The big question now is what next? What are the most effective individual and group actions we can take to "protect and resist?"  What should be the short and long range plan?  Will the leadership continue to come from disparate issue focused groups or will a unifying umbrella organization be possible? What role will the Democratic Party play? What do we need to learn from the election? What needs to change in the progressive/liberal strategy?

I found the following two articles interesting and challenging.  Although I strongly disagree with some of the points made I think they raise some questions that can't be ignored if we are going to mount a successful alternative vision for our country. They shook up several of my assumptions and pushed me to reexamine priorities. Maybe they'll get you stirred up too.

(Reading some of the comments to the Brooks piece has been helpful. I will paste one of these below the article links.)

I will make an effort to make regular posts the my blog during the next five weeks.  I hope you will join me on this journey.

In faith,

The following is one of comments made in response to the David Brooks article cited above.

Kathy (primary care physician)

David, I hope that your column is just an attempt to move us on. While you watched the marches on TV- the signs and slogans, the hats, the speakers, the chants - you did not hear the conversations in the cars and the buses and rest stops on the way. Those conversations were about how did we come to this (even quoting some of your columns), how to reach those who are left out or feel disenfranchised, and what our next steps will be.
I do not think that the march will have changed anyone's mind about Trump, or their politics and may even deepen the chasm for some (hopefully only temporarily). But I do feel that it was successful as a call to arms and an energizing, uplifting challenge from the millions who participated, a way to state that those of us who value "pluralism, dynamism, racial and gender equality and global engagement" are not alone and that America still has the values that made my parents immigrate here.
We were compelled to march-traveling miles, sleeping on floors- these are not people who just want to feel good for a day. There will be more to come. There will be reaching out, there will be networking, there will be reflection and conversations, there will be the building of new and stronger networks in many communities that focus on inclusion and support those values.
A pretty good start.