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May 5th 2008
Published: May 18th 2008
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The ancient aqueduct in Morelia, lit by night.
Alright, much to catch up on. Finally, the photos of Guanajuato, and a few from our trip to the beach. We all skipped a Friday of school and piled into our friend Antonio's mini-van and a rental car (9 girls and 3 boys total), and drove the 5 hours to Ixtapa. We opted for the cheapest lodging possible and found ourselves in the "less touristy" town of Zihuatanejo in a beautiful house with two floors and about 10 rooms. There were communal balconies and "sitting" rooms with a chair or two, and the rooms each had two double beds with rock hard pillows, a bathroom stall open to the room at the top, with the shower and toilet area continuous, so the sink and toilet also bathed when you did, and a ceiling fan, without which the room would have been suffocating. The house mother took a mean eye to us as soon as we arrived, perhaps due to the fact that a group of 9 gringas was accompanied by just 3 Mexican men. She was further bothered by our late nights and merry (aka loud) ways. When one of the rooms lost the single key we received, she didn´t
La playa.La playa.La playa.

Just to give an idea of the type of beaches we were at. Hotels, umbrellas, very touristy. But still fun.
try to hide her eagerness to see us leave. But we had a great time regardless, beaches, sun, good food, dances, many friends, the works.
We then took a week and a weekend to rest and enjoy our social scene here in Morelia. Many of us have been taking salsa classes at a club named, accurately, Casa de la Salsa, which I can never seem to say right, and always talk about the Salsa de la Casa, as if I were ordering the house sauce. Our instructor Gabby is direct import from Cuba and, if I can be blunt, is smoking. She a little full figured, but still wears tight dresses and heels, and rips apart the less than adequately sized dance floor. She is complemented by a young man named Evel, who, with only a year of experience under his belt, and at only 19 years old, leads our class and comes around to help the men. We went to Casa on Friday to dance and to cheer him on as he and his 17-year-old girlfriend tied for first in the weekly Salsa competition. One day I mentioned to him that I wanted to learn jumps and flips,

The cousin of one of my fellow students came with us. This is the first day, after many drinks, singing and dancing along with a rent-a-singer.
and he spent the next 15 or so minutes with me working on a move where I have to jump in his arms and then spin myself 360 in a barrel roll back into the same position. I was pretty thrilled, but I let him take a break after a while seeing as he isn´t a very big guy, and I´m not as petite as the other girls he has to flip around. Still, I left that class feeling on top of the world. The next night, however, I returned to tell Gabby that I felt ready to learn more stuff, and she told me I still had to work on my form. At first I was totally shocked and knocked back, because I had felt I was doing really good, but after she explained to me a little more, I began to understand that in this dance, the woman performs as a queen, constantly upright, even as her feet and hips and shoulders are moving. The men, on the other hand, can groove down, acting more aggressive as they bend at the hips to dance. Once I understood the concept, it didn´t take long, seeing as all I had
La Feria.La Feria.La Feria.

The "state fair" went on for about 3 weeks a little ways outside of Morelia. We went one night. This is the only ride I went on...jumpin´
to do was act like I was regal and on top of the world. All my other friends are doing really well also, and enjoying themselves immensely. Casa is the perfect place to meet genuine friends, because they´re all there to dance, so there´s not as much false pretenses as at the other clubs, where teenagers go to get wasted and forget their insecurities. The casual feel of Casa de la Salsa brings back the same patrons, all with the same casual attitude, it feels like a community. So what if the drinks aren´t that strong, and the waiters can be pretty impatient, and once in a while you see a cucaracha scrambling across the floor, it´s worth it.
Yesterday, we took a day trip to see Uruapan, another city in Michoacan, which produces most of the avocados for the state. There is a beautiful national park where a spring feeds a water system that winds and dives through the tropical vegetation, and eventually supplies the people of the city and other cities with pure water. The spring itself arises from a place called El Rodillo del Diablo, (the devil´s knee). As legend goes, the devil at one time

The murals in Mexico are culturally very symbolic, telling stories of oppression and history. This mural is in the stairwell of the museum in Guanajuato.
was living in the land, and so placed a curse that prohibited the water from flowing. The townspeople eventually brought in a priest to eradicate the devil. As the devil was running away, he tripped and hit his knee on a rock, creating the crack that let the water flow once again. The architecture in the park contains walkways, bridges, and fountains of stone, all which add a rustic beauty to the already natural wonders, such as clear water, and amazing vegetation.
After Uruapan, we headed to another town called Anguahuan, which sits next to an immense lava flow created by El Paricutín, a volcano, which, in 1943, started as a crack in level ground, and after only 11 days, had grown to 165 meters, and covered two cities, nearby Paricutín, and San Juan, 5 kilometers from the fracture. From Anguahan, there are horses to rent to take you down the trail to the beginning of the lava. Some of us chose to walk, and after about 40 minutes we arrived at the lava, also a staging area for small tiendas selling local crafts, and food cooked over open flame. The short scramble over lava rock took us to

Another angle of the stairway mural in Guanajuato.
the only evidence that we were standing on a city, the towers and alter of the church of San Juan. In the distance is the volcano itself.
After a short time of testing our courage by climbing around the towers and down into the dark entrance of the church, we ate tacos and quesadillas made with blue corn tortillas and salsa ground in a mortar and pestel. The locals in this town still speak their native P´urepecha, and Spanish is also a second language for them, and the common language between us. Then, some mounted their trusty steeds, and we headed back to the bus. We were all grateful for the rest that night brought, since most of us had only gotten 2-3 hours of sleep between salsa dancing all night and waking up at 6 to go to Uruapan. It was rejuvenating, however, to be out of the city and walking around national parks and volcanoes, where the culture is more traditional than westernized, and you here more birds than cars. Next weekend is Mexico City for three days, and then only two more weeks and we´re done with our program. I feel driven now more than ever

Portion of the mural depicting the slave trade, which was just as big in Mexico as other places, although since then most of the Africans have migrated to the coast.
to take advantage of my time here as much as my energy will allow. Until next time, take care, and much love.

Additional photos below
Photos: 30, Displayed: 26



Native artifacts on display in the museum. This basin is lined with small clay skulls. We were supposed to pay $3 for taking photos...supposed to. I guess I forgot:)

Little goddess statues, just for you mom.

Arched supports of the tunnels that run under the city.
Callejón de Besos.Callejón de Besos.
Callejón de Besos.

This city is beautiful in it´s alleys, which are small and winding, and only for foot traffic. This one in particular carries a legend of a maiden who would kiss her lover across the balconies, and, since he was of a lower class, she was killed by her father. There are children here who you can pay to tell the story. Some of the boys rent themselves out to kiss on the third step, as is tradition.
La universidad.La universidad.
La universidad.

The university of Law, and all of us. We actually got to the top of all those steps. I can´t imagine being a student there.

At the top of the city.

The ride we took to the top of the city. A gondala on a steep hill.

The statue at the top of the city. This man helped the revolution by breaking into the fortress, once a grain storage, then a prison, now the museum, where all the hacienda owners were taking refuge. He carried a large stone on his back to brave the bullets, and lit the door on fire.
The girls.The girls.
The girls.

A few of us at the top of the city.
Don Quijote.Don Quijote.
Don Quijote.

At the museum of Don Quijote. His legend originated in Spain, but due to the works of a Mexican theater teacher, he became even more popular in Mexico, although renditions of him and his story, in statues, sculpture, and paintings, come from all over the world, even Asia.
Las Mumias.Las Mumias.
Las Mumias.

There was a cemetary in Guanajuato, that for some reason they needed to move, but when they uncovered to bodies, many of them had been preserved into mummies. If the families could not pay to have their relatives replaced in the new cemetary, the government got to keep the bodies, and they made a whole museum with these mummies, most still with hair and clothes. They could tell how they died and when. This woman was buried pregnant, and her fetus is displayed beside her. Pretty neat, and a little creepy.
Our hotel.Our hotel.
Our hotel.


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