buried mirror: latest reflections

mesoamerica and the maya world

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Friday Roundup

Sifting through a week of digging the internet

Gráficas Políticas: Mexican Prints, 1900—1950

what may happen by leopoldo mendezAn exhibition of Mexican prints is showing at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, through January 13. The following copy is from the museum’s website:

The artists included range from José Guadalupe Posada, influential figure in modern Mexican printmaking, to Leopoldo Méndez, Pablo O´Higgins, and Alfredo Zalce, all members of the Taller de Gráfica Popular (Popular Graphic Art Workshop or T.G.P.). Together, these artists documented the climate of this period, which saw the Mexican Revolution of 1910, World War I, and World War II.

The T.G.P. had a particularly significant impact on the lives of Mexican citizens and, thus, attracted politically engaged artists from around the world, including Max Kahn and Eleanor Coen from Chicago. Kahn and Coen amassed the works seen here while collaborating with the T.G.P. in Mexico during the 1940s. In 2006, Mr. Frank Ribelin acquired the prints and generously donated them to The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Shown is What May Happen (Lo que puede venir), 1945, by Leopoldo Méndez
The MFAH, gift of Frank Ribelin.

First Tortilla

the first tortilla by rudolfo analya

The First Tortilla, a children’s book by Rudolfo Anaya (University of New Mexico Press, 2007) has received the New Mexico Library Association and the New Mexico International Reading Association’s Land of Enchantment Book Award. The book is the story of a Mexican girl who saves her village by making the first tortilla with the help of the Mountain Spirit. Amy Cordova is the illustrator.



Around this time of year we start to see a lot of poinsettias. The plant is native to western Mexico and Guatemala. For the Aztecs the poinsettia (which they called cuetlaxochitl) was a symbol of purity (rather like the lotus in East Asia). I expect the red color would suggest blood to most ancient Mesoamerican cultures. A reddish-purple dye was made from the plant’s bracts, and its sap was used to treat fevers.

The plant is named for Joel Roberts Poinsett, U.S. ambassador to Mexico from 1825 to 1829. He sent some speciments to Robert Carr at the Bartram Nursery, who introduced the plant into wider cultivation.

LINK: How pointsettias became popular
Image from the U.S. Agricultural Research Service

Francis Ford Coppola’s hotels in Belize and Guatemala

 blancaneaux lodge, belize

Francis Ford Coppola, inspired by his experience filming Apocalypse Now in the Philippines, decided to search for a “jungle paradise” closer to his northern California home. He ended up buying property in Belize and Guatemala, and now run three hotels there.

  • Blancaneaux Lodge in the Maya Mountains of Belize
  • Turtle Inn on the southern Belize coast
  • La Lancha in Gautemala near Tikal

He writes about his experience in an article in the Independent. An excerpt:

When I visit the resorts, I cast a critical eye. What needs to be added, how is the food and so on. We grow all our fruits and vegetables in our own organic garden, so we can guarantee the quality. We raise our own chickens, and local fishermen bring their catch to the chef. I have a great deal of input with the menus. For La Lancha, we wanted to serve Guatemalan fare using staples such as tamales, beans, chillies, plantains and fresh vegetables. At Turtle Inn, the menu is based on the sea; we serve river lobster or a conch cooked on the beach. And, at Blancaneaux Lodge, it’s Belizean dishes on the menu – rice, beans, chicken and fresh fish, including white fish pickled in lime juice. We also have a wood-burning pizza oven plus espresso machine and coffee roaster imported from Italy.

When I originally discovered Blancaneaux Lodge, I’d been looking for some kind of tropical Utopia and I immediately knew that this was the hideaway I had been looking for. Even now, once I’ve been there a couple of days, the laptop comes out and I write – after all, that’s why I bought the first resort in the first place.

Image from the Blancaneaux Lodge website (slightly modified).

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Fuego volcano eruption

Fuego volcano, near Antigua, Guatemal, erupted in November. Inner Diablog posted a photo by Aldo Bonilla, or you can follow some of these google image results (click screenshot).

fuego volcano eruption

Museums in Merida

macay museum, merida, yucatan, mexico

Working Gringos has put together the best list of museums in Merida that I have seen. They include

  • Yucatan Museum of Popular Art (Museo de Arte Popular de Yucatan)
  • Galeria Merida
  • The Yucatan Music Museum (Museo de La Canción)
  • Olimpo
  • Governor’s Palace (Palacio del Govierno)
  • MACAY (Museo de Contemporaneo Ateneo de Yucatan)
  • Merida City Museum (Museo de La Ciudad)
  • City Museum of Merida Yucatan – Upstairs Gallery
  • Galería at the University Cultural Center (UADY)
  • Yucatan Painting Gallery (Pinocateca del Estado de Yucatan)
  • Jose Peon Contreras Gallery
  • Gallery in La’Kech
  • Art on the Street
  • Galería Manolo Rivero
  • Centro de Artes Visuales
  • La Quilla
  • La Luz Galeria
  • La Casa de los Artistas
  • El Dragón Sabio (The Wise Dragon)
  • Anthropology Museum
  • Casa Museo Montes Molina
  • Galeria Tataya
  • Georgia’s House
  • Casa Catherwood
  • Centro Cultural Ricardo Lopez Mendez
  • Habemus Gallery

I took the picture above at the MACAY in February.

Meet the crocodiles

 meet the crocodiles

By this rickety peer near the ancient Maya ruins of Kabah was a rough handwritten sign that invited visitors to “meet the crocodiles” (encontre a los cocodrillos). It was a prospect that seemed all too likely.

Protecting butterflies


Mexican president Felipe Calderon visited the Sierra Chincua monarch butterfly reserve to announce a new $4.6 million program that will provide equipement and marketing support for the preserve, which is the winter refuge of monarch butterflies that migrate south from Mexico. Without a safe Mexican habitat, the butterflies would be endangered.

Calderon noted the significance of the butterflies to indigenous peoples:

The butterflies’ stay meant the essence of the dead, because the butterflies used to arrive around the time of the Day of the Dead and for the Otomí and Mazahua, they represented the spirit of the harvest, because the harvest ended when the Monarch butterfly arrived. These butterflies, which attract thousands of tourists, are regarded as one of Mexico’s natural wonders and this season, we hope to receive 230,000 tourists.

Calderon also announced that Mexico is working with the United Nations to have the monarch butterfly area recognized as a World Heritage Site.

via Mexico Premiere (also the source of the photo on which my artwork is based)

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From trash to cash

tres personajes, by rufino tamayo

While we’re on the subject of Rufino Tamayo paintings, I should mention, in case you haven’t heard, this story. It seems not everyone is a fan of brightly colored abstraction. At any rate, someone threw Tamayo’s 1970 painting Tres Personajes into the trash.

The painting had been stolen from its owner in 1987. Nothing was heard of it for years, until in 2003 it was found on a New York City curb. Eventually the work was sold at auction for more than $1 million.

$3 million Mexican painting removed from auction

el trovador, by mexican artist Rufino Tamayo

Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo’s Trovador (Troubador) has been removed from a Christie’s auction after fans of the painting filed a lawsuit challenging the work’s sale by Randolph College. The painting was to be the “crown jewel” of the Latin American-focused auction, in which twelve sales records were broken, as 65 items sold for 21.6 million dollars. Trovador was expected to fetch a price of as much as $3 million.


Cell phones in Cancun

cell phones in cancun That’s the title of this colorful painting by Namaste Nancy.

The painting’s effectiveness comes from its reduction of elements to just what is essential.

Read more at her site.

Dia de los Muertos: A New Beginning

dia de los muertos art exhibition

That’s the name of an exhibit that uns through December 16 at the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago, “the nation’s largest Latino arts institution and the only Latino museum accredited by the American Association of Museums.”

On blogs from Mexico and Guatemala this year there has appeared some discussion about whether Mesoamerica should observe Halloween or Dia de los Muertos — apparently Halloween is making some inroads south of the border. According to the Chicago exhibit,

Whereas Americans typically celebrate All Saints and All Souls Days with Halloween, treating dead spirits as frightful ghouls who adolescents emulate while knocking on doors and asking for candy, in Mexico and other parts of the world this time of year is treated as one of remembrance, when the lost souls of loved ones return to be with their friends and families before moving on to a better place. While it may seem like a potentially heavy-hearted occasion, it is mostly one of joy; instead of mourning loss, one looks back fondly at the time the departed had spent on earth, and wishes them off with the best of fortune for their new life—and new beginning—to come.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, where I live, the Oakland Museum traditionally does an excellent job of presenting art and programs for Dia de los Muertos.

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Por que no te callas?

This song is going viral in many parts of the Spanish-speaking world.

How do you say “a sad situation” in Ayapan Zoque?

Apparently only two people know. But the last two speakers of this indigenous Mexican language refuse to talk to each other.

The two men in their 70s from the village of Ayapan, Tabasco, in southern Mexico, are the only remaining speakers of their local version of the Zoque language.

Fernando Nava, head of the Mexican Institute for Indigenous Languages told BBC News the two men have drifted apart. He said: “We know they are not to say enemies, but we know they are apart. We know they are two people with little in common.”

More here. Via La Casa Azteca.

Friday Roundup

Sifting through a week of digging the internet

Aged chocolate

If you like your chocolate vintage, talk to the archeaologists at Cornell, U Penn, and UC Berkeley. They have found residue of chocolate in a large number of vessels dating from 1400 to 1100 BCE — much earlier than previously confirmed.

It turns out the earliest chocolate was a kahlua-like beverage containing not just chocolate but alcohol as well. That’s two psychoactive ingredients right there. I wonder if they also added some ipomoea, magic mushrooms, salvia divinorum, or the like. I know they were deadly serious about their rituals. But let’s face it, they were also way flipped-out cats.

Feeling Lazy

Like dusk at Puerto Morelos.

dusk at puerto morelos

Chiminos Island Lodge

Chiminos Island Lodge is located in the remote Petexbatun Region region of the Peten. It bills itself as an “eco-archaeological adventure.” I have never visited, but that seems fair enough based on the evidence of this video.

Lodge home page

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Floods in Tabasco

The Tabasco flooding is the worst in fifty years. Despite governmental action that put the U.S. Katrina response to shame there have been many casualties, and heavy destruction.

Amid heavy rains, President Felipe Calderon ordered in thousands of soldiers, marines, pilots and federal police on Oct. 29, two days before the most damaging flooding hit. When the riverbanks finally burst, inundating some 70% of the city on Oct. 31, there were more than 60 helicopters buzzing through the skies carrying out nonstop rescue and relief missions. Calderon and half his cabinet then touched down in Villahermosa three times in five days, giving televised updates on everything from how to use satellite phones in shelters to the drop points of millions of bottles of water. “The reaction has been very impressive. If there were not such a fast and wide-scale response, the human cost of this tragedy would have been much higher,” said Helena Ranchal, regional head of the European Commission’s emergency relief fund. — Time magazine

Residents are calling for aid. This video gives some sense of the crisis. There are more videos here.

View from the Mohoch Mul temple, Coba

view from the nohoch mul temple at the ancient maya archaeological site of coba in the southeastern yuucatan

We all know that the classic Maya temple was a place of religious ritual. But these structures must also have been pretty handy during times of conflict (most times). From the top of the large temple at Coba, which is 42 meters (138 feet, or about 12-14 stories) high, you can see quite a distance — under favorable conditions all the way to Ek Balaam, I think.

In this image you can see a structure from the central Coba group, which I think is called the Castillo, in the middle distance at the left, and the lakes of Coba (right) and Macanxoc (left) just below the horizon line. The five lakes of Coba are a very unusual feature in the Yucatan.

Fiambre, a classic Guatemalan dish

Fiambre is only served on the Day of the Dead (Día de los Difuntos)  and All Saints Day (Día de los Santos) — on November 1st or 2nd. It’s mainly made up of cold cuts, fish, and vegetables, but the key feature is the sheer number of ingredients — which can number to 50 or more. Luis Figueroa at Carpe Diem has made a post on this “delicada y balanceada combinación de talento, y de carnes y verduras cuidadosamente seleccionadas.” Each family has its own recipe but, according to Figueroa, these fall into four main categories, fiambre rosado, fiambre blanco, fiambre rojo, and fiambre verde.

Sea cual sea su órigen, el Fiambre es mi plato favorito en todo el universo-mundo. Y celebro con mucha alegría la dicha de poder prepararlo y consumirlo;…y mi plato me dura casi una semana.

For more on fiambre, check out the excellent slide show posted last year by Rudy at Antigua Daily Photo.

VIP behind bars

A new film from Guatemalan director Elías Jiménez Trachtenberg, VIP La Otra Casa, has just been released. According to Inner Diablog,” A government official called Juan Ramos is jailed for suspected corruption: an unusual enough premise in Guate. Apparently the rest of the film is about his struggle to get himself transfered to the VIP part of the prison and the plots hatched by his personal enemies that are geared towards ensuring that his stay behind bars is nasty, brutal and short.”

Colom wins!

Alvaro Colom, in something of an upset, apparently has defeated Otto Pérez Molina in the race for president of Guatemala. Colom had lost his one-time lead and was trailing in most polls. Colom took most departments, although Perez appears to have won Guatemala City, thanks to his anti-crime message. Turn-out was low.

Friday Roundup

Sifting through a week of digging the internet

Casa de Montejo, Merida

The Casa de Montejo is a historic building that faces the zócalo in Merida. It is considered a notable example of New World Plateresque architecture. The building is dated 1549 in an inscription. Commissioned by Francisco de Montejo the younger, the son of the conqueror of the Yucatan, it now houses a bank.

casa montejo, merida

The Casa de Montejo is a poignant memorial of the conquest. The two conquistadors shown above are standing on the heads of conquered Maya.

detail of the casa de montejo, merida, yucatan

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