Two of the many reasons I love Mexico and Mexican culture are its diversity and duality of ancient and new- the traditions, many years of ritual and practice passed down from one generation to the next.
We sketched one morning in the desert botanical garden el Charco del Ingenio. The Four Winds Plaza, a ritual and scenic space, was inspired by Tolteca-Chichimeca indigenous beliefs. The outer circles indicate the four cardinal directions in their classic colors- Flora (agave) yellow East; Fauna (coyote) red West; Earth (hill) black North; Water (spring) blue South. The inner circle represents the Sun at the moment it is covered by the Moon. It's a testimony to the 1991 solar eclipse, the astronomical date of the founding of the garden. In 2005, the Dalai Lama proclaimed this place's energy a movement toward a new consciousness for peace.
We spent another afternoon at a newly opened toy museum called La Esquina. It's one woman's collection of over 1000 popular Mexican toys. I enjoyed the carnival toys and dolls.
We visited Atotonilco and the Sanctuary of Jesus Nazareno of Atotonilco. In 2008, this church was designated a Cultural World Heritage by UNESCO. It's on the 100 world monuments watch list. The state of Gaunajuato received funds to restore the interior frescoes. The paintings represent the syncretism of Catholic iconography mixed with native religious beliefs.
Visits to three artists' studios made for another highlight of our trip. Anando McLauchlin showed us his office, new studio, house of many colors, and garden - a work of nine years.
He creates assemblage pieces, jewelry and incredible interior and exterior designs. Anado referred us to two other local artists. Leigh Hyams paints and colorful floral acrylics. She's written a book entitled How Painting Holds Me on the Earth. Edward Swift creates wonderful paper mâché figures that look like stone. He showed us his process and said that Clyde Connell is one of his muses. He uses her paper mâché techniques. It's so inspiring to see how other artists work and what influences their art. Mexico has left its imprint on each of these artists' work.
Bill LeVasseur showed us his collection of 500 Mexican ceremonial and performance masks housed in his museum called The Other Face of Mexico. The masks represent 62 different indigenous groups in Mexico with their own language, culture, food, customs and rituals.
We watched a video that showed the dramas and dances with performers wearing the masks. All of these experiences reinforced my awe of Mexico with its diversity and traditions.