I could not be more delighted to be aligned with Central Mexico’s only certified organic cattle ranch and federally protected sanctuary, Cañada de la Virgen. I’ve been aware of this ranch and it’s owners from the first month I began making grass-fed beef, because their products went in the shelves the same month as the beef products I was producing. In the ensuing months, I watched as their products became more professional; their labels became more informed and I remember declaring to myself, “they are in it to WIN IT.” I studied their pricing structure because I was basically winging it and following prices in America, which made no sense to apply those rigors in Mexico. I searched the internets to discover more about Cañada de la Virgen, and although I found much information about their sacred pyramid and the tourism it supports, I found very little about their beef production. I was intrigued.
I then found myself without a ranch and a place to do business. It was a terrifying time once again, as I had no idea what I was going to do and how I was going to support myself. I quietly crawled through this muck and mire of disillusionment, yet my determination to work in the cattle industry could not be extinguished. Somehow I was going to find a way.
A few weeks later, I received a message to contact Sophia Trapp, the owner and director of Cañada de la Virgen. I knew very little about her, she was this mysterious female cattle rancher living in Mexico, raising her children and carrying on her mother’s work. I had to know her.
I met Sophia and after some initial conversations, I learned her mission was to make and have available clean meat for the mothers of Mexico. Most of the good meat produced in Mexico is exported, leaving the sub-par cuts of meat here at home for the people of Mexico. Sophia has stayed true to this mission, as the meat is packaged for ease of cooking and consumption for mom’s making meals at home. I totally respect this mission and believe in it as well. On about our third meeting, she said, “Why aren’t you working with us? We love your passion and dedication to this industry, and where else in the world would I find someone that gets the spiritual side of sacrificing cows?”
I spent Easter weekend with the family at the Hacienda, and I absolutely love the opportunity to stick my hands and feet into the sacred and magical dirt of Cañada de la Virgen, and hope to return in the years to come.
Friday evening, 7:30pm, I slipped into a bit of a staring jag after I paid for the piece of cake at Café Rama. A middle-aged Mexican couple caught my attention, eating their dinner at a small, window-side table. They were leaning in towards each other as she chatted a mile a minute, both eating their dinner, which is what caught my eye. The kicker was that the woman was engaged in an enlightening conversation on her phone, tucked under her chin, as she ate her dinner looking straight through her husband. “How odd,” I mumbled as I gazed at them both. “Aqui tienes,” the joven behind the counter handed me a piece of carrot cake and out the door I went.
Swooooooosh, I stepped into slow motion as my head spun around. I looked to my right, I looked to my left, Henry was not near the door, where I had left him moments ago. Just as I’ve done a million times over the years. Henry isn’t a roamer, he doesn’t trot away, he never leaves my side, well, not since I had him neutered in 1987 –errr 2004. He’s a very well-behahaved dog and he’s also 13 years old, so he’s in no hurry, ever. I stood there in a stupor; my fever was still high and I really was in no shape to be out in public; I had been battling the worst flu of my life all week, and in fact this trip out was to finally buy some drugs at the farmacia because I could take the pain no longer. My thinking was fuzzy. “Where did I leave him?” I spun around in a circle. I went back inside and asked if they saw my dog. “Yes, we allow dogs, he’s probably here.” I took a spin around the place, Henry was not inside, which I knew because Henry doesn’t go anywhere without asking me. I was speechless.
This is not a busy street, in fact it was about two blocks away from home. I went up one block and two mariachi fellas were practicing on a bench. “Have you seen a little white dog run by here, wearing a leash?” “No, no ma’am.” I went to the other side of the block where a family had pulled their truck over to sell their hand-carved wood headboards, “did you see a little white dog walk by here, wearing a leash?” No, no dog.
Henry had vanished.
I was in shock when I arrived back home a few minutes later and asked Reed if Henry had arrived before me, “What? No, Henry’s not here.” Holy crap. Henry was dognapped!
Dognapping is big, easy money in Mexico; our little pampered pooches are a big bullseye for easy money to desperate thieves. They know all they have to do is swipe a dog, keep it for a few days for panic to surge, call for ransom, then arrange a hand off.
Were they being mean to him? Was he out in the rain? Will they feed him? Was a angry dog going to beat him up?Or rape him? All my fears became louder and louder as the weekend inched by. This is a nasty little crime, yet don’t expect any help from the police; there are actual people being kidnapped all over this country for Pete’s Sake. Ahhh, but the social networks are alive and kicking, and many of my friends and acquaintances shared the message of the missing Henry in no time. How grateful I am for lightning-fast stretches of the social networks. I met some new friends along the way too!
And now, the waiting game. A little time needs to pass; the panic needs to surge. This is Mexican time and do NOT try to rush it.
Saturday morning I put signs up all over town and placed an ad at the radio station. The entire town listens to the local radio station, so when you lose anything or need to make an announcement, the radio station is where you go. I spent the rest of the weekend pacing and trying to recover from the flu; it didn’t work out so well because I was a runny, sneezy, teary mess. Sunday arrived with no new news, except my panic was ramping up.
Oye Hark! The call came in around 3pm Sunday afternoon; the woman had Henry, wanted to know how much was the ransom, and to let us know we had to pay for her taxi to return the dog. (grrrrrrrr)
$35 Print a copy of the original sign
$20 Make copies for distribution in Centro
$480 XESQ Radio San Miguel ad ($120 per announcement; I ran 4 ads)
$1,500 Ransom, puta madres!
$60 Taxi for Coyote (this was when I wanted to slap her, the nerve)
$2,051 Mexican Pesos $120 US Dollars
Although it only cost roughly $120 to get Henry home, it was a very stressful and long weekend of worrying about his safety and whereabouts. Mexico has a way of reminding you who is in charge and it is never you, no matter what measures, nor precautions you take. The very legs of this wild-west country are built on corruption, yet for the most part, I admire Mexico and am calling it my home, with Reed, for now. Henry’s dognapping was a reminder not get too comfortable, because Mexico will always pull the rug our from under you. Donnie Trump may want to watch his back because the country also has ways of exacting revenge that I wouldn’t even wish on that baffoon.
People move here because of a lack of rules (sure, there are other reasons), but there’s a price for that lack of structure, as in things that disappear in the middle of the afternoon. And then I find myself questioning whether or not I’m a fit dog parent, onto shaming myself for ignoring him all those times I went out carousing and left him on his own. Brutal. Henry didn’t reminisce about any of this nonsense; he, naturally, was THRILLED to see me when he arrived home
It’s no scene from Law & Order, but the moment Henry was returned by the Coyote:
It was a huge lesson in the importance of being aware at all times, something I take great pride in, as I am a big proponent of strengthening my six senses. This particular day was especially off for me because all of my senses were compromised due to the flu; my throat was super-swollen, nose plugged, eyes watering, ears jammed, skin crawling; my 6th sense was practically DOA, and yet Mexico chose to kick me when I was down, as it does. Still, awareness.
While in the restaurant, I focused on the odd couple and how they were so intently ignoring each other, yet had I expanded my focus just outside the window behind them, perhaps I could have seen when Henry’s Captor made the dastardly move. Or not.
Aside from appearing a bit beat and dirty, Henry was the same Happy Little Neurotic Guy, although he did let me hold him a bit longer than usual. I’m getting back on my feet after this bout of flu (or whatever it is, Mexico) and will continue to ask of myself the following, “eyes-see, ears-hear, nose-smell, skin-feel, aura-interact.”
I’ve started doing t’ai chi with fans, because it helps move the stagnant energy out and away from my body, and on this Valentine’s Day, my guy Reed joined me with his ice cream cone to dance a little t’ai mambo. There are classes on this in San Miguel de Allende btw. Hearts & Loves to you!
While in San Miguel de Allende, I picked up some gorgeous Guatamalan textile braids that are perfect for cross-over twirling, which extends the stagnant chi energy out and away from my body. Twirling is great fun and will really lift your spirits, I highly recommend it!
Once, many years ago, when I returned home from Mexico, my mom told me I looked dirty and weathered….. and I was deeply offended. Even shed some tears. Today, as I prepare to head to Texas after a winter in Mexico, I laugh because I AM dirty. And I love it!
I’ve got the dirt and dust under my fingernails and the sand from the ocean lines the bottom of my suitcases. I haven’t really done my hair since I was in America, and although I got dolled up a few times while I was here, for the most part, I rolled out of bed and galloped off to yoga or t’ai chi, and then began my chores upon returning home.
I like getting dirty, it feels good. Keeps me young 😀
It’s a dirty I am grateful for because it has taught me things and brought new experiences. Whether I was climbing the mountains to greet the full moon, stretching in the morning sun while standing in the ocean’s edge, eating street tacos with salsa running down my arm or riding in the back of a pickup to get out to the country, I have enjoyed my time in San Miguel de Allende, Taxco, Mexico DF, Puerto Vallarta and Bucerias tremendously!
Maybe I have always been too sensitive, this is probably true. I am dirty and weathered and it feels great. I would not be offended by my mom’s words today.
This Dirty Bird is ready to go home, and is profoundly grateful to Mexico for it’s lessons. ANDALE get me home to that bath tub so I can scrub my weathered, sun-kissed face!
And aw geez I gotta get to work! Adios Birdies! xx
I wasn’t always afraid of the water, I grew up in Crystal Lake, Illinois, swimming in the crystal clear water and other area lakes at every opportunity and truly loved being a mermaid. But then came the dawn of JAWS and my swimming career was effectively halted. I remember trying to drown out my fears by singing to myself as I swam, in an attempt to not think about that shark and it’s reign of terror, but I sank in the fear of it all. One last swim in Crystal Lake at summer’s end, a snapping turtle poked it’s head up in front of mine and snapped at me — it was officially over. More sea-terror movies were rolled out, which effectively sealed the deal: Barracuda, Piranha, JAWS 2, JAWS 3, JAWS 4 (*cough*), Creatures, Tentacles, Titanic, ETC., I became content to stroll along the shores, even in the most docile of waters. The fear was big and silent and I gave into it.
Because if I swam, it would look like this:
I sometimes get a little embarrassed that so much of my life became unhinged (and is still unhinging) after my mom’s death. I hear a voice back there “yeah get over it already, it’s been two years now, do your thing whatever, stop talking about it!”
I understand grief knows no bounds, yet why am I quick to scrutinize and criticize myself when I find myself still grappling with it? Oy, the personal pangs that tug at me in the wee hours of the night when no one is looking, oy oy oy.
It’s true, I still struggle with grief and the confusion from everything that is now different in my life — I am mostly okay with my evolution, but some confusion remains. I’m certain many of these changes were inevitable because of my age ta boot; as I approach 50, I understand with more compassion than ever that many women simply must re-invent, re-discover or re-up, or literally lose themselves. I have found many of Dr. Christiane Northrup‘s books and workshops have helped me sort my way through this with better clarity and assurance I’m not losing my marbles.My mom’s death was perhaps the the dime I turned on, bringing with it new opportunities and exciting adventures, although — in hindsight — I can see it was going to happen no matter what. I was ready to shed my skin.
On Mother’s Day, 2013, I put my mom’s ashes in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin on a brutally cold and windy May day. Her ashes flew up and around me like a tornado before they landed in the lake. It was surreal, for real. I was surprised to learn there’s a boat service available for people to put ashes in the lake, and I sometimes wonder how many people are in that lake?? Ashes-to-ashes, I don’t really care, but I do like that my mom is there. She wanted to be in Green Bay because of the Packers and I decided that was too far; I wanted to keep an eye on her in Lake Geneva. So began my frequent visits to the lake.
There is an amazing 22-mile walking path around the entire lake and as the cold spring turned to summer, I began to sink my toes into the water. And then I dangled my legs and stared deeply at the water. One day I jumped in and cried. This happened several times. I had lost so much… jobs, addresses, people, things… it was terribly scary because I had no idea how I would climb out of this hole, but I had faith and this lake helped me. I felt tingly energy all around me and something about my existence had been elevated — it was hard to explain, but everything was different. By mid-summer, I was helping myself to absent-summer-resident’s personal boat docks and full-on jumping into the cool waters of Lake Geneva and feeling the calmest I had ever felt in my life.
The summer of 2013 was an amazing, amazing summer and I am forever be grateful for all of it’s lessons.
I left Illinois mid-November of that year and life became very, very different. I had made a promise to myself that the rest of my life would be “magical”, although I wasn’t even sure what that meant, except that it was fodder for jokes — and I love good jokes. Guess what? My life has become magical in many ways, and while there are still mundane and challenging things about it as there should be, I am totally enjoying what my life has become. Call it magical or intentional, I love they way I feel in my skin these days. I miss the Midwest and my days in Lake Geneva — Chicago too, but life has carried on, as it should, and my dreams keep me close to it all. Someday I will be back.
I am having the good fortune of spending this winter in Mexico with Reed; first at the house in San Miguel de Allende, and then traveling through Central Mexico while he attends to business. Situated in a lovely situation here in Bucerias, Nayarit, Mexico, this past weekend we made plans to spend the day on a boat with Chica Locca Tours that promised whale watching, water activities, food and drink, snorkeling, cave diving; a day out at sea on a very comfortable boat. This group completely delivered and we had an amazing, amazing day. Well I did, for sure.
My fear of open water is still pretty HUGE and when we arrived off the Marieta Islands (“there’s only one way to get there, and that’s to swim for it!“), it was up to us to gear up and swim to the island, where the fun would continue. I did not read this bit in the brochure and my heart sank a mile or two when this was mentioned. I put the fins and snorkeling gear on and became a blubbering, quivering lip awash in a terrifying wave of fear. Everyone was jumping in the water and I stood at the edge of the boat, trembling — NO I could not do this. It was too far away and it was OPEN WATER for Christ’s Sake and surely I would be eaten alive by some monsterous sea creature before I hit the island. This was the OCEAN, did they not realize??! I whelped to the guys I could not do it, no way, my heart was going to explode out of my chest and I was not strong enough. I waddled to the back of the boat to take off my gear and pout it out.
I looked over to the ladder on the side of the boat and said, “fuck it, I will hate myself if I don’t do this.” With that, I jumped into the terrifying (not!) waters and swam to the island. Holy Moley it was gorgeous!
It was a gooooooooooooorgeous adventure and I am sooooooooooo glad I jumped in! We swam to the island and explored the caves and tunnels and dark holes that I thought for sure electric eels lived in and were waiting inside to kill me or eat me and guess what? They were no electric eels waiting in darkness to kill me nor eat me because they couldn’t care less about me! I was the happiest clam in the ocean this day!
After this awesome adventure on Gilligan’s Island, it was time to swim back to the boat. Oh shit….. who moved the boat soooooooooo far away?? It’s even farther away now because some dumb law says it can’t be too close to the island. I was never going to make it and oh my gawd I can’t breathe and so why not kick wildly and claw at the water as if there’s a magic rope to lead me home …
I totally panicked and gasped for air as I attempted to swim for several minutes; holy Mackerel I was scared! Wait. Stop it Meag!
I put my goggles on and looked down into the water and saw holy mackerels but no sharks. I knew I had to stop this panicking and rolled onto my back and looked up at the sky. I needed to breathe more normally and take myself out of the equation. A song came to me that I sang in the temescal a year ago; we sang this as a way to pass the time while sitting in pitch dark, soul-cracking, sweltering heat:
One little, two little, three little Indians
Four little, five little, six little Indians
Seven little, eight little, nine little Indians
Ten little Indian boys.
Ten little, nine little, eight little Indians
Seven little, six little, five little Indians
Four little, three little, two little Indians
One little Indian boy.
Whad’ya know, I made it to the boat safe and sound!
Again, I was the happiest clam in the ocean! I have been walking on my tippy-toes ever since this glorious day, even though every muscle in my body is sore, but it is a good sore, a sore I am grateful for; a soreness that reminds me I swam to the damn boat, RAWR!
I realize there are people in today’s world who are facing much bigger fears and maybe not by choice, but by fire and I by no means intend to compare to anyone’s challenges. This was a first world challenge, for sure. I believe I become a better person, first to myself and then to others, if I take an opportunity to break down any personal barriers that have held me back in life, or have kept me feeling fearful. There is a freedom that has grown within me in the past two years that has altered the course of my life and I, for one, choose to celebrate all of these personal achievements, great and small.
If I think about it too much, I can get totally freaked out about the amount of collateral damage I’ve done to my body over the years, even though I strive to do the right thing now — I have had many mortal failures. I was quite rowdy in my youth even though I always knew that was not my right nature, I did it anyways. I have not always treated my body with the respect it has deserved and my struggles in the wee hours of the night are how I hopefully have not done irreversible damage. I always keep getting back on the well-being horse. The human body is a miraculous healing machine with magical powers and I will always look to improve and heal thyself — even though I still stumble.
Being here in San Miguel de Allende this time around, I am all about taking better care. I am experiencing this town with different eyes and a whole new world is available to me here, when once I had very limited vision. There are many places to heal thyself and I am on a mission to experience these people, places and things. It has been challenging living in my old house that is full of my old behaviors, but I am making the best of it. I am grateful to my ex-husband and the opportunity we’ve had to mend our relationship. It’s been a glorious and exciting couple of months here in the city of St. Michael the Archangel.
Once a month, on the weekend closest to the full moon, there is the opportunity to sweat out all the muck in a three-plus hour sweat lodge ceremony, called a temazcal, using aromatic herbs and wood-burning steam in a hut made of clay, at San Miguel de Allende’s 170-acre botanical gardens, El Charco del Ingenio. The gardens themselves are not quite lush or perhaps even all that interesting, but it becomes more endearing to me each time I visit. When I mentioned to a Mexican friend that I was going to spend the afternoon there, he looked at me wide-eyed and said, “What?? Are you going to bring your cane and wear a big floppy hat?” So maybe it doesn’t have a great reputation as a hot spot, but it IS a place away from the bus and car fumes of Centro, and I am all for escaping the city buzz and taking in the many species of cacti, birds and even the cafe has a great little (mostly) organic lunch.
One really cool tidbit, in 2004 El Charco del Ingenio was proclaimed a Peace Zone by the Dalai Lama during his visit to Mexico. Five Peace Zones were designated in the country, places free of violence and arms, dedicated to the conservation of nature and community development. In a country that is being somewhat ravaged by a fierce and on-going drug war, it’s nice to know there’s a few places free from the violence and mayhem.
I attended the temazcal ceremony in January, 2014, just two days before the actual full moon. Upon arriving and registering for the event ($350 pesos), I set out across the preserves to the historical ruins of Hacienda Las Colonias on the north side of the park and meet the Shaman who leads the ceremony, as well as his helpers, who keep the fires aglow. The ceremony is in Spanish, and I was the only American in the group of 11, which was fine as I understand Spanish, but am not so great when speaking it.
A temazcal is an ancient cleansing ritual of Mexico’s indigenous people, very much like a sweat lodge. If you think you are going to freak out about being in such a tiny enclosed hut for a long period of time with a bunch of almost-naked strangers in unbelievably hot conditions, you are not alone. I almost backed out, but Humberto, our Shaman who led us through the day, assured me that I could leave if I wanted to, but it really is okay once you get settled.
He was right. It was unbelievably hot and I thought I was not going to make it, but I’m so glad I did because I felt AMAZING when I emerged 3.5 hours later. I felt as though I was being smothered and freed all at once, and my mind kept playing freaky movies that I knew were in my head, but I watched as if they were on a screen. A scorching-hot-flame-engulfed-screen. We sang songs, doused ourselves in herb-soaked water and could lay down if we needed to, because the air was cooler at the ground. Suddenly time had gone by and we were able to emerge from the hut. I crawled out on my hands and knees and kissed the ground and thanked my God, the Clouds and Guides Above.
As I walked through the land after the ceremony, I felt high as a kite and precise as a falcon. I ate a nopal omelette at the cafe and drank a liter of water. I slept like a rock that night and hope to experience this again, but not every month. Twice a year sounds about right to me.
I sweated out all the demons that afternoon and felt completely grateful and sparkly to be alive. I highly recommend this experience!
Let’s face it, there are a lot of painting and other art classes available in San Miguel, and up until January of 2014, I had never taken any of them. Most are catered to visitors, and when you live in a city, you tend to overlook things targeted to tourists. However, I met Cristi of CristiFer Art Studios in December at the Instituto Allende‘s art fair, and her painting style really spoke to me. Cristi is an artist from Romania and her partner Fernando is an artist from Mexico City. They create paintings together (can you imagine?) and their use of colors & styles really delighted me. I signed up for their “One Painting in One Day” class, which happened to be on January 1, 2014. What a perfect way to usher in the new year.
One of Cristi’s painting in their home/studio in Colonia Independencia she shares with partner Fernando:
I arrived at CristiFer’s studio about 1pm and met the 5 other people who were there for the class; a couple from San Antonio and a mother & her two daughters from Portland. We were split into two groups and we each had our own table and painting supplies.
We first did some warm-ups, like shaking out our hands. I started jumping up & down in true qi gong style, because I knew I had to wake up the chi in order to get over the apprehension of putting paint to the paper. I would have loved to do more physical exercises, but that’s me and what I need to be doing. Cristi led us through some exercises which helped us break down the fear — and not only did it break down the fear, it got us laughing. “Grab your pencil in your non-dominant hand, cover that hand with a piece of paper and draw these objects from your memory” sorta of a thing. Loved it!
Cristi then led us through her teaching steps to paint a picture; a San Miguel street scene. This was a perfect way to whet my chops and feel the love for painting again — something I had not done in about 15 years. The day was fun, lively and very educational; both Cristi and Fernando were helpful with suggestions on what to do next, without ever grabbing control of our paintings. I enjoyed the day tremendously and was hungry for more!
At some point during the day, Cristi said to me, “if you had just three drawing classes, it would change your life.” I thought about this for a day and said BINGO. I took those three drawing classes with Cristi and they DID change my life. I lost my fear of drawing poorly and just started drawing. It’s amazing how just a few hours of instruction really helped me to get over the fear of making a mistake. Who cares if it’s not perfectly correct and out of perspective. WHO CARES???
And by stepping through that fear, my drawings and paintings were starting to come to life. And that made me happy =)
Soon after this New Year’s Day art class, I started Julia Cameron‘s 12-week spiritually based program, The Artist’s Way. Through reading exercises, daily journal writing, group discussions and weekly artist dates, I am starting to melt. And I mean that in a good way. I have art projects going all over the house and say to Reed, “it’s like kindergarten here every day!”
Buenas Dias from Mexico; I wish I had this office space in Chicago! But no, this is the house I used to live in, when I was a married woman living in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico, with my Texan then-husband, Reed Burns. It is a glorious gift to be back here after all this time and I am grateful for each day here as I not only do my part to heal this once-rocky relationship, but also take time to explore the things I never made time for when I lived here all those years.
This town is a wild explosion of colors, culture and people and it really is a wonderful haven for artists and those you prefer to live outside the American box. I first came here 1999 to explore the scene after a friend of mine that I had met during my two months at Escalen came down here to teach yoga. I was working a big corporate gig for AT&T at the time in Chicago, so I could only visit for five days, but that was enough for me to decide I wanted to spend more time here. When I returned to Chicago, I focused my time and efforts on taking a two month sabbatical in San Miguel de Allende to teach Gabrielle Roth’s Five Rhythms dance class; a style of dance I had been studying for a few years in Chicago and had taken a two-month workshop at The Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California. Little did I know this two-month sabbatical would become my life for the next several years. Still to this day, my heart and thoughts are a part of this magical, colorful town.
I arrived in San Miguel for my sabbatical in June of 2001. I rented a house with my friend who was teaching yoga and soon after, I began teaching the dance class at Bellas Artes and had such an incredible time; I was living the dream! About one week later, I met the most crazy and hilarious Mexican named Juan Nieto and decided I didn’t want to go home. 9/11 hit and my fate was decided; I did not want to return to America.
I flew to Chicago in October, flew to New York to see my friend Andrew and to see how he was doing; I even walked as close as I could to Ground Zero; a very solemn and moving experience. Even now it seems like it was just a dream, to be that close to such massive destruction and radical emptiness. I’m not sure it was such a great idea to get that close, but what did I know? I still have the cross I bought at one of the only stores that seemed to be open so soon after the attacks. I returned home to Chicago, put my stuff in a storage unit and off I drove to Mexico all by myself, with my zippy Honda Civic jammed to the gills with what I thought would be important to me in Mexico.
It took me 3.5 days to drive from Chicago to San Miguel. It was….. in a word…. SCARY. Crossing the border is scary. Driving through the mountains of Mexico is scary. Stopping at the very few gas stations is SCARY; I even once had to stop at a hand-drawn sign gas station because I was out of gas. A gaggle of boys walked up to my car and started looking in it as some kids used a funnel to pour gas in my tank; I looked up and said, “please help me get out of here.” I handed one of the kids some pesos, got in my car, sped off like a BAT OUT OF HELL.
It’s not scary like this anymore to drive though Mexico, but there are different scares; the drug wars and their escalating violence have dumped out into the highways and public venues. I would not drive through Mexico today but back then I did it about three times by myself. Never again. The scariest incident was probably when crossing the border at Laredo, a bunch of guys ambushed my Nissan Pathfinder and dumped black oil on the windshield and then all jumped on my truck to rock it — and they ROCKED it. I screamed as I peaked through a tiny portion of the windshield and hit the gas. They eventually jumped off and I drove with the black oil on my windshield for about 20 miles; until I felt I would actually take my foot off the gas pedal and stop to wash the window. Terrifying. What was I thinking?
The San Miguel de Allende I live in now and over the past few years was very different from my beginning years here. The relationship with Juan lasted about two years and then I was a starving artist. Mostly starving. I then met a big laughing Texan who I found sitting in the streets one day, and his name was Reed. I had no idea who he was or what he was all about, but I immediately loved his kind eyes.
And now here I am visiting him as his ex-wife but one of his closest friends. My life has changed drastically since we parted ways in Corpus Christi, Texas in 2008; I’ve often wondered who that girl was that was unable to accept happiness in any form. It is only now that it is starting to make sense to me and if possible, I want to make amends for that girl and her short-comings. I was not a bad person; I was just messed up and unable to be at peace in the world — no matter what I had in front of me. I believe I always preferred the struggle — but had I been told that, I would have flown off the handle in rebuttal.
This is the most non-crazy I have ever felt in my life — and I like it. Being back here in San Miguel has given me a chance to make amends and how wonderful is that? I have been punishing myself for years for being a lousy wife and now I can do my part to be a better person to myself and those who love me. I don’t know that there will be a next time for me to see Reed, so I am making the most of this time here with him, in his home, in San Miguel de Allende.
When I first arrived in November, I celebrated with him and our friends and made a glorious Thanksgiving feast, but soon after I realized this was not who I am anymore, and so I have resumed my search and exploration of the higher vibrational side of life. Reed looks at me funny now, but I suppose he always has. I am peaceful and enjoy creating a peaceful environment — even in the middle of his outrageous chaos.
I am going to stay a while longer. It’s 25 degrees in Chicago and 75 degress here in Central Mexico. I’ve done the math and decided to stay, xoxo.
In 2001, before 9/11, I set off on a 2-month sabbatical to San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, to teach a dance class and take a well deserved break after completing a project on a global business theater in New Jersey. I chose San Miguel because I had taken a Gabrielle Roth workshop at Escalon in Big Sur the year prior and wanted to further my studies. One of my friends from Escalon had already moved to SMA and was teaching yoga. She called me one day and said, “Hey Meags! The dance teacher here is about to leave because she’s having a baby, why don’t you get your butt down here and teach for a while?”
After planning and whatnot, I arrived in San Miguel on June 29, 2001, ready to begin my two-month sabbatical and to get to know Mexico, a place I had not yet seen before. It’s a beautiful mountainous town, not desert-ee or covered with cacti and lazy donkeys, but rather it’s considered to be the San Francisco of Mexico; it never gets too hot or too cold (well, not for too long because I certainly was hot and cold), has a bustling international artist community and has a big gay community. Oh and Texans, plenty of Texans. Gay and straight.
I was not afraid of anything about this Mexican town yet had I listened to my mother, I would have never gone, which is why I have never listened to my mother. Oh wait, there was one thing I was terrified of and that was scorpions. My roommate didn’t even think of them; I looked for them all the time and guess what? I found them all the time! And usually in my bedroom! On the wall above me! In the middle of the night! I can still literally hear them stitching across the walls… even today the thought of it gives me shivers. Blaaaaah scorpions. And fuzzy spiders. Ok I’ll stop! But other that insect fears, I was totally at peace with this little town and all the new sights and sounds it offered. I adored it.
Today there is a much bigger community of younger people as well, involved in all sorts of digital and technological art projects, but this community has dwindled compared to about 5 years ago. When I arrived for the first time in my mid-thirties, I was considered one of the younger ones, but that would not have been the case had I arrived 10 years later at that age. I was there this past March and saw how the town has exploded with people and construction, yet had also crumbled. When the US has an economic sniffle, Mexico has full-blown pneumonia. And the US had much worse a sniffle. So many businesses have shuttered their doors, much like here, and people have packed up and returned to their homelands, including the people of Mexico. When jobs are scarce here, the Mexican men cannot send money home so it’s a quadruple whammy of hardships in Mexico.
I’m not going to pretend to be educated on the exact reasons why the business of drug cartelling has exploded in Mexico, nor am I going to get into the stats of it, but it’s fairly obvious that this is where the money is in Mexico, if you can stay alive. To read any mainstream news you would think that they are all killing each other throughout the entire country and hanging the bodies over highways so the public can see them die as they shoot them from hidden hillsides. The stories of heads rolling into a night club or even night clubs being set on fire — now these stories make it to our media and it sends a chilling message that all of Mexico is completely corrupt and extremely dangerous.
Ever watch the 10pm Sunday night news in Chicago? It’s a death toll of how many were shot or wounded in the city in the past few days; how many children were injured, buried, mourned. It is perhaps the saddest time slot on TV, which is one of the reasons I don’t watch TV anymore. The killings in Chicago are completely out of control; in a city that claims guns are illegal. Does this news stop people from visiting Navy Pier? Water Tower Place? Wrigley Field? No. No it does not. It may stop some people from getting on a train to come to the City, but for the most part tourism is loud & lively in Chicago. So while there are certainly precautions that need to be taken when heading off to Central Mexico, by no means is it a 24/7 blood bath. Like it is on the South Side of Chicago.
The places that I would avoid in Mexico right now are the border towns and the main highways to move north/south through the country. Although the violence is rather widespread yet focused on the northern part of the country, because this is the main and final push to get the drugs into our country and some would say it’s an all out war zone at the borders. So avoid the border towns. I wouldn’t even do a day trip there as many people used to so, it’s just not worth it.
I would no longer take a bus to Central Mexico as I have many times in the past, because of the growing presence of the Mexican Army and Mexico Federal Police on the highways. And the growing number of rogue police, army or cartels who impersonate these groups so you can never be sure who or what you are looking at — or dealing with.
Once on a bus to Phoenix in 2003, I was awakened in the middle of the night somewhere in the State of Chihuahua, by a machine gun nudging my shoulder, asking for my passport. I did not flinch, I simply reached for my passport and handed it to the soldier. After checking everyone’s passport, the soldiers hauled four Guatamalian immigrants off the bus and then we were on our way. Looking back, I wonder why I wasn’t more freaked out. I had never seen a machine gun before let alone be awakened by one. But when I traveled the buses throughout Mexico, I always went into some sort of altered state, knowing that you have to roll with the punches becasue weird things happen out there in the middle of nowhere. I have also driven through the country a number of times by myself and suffice to say nothing majorly scary or even close to heart breaking happened. Today I would never drive through the country I once called home.
The buses and trucks that travel through Mexico are always being stopped and searched for drugs and immigrants, but these days you can’t be sure if the Mexican solider who is pointing a gun at you and asking to see your passport is an actual Govenrment official, a cartel dressed as a Government official or a Government official who has been paid off to act on behalf of the cartel. Which is why it’s best to avoid busing around Mexico, a once very popular and economical way to travel the country, ever since the train lines were discontinued. These days I would fly directly to the city I am headed for, and for San Miguel de Allende’s it’s Leon/Guanajuato Del Bajio or BJX. Then take a taxi directly to your destination, because no one picks you up from an airport in Mexico, even if they are crazy head over heels love with you!
This past week, I learned of an incident of a Canadian couple that was severely beaten and robbed in their homes in San Miguel. These incidents happen here and there and are never a story we want to hear but it’s especially sensitive when it happens to ex-Pats living in a foreign city. One thing Mexico has always known is that you DO NOT MESS with the foreigners that are visiting or who have chosen to live in Mexico. They are putting money into the country and economy and again you DO NOT MESS WITH THE TURISTAS. But it happens, unfortunately. There is speculation — and only speculation at this time — that it is a small group of disenchanted policemen that committed the crime. So another couple has now returned to their homeland and the stories will be shared, as they should.
Would I go to Mexico today? Yes. If I had the sufficient funds to get me from Point A to Point B directly, and had a secure and safe place to stay. Do I want to go to Mexico right now? No. I think I’ll wait until things start to turn around.
I love Mexico and think it takes a LOT of hits for being a reckless, careless and violent country, but it is a big country, full of many people, places and things and you simply cannot place a generic label on a country of its size. It’s complicated. It’s gorgeous. It’s ugly, It’s rich and it’s poor. And unfortunately there are places in the country where violence is out of control, so just like the South Side of Chicago, I will avoid it for now. But not forever!