I am a very temporary expatriate in Guanajuato--by choice--I have to see this city (and others) for my next novel.
The Festival of Cervantes has started, but I am tucked away in the hills and go to town for the sort of experiences that only writers and artists and filmmakers regard as adventures. I walk down hill after hill, over cobblestones so old they stick out like crooked teeth. The houses are a riot of color: ocher, blue, pink, terra cotta, green, vibrant yellow. Los perros (the dogs) are behind every gate, ready to bark. I am interested in following narrow streets with enormous doors. Walking through the maze of tunnels--I’ll talk about those later.
The official publication date for Heidegger’s Glasses is November 1st ; but a lot of people in the States have already ordered it and seen it. Yet I can't! Interesting to be barred from one’s own book. That physical object that all writers want to see….That object that we wait for…..That tangible weight that tells us that the book is REAL….
Guanajuato was settled over 500 years ago by the Spaniards, who used the area to enslave indigenous people who worked in the silver mines and thus supplied all the silver to Spain for years. Easy to understand why it was the center of the first Mexican revolt against the Spaniards.
Pipili is a famous leader of the revolt. He crashed into doors with arrows on his back and eventually was killed. There's a huge statue of him on top of one of the hills, and you can see him from almost all parts of the town. His right hand is raised in triumph. And indeed, even though the revolution was squelched, there is pride in the defeat: in los banos (the rest rooms) of one restaurant, there are bullet holes where Spaniards shot the insurgents.
Guanajuato has a sense of a teeming medieval city--mimes and actors performing in front of the huge theater, numerous town squares shaded with fig trees, boys in medieval costumes who go through the streets at night singing (not a tourist attraction, but a tradition).
There are numerous chapels, old wooden bells, statues of saints. And lots of bookstores--most used, some with very rare books for very little money. Stories and legends seem to spill from the streets and the people. For example:
The other day, drinking margaritas on a roof garden, someone told me about the Day of the Dead. People open their doors all day and evening to show their shrines. Anyone who wants to can visit. And so my friend went to a small house down a curving alley.
This is the time when the dead return and are in limbo. Since they’re hungry, people put out bread. Since they’re thirsty, they leave water. And since they return to whomever they were, people put out whatever the dead might want.
In this case, in addition to bread and water, the widow had a huge bottle of tequila, a tequila cup, and many pictures of women.
“He was a bastard,” she said to my friend. “I hope he’s rotting. What a drinker. And who knows how many women he had."
My friend then looked at the pictures of the women, and saw that their eyes had been gouged out.
“They deserved much more,” she said.
Meanwhile, in New York, Pomade, the restaurant where I met with my American agent and my Spanish agent after the Book Expo, people danced for over twenty-four hours in costumes to celebrate the rescue of the Chilean miners.
How lovely that Pomade was in the newspaper. How plausible that Heidegger's Glasses seems so far from me.
Note--and thanks: Since I'm so far from home, I hope people will visit my new Facebook page and become my friend!
Causes Thaisa Frank Supports
Kiva Doctors without Borders Care2