Xmas in Mexico, December 2008

Mom got stranded in PDX due to a 100-year snowstorm, and showed up in Mexico City a full week late, on the 28th. Meanwhile, Heidi, Piper, HLT, and I drove to the state of Michoacan, about 5 hours west, where we went to the site of the Paracutin volcano (the one that popped out of a Mexican cornfield c. 1943), and then the monarch butterfly perserves in Angangueo. Mom showed up the day we returned, and we spent a few more days tooling around the Mexico City area. (Unfortunately there's no photos of her -- she was busy behind the camera, apparently. Some photos are hers, some are HLT's, some HH's, and the rest mine.)

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Xmas in Mexico City

Heidi gets the menorah lit, though HLT's delivery of shabat candles didn't help as much as she was hoping.
Xmas dinner of burritos and corn soup (Throop/H-bach co-mingling).
Piper's Target-sourced condor gets into the holiday action.
Check out those pinatas!
Bugs appear. Still missing one leg; let HLT know if it is found.
Piper has made HH a diorama of the two of them biking across Africa and seeing an anteater and a jaguar (in cave) and a zebra.
Whoa! Dude, check out that oven.
Flying cottage cheese H-bach pancakes.
Three-humped camel is threatened by sabre-toothed jaguar.

Volcan Paracutin and the lava-filled church

OK, we drove to the state of Michoacan. Once there, we went out to the city of ___, near the volcano Paracutin. It is the moderately famous volcano that erupted out of a farmer's cornfield in 1943, and continued to grow for about a decade, eventually engulfing the city of San Juan.

There is a new city there, from which we rented horses and a guide.

The lava flow is a few-mile ride.
We arrive at the edge of the lava field (where we find more taco stands, of course).
Check out that church! The lava flow is some 30 feet deep, covering the entire old city except for the church.
We crawl around.
Here is our awesome Mexican guide. His parents were alive when the volcano went off in 1943. He (and most of the rest of the town) speaks Purepecha natively, and only learned Spanish and English later. His parents lost their farm and life when the city was destroyed, although now tourism has brought back some of that. It apparently requires a lot of diferent techniques to farm on the ash-polluted fields now, though agriculture is definitely coming back. (Not on the lava flow itself -- give that another century.)
Piper crawls down into the main entryway. The floor lies about 30 feet below the surface of the lava.
Descending to (almost) ground level inside the church.
The altar is extremely well preserved. The fact that the altar was protected from the lava has great significance, of course, so it is heavily flowered and honored.
"Ruinas de San Juan Parangaricutiro: Aqui fue el altar del sr. de los Milagros el volcan paricutin no respeto y no pudo destruir. EL HUMANO NO RESPETA. Y so lo esta destruyendo, Por favor no ralles, no tires basura, PIENSA!"
Google Earth view of the same area. Lava flow is obvious, with the two towers (center) and altar (right) poking up. The taco stands are in the flat area at the top left just off the flow.
Just off the edge of the flow, we have some comida: tacos, atole (hot chocolate + blue corn meal + water), etc.
Riding back. Piper insisted on riding her own horse without having a guide. The horses were excellent.
Piper feeds her horse.
Pigs are fed.
This horse (in Patzcuaro) is a little less exciting.

Isla Janitzio and its tall statue

We stayed in Patzcuaro for the night, and then took the boat to Isla Janitzio, which we had strategically avoided for Dia de los Muertos due to its touristic reputations. We were not disapointed in that aspect!
Piper has already bought a fishing net in the parking lot.
Ever-present mariachis, on the boat.
Here's Janitzio in all its glory. Note the hard-to-miss statue of Sr. Morelos, who led the Mexican war of independence before being captured by Spain in 1815.
Fishermen act like they are catching fish, but are in fact performing for tips. We did see one tiny little fish the ensemble of them managed to catch.
Inside the statue of Morelos.
The high-tech safety system in place at the top of the staircase.
Over the lake from the top of the fist...
Check out that shadow!

Mariposa Migration in Angangueo

Next attraction: mariposa preserves (monarch butterflies) near Angangueo. This is a few hours back toward Mexico City. We drove back and stayed in the (cold) Auberge Don Bruno for the night. In the morning we got up late (as do the mariposas) and headed up to 10,000' where they live.
More cabellos to ride... it's a mile or two in, over a steep a dusty trail, so the horses aren't necessary, but they were cute.
Heather spies some!
Check that out! OK, so the deal is that the mariposas migrate down to Mexico for the winter, staying here for a few months on their trip. They camp out in trees -- they don't eat the trees, but stay there and eat from flowers during the day. In this particular area, the butterflies took over about 50 trees. The photos are not that great since none of us had much of a zoom, but you can take it on faith that this brown clump is a heavy lump of butterflies hanging in a tree.
More lumps of mariposas. This is about 11 AM -- when in Mexico, the butterflies in fact become Mexican, and sleep in well into the day. When the sun hits them, they warm up and take off. So, there's no need to be there at 6 AM to watch the activity - they're just sleeping.
Rules are enforced: no making noise; no touching them unless they touch you first; no taking home anything. Everyone obeyed. There were maybe 30 people there during the time we were. We stayed for a few hours.
Check out that fancy hairstyle! This is Christian, who we met at the preserve.
A Mexican mariposa guard. By this point, there were so many of them that we had to be really careful not to step on them, swat them, or put on a hat or jacket on top of them.
Also amazing was the sound of them. While one butterfly may make no sound, a million of them actually does make a quiet whir in the air as they flap around. Flap, flap, flap, flap...
We headed back and got some excellent food from the stands near the entry way.
The famous Michoacan plates. More than one plate had their mariposas inked out, perhaps in homage to Oregon spotted owl opponents who would have loved to do the same had they been given the opportunity to.

Canal boats in Xochimilco (Mexico City)

Back in Mexico city, JMT has showed up, though there are no pictures of her to show it. We go boating in Xochimilco. I pole for a little bit. Also see the earlier photos.
A corn boat passes...
Mariachis, of course.

Pyramids at Teotihuacan (Mexico City)

Climbing the pyramids at Teotihuacan, outside of Mexico City.

We'd been to Teotihuacan earlier, so check out that link for more photos.

Pyramid-climbing at Tepoztlan (near Mexico City)

Having a second breakfast in Tepoztlan (S. of Mexico City), not to be confused with Tepozotlan (N. of Mexico City). This one has a pyramid in it, and a lot of Mexican hippies selling crystals and tasty hare krishna food.
It really is a gorgeous valley. It is better in the spring/summer, when it is all green, however. The walls are stair-cased and steep: a lot of nearly vertical rock covered with agaves and hanging plants and whatnot.
Piper climbed up the trail to the volcano.
There's a bit of a bottleneck at the top. The steel staircases are not quite visible here, but it took a good 40 minutes to make it through the final 100 yard stretch to the pyramid itself.

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Henry Throop

Last modified Fri Apr 17 14:01:29 2009