Thursday, June 12, 2008

Morelia - Past and Present


acueducto 1908Here is how the aqueduct appeared in 1908.   From the look of the overhanging tree branches,  it appears as though horse and buggy traffic ran along the Bosque side only.

acueducto-moreliaNow in 2005 in almost the same spot,  with two lane traffic running along either side of the landmark.   This photo must have been taken at sunrise,  because it would be rare to not see cars lining this avenue now. Either that or protestors were blocking traffic,  yeah,  that's it !

calzada-juarez    I find these two photos of the Calzada Juarez intriguing.  As debate roils these days regarding controlling the growth of our fine city,  and preserving the "pulmones" (lungs) of the area (aka forests).  

The contrast between this 1898 photo above and the more recent photo below show much more vegetation now.   Sometcalzada-moreliaimes people's embellished recollections of times gone by are not all what they are cracked up to be.   In all fairness,  the area in the old photo remained a flood plain for the Rio Chiquito well into the 20th century.   The lake that shows up in the old photo is probably the duck pond in the present day zoo.   If you expand the photos and look closely through the tree branches,  you will be able to make out the shadows of the Cathedral Spires....the one constant in a world of change.



The Cathedral inold catedral 1950 cathedralxx                             .........and in 200?

palacio gobierno

(above) Palacio del Gobierno,  year 19??,  take a fast do Imperial Palm trees grow?  They appear a lot taller in 1950.


(above) El Palacio as it stands today,  ....refreshingly clear of protestors...and sadly,  clear of palms.


(Above)  Los Portales in Morelia...year?  195??


(above)  and as they look today....

126_2620   Traffic in Jesus del Monte 2006

traffic-jam_~AA026597 Traffic in Jesus del Monte 2015?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Present - Returning to my rural roots


Welcome to Jesus del Monte, a small town of roughly 2500 inhabitants located just minutes outside of the capital city of Morelia, Michoacan. I first visited this town in 1992, my inlaws would come up to spend Christmas day in a large family reunion at a Catholic priest seminary. It seemed so remote from the hustle of the big city. Times have changed, and as you can see in my blog on the "New Morelia", urban sprawl is fast approaching.

As the sign at the entrance of our local church says, Jesus del Monte was founded 16 years before the Spanish founded the city of Valladolid, later known as Morelia. Morelia is named after Mexico's founding father and native son, Jose Maria Morelos y Pavon.

The town was founded by the Pirinda tribe, more commonly known as the Matlatzincas. The people here in Jesus del Monte live mainly off of the land. Ranching and farming, brick manufacturing, logging, were and still are the main source of income for residents up here. However, these trades are giving way to constuction workers and electricians, as more and more the city of Morelia creeps nearer.


This photo above is typical of what drew me to this land. He is taking his burros loaded with firewood to the big city. Hard to believe, but this scene is just minutes from what will be the largest mall in Mexico, Paseo Morelia.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Past - where it all began

It was December of 1982, as the airplane circled in for its last descent over Acapulco Bay, I found myself questioning just what I was getting myself into. I was 24 at the time, fresh out of university, wanting to quelch my wanderlust by taking a job as an overseas rep for a charter vacation company. I had never been west of the Mississippi, and now I was about to land in a third world country I knew nothing about.

My dream was to go and live in Europe. Growing up in New Hampshire, my exposure to Mexico was very limited. I must admit, for the first few months I was here, I was not enamored with the land of the Aztecs. Keep in mind, this was 1982. President Lopez Portillo had just nationalized the banks, and the peso was plummeting in value weekly. Vallarta and Cancun were just fledgling resorts, Acapulco was the destination for foreigners. Everyone and their mother was coming to take advantage of the devaluations. I had 600 tourists a week coming in on my charter that I had to find rooms in a very overbooked destination. Tourists were sleeping in the lobbies of the hotels on their suitcases, busses would constantly be 2-3 hours late, a nightmare basically. On the upside, the photo above was my first home in Mexico. I lived in that hotel for the first year of my Mexican existance.

It is funny, when I look at this photo taken in the first months, all four of us could very well be Mexican. Truth is, we were all shellshocked tour reps from Canada and the USA, escaping to a sailboat to get away from the raging tourists!

It is now 2008, I am still here in my adopted Mexico, living in a small town on the outskirts of Morelia, Michoacan. In the coming days and weeks, I hope to share some of the adventures that have made me grow to love this wonderful land over the last 25 years.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Ichaqueo Falls

Ichaqueo, a small town to the southeast of my hometown of Jesus del Monte, Michoacan, is unknown to many people living in nearby Morelia. The name comes from the local Purepechan dialect which means "Town that moved to another place". Apparently, the town moved its center about 3 kms during the Revolution.

It is only 13 miles outside of Morelia, but it is a magical woods, known for its waterfalls and dense vegetation. Anyone who has driven the Columbia River Gorge in western Oregon, or hiked the northern Appalachian trail in the east, will appreciate the similarities of its terrain. The main falls are 35-40 meters high, there are a series of cascades in the area, the total drop of the combined falls is over 200 meters. The woods are mainly large pine and oak.

To get to Ichaqueo, you have to make your way southeast out of Morelia through the "Biblical Mountain" towns, Holy Mary, Jesus on the Mount, and Saint Michael's of the mountain, better known in these parts as Santa Maria, Jesus del Monte, y San Miguel. It is 18 km to the center the town. When I pulled in to Ichaqueo, the first person I asked directions to, turned out to be a guide. His name is Armando Ferrer. I would recommend contracting a guide when you get to town as the trails leading to the falls are difficult to navigate. The robust hike to the top of the main cascade took a little over half an hour.

Armando mentioned that they are trying to conserve the area, and create jobs by promoting eco-tourism to the region. This has been met with great resistance however, by the ejidal landowners in the region, who mainly subsist off of logging and agriculture.

This is Armando, my guide, youngest of 8 children, the only one left in town taking care of his parents. It is hard to make out in this photo, but he is standing on a mound of dirt that marks a century old failed public works project. The idea was to build a canal to funnel water down to the city of Morelia.

"Morning Glories" are just some of the flora that grows wild in these woods. Poison Ivy, orchids, Yucca, numerous mushrooms, lichen, and moss are others.

Aside from logging, another "industry" here is pine pitch (resina) collection. Similar to the maple industry in my native New Hampshire, they scar the tree and let the pitch drip into a coffee can. Here I met Jose Luis, he was scoring the trees with a sharp hatchet like instrument to keep the tree's juices flowing. The pitch or resin is brought to Morelia where it is used for a number of products (Pinol and Pinesol come to mind), and medicine are the 2 that Jose could think of. Later my guide, Armando, explained to me that one use of the pitch was for treating broken bones. The resin would be applied along with some herbal leaves to the arm or leg that was broken. Then it was bandaged. The pitch would harden forming a cast, but unlike normal plaster casts, the resin and herbs also had healing powers as well as keeping the joint immobile.

One of the many swimming holes along the way.

The aptly named "oreja de puerco" or Pig's ear mushroom. Armando says they are edible, any takers?!!!

"El Salto de Ichaqueo" for information on tours to the area, call (443) 143-0057.