La Catrina: 5 Things to know about Dia de los Muertos

It is easy to be enthralled by the beauty of Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead. The Mexican holiday that celebrates death. Understanding so, the imagery associated is stunning and magical. The costumed Catrinas, with their black and white painted faces juxtaposed by beautiful altars strung in bright orange marigolds, can take your breath away.

1. La Catrina, the fancy lady with a skeleton face has everything to do with what was happening during the revolution in Mexico around the 1910s. The image of a fancy lady with a skeleton face was social commentary created by the artist Jose Guadelupe Posada about elite Mexicans who were obsessed with all things European and putting aside their Mexican culture.

2. The Catrina was later popularized by Diego Rivera who painted a Catrina standing next to Frida Kahlo in his famous mural ‘Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park’ in 1947. 

3. Both Diego and Posada were incorporating Aztec symbolism. The Aztecs honored the Queen of the underworld Mictecacihuatl and it is the Aztec’s ideas about death that synchronized with Catholicism and later became what we know as Dia de los Muertos.

4. The heart of Dia de los Muertos is on November 2nd when families go to the cemetery to clean gravesites and spend time remembering those who have departed. It is a national holiday, banks are closed and people don’t go to work or school. I was fortunate to visit a cemetery on November 2nd in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Mariachi bands were playing, no one seemed sad or was crying. There were tons of people and it was a joyous affair.

5. While Mexico (and elsewhere) contends with the influence of the United States, dressing up as a Catrina in Mexico is not necessarily evidence of Halloween encroaching on Mexico culture. Younger generations are encouraged to take part in the Catrina look as a way to stay connected to Dia de los Muertos. This may be true with the Mexico city parade for example, that began in 2016 after the James Bond movie, Spectre. The parade will encourage tourism but that is not necessarily a bad thing so long as visitors understand the true meaning of the holiday.

Also interesting to know is that other countries and cultures in Latin America celebrate All Saints Day on November 1rst. There is a great article about that here on Remezcla.

Europeans historically have had a connection to this day in pre-Christan times sometimes called Samhain, where they also believed it was a time to connect to the world of spirits and departed souls. But for most of us, that lineage is long gone.

Isn’t interesting that around the world many different people felt a connection to death around this time year, the same time that plants and flowers also die in North America?

More about Dia de los Muertos in San Miguel de Allende, with photos.

Travel to Vancouver, British Columbia

First thing I want to say is that if you live close to Vancouver or have an opportunity…go visit Vancouver, Canada!

It is beautiful and fun. It has that different, diverse, quasi-European/Asian big city, cosmopolitan feel.

Second thing I want to tell you is do not take your CBD over the border. 🤣🤣

Even though cannabis is legal in the state of Washington and Canada, carrying any marijuana products across the border—even those used for health issues, and do not contain THC, are strictly forbidden.

Even though when you get to Canada you are likely to read about weed in the weekly, including how to MAKE HASH AT HOME.

It especially was an issue because I took a bus to Vancouver and therefore I had to disembark and go through customs. I reported the vegetables I was carrying: celery sticks. They searched my bag and gave me a bunch of crap because I didn’t report the tincture bottle.

Beyond that I had a great time in Vancouver. It is so pretty!.

All the things I did in Vancouver:

  • walked around Davies street near plentiful LBGT bars
  • walked along the waterfront to Stanley Park
  • rented a bike and rode around Stanley Park (hourly or by the day, lots of bike rentals on the northeast side of park)
  • ate Korean black bean noodles
  • explored the west end checking out the shops
  • went on a Latin dance cruise with a buffet and saw the most amazing views
  • traveled to Granville Island by water taxi ($5 round trip, 5 minutes)
  • attended the Vancouver Latin American film festival
  • spent the day reading on Jericho Beach in the sun
  • walked or took the bus everywhere

It is a beautiful city, similar to Seattle in almost majestic way. The English Bay that surrounds Vancouver seems bigger then the Puget Sound and the mountains higher. I also happened to be there on a exceptional sunny day.

There’s also a lot of high rises around downtown Vancouver—which seemed mostly to be apartments. Different then Seattle, where our high rises seem more for business. Large parts of downtown Vancouver are made for living in and are nice.

I stayed at Hosteling International (HI) in downtown. It is my go to hostel brand these days. Easy, affordable, clean. The Vancouver downtown hostel was in a great location for everything I wanted to do. They also have a generous continental breakfast which is rare for a hostel. HI Downtown also has a rooftop deck.

My third night in Vancouver I stayed at Hl Jericho Beach, which is right near the beach on the Kitsilano side of Vancouver. HI Jericho Beach wasn’t as nice but the location was excellent.

I highly recommend this beach! Beautiful views and it goes on for long time.

Why do we travel? One reason is to do things that we don’t normally get to do at home.

I went to the closing night of the Vancouver Latin American film festival and saw a movie from Mexico called ASFIXIA with actress and producer in attendance. I also attended the closing after party, ate as many Brazilian deep fried cheese balls as I could and tried to act cool.

Vancouver Latin American Film Festival
Giants, Os Gemos

One of the most satisfying things that happened during my trip was that I got to see street art by Os Gemos, brother artists duo from Brazil. I have been following them for awhile and had not yet seen any of their work in person. Their piece is on Granville island—a shopping artsy place you go to by water taxi and is painted on cement silos at a concrete factory. Granville used to an industrial zone but it has become an artists enclave and tourist destination. There is very nice high quality goods at Granville but unless you want to shop–an hour is enough time to spend there.

Giants, Os Gemos

Every city needs art and art has to be in the middle of the people. -OSGEMOS

I didn’t even begin to tap into the great food that exists in Vancouver. People lining up for ramen, fresh looking bakeries, authentic ethnic food of many varieties everywhere.

I considered the Richmond night market, just outside of Vancouver and heard is like Hong Kong but that I decided that would have to be another trip in itself.

Vancouver House Leaning Tower

Vancouver felt diverse, vibrant and sophisticated, a little more so then the Pacific Northwest in the United States.

For love of adventure and freedom–Erin

Fremont Summer Solstice Parade Gets Funky

My favorite Seattle event of the year: the Solstice parade in Fremont!

Bring on the hippies!

We had a typical Seattle cloudy day and my pictures came out poor. All of these photos were edited with Lightroom, the Adobe photo app which I have recently been playing around with. It saved my dark pictures!

Solstice parade: not just about naked people on bicycles (attendees get obsessed!), it is about creativity, environmentalism (there are no cars or motor allowed in the parade) politics (no endorsements allowed) and self-expression.

Highlights this year: seeing my Brazilian friends Bahia In Motion with their 100+ person dance and percussion procession ( I danced with a Brazilian group Vamola in this parade 16 years ago), lots of other dance groups this year and dancing out the parade with a funk band. I was about to leave when the band came down the road and all of a sudden I was in the parade. 🙂

Enjoy the slideshow.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Want see more pictures from previous summer solstice parades?

Visit Santa Cruz, California, Anytime of the Year

February was actually the perfect time to visit the cozy beach town of Santa Cruz, a place that I called home for eight years during the 1990’s. It was beautifully clear, quiet and there were plenty of waves and surfers.

You can travel to Santa Cruz, CA by car in one and a half hours from San Francisco. However I flew to San Jose and favoring public transit, I took a city bus to the Cal Train Depot, Diridon station. From there I took the Santa Cruz Highway 17 Express over the hill (Santa Cruz Mountains) to downtown Santa Cruz. It is easy to get to.

I stayed at the Hostelling International hostel (cute!) for $35 per night. Santa Cruz is a nice get away anytime of the year. I walked along West Cliff drive enjoying the ocean views. West Cliff drive is four miles and great for walking along the ocean.

Santa Cruz has good food and is a nice place to relax. I highly recommend both Well Within and Kiva Retreat spas. I worked at both back in the day!

Santa Cruz Hostel

Cowell’s beach and the beginning of West Cliff Drive

Hello there! Just a few sea lions today.

Santa Cruz Sea Lions

Look closely for the rainbow.

West Cliff Drive

Click on the pictures below for a larger view.

Bucket List Check: Zumba Instructor Convention

Becoming a Zumba Instructor and Zincon

In two days I board the plane for ZinCon, otherwise known as the Zumba Instructor Convention in Orlando, Florida. It has always been a special dream for me to go the Zumba convention in order to attend the Fitness Concert.  The convention and the concert is just for instructors. The Fitness Concert— otherwise known as a Zumba class with 6,000 people and with the founder of Zumba himself–Beto Perez.

So this year I became licensed to teach Zumba for several reasons but one being so I could go to the convention. I guess you could say I’m about to do something on my bucket list.

I still don’t know how many people will be there this week–maybe 5,000 or 8,000 coming from around the world for a four-day Zumba frenzy of dance classes, professional skills, shopping for Zumba clothes, making friends with other instructors, and of course the parties and concert.

I have been studying dance on and off for years and Zumba is like an accumulation of all that dance into a concentrated format to have fun with. In a Zumba class you dance a variety of different rhythms so it could be all my favorite dances rolled into one. It is like a good friend that sometimes I spend more or less time with but is always there.

Now I am really getting the chance to get up close and personal with Zumba- the other side of it, learning to be an instructor. To be honest I don’t know if I want to be an instructor or not. Part of me does, as an acknowledgement of how hard I have studied dance in my life.

African, Jazz, Brazilian, Salsa dancing— has been a big part of my life and it would be satisfying to take that part of me and share it with others. Another part of me feels overwhelmed by the idea and doesn’t want to take my fun thing and turn it into a job. Dancing is one thing and bring an instructor is another. However there are some people who get licensed just to dance and be a part of the Zumba community.

In 2001 I saw an infomercial on television in the middle of the night for a workout and I bought the VHS. It was Zumba and it looked really cool. Some of the dances also seemed kind of funny, like one where you dance like you are riding a pony and slap it in front of you.

At the same time I was performing with Vamola, a Brazilian dance troupe and taking Cuban salsa lessons. The freestyle part of Cuban salsa, the loose hip-shaking do your own thing, the isolations— sometimes referred to as tembleque was something I wanted to do more of.

I had the idea to teach my own dance class and incorporate these Latin dances, kind of like Zumba or a Latin workout class. There were no group Zumba classes in my area, yet. This was 2003. I even made a poster! I started taking traditional Jazz dance classes at a dance school to boost my professional training.

Then my life took another turn. Not necessarily a wanted direction and I put the idea of teaching a dance class aside.

I found Zumba again in San Francisco in 2011. I made the best of a period of unemployment and went to a lot of Zumba classes. It felt so good to be dancing and getting in shape. I had a great deal at 24 hr Fitness for $32 a month. I thought a little bit about being an instructor again but compared myself to my favorite instructor in San Francisco, who had more of a professional dance background and thought it was out of reach.

Now in the present time I work at Community Fitness–a studio in Seattle, which has dropped me back in the world of a dance, more specifically dance fitness. Where I have access to as many free classes as I want and a bounty of wonderful instructors.

Here we are some 17 years later from when I originally bought the Zumba VHS. Zumba and I are still together.

And shit is about to get real.

Fremont (Seattle) Summer Solstice Parade

Back to the Fremont Solstice Parade!

I was glad to see that the freaks and geeks and pagans and queers and just generally creative, political people are alive and well in Seattle. The city has changed a lot in the past ten years in terms of development and demographics. But so far in this little corner of the city, hippies remain. This photo essay is missing many of the famous naked bicyclers as I arrived a little late but the rest of the Seattle Summer Solstice parade is interesting too.

Click on a image to see the whole gallery.

Beautiful Street Art in San Miguel de Allende

Lots of street art to love in San Miguel de Allende. This is two of four collections of street art I will posting from San Miguel de Allende, Mexico that I photographed in the fall of 2016.

It has been cultivated in the Guadeloupe neighborhood through the organization Muros En Blanco who had another street art festival this past February.

See more street art from San Miguel de Allende. 

Cartagena, Colombia: So Much History

Step into history and bustle on the edge of the Caribbean in Cartagena.

Little Alley Getsmani

Most visitors will visit the old city which has become a tourist hot spot. Backpackers and budget travelers will opt for lodging and food just outside the old city in the smaller section of town called Getsmani.

The old city has a wall around it that was built-in the 16th century by Spanish colonists to keep out invaders and pirates. Cartagena was a major port and the capital of the slave trade. In more recent history it was home to one of the world’s most loved Latin American authors, Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

There is a lot more to the history and story of Cartagena. Enjoy this photo journey.

These doorknobs bring a taste of the old and fancy. Many of the homes in the old city sell for over a million dollars and are vacation homes for the wealthy.

I live for photos like this one. I hate to intrude without permission on anyone’s person but I love capturing people living life. The man dressed in white is likely a Santero, a practitioner of Santeria, the African religion.

Former home of Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Cumbia dancers performing for tourists in the old city.

Colombia!

For more pictures from Cartagena and discussion on gentrification check out Street Art Tour: Cartagena.

The Case of the Missing Headlamp

While I was on a traveling in Colombia my headlamp may have ended up in some kind of a vortex. The likely answer is that it was stolen.

But it didn’t feel like it was stolen. Because I was asleep at the time of it’s disappearance and that feels creepy and weird and I’d rather not have to go there. But it was never found and it’s easier to contend with vague shifting dimensions then to think about someone reaching in the window to take it in the otherwise tranquil Colombian fishing town of Rincon del Mar.

It was eight in the morning on the Caribbean coast of Colombia and I was packing my bags because the boat was coming at nine to take us to a hostel on the water, appropriately named Casa del Agua. It was more like a house on a dock built away from shore–but that is another story and perhaps kept secret. (Hint…everything is on Google these days)

wp-1482433266154.jpg

So there I was packing, concerned about whether we had enough water with us, having time to get some tinto (Colombian really small size of coffee that you buy on the street) before the boat pulled up outside our door to take us to Casa del Agua and I could not find my headlamp anywhere. It was odd because I had just used it during the night. I am a very organized person by nature and and most of the time know exactly where my stuff is at any given moment. Even while traveling. Especially while traveling.

In the middle of night I woke up and read by headlamp. I left it on the bed next to me while I was sleeping in case woke up and needed to see quickly in unfamiliar surroundings as there was no lamp by the bed or even a nightstand in my room, only an overhead. I was reading a novel I had bought on the street in Cartagena about a passionate young woman the late 1800’s who fell in love with a married man and refused to renounce the wrongness of her love. After Colombia I gave the book to a young Italian woman in what may be the cheapest hostel room in Miami Beach.

Me and my traveling companions had rented rooms in a house on the beach in Rincon made of concrete, some wooden framing and a palm fern roof with a upstairs and downstairs. No one else was living there but another traveler couple arrived from Greece that we saw a week later in another part of Colombia. It was steps from the water and quiet. We bought octopus and six lobsters from a man who walked by with a bucket fresh from the sea for $3.00 and cooked them in the meager kitchen on the second floor.

I took the bottom floor bedroom which had a window open to beach with wooden rods going across where glass would have been and shutters over top of them. The wooden rods were not as secure as you would find in a big city but blocked enough space so that I could go to sleep and probably would be safe. The space between them was big enough to put a hand through but not to pull a suitcase or body through. There was a cloth for a curtain and I considered shutting the shutters for the night but it seemed like a travesty since I was sleeping on the beach. I closed the shutters part of the way and that gave me some feeling of security. The bed was a mattress placed on a concrete slab built into the wall. The slab was just like a bed frame but seamless against the wall and nothing could fall behind it.

wp-1482433426971.jpg

The clock was ticking and the boat was coming. I took a shower and continued the organizing process, sure my headlamp would show up. I searched the bathroom, the garbage can, rumpled sheets, under the pillow and twice searched my backpack but I couldn’t find it. It seemed crazy since I had just used it. I interrupted my brother who was packing in his room to help me look because I was at a loss and we would not be coming back to Rincon. I told him I needed second eyes. He looked, saw nothing and continued getting ready to get ready for the boat.

The boat came and I had to go without resolving anything. I didn’t get any tinto but we did have our water. In Colombia the most economical way to buy drinking water was to buy a plastic bag of water and then cut a hole in it to refill plastic bottles of water for carrying. Then the bag had to be stored in away it wouldn’t spill til it was emptied.

I’m a light sleeper and noise almost always wakes me up but I suppose somebody could have put their hand in, through the bars, without bumping the shutter and taken my headlamp. Because everyone knows that it falling into a vortex is a little ridiculous.

sunset in Rincon, Colombia
sunset in Rincon, Colombia

Cool Street Art: Fish People Tulum, Mexico

fish.streetart.tulum

Tulum is known for being a hip beach vacation destination just south of Cancun in the Rivera Maya, Mexico. Street art is plentiful and fun in downtown Tulum.

Talk a walk around the downtown center and it will be easy to find.

wp-image-537225741jpg.jpg

Check out more street art in Tulum. More posts from Mexico here.

Carnival in A Rio Neighborhood

Carnival in Rio gets wild on the beach..

26581017043_c8d6fa2cc3_o

The Sambadrome is ready for people and floats like you see on TV but meanwhile…

sambadrome_5
photo from sambadrome.com

Neighborhoods all over Rio make their own party like this that I enjoyed in my first trip to Rio de Janeiro.

All ages, all walks of life joined in to play music together and follow the small parade around the neighborhood. Some people danced, a fair amount drank beer and some people like these charming fellows dressed up “homeless”. I could see where some people might find this offensive but perhaps Carnival is going to extremes so you can carry on the rest of the year.

26990969122_4db3c97098_o

26990956462_5a2fabd47c_o

I think maybe I even started looking Brazilian during that trip…

27187628385_0a13ac2460_o

Get your samba on!

Interview: Travel at Any Age

Ladies who travel in their 70’s
Funicular in Guanajuato, Mexico

When I was in Mexico, separately I met two lovely ladies that were traveling at 72 years of age. I was inspired by their bravery, willingness and wit. I loved that they were not afraid to leave home–the United States for one and Canada for the other. Not only that, they were both in Mexico to learn Spanish.

I think they both prove the point that you can do anything at any age.

I asked them some questions to get their perspective:

wp-image-1078161493jpg.jpgBarbara from Canada:

Many people are afraid to leave the conveniences of home and this becomes even more true as people get older. What makes you travel at 72?

I have traveled my whole life beginning when I was 11 and my father was posted to Paris, France. 

I travel now at 74 because I still can. It is not everyone who has good health, or can afford it. When you are in your seventies, you get regular reminders in life that you have no time to waste. Tomorrow you may not be able to travel, but what memories you will have! Travel keeps you young, energized and engaged with life. It enables you to clear your mind and to break away from stagnating routine. It keeps you up to date. It gives you something to look forward to. What have you got to lose?

What have you learned from traveling?

Traveling is a great teacher. Not only do you learn about other places, people, and cultures, you learn about yourself. One discovery leads to another and you quickly realize that in the grand scheme of things, you don’t know much. There is so much more for you to learn and more opportunities for personal growth. I learned French as a child and started working on learning Spanish in Mexico at 70.

What advice would you have for someone wanting to travel? And special advice for people in their 70’s?

Now that I am older, I establish a home base, get to really know it, and take short trips to nearby locations. Sign up for language courses and take local tours. Use the local establishments around you like pharmacies, grocery stores, restaurants, hairdressers, markets. Surround yourself with people who recognize or know you in your neighborhood to eliminate feelings of loneliness. Local coffee shops or language schools are good places to meet fellow travelers and where you can often get good information about things to do or NOT do. Listen to the locals.

What is your favorite place that you have visited?

Mexico has been the joy of my 70’s. I hesitantly accepted an invitation to a wedding in Mexico, and the rest is history. I have returned every year since. I have fallen in love with the people, the language, the art, the history, the music and joie de vive. Mexicans take every opportunity to celebrate and their open hospitality has a place for everyone at the table. No matter what your age, you are invited to the fiesta.

wp-1486411290414.jpgKaren from the Untied States:

What makes you travel at 72?

Realizing that my adequate health/age clock is ticking, I want to continue traveling while I can. Also I like adventures “under semi-controlled conditions” like enough money to cover my adventures and misadventures as I travel. I want to experience life, not let it pass into another arena called death. Otherwise it is about using “time remaining” to live it.

What have you learned from traveling?

Be open to changes and enjoy every day’s adventure as you travel. Be sure to not take too big of travel bites so you will not be overwhelmed. Give yourself time to digest what you see/do/think.

What advice would you have for someone wanting to travel? And special advice for people in their 70’s?

Laugh alone with yourself when you goof up. Have a deep/wide sense of humor. Don’t be in a hurry to do too much.

What is your favorite place that you have visited?

San Miguel de Allende. For its people, architecture, and culture.

I hope my readers find this inspiring. It’s never too late to have adventure and learning.

Join the journey—