Originally from Indiana, after I married my chilango husband, we promptly moved to northern Mexico, just about half-way between our respective families. We´ve found that we´ve got the best of both worlds here!
On Friday, the 23rd of November, The Trittico of Puccini will be presented at the Teatro de la Ciudad Fernando Soler by the Coahuila Opera Studio (AFA) and the Orchestra of the Desert.
What is Puccini’s Trittico?
It’s a collection of three, one-act operas. Puccini debuted them on December 18, 1918. This year marks the 100th anniversary of their debut, and the Coahuila Opera Studio’s director, Alejandro Reyes Valdez wanted to commemorate the anniversary by presenting them on their 100th birthday.
The closest he could get was the 23rd, so we’re rolling with that!
The three operas that comprise the entire trittico thematically represent heaven, purgatory, and hell. (Puccini was a good Italian, invoking Dante and all.) 😉 The conflict of all three of them revolves around “the consealment of a death“.
Last year, the Opera Studio presented Gianni Schicchi at the Besana Theater, downtown. It’s quick moving, very physical, and awfully funny–even if you’re not keeping up with the traslation on the screen. Gianni Schicchi is the vehicle to explore heaven. (Or it simply has a happy ending.)
Two years ago, the Coahuila Opera Studio presented Suor Angelica, with a cast of fifteen women, led by Alejandra López Fuentes. It’s the story of Suor Angelica, exiled to a convent and is the story of her resignation, despair, and redemption. This is the purgatory of the trittico.
This year the Opera Studio has spent most of the year getting ready for the third installment, Il Tabarro. Representing hell, it has its darker moments, but the music still remains light in places. Not having seen it yet, it’s still a bit of a mystery. (But I don’t recommend taking kids to that one!)
But given the success of the first two installments, it’s going to be a treat to see them all together!
Head out to the Teatro de la Ciudad Fernando Soler to catch all three of the operas the comprise Puccini’s Trittico on November 23, 2018 in Saltillo, Coahuila!
I stumbled upon maps of many of Saltillo’s bus routes!
This HAS to be shared!
For those looking to hop on a bus for the first time, it costs $11 a ride (July 2018). So yes, if you have more than 2 people, getting a taxi is more economical. There are discounts for prepaid cards, students with prepaid cards, seniors with prepaid cards, and handicapped people with prepaid cards.
Last May, Colectivo Tomate took to the streets–well, one street in particular–and, quite literally, painted the town. (OK, they painted the street.) The effect is impressive, and one that Saltillo can enjoy for years to come.
Murals are one of Mexico’s more notable art forms. The Mexican mural tradition dates back to prehispanic times, but had a notable resurgence in the 1930s, thanks to artists like Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siquieros.
The Tomato Colective has been drawing attention to neighborhoods, making murals throughout the country, notably in Puebla, Mexico City, Querétaro, Monterrey, La Paz, and San Luis Potosí. “It is a project based on the active participation of the community through the creation of murals that will be in their neighborhoods and, above all, on their houses. This will create a connection between people: it will tell the story of the neighborhood and, doing so, will result in a healthier society,” explained Liz Raschel, chief of public relations for the Tomato Colective to Zocalo reporter, Christian Garcia.
The Tomato Colective‘s artists planned and painted (with help from the community) 50 different murals, painted by 25 different artists. Some artists are from Saltillo, some from other parts of Mexico, and some came from other countries. (Scroll down for a list of the participating artists.)
“The impact of the Tomato Colective‘s work is that all the neighborhood comes together and all the neighbors collaborate. It’s not just having 50 random pieces of art. These 50 murals reflect the history of these houses,” commented Mabel Garza, director of the Municipal Institute of Culture last year. [Quote also from the Zocalo, May 2017.]
Not only do these murals reflect the history of the houses they’re painted on, but the artists worked closely with the families who donated the exteriors of their houses to this project, making sure that the finished products would be a source of pride for the families, the Águila de Oro neighborhood, and the larger community of Saltillo.
Where to find the Águila de Oro Murals?
It’s on Calle Bolivar downtown. Calle Bolivar dead ends at the parking lot for the Museo de los Aves. It is often easiest to park on Calle Bravo (the next street parallel to Hidalgo), and then walk the four blocks to where the murals really start. (There is one on a building near the Bird Museum.)
Towards the end of the Parade of Murals, some streets that cross Bolivar end in a set of stairs that will lead to the Mirador. It’s a pretty intense hike, but if you’ve made it that far (and are in pretty good health), it’s worth finishing off the mural tour with the best view of Saltillo.
Still not sure how to get there? Contact Jill Douglas at email@example.com, and we can arrange a guided tour.
We’ve all been there. And this is what it looks like:
At least, on a Sunday, this is what Arteaga looks like.
For those who haven’t been to Arteaga (on a Sunday), there’s a pretty large market that sets up all over Arteaga’s Alameda every Sunday. Go early, because parking is a pain mid-afternoon!
The other day–a THURSDAY MORNING–(who goes to Arteaga on a Thursday morning?) this is what it looked like:
Shhhh . . . it’s very quiet here on a weekday!
Maybe too quiet for some . . .
But I love Arteaga when it’s quiet!
Plus, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that there are some restaurants open during the week.
I also ventured off the Alameda and found the Plaza de Armas. It’s another tree-lined square, with the mayor’s office on one end and the elementary school on the other.
Another block away (behind the elementary school) was Arteaga’s main church, San Isidro Labrador. His feast day is the 15th of May. So when the kiddies don’t have school for Teacher’s Day, swing by Arteaga–I bet these few blocks will be rockin’!
Here’s a gorgeous video from Televisa, highlighting the town (and county) much better than I can!
For those who aren’t yet in Saltillo, and are looking to get a feel for the place, I’ve added this video from Hannah and Doren. They’re missionaries affiliated with SALT church (on Eulalio Gutierrez, just north of HEB San Patricio, and services are informal and largely in English, for those interested).
Doren grew up here in Saltillo, and Hannah moved here last year, and this is one of their many videos showcasing what they enjoy about living in Saltillo.
This one gives us a brief walking tour of Saltillo’s colonial downtown area.
Thanks for sharing, Hannah and Doren!
If you enjoyed that, pass on some love and subscribe to their youtube channel!
If anyone else has photos, videos, or written reflections they’d like to share here, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org or send Jill a message through the SaltilloExpats facebook group.
Benito Juárez is Mexico´s most beloved president. He was president from 1858-1872, which were some turbulent years for Mexico.
He is most famous for leading Mexico through the Reform Era.
Mexico as we know it began with Spanish colonization. While the Spanish government at the time was officially a monarchy, I think it would be fair to call it a theocracy. Spain, including New Spain, under the Spanish Inquisition was one of the more oppressive theocracies the world has seen.
When Mexico gained independence, they liberated themselves from the monarchy (*cough–theocracy–cough*). However, the Church still held enormous power, both politically and economically. They owned huge tracts of land, and priests owned businesses. The Church ran most hospitals and schools. The Church also had a judicial system, separate from that of the government.
During Benito Juárez´s tenure as president, the Church lost much political and economic power under the law.
Thanks to this era, the separation of church and state is much stricter than in the US. However, despite the fact the vast majority of the Mexican population is Christian (and that percentage is overwhelmingly Catholic), Mexicans seem to support and respect the separation of church and state much more than their Christian counterparts in the US. Perhaps because Mexicans are generally more honest with themselves about the negative aspects of their history, they are aware, from concrete historical examples, that life is better when the Church doesn´t get to call the shots.
Furthermore, even though Mexico is often thought to be a “macho” culture and country (and that is true in far too many situations), during the Reform Era, women were prohibited from changing their last names when they got married. Today, in the 21st century, it´s still controversial for women not to change their last names when they marry in the US. But Mexican women have been doing it (been forced to do it) since the mid-19th century!
Also during Juárez´s time as president, the French invaded Mexico. Despite the Mexican success that Cinco de Mayo is famous for, the French did eventually make their way to Mexico City and established their government. For four years, Mexico was a French colony, and the democratically-elected Mexican government–led by Juárez–was on the run. At one point, Juárez´s government found a home in Saltillo. Yes, that´s right, for a few months in the 1860s, Saltillo was the capital of Mexico! (At least, for those who refused to acknowledge the French government.) The Recinto de Juárez, on Calle Juárez, just opposite the cathedral was where he lived, and can still be visited.
Eventually, the tide turned for the French, and Juárez´s government was able to return to Mexico City in 1867.
During the remainder of his term as president (which he extended, and which may or may not have been strictly approved by the Constitution), he focused on improving Mexico´s infrastructure and making secular, public education more widely available.
Now, if you think that 14 years is a long time for one person to be president of a country, you´d be right. Juárez had just won re-election in 1871, but died shortly after. However, many people who once were his friends, openly opposed his re-election (and the results of the election). Keep in mind, that politics in Mexico were much different then than they are now (or, here´s hoping that´s the case). Juárez´s presidency sits squarely between Mexico´s most famous dictators–Santa Anna and Porfirio Díaz. So, in comparison to those guys, fourteen years really wasn´t much at all! Yes, there were a few presidents between Santa Anna and Juárez, and Lerdo de Tejada was president between Juárez and Díaz. But really, if we remember Santa Anna, Juárez, and Díaz, we´ve pretty much got 19th century Mexican history covered.
However, Juárez did die before anyone could roll out a coup on his government after the 1871 election, and now he is revered and remembered for instituting much-needed reforms, and for maintaining the Mexican government in the face of foreign invasion.
A birthday party in Mexico just isn´t a birthday party, unless a piñata is beaten to a pulp.
In fact, the word piñata is often an abbreviated term for birthday party. “Ceci is going to a piñata tomorrow” is a legitimate way to say that Ceci is going to a birthday party. Because, after all, what is the point of a birthday party without the piñata?
Among other places, piñatas are sold at the market downtown and any materias primas store. (For those who haven´t been to a materia prima store, that´s a whole cultural experience in itself! The Cuellar stores on the Periferico, or El Doblón on Eulalio Gutierrez are great examples. The first time I wandered through one, I thought I had died and gone to candy heaven.) However, in my experience, the best place to get a piñata in Saltillo is on the corner of Luis Corona and Matamoros, downtown.
Four or five family-owned stores dot the corner of Corona and Matamoros. Piñatas are made right there, and they cost anywhere from $75 to $160, depending on the size. Yes, even those freakishly huge, larger-than-the-birthday-boy piñatas can cost $150.
Now, my birthday girl had to scan the stores, as she hates to hit anything that has a face. Almost all piñatas have a face. Fortunately, her birthday is close to Christmas, and one store still had two traditional star piñatas left over from Christmas.
Traditionally, the piñata is a seven-pointed star. The seven points represent the seven deadly sins. When the piñata is broken, the children are showered with the rewards of resisting evil. What the symbolism becomes when a princess or superhero is beaten to death, I´m not sure. But kids (over the age of 4) sure love it!
The pre-Christmas posadas usually involve piñatas, so if one is looking for a piñata during the Guadalupe Reyes season (December 12-January 6th), they recommended buying one ahead of time. These stores on Corona and Matamoros are also willing to make custom-made piñatas with a week´s notice. (It would be a good idea to give them a bit more notice during December.)
The birthday parties at our house are usually a bit different from typical Mexican birthday parties, given cultural norms that I either don´t want to participate in or don´t realize exist. But we do always have a piñata.
This is the first of a series “The Best of Saltillo”. Know of a great place for . . . well, basically anything? Share with us! Send in your recommendation with at least 2 photos, an address or good directions and as many specific details as would be helpful for others to email@example.com.
A word of warning: if anyone plans on going downtown this weekend, particularly on the streets just northwest of the Alameda, you might be sitting in traffic for much longer than usual.
Why? Monday, December 12th, is the annual commemoration of the apparition of the Virgin of Guadalupe. All the little old (Catholic) ladies go nuts for her. In fact, for many people in Saltillo, Guadalupe Day is a big, fat, hairy deal.
Why? Nearly 500 years ago, Mexico was in the earliest stages of adjusting to Spanish colonial rule. To put it lightly, the conquest was rather devastating for just about everyone involved. Indians were being round up and enslaved. There was even a debate going on about whether Indians had souls–after all, it´s much easier to enslave people if it´s possible to convince others that the people in question aren´t fully people. (Oh, the horrible things people do for power.)
In the midst of all this turmoil, a man named Juan Diego was on his way to Mexico City when he was stopped on top of a hill by a vision of the Virgin Mary. She asked him to go to the bishop and ask him to build her a church. He kept trying to convince the bishop, but understandably, the bishop wasn´t about to build a church for everyone who waltzed through his door. The bishop asked Juan Diego for some miraculous sign. Guadalupe appeared to him again, telling him to go to the bishop one more time. She told him to pick some roses growing on the hill for the sign the bishop asked for. Roses weren´t native to Mexico, were blooming out of season, and had not been planted on that hill–all reason enough to constitute the necessary miracle, right?
Juan Diego gathered the roses in his tunic. When he met with the bishop, he let his tunic fall open, showering the floor with roses. Moreover, everyone in the room could see the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe imprinted on his tunic. All those present noted that this apparition appeared to be of an Indian woman, which effectively ended the debate of whether Indians were to be counted as fully human in the eyes of God. Horrible things still happened to the native population, but at least those atrocities weren´t theologically justified.
Juan Diego´s tunic is still on display in the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City, just about on the very spot where Juan Diego met Guadalupe. However, since she is so popular all over Mexico, Saltillo has a Sanctuary to Guadalupe on Perez Treviño, just west of the Alameda.
So watch out if you´re headed that way! Street vendors, food stalls, matlachines, and pilgrims will be blocking traffic all weekend. But it´s a good time, too. So–for those not faint of heart–come on down! It´s a good time to buy a cup of champurrado and enjoy soaking in some culture.
Matlachines come in and out all day long. Bring earplugs, because I´m sure everyone inside loses a few decibels of hearing when they come thundering in!