Mexico Journal

These are drawings from several trips to Mexico, in April 2001, April 2004, December 2005, and November 2006.

In April 2001 we visited Mexico City, Taxco, Cuernevaca, and Tepoztlan. The crayon drawing at the top of this page, by my daughter Ruby, shows the courtyard of the Frida Kahlo museum in the Coyoacan neighborhood of Mexico City. The drawing to the right shows papier mache or plaster figures, also from Frida Kahlo's garden.

Panel from the fresco series by Diego Rivera at the Ministry of Education building, one of his first and biggest mural projects. This one depicts the redistribution of land during the Mexican revolution and was painted in 1923 and 1924.

Nahua mask at the anthropology museum in Mexico City. This style of mask (grotesque face smothered with animals or bugs) is still being made in Mexico, mostly for the tourist trade.


Carved cherubim in the Santa Prisca cathedral in Taxco. There are six altars lining the nave of this amazing church and they get bigger as you approach the front. The cherubim are what we would call boilerplate -- repeating patterns of them fill in the lower parts of the altars while the eyes are drawn upward to look at paintings of saints and Bible stories. The extra height is achieved by piling on more cherubim and scrolls and so on. I don't think the one at center bottom is supposed to be carrying an umbrella but that's what it looked like.


Outside the cathedral in the zocolo a truck makes a fuel delivery. All signs in Taxco are hand lettered, black on white, like the lettering on this truck.


Edge of the park in front of Santa Prisca: a girl sits and hugs her boyfriend while an older man just sits. It seemed to me that public displays of affection were much more common in Mexico than in the U.S.


Buying, selling, and socializing near the steps of the Taxco cathedral, shortly after sunset on Easter Sunday.


The upper balcony of Taxco's Palacio Municipal, originally the home of Jose de la Borda, underwriter of Taxco's cathedral and founder of its silver mining industry. This was drawn on a weekday and the people leaning on the railing are presumably waiting for bureaucrats to receive them. I don't know who painted the mural.


A guest of the Hotel Monte Taxco naps by the hotel pool with Taxco's old center in the background. We went by cable car to this hotel on a mountain top and we were hardly scared at all.

Boy selling juice and tourist contemplating merchandise at Cuernavaca's open-air artisans' market.


A pet supply store and juice bar across the street from the Cuernavaca bus station. The little girl is not really traveling alone with her stewardess luggage -- the rest of her family showed up right after I drew this.


Church tower in Tepoztlan, on the street that leads to the trail that leads to the town's pre-colombian pyramid.


Back in Taxco, I saw these icons in the Capella San Nicolas, one of many handsome colonial chapels and churches that don't seem very far from the cathedral but which apparently were built to serve colonial Taxco's outlying neighborhoods. The flames engulfing the three figures are made of painted wood. I would have guessed if I didn't know better that this tableau was a piece of anti-Catholic propaganda (the rosary equated with shackles?).


In Taxco's Plazuela San Juan, all but three of the motor vehicles are for public transportation.


Climbing up Taxco's steep streets to the top of the mountainside the city is built on, I came upon this unusually level grade with a mosaic rabbit set in it. Taxco streets are paved with black cobblestones and bits of white marble, the latter sometimes used for median dividing strips but often used more whimsically, as here.


The Capello del Cristo de la Cima was the highest-up building I found in Taxco, although a jogger told me there are a few houses farther up, in the woods at the top of the mountain. This chapel has been under construction for thirty years, according to the masons I met who were working on it.


Also unfinished, and now for sale, was this choice property a little ways down from the chapel. I saw the initials "PRI" (referring to Mexico's former ruling party) scrawled on many walls in Mexico, but this was the only one I saw that was not crossed out.


View of Taxco's center from its uphill neighborhoods. The Santa Prisca cathedral is in the center of the drawing.


Travelers in Mexico City and Taxco waiting for their various buses.


Musicians do their best to entertain the customers of a restaurant in Mexico City's Zona Rosa.


At the peak of the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan all the tourists seemed to be Mexican or Japanese. The Pyramid of the Moon is in the background.



And this is us: Ruby above, at our hotel in Mexico City, preparing for yet another restaurant hunt; and, on the right, me and Cynthia drawn by Ruby at yet another Taxco restaurant.


In April 2003 we went to Puerto Vallarta ("PV") and Yelapa on Mexico's Pacific coast. Puerto Vallarta is the only Latin American city I've been to where the surrounding hills are covered with luxury condos and timeshares rather than shantytowns (the hills without a view of the ocean are another matter). On the right you can see a tourist going for a ride in a rented parasail.


Garden in "Gringo Gulch," an older PV neighborhood favored by U.S. expatriates, although most people there seem to be Mexican.


Statue of Lazaro Cardenas in the park that bears his name. Cardenas was President during the '30s. Superimposed is the inscription from the pedestal, which says (roughly), "Divisional General Lazaro Cardenas Del Rio, 1895-1970, champion of the workers and farmers, who brought about the economic liberation of Mexico by nationalizing the oil industry." Now, of course, the Mexican government is under tremendous pressure to privatize its oil holdings. The two other heroic statues I saw in PV depict Emiliano Zapata (hero of the Revolution in Southern Mexico) and John Huston, who is credited with inspiring Puerto Vallarta's tourist industry by filming "The Night of the Iguana" here.


An American woman catches up on her email at one of the many internet cafes (the ones near the beach serve cappuccino).


Behind a stand at the beach serving grilled shrimp and other treats, one cook massages another (her son?), while waiting for customers.


Now we are in beautiful, car-free Yelapa, accessible only by boat, not because it's an island but because the countryside around there is so rugged. Yelapa is an indigenous community with a small resort on the beach that rents space from the community, and many U.S. expatriates scattered about. I painted this odd botanical symbiosis in the hills above the older part of the town.


Halfway down the mountainside from the spot shown above is this graveyard, with a satellite dish tower rising out of it.


Young Mexican vacationers gather for drinks on the beach at Yelapa.


View of Puerto Vallarta from southernmost end of the beach. The large buildings across the bay are the newer luxury resorts where you can go and never see anybody but hotel employees and fellow tourists. There is a statue of a seahorse in the center of town, on the Malecon, and another one here. Most of the tourists at this end are Mexican. All day long lines of pelicans fly south, single file. I never saw them fly back -- maybe they do it at night.


And, again, here is us, drawn by Ruby on the Yelapa beach one morning. Arrayed around Chico's restaurant and a typical beach mutt are Ruby's friend Kate Styer on the left, Cynthia above, and me (Nick) on the right.


In April 2004 we (Cynthia, Ruby, and I) revisited Yelapa and I did these two paintings. The first shows the path that leads south from the town along the cove. The reason the greens are a little more luxurious here than in most of my paintings is that I lost my trusty tube of Windsor Newton Sap Green right before doing this, and had to borrow some green paint (a different shade) from innkeeper Isabel Jordan, to whom I again send thanks.


The second 2004 painting shows the cove, barely visible through the trees, as seen from high up on the slope to the north of Yelapa's Hotel Lagunita.


For Christmas 2005 we tried to get back to Yelapa but it was booked solid so, using Craigs List, we got a good deal on a timeshare in Isla Mujeres, the formerly tranquil island off the coast of Cancun. This drawing shows the pool and pier attached to our resort, with Cancun and its giant Mexican flag in the distance. The pier was one of many that were ruined earlier that year by Hurricane Wilma.




In November 2006 Cynthia and I visited Yelapa a third time. This shows a little boy intrigued by the outboard motors on one of the taxi/boats moored at the beach (it does not show his mother who had to run down the slope of the beach every couple of minutes to stop him from throwing himself into the surf).


Here is the view from our balcony. The river entering on the right, which was too puny during our earlier visits in the springtime (dry season) to cross the beach and meet the sea, cuts a formidable swath through the town in November. This drawing was done at low tide but at high tide you could not get from one side of town to the other without swimming, hiring a boat, or wading across at some shallow point farther upstream.


To give you an idea how high the river gets in November, this shows the lagoon which forms behind the beach and the hotels at high tide.


Robot, made from recycled metal, guards the Casa de la Imaginacion, an afterschool arts program that was established since our last visit to Yelapa. Thanks to Brad from "Palapa in Yelapa," I had a chance one evening to do a cartooning workshop with some of the Casa children.


This bridge crosses a small stream between the town and the beach area.


And finally, in a corner of the lagoon at the mouth of the river, here are some Yelapa boys fishing from a couple of boats. We saw lots of people fishing with lines (no poles) every day. These kids caught a large fish but I couldn't say what kind.

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