This Mexican market was even more colorful than my painting shows, with bags hanging from hooks all over the ceiling. The produce was plentiful, fresh and fragrant. Passing through the market was an overload for the senses.
Painting this picture for you made me think about how much of our fruit and vegetables come from Mexico or are picked in the US by Mexicans. As I passed through the Dallas and Boston airports to return home last Tuesday, every TV screen blared the headline, “Trump orders increased deportations.” If undocumented immigrants are now unwelcome, are their low-wage jobs in our fields, which keep our produce prices low, really jobs Americans want? Or should we be grateful to the men and women who do this backbreaking work to support their families, and who bring healthy food to our table?
When we were at the Botanical Gardens in Mexico, Linda and I saw a Vermillion Flycatcher. It’s a tiny bird, and the male is brilliant, as you can see. Like all flycatchers, it forays out into the air to catch bugs, and then returns to its branch.
The flycatcher we saw was unwilling to pose, but a photo I found on google images was much more obliging. Note the white dot in the eye, which is important when painting a person or animal if they are to look alive.
I arrived back in Massachusetts last night. Waiting in the passport line at a stopover in Dallas, I felt both relieved that it was so simple for me to get back into the U.S., and anxious for the many others waiting in line for whom it might not be so easy. Arriving home, I learned that Newton has become a Sanctuary City.
Though I’m home, you’ll be seeing sketches of Mexico for a couple of weeks, as I paint from my memory and photographs. These are from the Botanical Gardens near San Miguel Allende. You can see the cactus in the first sketch. It’s the winter dry season there, and the colors are muted green and gold. There were two young men climbing the rocks as I did the second sketch.
As in many countries in this latitude, rooftops in Mexico are an extension of the house, almost a second living room. On Sunday morning I stood in the rooftop garden and made this sketch of the hillside. In this deeply religious country, I could hear people singing at Mass in several nearby churches.
On Tuesday I will return to snowy Boston. Every Mexican I have met has been generous and warm, and I have felt I should apologize to them for the way they feel insulted, stereotyped and bullied by our new President.
Why, in North America, are we so stingy with the colors we paint our houses? Here in Mexico, the houses are orange, yellow, turquoise, green and tan. Our house in Massachusetts is white with green shutters and a gray roof. What about yours?
Here’s a sketch of what I can see from the balcony of my bedroom in the house my friend Linda has rented. The fuschia bougainvillea grow up from the courtyard below.
The Parroquia is the central landmark in San Miguel de Allende, and is next to the Jardin which I sketched on Monday. The church is built of amazing pink stone which glows in the afternoon light. My sketch cannot possibly do it justice, so I enclose a photo as well.
On Saturday I flew to San Miguel de Allende at the invitation of my friend and fellow watercolorist Linda Rinearson, who lives in Newton but rents a house here every winter. Bruce isn’t that interested in travelling to places where you can’t drink the tap water (whereas I am intrigued to do so), so he is happily at home manning the snowblower.
San Miguel de Allende is in the central highlands of Mexico, about three hours drive northwest of Mexico City. It’s a lovely town, a UNESCO Historical Site, and there are plenty of Americans and Canadians roaming around. The Jardin (Har-deen) is the park at the center of town life, and Linda took me there yesterday. Here’s my quick sketch of one little corner, with a bench in the foreground and a street vendor in the background.
Jesus is regarded by Muslims as a great prophet and messenger from God. Jesus is mentioned in the Koran 25 times. Moses, Abraham and Noah are also regarded as prophets. Mohammed, born in 570 A.D., continues in this tradition. All believe in the oneness of God, the avoidance of sin and idolatry, the day of judgment, and life after death. (See Wikipedia for more.)
When Muslims pray five times a day, they prostrate themselves as a sign of devotion to God. This morning, I tried this posture and then said a prayer. It was really interesting how it transformed my prayer. Try it yourself to see what I mean.
Tomorrow I’m flying to Mexico for ten days. I look forward to sending you my sketches to “take you along with me”!
More of what I learned at last weekend’s workshop on “Countering Islamophobia,” with a little help from Wikipedia. There are five pillars for any practicing Muslim:
Faith: “There is no god but God and Mohammed is the messenger of God,” is the central phrase repeated by every Muslim.
Prayer: Five times a day, beginning at dawn, Muslims around the world pray, facing Mecca, where Mohammed was born and the holy Koran was revealed to him.
Charity: Acknowledging that all things come from God, Muslims are expected to give generously to those in need and to reduce inequality. Recent research has found that Muslims give the most to charity of any religion, with Jews second and Christians third.
Fasting: During the month of Ramadan, Muslims abstain from food and drink from dawn until dusk, to seek nearness and ask forgiveness from God.
Pilgrimage: At least once in their lives, Muslims aspire to travel to the holy city of Mecca.
This weekend I attended “Countering Islamophobia,” a workshop that inspired this week’s paintings. I was embarrassed by how little I knew about the world’s second largest religion with 1.7 billion adherents (Christianity has 2.2 billion). Did you know that there are 3.3 million Muslims in America, with, like Christians, a wide diversity of races and ethnic backgrounds? Christianity, Judaism and Islam are the three sister Abrahamic religions, sharing a belief in a monotheistic God. We all worship the same God which we call by different names.
Yesterday was Bruce’s birthday, so we went to the Museum of Science in Boston. When we got tired of walking around, I sat and sketched their most famous dinosaur. They put a scarf on him (or her) during the winter months.
A couple of weeks ago I found myself at a mall without a sketchbook or pen, but with my iPad. Using the app Sketches, which is very user-friendly and also works on an iPhone, I made this little drawing. Can you imagine the scene I was looking at?