18 November 2009

The Artist I Knew

I got the lay of the land today; or at least a start. I got up early after not really being able to sleep well. I’d blame it on jet lag and a long trip, but neither of those excuses will fly. There is, however, a time difference. Puerto Vallarta is on Central Time, which is 2 hours ahead of California time.

I still can’t quite figure that one out. Seems to me I flew straight down the Pacific coast and the time should be the same. We must be at the far reaches of Central time since it was dark at 6am. I have always said that a contributing factor for my love of Mexico was 5am daylight. Not to be found in PV in the month of November.

My morning walk started by gong 5 blocks down the street to the beach. I turned right onto the malecon (boardwalk), and thought maybe I was in Ft Lauderdale or South Beach Miami. On the right were giant, new, American style condos, right up to the edge of the wide, concrete pathway which is lined with palm trees and sculptures. It’s all very neat and clean and I might not have thought I was somewhere other than Mexico were it not for all the older folks out for their morning stroll. Rather freaky, it was.

I continued down a ways then walked up a block to the main street that is lined with places like the Hard Rock Café.

But I was headed for the Iglesia De Guadalupe. This is the grand, brick church with the crown-topped steeple that one sees in every tourist shot of PV. So now I am going to tell you a little story about my connection to that famous sight.

Last time I was in Mexico, (and I just checked my resume and it was 18 years ago), I spent a lot of time in the artisan town of Tlaquepaque, just outside of Guadalajara. On my first trip there I wandered into the small courtyard of an art studio. An older gentleman was busy working on a sculpture. We started talking and over the next month I spent many weekends visiting him while he sculpted a bust of me, which was later to be cast in some sort of metal.

He told me of his life as a well known artist in Mexico and how he had designed the crown at the top of the Guadalupe church in Puerto Vallarta. I told him that one day I would go there to see it. I believed everything he told me about his life, but today I wanted to see the church and see if I could find any reference to him.

At the tourist office, I picked up a brochure entitled Vallarta art & life. And there on page 32 were the magic words I was looking for: “Between 1953 and 1959, the Stations of the Cross were molded directly from plaster by the sculptor Jose Esteban Ramirez, who also designed the crown of the central tower completed in 1965.”

I wrote a whole book about that trip and will now have to go back and dig out the pages detailing what an incredible experience it was to have met and posed for Sr Esteban. I do remember, with complete clarity, writing how I had felt blessed by our friendship. And when I looked up at that glorious tower today, I whispered to the heavens that I had finally made it.

There was an unfortunate piece of information at the bottom of page 32 stating that the original crown had been destroyed by an earthquake in 1995 and been replaced by a fiberglass replica. Wonder how I could have missed that in the news.

In that same brochure, they gave details about all the sculptures that line the malacon. Reading about them back at the hotel, I didn’t think I would be too thrilled with the assortment. But on my afternoon walk, that changed.

My favorites were the group of massive, bronze, sea-creature/alien chairs, by Alejandro Colunga. I took pictures and will include them with this post.

Aside from all the walking around, I still needed a few items for the apartment and went in search. Guess where I found them? Woolworth’s! Didn’t they close down? It was awesome. The same nasty, cheap smell that the Woolworth’s I grew up with permeated the store. I got in and out as quick as possible but now know where to go for inexpensive necessities.

I also made a quick run through the tourist market, salivating at the thought of all the really good shopping I head ahead of me. Maybe tomorrow I’ll get some earrings. The night before I left the states, I was trying to decide what earrings to take when I realized, hey, I’m going to Mexico, jewelry heaven, – I don’t need to bring anything.

I sort of got dehydrated today, so will be more alert in the future. Other than that, my travelling sense and total love of a new place are intact.