Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Dia De Los Muertos // Metepec, MX

One of the main reasons for choosing the date for my trip to Mexico was so that I could be able to experience first hand all of the traditional customs of "Dia de Los Muertos" or Day of the Dead. Held during the first couple of days in November, this big holiday is celebrated all throughout Mexico and Latin American, remembering the loved ones who have passed and celebrating them with various festivals and activities. It is believed that on this day, the spirits are awakened from their eternal sleep and are allowed to return with their loved ones for the festivities.
To many, this might seem like just another variation of Halloween, since skulls and skeletons are in abundance. However, death is something more than something that is feared and frightening, but as something that is celebrated, bringing together communities and families alike. Steming from Aztec culture and Catholisism, "Dia de los Muertos" was established from the belief that the dead would be insulted by the mourning and sadness of the living. Because of this, they are instead celebrated with traditional foods, drinks, parties, festivals, and remembrance gatherings at their graves. Ofrendas or offerings are set up in honor of those lost, which are all adorned with the traditional "cempasuchitl" flowers or marigolds. These flowers bloom right in time for the holiday and adorn the altars and graves of the deceased. They are believed to be used for their strong smell, which attracts the spirits who return from the other world.
Many altars and ofrendas are set up throughout the cities; homes, universities, workplaces, and communities. One of the brightest and biggest of the Toluca area can be found in Metepec, a suburb, known for it's it's award winning artesanal pottery art. A huge (and I mean HUGE!) ofrenda is set up on the hill where the church rests, where colorful designs are constructed and filled in with various fruits and flowers. Pottery art is in no shortage here, where many potters bring skeleton "catrinas" and skulls made out of "barro". The entire community comes together to build this altar which can take up to several hours (& even days) of labor. It is really an amazing sight to see everyone working hard, hand in hand to build something in honor of those they love.
I had the privilege of visiting this amazing set up the Wednesday before the Saturday celebrations, so people were still hard at work bringing everything together. Even though I did not see the finished product, seeing the love and labor that goes into creating such an amazing sight was really worth it. I hope that with these images, I can bring to you some of the culture that I so much adore from the country I am so proud to call my own.
<3 Stef

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Cosmovitral // Toluca, Mexico

Hello there beautiful people! Today I bring to you some snippets of what I consider to be one of Toluca's finest examples of cultural art, The Cosmovitral Botanical Garden o "Jardin Botanico". Art is a huge part of the Mexican culture as you can see, and it is no exception that we take pride in every aspect of it. Located in the center hub area of the city, the Cosmovitral is home to hundreds of plant species and brilliantly showcases the stained glass murals that enrobe the building all around. Originally built in 1910 to house the local flea market, the building as modeled after a train station, showcasing the tradition "Porfirian Era" architecture. The market later then relocated in 1975 and the building was closed.
Leopoldo Flores, an artist from the near town of Tenancingo, lobbied greatly to the government to turn the former marketplace into a space for art, in which he then came up with the idea of the stained glass murals. Flores spent an entire year designing the details, story, and concept of the murals to which create a beautiful story of the perfect harmony of creation, life, and love. Tours are given every day to explain the story and the history of the stained glass. The main feature, "El Hombre Sol" or Sun Man, is the center of the story, having all the murals connect to it, becoming a symbol for the city all around. It is amazing to see the degree of detail in every aspect of the art, even the positions! So much detail that Flores knew exactly where to place the Sun Man, so that every Spring Equinox, the sun aligns perfectly in the middle, making it shine brighter than ever.
After the murals were completed, Eizi Matuda, a Japanese Scientist who researched many types of plants in the state, designed the botanical garden part of the Cosmovitral. He carefully curated which types of plants would be appropriate to place inside, showcasing local species that he had classified. He also brought the "Lantern of Friendship" as a symbol of amicability between the state of Mexico and Japan. In it a small lantern burns, 24 hours a day.
Our wonderful tour guide, who explained the amazing detail and history of the building.
Day Mural// The colors are light, bright, and vibrant.
Night Mural// notice the gorgeous hues of blue and purple.
The "Lantern of Friendship"

The original plate to the market that was previously hosted here.
Look at that detail! Mindblown.
If you are ever in Toluca, Mexico (which you should visit anyway!) make sure to make some room in your schedule to visit this majestic beauty. A true testimony to the talent that the beautiful country of Mexico has bred.

<3 Stef

Friday, November 8, 2013

Toluca, Mexico / Pt. 1

Hello there! I'm back to reality, settled and into the routine! I recently returned from a 2 week trip in the beautiful city of Toluca, Mexico and let me tell you people, it was AMAZING! Mexico never fails to deliver an amazing experience, especially when she makes sure to surround me with great food, views, culture, and my family. I didn't venture out of the city as much as I had hoped for, but I managed to explore every bit of Toluca frequenting the "Centro" and every mercado I could get myself into. There is never a dull moment when I'm in the homeland. The people are so welcoming, striking conversations with you even though you are only but a stranger to them.
A vast majority of my family lives in Toluca and my mom grew up there, so going back always feels like home. (As a matter of fact, I lived there for a few months back when I was only 3 years old!)
Here is the first batch of pictures that I took while strolling the streets of my this beautiful city. Mameys in the mercado, taco stands in the street, the famous "La Vaquita" stand in "Los Portales", Teatro Morelos, and my favorite, the local shoe shiners. :)

Rest assured, more pictures will be up soon. La Feria del Alfeñique was going on, Day of the Dead (of course!), we visited "Las Grutas de La Estrella, the magical town of Ixtapan, and my favorite; The National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City.
Other Mexico posts
Last year's trip, click here.
<3 Stef