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Dia de Los Muertos

Unlike the commercialized Halloween holiday in other parts of the world, in Mexico the original meaning comes from the Catholic All Saints’ Day, and represents a mixture of pre-Hispanic customs and beliefs containing both European and indigenous elements. November 1 and 2 mark this annual celebration in remembering deceased family members. November 1 is often referred to as Dia de los Angelitos or Holy Innocents’ Day for children who have died.  November 2 is Dia de los Muertos for adults who have died.

Colorful alter, Dia de Los Muertos, Puerto Vallarta Walking Tours!

This is also an important social as well as religious ritual for Vallarta with a parade and all-night candlelight vigils at the graves of the family members at local cemeteries. The whole occasion is festive, and everyone talks of the dead as if they were still alive. During this time, people remember, re-live, and enjoy rather than fear evil or malevolent spirits.  Some Mexican families spend hours in the cemetery where they clean the grave, plant flowers, have a picnic and hire musicians to sing a favorite song of the deceased.  From the indigenous side comes the use of the “cempasuchil” the large yellow/orange marigold used to adorn Mexican graves.  It is believed that the candle light, as well as the scents of the marigold flowers and the copal incense, help the returning souls find their way back.

Alters dedicated to the memory of a departed loved one are elaborate creations which take hours to construct and contain many favorite food items of the deceased including something from the four elements water, earth, fire and wind; photos, poems, letters, trinkets, and other memorabilia specific to the person to whom the alter is dedicated.  Walk the streets of Vallarta to see many of these beautiful offerings outside homes, government buildings, hotels and stores.

children-with-painted-faces-dia-de-los-muertos-puerto-vallarta-mexico-063

The traditional food of the day, pan de muerto, a sweet yolk bread sprinkled with sugar, is of European origin.  It is said to be good luck to be the one who bites into the plastic toy skeleton hidden by the baker in each loaf. The “calavera” (skull) is a humorously morbid poem which is addressed to a friend or public figure. This genre of poetry has its origin in Cervantes’ Don Quixote, in early 17th century Spain. Candy in the shape of small sugar skulls are meant to be consumed signifying eating one’s death. Catrina dolls are artistic creations of skeletons dressed in the clothes symbolizing the person who has died.

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Puerto Vallarta Artisan Markets

During high season, there are artisan markets every day of the week where local merchants gather to sell their wares in the old open market style of years ago. Typically there are from 40 to over 100 vendors in each market. Strolling among the tables one can find arts, crafts, farm fresh produce, flowers, homemade desserts and culinary delights, specialty breads, organic coffees, clothes, woven scarves and embroidered purses, handmade sandals and leather shoes, jewelry of all types, fresh juices, and on it goes. But what really makes this experience special is the people, both vendors and buyers.

Three Hens Saturday Market, local artisans, vendors, Puerto Vallarta Walking Tours!

I have a table the Hotel Marsol Artisans Market near Los Muertos Pier Friday mornings selling my educational walking tours, guidebooks, hand-drawn maps, and photographs. Come enjoy the friendly atmosphere, relaxed conversation, have a cup of coffee and a scone, taste samples that vendors are passing around, listen to live music, read the local Mirror or Tribune and feel the warmth and laughter shared amongst friends.

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Local Woman Shares 60 Years of Vallarta History

Strolling around today as I often do, I happened into a small, non-descript shop, a “Mexican Artifacts” sign hanging over the door.  The grey-haired woman who greeted me acted skeptical, perhaps wondering what a gringa could possibly know about the eclectic collection I faced.  I was respectful and open, curious as to what this place was all about.  Well, what an amazing hour I spent with her, after she warmed to me, listening to her stories of old Vallarta and the people she knew that made this town through their pride and hard work.  She told me that because of several dedicated historians and journal keepers, much of the history of Vallarta and its many characters are written, some in private notebooks and some published in Spanish with one by Carlos Munguia Fregoso, also in English.

Puerto Vallarta Malecon 1960's.

Estela is her name and this gallery is in the first floor of her home that she has been living in since she was born some sixty plus years ago!  She remembers such people like Agustin Flores Contreras who, through his construction company, built and paid for the first schools, including the school on Matamoros named after him, and the oldest elementary school, 20 November, on Juarez built in 1928.  He believed so in the importance of education that even Greek and Latin were taught as part of the regular studies!  Both these schools are still in use today.

Then there was Patrice, originally from California, dress-maker to the Hollywood stars while they were in Vallarta like Elizabeth Taylor and who made Estela’s own wedding dress; the crazy tourist who showed up every winter dressed like a Christmas tree who would stand outside some of the hotels or walk the beach, arms like tree boughs spread towards the heavens; and another rich visitor who was known for spending his family’s inheritance constructing and tearing down buildings during his stays.

There are many more stories to be told and I hope to visit Estela again soon.

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Liberating your Life

As we age, our life’s experiences help us to know what is important to us and what is not.  Once you decide that you definitely are committed to changing your life then the challenges of just how to do this can consume us to frustration.  We can become paralyzed into no action.

For me, simplifying my life to comfortable essentials was a life style I wanted, especially after owning 5 homes and all the stuff moved, sorted, boxed, unboxed….accumulations of years of family life I no longer wanted to drag around with me.  Besides, I had lived simply before my marriages and knew how freeing it was to not be possessed by my possessions…..there are infinite advantages to this one finds like knowing what we can live without…finding what we are looking for because there is no clutter….5 minutes to pick up ones space instead of 3 hours….being a household of one or two again does lend itself to a simple life with few belongings.

Having traveled many times in Mexico, I realized the Mexican people often live this way either through poverty or necessity when housed in cramped quarters.  I also experienced the delightful connections that come so clearly and strongly when only the essentials give us the freedom to focus on each other and not on our possessions.  The Mexican people are very friendly, kind, and happy.  They are accustomed to speaking with each other and therefore with me on a very personal level….their eyes like deep chocolate pools see me for me so that our conversations are warm and heart-felt.  I have often remembered the difficulties I have had when in cold climates trying to get close to a person for a connected conversation when we are all bundled up…insulated from each other.  In the warm climate of Vallarta, where one wears few clothes, it is easy to have a close and lovely conversation.  This appealed to me tremendously while on my travels and was a major factor in my decision to move here.

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“Puerto Vallarta – Tropical Paradise”

Climate

Warm and dry during the winter and humid in the summer, Puerto Vallarta has the perfect location as it is the same latitude as Hawaii. Puerto Vallarta combines the lushness of the jungle with the beauty of the Sierra Madre Mountains and the wonder of the Pacific Ocean. The ocean breeze and the fresh mountain air combine with unrivaled sunny days to create some of the best weather in the world.  Vallarta boasts three hundred sunny days a year.  November to June is the dry season.  June to October is the rainy season with fantastic thunder and lightning storms that bring daily refreshing relief from the humidity.  This is when the jungle is at its best.

Tropical paradise, deserted beach, quiet, sandy, Puerto Vallarta Walking Tours!

Great value for your money

While it is commonly known that the peso is worth less than the dollar, be it US or Canadian, you never truly appreciate it quite as much as when you see that your hard-earned money can buy you so much more than it can back home.  If you are living here, you know the dollar allows you a life equal to or better than what you had back home.  Getting more for less is good in anyone’s book, especially when it comes to looking for a home or rental.  A beautiful home here can be found for the price of a studio in New York City. Puerto Vallarta has a large array of both first class real estate developments and economical apartments for purchase or rent.

Stunning beaches

Here are a plethora of enchanting beaches that offer something for everyone. Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie looking to do some kite surfing or simply someone that likes to lay by the water being tended to, Puerto Vallarta has the right beach for you. Many of these beaches have been certified by the Mexican Government for their cleanliness and beauty. At the north end of the Bay you can find fine sand beaches that extend for kilometers. On the south end you find tranquill inland coves accessible only by water taxi.

Amazing mountains

This is what puts Puerto Vallarta in a completely different league from other vacation destinations.  The Sierra Madre Mountains and their tropical forests with lush jungle vegetation, give Vallarta a completely different atmosphere.  Here is one of the few places on earth where the mountains come down to completely touch the sea. There is nothing that compares to watching the sun rise in the mountains every day and set in the Pacific Ocean. During the summer season the rains make the surrounding mountains glow an emerald green of a hundred shades that is difficult to explain with mere words. A hike up the mountain trails will take you to a time long before when mankind was one with nature.  You will feel its beckoning. The vegetation and beautiful flowers along with the many bird calls combine to give you the mystical feeling only a tropical paradise can give you.

Mexican Culture

The mixture of indigenous traditions with Spaniard customs has produced an amazingly rich culture, an explosion of color, spirituality, flavors, images and sounds that will never stop impressing you. Slowly discovering little idiosyncrasies of this beautiful culture is one of the best rewards for visiting and living here.  There are colorful celebrations and festivals every month of the year.  A photographer’s paradise.

The people

You have to travel a lot in order to be qualified to compare people and cultures. Well, I have done it, and I can tell you that, there are no warmer people in the world.  Mexicans always smile, they always say “please” and “thank you”, they will kiss and hug you, so be prepared; they will touch you all the time; they are a happy people and they like to show it. Family and friends are most important. You will have a lot of fun around them; they will make you feel at home.  You just have to let go and learn from their laid-back and unpretentious attitude towards life. This way of approaching life, where people work to live and not live to work, might be arguable, but for a place like Puerto Vallarta, where people  come to forget for a while about the problems of daily life, it’s just perfect.

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