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7 Leguas tequila distillery, Atontonillco El Alto, Jalisco, Mexico

7 Leguas tequila distillery, Atontonillco El Alto, Jalisco, Mexico

The Siete Leguas tequila distillery is located in Atotonilco El Alto, about two hours’ drive east of Guadalajara, and this family-owned distillery drips with tradition and pride.

 

Although most well-known tequila brands are now owned by multinational corporations, more than 100 distilleries still make nearly 1,000 brands of tequila, ranging from including boutique brands and others available only domestically.

 

Atontonilco El Alto, Jalisco

Atontonilco El Alto, Jalisco

Tequila has a long history.  The Aztecs fermented beverage called pulque from the agave plant long before the Spanish arrived, and when the conquistadors ran out of brandy they began to distill agave.   Today’s tequilas are typically 75-80 proof.

Agave plant window detail, 7 Leguas distillery

Agave plant window detail, 7 Leguas distillery

By law, tequila can only be produced only in the state of Jalisco, where it’s so popular that it often accounts for half of liquor store shelf space.

Just as with wines, regulators police tequila’s Appellation of Origin label to assure the purity of the product.

Harvested agave piñas are oven-baked

Harvested agave piñas are oven-baked

 

More than 300 million plants are harvested in Jalisco each year, and also as with wine, terroir is critically important.

 

Baked agave  ready for  further processing

Baked agave ready for further processing

 

Agaves from the highlands are larger and have a sweeter aroma and taste than lowland agaves, which have a slightly herbal fragrance and flavor.

Plants grown in the highlands typically yield sweeter and fruitier-tasting tequila, while lowland agaves produce tequilas with an earthier flavor.

Baked piñas are milled the old-fashioned way

Baked piñas are milled the old-fashioned way

Antique engine on display

Antique engine on display

Planting, tending, and harvesting the agave plant remains a manual effort that relies upon know-how passed on through generations of the jimadores who harvest it.

Modern piña mill

Modern piña mill

Ripening of the plant is promoted by regular trimming of the stalk which grows from the center, which prevents it from flowering.

When plant is ready to harvest, jimadores trim away the leaves to reveal the  pineapple-like core of the plant – the piña, which can weigh up to 250 pounds.

Shredded piñas are loaded into distillery vats

Shredded piñas are loaded into distillery vats

Once harvested, piñas are oven-baked to break complex starches down into simple sugars before shredding or mashing.

Distillation vats

Distillation vats

Extracted agave juice ferments for several days in large vats to produce a low-alcohol wort, which when twice-distilled produces silver tequila.

Aged in oak barrels

Aged in oak barrels

Some tequilas are aged in wooden barrels to mellow the taste and lend color.  In recent years, regulators allowed the creation of a new tequila category called “extra añejo,” which must be aged a minimum of three years.

Distillation vat

Distillation vat

Many growers believe that increasingly hot and dry summers resulting from calentamiento – global warming – are causing agave to mature more quickly, at the expense of sugar content.  It typically takes eight to twelve years before an agave plant is ready to harvest.

Now it’s on to the tasting!

Note:  While 7 Leguas maintains an office within the city, the distillery is located on the outskirts of town nearer to the agave fields. 

Visit the web site here.

Zócalo, Dolores Hidalgo

Zócalo, Dolores Hidalgo

What has to be the largest Mexican flag in all of Mexico waves over Dolores Hidalgo.  It’s visible from the mountain road long before the city appears, and it’s a beacon which flies there for good reason.

Zócalo, Dolores Hidalgo

Zócalo, Dolores Hidalgo

The town – to which the name of Mexican patriot Father Miguel Hidalgo is now affixed – is where Hidalgo uttered the Grito – his famous cry for Mexican independence – on September 16, 1810.

Within a year, his rebellion’s early successes were reversed and his head was impaled on a spike upon the ramparts of the Alhondigas in Guanajuato, where his army achieved its first major victory.

Zócalo, Dolores Hidalgo

Zócalo, Dolores Hidalgo

It would take ten more years for Mexico to free itself from the Spanish crown, but every year on September 16, the Grito is re-enacted in the city’s historic central plaza – the zócalo - as in thousands of cities across Mexico.

But Dolores Hidalgo’s role in the Mexico’s War of Independence is only one of the good reasons that the city has been named one of Mexico’s Pueblos Mágicos” – Magical Towns.

Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de los Dolores and statue of Father Hidalgo, Dolores Hidalgo zócalo

Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de los Dolores and statue of Father Hidalgo, Dolores Hidalgo zócalo

The center of Dolores Hidalgo is the zócalo, and it’s dominated by a statue of Father Hidalgo and by his historic church, the Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de los Dolores.

As I walk the plaza, I check out a church facade done in the ornate Spanish Baroque “Churrigueresque” style and bearing intricately carved figures.

Street food, Dolores Hidalgo

Street food, Dolores Hidalgo

 

History buffs will enjoy the nearby Museo de la Independencia, in which are displayed artifacts of the war of independence.

Ice cream flavors, Zócalo, Dolores Hidalgo

Ice cream flavors, Zócalo, Dolores Hidalgo

 

Until I visited Dolores Hidalgo, I thought that Michoacán was the epicenter of Mexican ice cream, but a walk around the zócalo – where homemade ice cream is sold daily from the many push carts –  quickly convinced me otherwise.

Ice cream vendor, Zócalo, Dolores Hidalgo

Ice cream vendor, Zócalo, Dolores Hidalgo

Nowhere but the at the State Fair of Texas annual Fried Food Contest – known for its improbable ingredients –  have I tasted so many quirky (yet all very tasty) flavors.

Chili ice cream, Zócalo, Dolores Hidalgo

Chili ice cream, Zócalo, Dolores Hidalgo

On my visit, featured flavors ranged from the traditional fruits and nuts and chocolate to the truly exotic and even bizarre.  But who wants vanilla, chocolate or strawberry when you can have mango or papaya?  Perhaps avocado or corn?  Fried pork skins, chile, or mole?  Shrimp or octopus?  Or maybe cerveza, tequila, or pulque?

Ice cream made to order, Dolores Hidalgo

Ice cream made to order, Dolores Hidalgo

Vendors are constantly competing to come up with the next new flavor, so it’s an experience constantly re-invented.

Today, Dolores Hidalgo it is widely renowned for its ceramics, the production of which directly or indirectly employs more than half of the city’s workers.  It was Father Hidalgo who introduced Talavera pottery techniques from Puebla to the people of Dolores Hidalgo.

Ceramics workshop. Dolores Hidalgo

Ceramics workshop. Dolores Hidalgo

Since 1997, only ceramics from Puebla can be designated as “talavera,” but the Puebla techniques are still practiced here, as they have been for three centuries.

 

Ceramics artisans, Dolores Hidalgo

Ceramics artisans, Dolores Hidalgo

While Dolores Hidalgo is one of the main producers of majolica glazed tiles, its workshops produce a staggering array of ceramics including dinnerware, vases, pots and jars, mosaics, bathtubs, bathroom sinks, and soap dishes, and even light switch covers and bird baths.

Ceramics workshop. Dolores Hidalgo

Ceramics workshop. Dolores Hidalgo

There are plenty of shops selling ceramics on the side streets just off the zócalo, but it’s far more interesting to visit one of the workshops that line the approach to town.  There visitors can walk among the artisans as they work, which is a real treat, since everything is made and decorated by hand.

Because Dolores Hidalgo is not a major international tourist destination, it retains much of its colonial charm and all of its Mexican authenticity.  No visit to Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende, or Queretaro is complete without including this side trip.

Also in the state of Guanajuato and just down the road from Dolores Hidalgo is a mystical world heritage site that’s the subject of my next post.

Read my other related posts:

Euclid Avenue gate, Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland

Euclid Avenue gate, Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland

If Cleveland’s architecture provides insight into its history, its magnificent Lakeview Cemetery yields insights into the dreams, accomplishments, and tragedies of its people.

Modeled after the great garden cemeteries of Victorian era England and France and opened in 1869, it is the  permanent resting place of more than 100,000 Clevelanders.

Cleveland skyline from heights above Lakeview Cemetery

Cleveland skyline from heights above Lakeview Cemetery

 

Nearly 1,000 permanent residents are added  each year and a quarter of the 285 acres are yet undeveloped.

Many of the immigrant stonemasons who landscaped the cemetery and carved its monuments lived in adjacent Little Italy.

Gravesite statuary, Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland

Gravesite statuary, Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland

One of the more poignant memorials is to the nearly two hundred children killed in the Collinwood school fire of 1908.

The cemetery is the final resting place of twentieth century notables, as well as of some of historical footnote interest.

Garfield Monument, Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland

Garfield Monument, Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland

James A. Garfield, twentieth President of the U.S., is the most well-known of the statesmen buried here, which also include U.S. Senator and Republican Party kingmaker Mark Hanna, U. S. Secretary of State John Hay, and Newton D. Baker, World War I Secretary of War.

Oil baron John D. Rockefeller is also buried here.

Garfield, a former Civil War general, college president, and Congressman, became the Republicans’ dark horse nominee on the 36th ballot and won the election by only 10,000 votes.

Garfield Monument, Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland

Garfield Monument, Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland

Only four months after his inauguration in 1881, he was shot by a disappointed officer seeker in Washington’s railroad station and lingered for two months before he died.

His monument is an imposing sandstone structure that combines Romanesque, Gothic and Byzantine styles of architecture, and stands 180 feet tall.

On a clear day, visitors can see up to forty miles of Lake Erie shore from its balcony.

Garfield Monument, Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland

Garfield Monument, Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland

 

Garfield’s life and death are depicted in five terra cotta panels, and more than 100 life size statues.  The Memorial Hall is done in gold mosaics, colored marble, stained glass windows and red granite columns.

Cleveland Indians short stop Ray Chapman, killed when struck in the head by a pitch in 1920, is buried here.  He is one of only two MLB players to die of a head injury sustained on the playing field during a game.

Lakeview is also the burial site of pioneer rock ‘n’ roll DJ Alan “Moondog” Freed.

 

Gravesite statuary, Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland

Gravesite statuary, Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland

Some of those buried here are not themselves well-known, but have made widely-known contributions from the profound to the lighthearted.  Garrett Morgan invented the gas mask and the three-colored traffic light .  James Salisbury invented… the Salisbury steak.

The ashes of Untouchables detective Eliot Ness, Cleveland’s Director of Public Safety from 1935-42, are scattered here.  So are the ashes of comic book writer Harvey Pekar, known for his groundbreaking series American Splendor.

Wade Chapel, Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland

Wade Chapel, Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland

The cemetery’s Wade Chapel is a must-see.  Built in memory of Western Union founder Jeptha Wade, it contains one of the few surviving interiors totally designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany.

Wade Chapel, Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland

Wade Chapel, Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland

Massive bronze doors set into the Neo-Classical style exterior open on a chapel dominated by Tiffany’s stunning stained glass window.

Its brilliant colors are at once opalescent, iridescent, and translucent.

 

Wade Chapel, Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland

Wade Chapel, Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland

Wade Chapel, Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland

Wade Chapel, Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland

 

Wade Chapel, Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland

Wade Chapel, Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland

 

A mosaic on the Chapel’s west wall symbolizes prophecy and the law of the Old Testament.

 

The mosaic on the east wall symbolizes the fulfillment of the Prophets’ laws by Christianity.

 

Both were constructed in the Tiffany Studios in New York and re-assembled on site.

Gravesite statue "Angel of Death Victorious" by sculptor Herman Matzen.

Gravesite statue “Angel of Death Victorious” by sculptor Herman Matzen.

Also check out the smaller but well known memorial, “Angel of Death Victorious”  at the gravesite of the Haserot family, created by sculptor Herman Matzen.

 

See my related post on La Recoleta (one of National Geographic Top 10 cemeteries) in my post Links to a Buenos Aires past.  

See also my related Cleveland posts:

Both Cleveland and its Public Square, along with Cleveland’s Little Italy, figure prominently in my recently published novel Lifelines: An American Dream, available on Amazon.

Cleveland’s river roots

View of "The Flats" from the Terminal Tower.

View of “The Flats” from the Terminal Tower.

The magnificent buildings of Cleveland’s historic downtown reflect commercial activity that was once a feature of its riverfront.

 

For nearly a century, Cleveland’s location on Lake Erie at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River made it one of the nation’s premier commercial hubs.

 

 

The Warehouse District sits on the East Bank bluffs above the river.

The historic Warehouse District sits on the East Bank bluffs above the river.

 

The river has carved its bed through the bluffs on which the city is perched.

 

The low-lying area along its banks has long been known as “The Flats”.

 

In the 1820’s, Cleveland was first connected to the Ohio River by a canal which was the region’s primary commercial traffic route until railroads replaced it in the 1860’s.

 

 

In the years following, Cleveland grew into a major rail hub.  The New York Central, Erie, and Nickel Plate railroads all connected here.

View of Downtown Cleveland from the West Bank of the Cuyahoga River.

View of Downtown Cleveland from the West Bank of the Cuyahoga River.

 

Today, parts of the canal are preserved under park service stewardship, and a restoration of its towpath has created jogging and bike trails.

 

The river’s water quality and fish populations have improved every year since 1970.

 

Lake freighters carrying Mesabi Range iron ore south and railroads carrying West Virginia coal north converged in Cleveland to fuel one of the nation’s largest steel-making centers.

Refineries and steel mills have been replaced by cultural and entertainment venues.

Refineries and steel mills have been replaced by cultural and entertainment venues.

 

In The Flats, the smelters and rolling mills of U.S. Steel, Republic. Bethlehem and Jones & Laughlin along both sides of the river became the pillar of the city’s economy, as well as a major source of river pollution.

 

On the East Bank, the refineries of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company leaked oil into the river for decades.

 

 

The Cuyahoga River has caught fire more than a dozen times since 1840.  The last fire  was in 1969, and the story which appeared in TIME magazine was a wake-up call both for Cleveland and the nation.

West Side public market and clocktower.

West Side public market and clocktower.

 

Beginning in the late 1960’s, the migration of steel-making to China and Europe triggered massive layoffs and plant closings, leaving The Flats populated by decaying buildings and the river plagued by persistent pollution.

West Side Market clocktower

West Side Market clocktower

In the mid-1980s, the Flats saw a resurgence as warehouses and other historic buildings were converted into nightlife destinations.

 

Cleveland's West Side Market

Cleveland’s West Side Market

 

The Flats became an entertainment mecca for the region

By the early 1990s, The Flats had the highest concentration of bars in the Midwest, but its heyday was short-lived.

Cleveland's West Side Market

Cleveland’s West Side Market

Current plans call for a new mixed-use development on the East Bank that aims to create a new downtown riverfront neighborhood.

Rivergate Park, a public park devoted to rowing, canoeing, kayaking and dragon-boating, officially opened May 2011.

The West Bank has fared better.  Many older establishments still remain open, and new housing and retail venues like the Steelyard Commons have breathed fresh life into this neighborhood

The Powerhouse, which once generated power for the city’s streetcars, has been renovated to include multiple bars, restaurants, and an outdoor music venue.  A National Historic Landmark, it is also home to the Greater Cleveland Aquarium.

Cleveland's West Side Market

Cleveland’s West Side Market

The story of Cleveland is the story of immigrants.

 

In the 1820’s, the West Bank was home to the heavily Irish immigrant workforce that built the Ohio and Erie Canal in the 1820’s.

 

In the twentieth century, the neighborhood was a center for the city’s Eastern European immigrants.

 

(The West Side’s St. Theodosius Russian Orthodox Cathedral was the location of the wedding scene in the movie The Deerhunter.)

Cleveland's West Side Market

Cleveland’s West Side Market

 

The West Side Market has been there through it all.

 

Opened in 1840 at the corner of West 25th and Lorain, it is Cleveland’s oldest publicly owned market.

 

It was first operated as an open air market, and the current structure dates from 1912.

 

Today it is home to more than one hundred vendors selling fine meats and produce, fresh seafood, baked goods, dairy and cheese products, and even fresh flowers.

Cleveland's West Side Market Cafe

Cleveland’s West Side Market Cafe

Many booths also sell ready-to-eat foods, and products often reflect Cleveland’s melting pot history.  More than a million people visit the market annually.

The next post wraps up my visit to Cleveland with a walk through the city’s historic and scenic Lakeview Cemetery.

 

Many of the places picture in these posts figure prominently in my recently published novel Lifelines: An American Dream, available on Amazon.

See my related posts on Cleveland:

See also more public markets in my related posts:

Cleveland’s historic architecture

The Arcade, Cleveland

The Arcade, Cleveland

A city’s architecture is like tree rings that tell its life story.    Cleveland’s industrial decline in the last part of the twentieth century left much of the city’s architectural legacy intact, and its buildings now stand as a living timeline.

The Arcade, Cleveland

The Arcade, Cleveland

One of the most notable examples is Cleveland’s Arcade, which opened its doors in 1890 to become one of the nation’s first indoor shopping centers.

Modeled after the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milano, Italy, the exterior is done in the Romanesque Revival style, and the interior in the Victorian style.

The Arcade, Cleveland

The Arcade, Cleveland

 

Once known as Cleveland’s Crystal Palace, The Arcade connects five stories of galleries to two ten story towers.

Along its indoor balconies were boutique shops and restaurants.  It was, in 1973, among the first buildings to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

A partnership with Hyatt Hotels rescued the Arcade from the wrecking ball with a restoration completed in 2001, and today Cleveland’s Hyatt Regency occupies the twin towers and top three levels of the atrium.

The Arcade’s two entrances connect Euclid and Superior Avenues at 14th Street.   The lower two levels remain open to the public.

Cleveland Trust Building

Cleveland Trust Building

 

 

By 1924, the Cleveland Trust Company, was the nation’s sixth largest bank.

 

Like many Cleveland buildings constructed early in the century, its home office reflects the neo-classical influence of Chicago’s 1893 Columbian Exposition…. the “White City.”

Cleveland Trust Building facade detail

Cleveland Trust Building facade detail

 

 

 

It’s not surprising that the muralist who did much of the work on the Columbian Exposition was chosen to paint its interior murals.  The building was completed in 1908.

Rockefeller Building, Cleveland

Rockefeller Building, Cleveland

John D. Rockefeller lived in Cleveland for thirty-five years, and founded his Standard Oil Company there.  His seventeen-story Rockefeller Building, completed in 1905, was designed in Chicago’s “Sullivanesque” style.

Art Deco facade, Cleveland

Art Deco facade, Cleveland

Cleveland’s zenith as an industrial powerhouse in the years between the World Wars fueled a building boom which defined a clear break from the city’s past and made Deco a major architectural feature of its central business district.

Art Deco facade, Cleveland

Art Deco facade, Cleveland

Art Deco architecture first appeared in France after World War I and became internationally popular from the 1920s until shortly after World War II.

Art Deco facade, Cleveland

Art Deco facade, Cleveland

It’s a style that  integrates craft motifs with Machine Age imagery and materials, employing rich colors, bold geometric shapes and lavish ornamentation.

Art Deco was a reflection of luxury and glamour, and the nation’s exuberance and faith in social and technological progress.

 

Playhouse Square, Cleveland

Playhouse Square, Cleveland

Playhouse Square is a row of five Euclid Avenue theaters built in the early 1920s.

These temples to the golden age of Hollywood are done in decorative themes that would do any Las Vegas casino proud.  Playhouse Square was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

The Ohio and State Theaters – both in the Italianate style – the Allen with its Pompeiian motif Allen, the Classical Hanna, and the French Renaissance Palace theaters have a combined total of over 10,000 seats,  making Playhouse Square the largest performing arts center in the U.S. outside of New York City.

 

Playhouse Square, Cleveland

Playhouse Square, Cleveland

These theaters presented serious theater, vaudeville shows, and movies for nearly half a century,.

The growth of the suburbs and the rise of TV led to their decline in the years after World War II, and by July 1969, all but one of the theaters had closed.

Art Deco facade, Cleveland

Art Deco facade, Cleveland

Plans to raze the vacant theaters in the ’70’s caused a public outcry, and public-private partnerships raised $40 million for the Square’s renovation.

Most of the work was completed between 1979-1988.

In 1978, Playhouse Square became one of nearly 400 Cleveland area sites named to the National Register of Historic Places.

The Euclid Corridor Transportation Project, which connects Public Square to the Cleveland Clinic, opened its Playhouse Square station in 2008.

So far I’ve not ventured more than ten blocks from Cleveland’s Public Square, so there’s still plenty more to see here.

Still to come: An exploration of  Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River roots and the stunning monuments of its Lakeview Cemetery.

See my related Cleveland posts:

Cleveland’s Public Square

Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland

Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland

Cleveland, Ohio is the home of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, the Cleveland Clinic, the Cleveland Orchestra, and the AFC’s Cleveland Browns.

It was also, in the ’70’s and 80’s, arguably the Rust Belt’s poster child.

A century ago, though, this home of the Federal Reserve’s Fourth District was the nation’s fifth largest city,  and for nearly half a century one of its industrial and political powerhouses.

Terminal Tower & Old Stone Church, Public Square, Cleveland

Terminal Tower & Old Stone Church, Public Square, Cleveland

It was here that John D. Rockefeller founded Standard Oil, and both he and U.S. President James Garfield, assassinated in 1881, are buried in its Lakeview Cemetery.

Cleveland’s Mark Hanna played Presidential kingmaker before the turn of 20th century, and Democratic Party national  conventions were held here in 1924 and 1936.

Cleveland’s  rich legacy is still very palpable in its historic architecture and the relics of its twentieth century melting pot neighborhoods.

 

Those who wonder why Cleveland is home to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame may not know that the very first rock ‘n’ roll concert was held in the Cleveland Arena in 1952, promoted by radio disc jockey Alan “Moondog” Freed.

The fire department closed the concert down when attendance far exceeded the Arena’s 20,000-seat capacity.

In the late 1960’s, Cleveland radio station WMMS-FM was a pioneer broadcaster of the ‘progressive rock’ radio format.

 

 

The current Cleveland Browns stadium was built in 1996 on the site of an earlier stadium dedicated in 1931, and where the first event held was the Schmeling-Stribling world heavyweight title fight.

Browns Stadium, Cleveland

Browns Stadium, Cleveland

The original structure was one of the first multi-purpose stadiums in the country, and until 1994 also the home field of the Cleveland Indians, who played games from their pennant-winning 1920 and 1948 World Series there.

Terminal Tower, Public Square, Cleveland

Terminal Tower, Public Square, Cleveland

The Browns began play in 1946, the year after the Cleveland Rams won the NFL title and moved to Los Angeles.

The new team won its first NFL championship in 1949, and would win it three more times within the next 15 years.

Cleveland has the distinction of being the only city to retain the name and archives of an NFL franchise when its team moved to Baltimore in 1996.

A revived Cleveland Browns franchise resumed play three years later.

 

Cleveland was first settled just before the turn of the nineteenth century by families arrived from New England, who brought with them the idea of a  ‘town commons’ and accordingly laid their city out around a Public Square.

 

Terminal Tower, Cleveland

Terminal Tower, Cleveland

In 1930,  a new rail terminal was constructed on its southwest corner, topped by a fifty-two story structure that came to be known as the Terminal Tower.  It was, at the time, the tallest building west of the Hudson River and the biggest dig since construction of the Panama Canal.

Terminal Tower, Cleveland

Terminal Tower, Cleveland

 

Terminal Tower, Cleveland

Terminal Tower, Cleveland

While rail traffic has significantly diminished in the eighty years since its construction, the Tower lives on as the hub of the city’s light rail system, and as a vibrant retail and entertainment venue.  Much of the original architecture has been lovingly restored and maintained.

Terminal Tower, Cleveland

Terminal Tower, Cleveland

Old Stone Church, Public Square, Cleveland

Old Stone Church, Public Square, Cleveland

 

The Old Stone Church, a longtime downtown Cleveland landmark, sits opposite the Tower on Public Square.

Its congregation dates back to 1820, and the current structure, dedicated in 1858, is the third church on the site.

Historical marker, Public Square, Cleveland

Historical marker, Public Square, Cleveland

Built in the Victorian Romanesque style, its interior is notable for its wood paneling, ornate carvings, stained glass, and a barrel-vaulted ceiling of trussed wood.  The church is the oldest surviving building on the Square.

Soldiers' & Sailors' Monument, Public Square, Cleveland, OH

Soldiers’ & Sailors’ Monument, Public Square, Cleveland, OH

 

Just across the Square, the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, located within the Square commemorates the Civil War.

 

Along the monument’s esplanade, bronze groupings depict battle scenes for the  Navy, Artillery, Infantry and Cavalry.  The thirty actions in which soldiers from Cuyahoga County fought are listed on bronze bands.  Perched atop its 125-foot stone is the statue ‘Goddess of Freedom’.

 

Bronze relief sculptures here are among the first to honor the war role of women nurses, and to show a free black man in a combat role.  Before the Emancipation, Cleveland was a center for Abolitionists and served as fugitive slaves’ last stop on the ‘underground railway’ before Canada.

 

My walk on this morning has covered only a few blocks of Cleveland’s vintage downtown, but more architectural treats lie just beyond the Square.  Come along when I next post!

 

Author’s notes:

  • Both Cleveland and its Public Square, along with Cleveland’s Little Italy, figure prominently in my recently published novel Lifelines: An American Dream, available on Amazon.

Rivera’s roots

Bronze of Diego, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Bronze of Diego, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Diego Rivera was a prominent Mexican painter whose large scale wall frescos dealt mostly with social and political themes arising from Mexico’s 1910 revolution.

 

He painted in Mexico City and in the U.S. between 1922 and 1953, and was instrumental in establishing the Mural Movement in Mexican art.

 

Guanajuato’s Museo Casa Diego Rivera is located in the house where the artist was born, and where he lived until the age of ten, when his family moved to Mexico City.

 

Exterior, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Exterior, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Living quarters on the ground floor are furnished in period antiques.

The upper floors house a permanent collection of nearly one hundred original works and sketches that span more than forty years.

Rivera was a man of contradictions.

Born into a well-to-do family, he became an ardent Marxist and his politics made him a persona non grata in Guanajuato for much of his life.

Born the son of a Catholic father and a Converso mother whose Jewish ancestors had been forced to convert to Catholicism, he was a lifelong atheist.

Address plaque, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Address plaque, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

A year after his twin brother died at the age of two, Rivera began drawing on the walls of the family house and his parents installed chalkboards and wall canvasses to encourage his talent.

He was already studying art in Mexico City at the age of ten, and continued his studies in Madrid and then in Paris, where he lived and worked among the Montparnasse artists and where his friend Modigliani painted his portrait.  Rivera also traveled extensively through Italy, studying Renaissance frescoes.

His early work embraced the emerging school of Cubist art, but by 1917 he began to adopt a new style that emphasized simple forms and large patches of vivid colors with an Aztec influence.

Dining room, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Dining room, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

He painted his first significant mural, “Creation,” at the National Preparatory School in Mexico City in 1921.  During the work he carried a pistol to protect himself from right-wing students.

His murals at the Secretariat of Public Education in Mexico City were painted between 1922 and 1928, and soon afterward he produced works for Cuernavaca’s Cortés Palace.

Salon, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Salon, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Rivera arrived in Moscow in 1927 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the October Revolution.  Also attending was Alfred Barr, later the founding director of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, where a retrospective exhibition of Rivera’s works was held in 1931.

While in Russia, Rivera received a commission for a mural in Moscow’s Red Army Club, but was expelled from the country because of involvement in anti-Soviet politics, and the next year he was expelled from the Mexican Communist Party.

Bedroom, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Bedroom, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Following his return to Mexico City, he produced a series of murals in the National Palace.

In 1929 he married his third wife, artist Frida Kahlo.  He was 42 and she was 22,  Their mutual infidelities and his violent temper would lead to their divorce in 1939 and remarriage in 1940.

Memorial, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Memorial, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

In 1930, after completing a commission for murals in the National School of Agriculture at Chapingo, and the Palace of Cortés in Cuernavaca, Rivera accepted commissions from the City Club of the San Francisco Stock Exchange and from the California School of Fine Art.  The work he produced there is now on display in the Diego Rivera Gallery at the San Francisco Art Institute.

Between 1932 and 1933, Rivera completed the twenty-seven panels of his work “Detroit Industry”, commissioned by Edsel Ford, on the walls of an inner court at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Bedroom, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Bedroom, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

His 1933 mural “Man at the Crossroads”, commissioned by John D. Rockefeller, was removed from the Rockefeller Center following a furor over its inclusion of the image of Lenin.

When Diego refused to remove it, Rockefeller ordered Rivera to leave and the mural destroyed.  The censorship became a cause celebre among New York’s artistic community.

Rivera family photos, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Rivera family photos, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

While Rockefeller detested Rivera’s art for its politics, Edsel Ford saw the art separately from the politics, and was a staunch defender of the artist’s talent even during the McCarthy witch hunts of the 1950s.

The negative publicity over the Rockefeller Center mural, though, lost Rivera a commission for the Chicago World’s Fair.

In 1934, Rivera  repainted the Rockefeller Center mural in Mexico city’s Palacio de Bellas Artes.

Bedroom, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

Bedroom, Casa Diego Rivera, Guanajuato

He returned to the U.S. for the last time in 1940 to paint a ten-panel mural for the Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco titled “Pan American Unity”.

The mural and its archives now reside at City College of San Francisco.

There’s plenty more to see on a future visit, but it’s still been a great day trip from San Miguel de Allende.

For more on Guanajuato, check out my earlier posts:

A panel from Diego Rivera’s work “Detroit Industry” appears on the cover of my latest novel, Lifelines: An American Dream, available now on Amazon.

 

The first sight of Guanajuato is breathtakingly beautiful.  Thousands of brightly colored buildings are draped across the hills like a mosaic carpet, and the colors are warm in the morning sunlight.  It’s picture postcard perfect.

Guanajuato, Mexico

Guanajuato, Mexico

Guanajuato has played an important role throughout much of Mexico’s history, including its service as one of  Mexico’s provisional capitals  up until its capture during the French intervention in 1863 .

Plaza de la Paz, Guanajuato, Mexico

Plaza de la Paz, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

This city’s spirit is well summed up by its  Plaza de la Paz – the Peace Plaza.

 

This is where the wealthiest of colonial families built their homes.

 

It is also the site of the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guanajuato – the Basilica of Our Lady of Guanajuato.

 

One of the plaza’s most distinctive feature is an allegorical sculpture of the woman “Peace”.

Since much of Guanajuato’s through traffic has been routed through the tunnels of abandoned silver mines which run below it, the narrow streets of the Centro Historico are very pedestrian-friendly, and beg to be walked.

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

 

 

 

 

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

 

 

The Alhondigas de Granaditas – The Granary – dominates the  old city, and has played a central role in its history for more than two hundred years.

Alhondigas de Granaditas (center) and Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guanajuato (lower right), Guanajuato, Mexico

Alhondigas de Granaditas (center) and Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guanajuato (lower right), Guanajuato, Mexico

Today it is one of the venues for the Festival Internacional Cervantino, held here every fall since 1972.

The festival  celebrates the life and work of Miguel Cervantes, who is considered by Spanish-speakers to be as significant an influence on their literature as Shakespeare is to English literature.

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

 

The Alhondigas is best known, though, as the site of the first battle in Mexico’s War of Independence.

 

 

In 1810, insurgents led by patriot Miguel Hidalgo entered the city to find that Royalist troops and  sympathizers had barricaded themselves – and millions of pesos of silver – in the Alhondigas.

 

The Royalists were counting upon the granary’s thick and windowless walls and single gated entrance to resist a siege, and they were able to fight the rebels to a stalemate.

Statue of El Pípila, Guanajuato, Mexico

Statue of El Pípila, Guanajuato, Mexico

The impasse was broken when miner Juan José de los Reyes Martínez, better known to history by his nickname of El Pípila, armored himself with a large flat stone strapped to his back and crawled to the wooden gate with a flask of tar and a torch.

Martínez’s  courageous act enabled the patriots to take the building, and his heroism is commemorated by a colossal statue of him that now overlooks the city.

Murals, Alhondigas de Granaditas, Guanajuato, Mexico

Murals, Alhondigas de Granaditas, Guanajuato, Mexico

The building now serves as the Museo Regional de Guanajuato, documenting the city’s history  from before the Spanish Conquest.

Mural, Alhondigas de Granaditas, Guanajuato, Mexico

Mural, Alhondigas de Granaditas, Guanajuato, Mexico

Its architecture honors heroes of the Mexican Revolution with mascarons, gargoyle-like sculptures that incorporate their faces.

The walls of the main stairwell contain murals by José Chávez Morado that allude to Independence, along with paintings and photographs.

It is a long-standing tradition to celebrate Mexico’s Independence Day with a reenactment of Miguel Hidalgo’s “El Grito de Dolores” – the call to arms – in the Alhondiga’s large courtyard.

An eternal flame is re-lit here each year on the anniversary of the battle.

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

Centro Historico, Guanajuato, Mexico

It ‘s no surprise that this charming and historic city is one of Mexico’s thirty-two World Heritage Sites.

Coming up next in Guanajuato:  Museo Casa Diego Rivera, the Mexican muralist’s childhood home.

Also in Guanajuato:  Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, the opulent home and magnificent gardens built by one of the city’s silver barons.  Read more…

Hacienda style

Gardens, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

Gardens, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

Guanajuato is one of Mexico’s five colonial “silver cities.”

 

Silver was discovered here in the 1600’s, and within a century Guanajuato had become the largest single source of silver in the world.

 

 

Gardens and house, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

Gardens and house, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Magnificent churches and mansions were built with the riches, and one of those mansions survives today as a museum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gardens, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

Gardens, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

 

 

 

The former Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, less than three miles from the city center and just off the highway from Irapuato, covers almost five acres.

It was one of several estates owned by Captain Gabriel de la Barrera.

 

Gardens, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

Gardens, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

 

 

The main house sits among themed, formal gardens, several of which evoke the feel of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain.

Main house entrances, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

Main house entrances, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

 

 

 

 

The hacienda house was divided into living space, hacienda offices, a chapel, and a  work yard where mined minerals were processed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Main house courtyard, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

Main house courtyard, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

The façade has a strong Baroque influence, and the beamed ceilings and handrails are all original

Private chapel altarpiece, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

Private chapel altarpiece, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

The altarpiece in the private chapel, covered in gold leaf, once stood in the cathedral of Jaen, Spain.

 

Gardens, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

Gardens, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

 

 

In Mexico, the word hacienda describes the largest of estates. These were profit-making enterprises that had their origins in land grants made by the Spanish crown to conquistadors and royal officials.

The first was a grant made by the Spanish crown to Hernán Cortés.

 

 

 

 

Main house, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

Main house, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

 

 

 

Some haciendas were plantations, some were ranches, and others were mines or factories.  Many engaged in more than one of these enterprises.

 

 

 

 

Main house Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

Main house Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

 

 

 

While most hacienda owners – known as hacendados or patróns – lived in or near their haciendas, many of the largest landholders were absentee owners.

 

 

 

 

 

Main house window, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

Main house window, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

 

 

The Catholic Church acquired vast hacienda holdings or loaned money to hacendados.

As mortgage holders, the Church’s interests lay with the landholding class, a relationship which eventually left it on the wrong side of Mexican Revolution.

 

 

 

Bedroom, main house, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

Bedroom, main house, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

 

Haciendas are sometimes confused with encomiendas, another type of royal land grant which included the labor of its indigenous population.

These grantholders were responsible for instructing the natives in the Spanish language and Christian faith, and protecting them from warring tribes, in return for which they were entitled to exact labor or other tribute.

 

 

 

Hacienda offices, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

Hacienda offices, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

 

While the encomienda technically honored honor Queen Isabella’s command that natives were “free vassals of the crown” not to be enslaved or displaced, many were forced into hard labor and subjected to corporal punishment or death if they resisted.

 

 

 

Gardens, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

Gardens, Museo Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera, Guanajuato, Mexico

 

Many hacendados were also granted encomiendas, which gave all of their enterprises access to a pool of indigenous labor.

The Hacienda San Gabriel Barrera affords a beautiful setting and unique insight into the lives of the Spanish overlords, but it’s also hard to forget that such prosperity came at a terrible price.  An indigenous Mexican population estimated at twenty-five million persons before the Spanish conquest had, within a century, been reduced by war, disease, and forced labor, and other abuse to a little over one million.

There’s still more to see in Guanajuato, including the boyhood home of twentieth century Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, and the city’s historic center, one of the birthplaces of Mexican independence.

To Live and Die in New Orleans

French Quarter, New Orleans

French Quarter, New Orleans

I’ve been to New Orleans more times than I can count, but as I planned my first post-Katrina trip, I wondered how much of its long-familiar landscape would still remain.

My New Orleans ritual has remained unchanged in all of those years.  It begins with beignets and café au lait at the Cafe du Monde, followed by a stroll around Jackson Square and a climb to the crest of the levee, where I sit and watch the boats plying the Mississippi.

Larger-than-life Louis Armstrong parade mask.

Larger-than-life Louis Armstrong parade mask.

On this morning as I sit in the cafe, a van pulls up and its two occupants extract from it a gigantic paper-mâché mask of Louis Armstrong.

Both men seem improbably short to be walking the streets with it perched upon their shoulders, but an entourage shortly appears, dressed in Mardi Gras finery.

"Second Line" dressed for a parade.

“Second Line” dressed for a parade.

The mask’s occupant appears and suits up, then the troop sets off down the streets for reasons and parts unknown.

More "Second Line"

More “Second Line”

 

It’s a perfect welcome back to New Orleans.

 

 

Jackson Square is always a feast for the eyes.  Artists who hang their work on its wrought iron fences are regulars, but the supporting cast of characters is constantly changing.

 

Jackson Square play date.

Jackson Square play date.

 

 

 

Today, two mothers sitting in the shade watch over a play date and what can only be described as the mini-van of baby strollers.

 

 

Across the square, a group of choir boys files down the sidewalk.

 

Choirboys near St. Louis Cathedral, Jackson Square, New Orleans

Choirboys near St. Louis Cathedral, Jackson Square, New Orleans

 

Motorcycle cowboy, Jackson Square, New Orleans

Motorcycle cowboy, Jackson Square, New Orleans

 

 

 

The engine of a motorcycle with longhorn handlebars and an honest-to-God cowboy saddle clicks and cools as its owner sitting nearby with guitar and harmonica, picking out a tune.

Hey, buddy, can you spare some change for gas?

 

 

 

 

 

Garden District, Washington St., New Orleans.

Garden District, Washington St., New Orleans.

 

I decide to revisit old haunts in the Garden District and hop aboard the St. Charles Street trolley, hopeful that I’ll find the District as unchanged by Katrina as the French Quarter seems to be.

"Katina cross" marks a hurrican damage inspection.

“Katina cross” marks a hurrican damage inspection.

At first not much seems out of place, but after only a few blocks’ walk I come upon my first vacant house marked with the infamous X-code, or “Katrina cross”… which many have mistakenly taken for a demolition flag.

The markings in each of its quadrants actually record the date and time that the house was searched, the identity of the searchers, and a count of people found in the home…  whether alive or not.

Lafayette Cemetery, Garden District, New Orleans

Lafayette Cemetery, Garden District, New Orleans

The Lafayette Cemetery #2 is five blocks off St. Charles St., at the corner of Washington and Loyola, and even though I’ve seen the St. Louis cemetery – the heavyweight among New Orleans burials – on past trips I can’t resist walking its lanes to check out the stories told by its gravestones.

Back in the French Quarter, I stop by the Central Grocery for the world’s best-known muffaletta sandwich before wandering the streets.

Funeral procession, New Orleans

Funeral procession, New Orleans

 

 

 

A procession led by a brass band appears, and I realize that I’m about to see my first New Orleans funeral parade.

Although such funeral parades were a widespread practice among both blacks and whites in New Orleans at the start of the 20th century, whites stepped away from the ritual in the years before World War I.

 

 

It was not until the 1960’s that it began to spread across ethnic and religious boundaries.

Funeral procession, New Orleans

Funeral procession, New Orleans

 

 

 

 

 

 

It feels far less like a funeral than it does a wake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Funeral procession, New Orleans

Funeral procession, New Orleans

 

 

 

 

 

Many in the procession are dressed in black, and the mourners hold pictures of the deceased high.

 

 

 

 

 

Funeral procession, New Orleans

Funeral procession, New Orleans

One woman walks, turtle-like, beneath the weight of an ornately framed painting of a saint with cherubs.  From time to time, one or another breaks into dance.

Funeral procession, New Orleans

Funeral procession, New Orleans

I never manage to learn the name of the deceased, but the rousing and worthy send-off tells me that he’s someone who will be sorely missed by many… and that I can cross one more item off my bucket list.

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