Thursday, May 28, 2009

Queretaro: Part 2 - Street art and street life

Young sprite plays a water harp.  The streets and byways of Queretaro's El Centro are filled with lively and artistic touches. The sculptor who created the figure above used narrow streams of water to represent the harp strings. Only one stream can be seen in the picture, possibly due to low water pressure or clogged exit holes. Even so, it was an arresting creation, and stopped me in my tracks for a few moments before I thought to take a picture. We encountered numerous similarly unusual creations, a well as living vignettes which I tried to capture with my camera while we wandered around El Centro.

Jardin Zenea, one of many plazas in Queretaro, is the the city's main plaza.  The Franciscan order of monks were a powerful force in Queretaro and their convent was huge, and included this plaza as part of its atrium. The current plaza was founded in 1874 and named after Benito Santos Zenea, the Governor of Queretaro at that time. The Jardin Zenea forms a cool and quiet oasis surrounded by busy city traffic. 

Balloon seller, Jardin Zenea. A bored balloon seller watches a couple of potential customers walk by. The mother seems intent on hustling her young daughter past temptation. You can see the intricate wrought-iron work on the plaza kiosco in the background.

Ornate fountain in Jardin Zenea contains a statue of the Greek goddess Hebe. Although strictly for decorative purposes now, fountains were vital sources of clean drinking and cooking water in past centuries. Some fountains were specially designated for the watering of livestock. The construction of the aqueduct featured in Part 1 of this series enabled fountains throughout the El Centro area. I love spending time on a bench next to a fountain like this. Something about the cool, cascading water brings feelings of relaxation and peace. It's great for people watching too.

Sidewalk restaurant at Jardin de la Corregidora. The numerous plazas throughout El Centro contained many sidewalk restaurants like this one across from a statue dedicated to La Corregidora, heroine of the War of Independence (see Part 1). The green awnings provided cool shade, and also protected patrons from the periodic short downpours of rain we encountered on our visit. Residents of this cosmopolitan city seem to love the "cafe society" these sidewalk restaurants provide. 

Young violinist outside Meson de Chucho El Roto. This young musician played for tips just outside the small railing that separates the Restaurant Meson de Chucho El Roto from the rest of  the plaza. Several of the expatriates we met bemoaned the supposed low quality of restaurants in Queretaro. Of course, one of the critics was from New York City, and the other was a gourmet chef, so perhaps that explains their higher standards. Carole and I found the food in most to be excellent, if a little pricier than what we find in the Lake Chapala area. 

Queretaro is a bustling modern city. El Centro contains buildings which are still in use although they date back almost 500 years. Here, you are looking down Madero street, facing the dome of Templo San Francisco and the Regional Museum.

Shelley, gourmet chef extraordinaire. Shelley owns the Home B&B where we stayed while in Queretaro. Shelley originally hails from Canada, but has worked in several countries and has served gourmet meals to the beautiful people of Los Angeles. Shelley finally settled in Queretaro as an hotelier. She seems to much prefer the company of ordinary people to that of the stars and has a bubbly, earthy personality. We liked her a lot, and asked her to accompany us on a day-long outing to a couple of very special villages. She was glad to oblige and turned out to be an excellent tour guide. And her breakfasts at Home B&B left me with mouth-watering memories! 

A man of several worlds. Frank, shown here at one of his favorite sidewalk coffee places at the Plaza de Armas, is a widely traveled journalist. He freelances as a TV producer after spending nine years working for CBS 60 Minutes. His goal is to spend as much time as possible in Queretaro with his English girlfriend, but his work still requires regular trips to New York. Frank posts to a blog called Burro Hall, where I discovered him. His blog information indicated that he lived in Queretaro, so we decided to look him up on our visit.  Frank writes with an insightful and scathingly satirical style, to which I was immediately attracted. He turned out to be much younger than I expected, and very easy going. Prior to our arrival, Frank had invited us to a birthday party for a Mexican friend. Carole was too tired to go, but I attended and it was a hoot. It turned out he was an old friend of Shelley, who had invited me to the same party. The expat community is small in Queretaro, and people tend to know one another and to graciously take in random strangers like me.

Getting the latest. News stands are standard features of the portales surrounding a plaza. They work well with the great little coffee places which serve delicious but "knock-your-socks-off" coffee. Here a random group of pedestrians pauses to catch up on the headlines from a sampling of the myriad of papers published in Mexico.

Studio Billy Tatuajes. Internet cafes abound in Queretaro as they do in the rest of Mexico. Even small towns usually contain an internet cafe or two. They are quite inexpensive (about 35 cents US for 1/2 hour in some places I have used). Mexico is becoming quite a "wired" society in many ways. At the location above, a tatuaje (tattoo) shop provides internet service as  a sideline. One stop shopping, as it were.

The magic flute? I found this statue at an intersection of a callejon (alley) between Calle Corregidora and Calle Pasteur. Oddly, there was no flute. Like that of the harpist at the beginning of this post, the figure is very realistic, lovely and somewhat quirky. Although he looks alone, he is actually closely surrounded by trinket sellers and strollers who are outside of the frame of the picture. 

Plazas have many uses.  As businessmen hurry by, and lovers pass at a more leisurely pace, a lone artist is absorbed in his work in the middle of this plaza. There are countless artists in Mexico and the society seems to deeply appreciate their work. Beautifully created sculptures, paintings, wall murals, and folk art are on display everywhere.

The nobleman who built the aqueduct may have been a dog lover. This playful dog is one of four adorning the corners of the statue of the Don Juan Antonio de Urrutia y Arana, builder of the aqueduct (see Part 1). They were somewhat odd additions to the statue. The only conclusion I could draw was that he was a dog lover. Since they are a part of the fountain, I suppose I should be glad the water is coming from their mouths rather than from between their lifted legs.

Reclining nude graces the center of the Jardin del Arte. We discovered the Jardin (garden) del Arte while randomly wandering in the El Centro. That day, the Jardin courtyard was being used by crafts people to sell their wares. The reclining nude is actually part of a fountain as you can see from the wet pavement around her.

Templo de Congregation. The Church of the Congregation is located on a narrow corner just down the street from Home B&B on the way to the Jardin de Armas. Twilight was enveloping the area, as you can see by the lights just lit in the food-sellers cart in the foreground. However, this was not just the close of the day, but the beginning of the evening. A little further down the street, I encountered a large crowd surrounding a group of jugglers, mimes, and stilt walkers. Down an alley at the next plaza, I came across a full orchestra playing beautiful classical music from the kiosco of the Jardin Zenea while a number of older Mexican couples waltzed. I was enchanted and wanted to linger, but I had to get back. Next time...

This concludes Part 2 of my series on our visit to Queretaro. In my next post, I will show two museums, one for history and the other for art. The buildings are stunningly beautiful works of art themselves and are part of Queretaro's long colonial history as well as storehouses for interesting and beautiful objects.

Hasta luego, Jim

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this post and your other one about Queretero! This was much more useful for finding out information about the city than other travel sites I have been looking at!


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