Monday, 28 May 2012


How incongruous is this? A north Indian restaurant, owned by a Japanese woman, in Mexico

Reiko was a cook in a Mexican restaurant in Tokyo. She came, a year ago, to Mexico to learn more about Mexican food. She lived in Mexico City and made a living selling Japanese pancakes on the street in a pretty rough neighborhood. After getting mugged and robbed twice, she moved to San Cristobal, where  there is no "good" Mexican food in her opinion. Her new friends urged her to open a restaurant because they are so impressed with her cooking, but all she ever cooked for them was Japanese and Indian food.

Reiko, almost rhymes with Rico
She pulled together enough money to open a tiny restaurant. It's the size of a medium bedroom in the US. About 4 x 6 meters with a small bathroom at the back. On the right side there is an island with her cooktop and a sink. On the back wall, a refrigerator. Shelves behind the island hold dishes. Along the other wall is a bar with six stools. She's been open seven days and business is a bit slow but picking up.

She serves six curries. The sauces are premade and she adds vegetables and meats, heats up a single serving and serves bowls of hot curry with rice, a chapati, and onion pickle. She's made lavender lemonade, tamarind tea, chai, some cold desserts like rasmalai and coconut burfi.

I'm hooked. Been there two days in a row and took my Mexican family the second day. I'll probably go there again, at least once this week with the spanish class. We like to eat out after class but we've been going to dive bars and caldo (soup) joints. Now it's time for some really great food.

The coconut burfi is absolutely to die for. I handed a small piece to Mateo (18 months) and he stuffed the whole thing in his mouth. The look on his face was complete shock. He spit it all out into his hand and then took the smallest bites and savored each one.

If she doesn't make a go of this restaurant, I'm going to lose all faith in the Universe.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Meaningful Travel - The people!

A couple of months ago, when Laurie was here in San Miguel, she introduced me to all kinds of people, mostly English speakers.

There's Bela who owns the best B&B in town, catering to Americans, Brits, and Canadians She never seems to have an empty room, even during the rainy season.

Linda works at a bookstore. She is how I became acquainted with Laurie. She and her husband live on the same street in a lovely home they built from scratch. They gutted the existing house and put in a three story town home with a tiny garden in the back. The upper rooms have enviable views of the city and the constantly changing weather patterns.

Edith and Arnulfo
There's Arnulfo, the German that I met when I went to see a movie. He and I were the only customers so it only seemed neighborly to chat and have a meal afterwards. He introduced me to his tutor Edith and eventually I've met her children and one of her X's. We all celebrated his 70 +? birthday a week ago. When he came here, he was staying in a youth hostel. It suited him just fine, he had been a university professor all his life and hanging with young people was perfectly natural to him. But then he began to think about living here full time, and about that time, Laurie called to let me know another American friend needed a house and dog sitter. I recommended Arnulfo since I didn't need a place.

Derek was here then, so the three of us went to meet Theresa and Chucho. She accepted Arnulfo and he's been living in her house ever since. Chucho has been a great companion and a terrible liablity. He's a large and strong former street dog with a lot of emotional baggage. He is sweet and loving inside where he feels safe, and is toto-loco outside. He practically foams at the mouth with anger at other dogs, indigenous men especially, and cars. I watched him lash out at a passing taxi and get whacked in the side of the head. So far he's bitten two indigenous men, and the last time Arnulfo fell down onto his hip yanking Chucho back after he lunged out, bit a man, and tore his pants. Both times Arnulfo has paid the victims of the dog's attack. I think he finally found a muzzle for the dog. It won't stop him from trying to bite cars though.

Edith is my teacher too, and she comes over every Tuesday. We spend time going over verbs and parts of speech, ideas and phrases that make no sense to me, but when spoken get quite a reaction from others:  "Estamos hasta la madre". ("We are until the mother". Makes no sense right?) But apparently "hasta la madre" means something along the lines of God-damned fucking really pissed off.

And my friends from the previous visit, Malena and her children Yesi and Mateo are still a deepening part of my life. We go out on Sundays with her car to eat la comida in the afternoon, and to a park for Mateo to run around. Yesi is 16, so she is with us sometimes, and sometimes checked out and plugged in to her phone, a game, or her ipod. I'm used to that, I have a 21 year old son at home. Time with Malena is time for both of us to learn more language and about each other. She understands a lot of English but most of our conversations are in Spanish. She has introduced me to barbacoa, sheep cooked in a hot underground wood fired pit, green mole, and pickled nopal salad with chunks of squeeky new cheese.

Balom (Jaguar in Tsotsil) with avocados.
Laurie called one day to say her friend Margarita needed a house and pet sitter, would I be interested? At that point I had a place to live but having a much nicer place and some animal companionship sounded like a wonderful idea. Margarita's house is lovely, only a couple of blocks from where I was living, and she has a cat that reminds me of my all-time favorite animal Whisker. Uma the dog is of street dog ancestry, though Margarita got her as a pup. She has no street sense at all.

And as often happens when traveling alone, people take care of you in unseen ways. Sometimes the Universe does too. The casita where I lived is part of a three house compound. A couple moved into one of the other houses. It's only one bedroom and has no other beds, not even a couch. Since I'm over there a lot anyway, I met her and she asked about a place her daughter could stay when she comes for a visit. So I offered the bedroom and bath of my casita. I can put everything inside the living room/kitchen and lock it, since every room has its own door to the outside. We settled on a price, I moved out and the daughter moved in.

They say life isn't about what you know but who you know. It goes without saying that "who you know" probably also needs to like you. Social skills are learned the hard way, some can be taught, but all require constant practice and vigilance. The better you are at interacting with people, the more really great things happen to you. That's why I can't see just traveling, wandering from place to place, seeing this or that. Lakes, mountains, cities, museums, cathedrals, restaurants and bars....are all just physical things that anyone can go to and take a photo of. You could just sit home and peruse the internet. But people take some effort and in the long run it's the people who make all the difference in how meaningful a trip is. And people take time.

(If you are interested in house sitting as a supplement to travel, or as a lifestyle, there are several websites that specialize in matching house sitters with people who need one. Some like TrustedHouseSitters are international, others specialize in just one country like the US.)

Violeta, Edith's daughter

Geronimo, Edith's son

Coco, the renter's chocolate schnauzer

Uma and Balom. That cat puts up with such abuse!

Saturday, 19 May 2012

San Cristobal: Saturday Night Red Light District

When I turned 15, my family lived in the Panhandle of Texas. The town, Dimmitt wasn't exactly the buckle on the Bible Belt, but it was definitely one of the holes. The city fathers, the powers-that-be, the standard bearers in that little town believed that dancing was a sin. Like playing cards and drinking alcohol. Playing cards leads to gambling, drinking alcohol leads to a life of debauchery and ruined families, and dancing leads to sinful unmarried sex and little bastards.

(I recently read that in North Carolina, high school teachers will soon not be allowed to tolerate kissing in the schools, because kissing leads to sex, and sex leads to.....but I digress.)

So my wayward father, who didn't care much for the powers-that-be, decided to use my birthday party as a venue for a jab at the status quo. And being the truly innocent person that I was, I happily let him.

Max, the kid next door, had a band. So I asked if he and his band would play in our garage for my birthday party. Of course they were happy to do that, it was their first gig, unpaid, but a gig nonetheless. They were pretty terrible, not that I remember what they played or how well, I was too busy dancing.

I invited everybody I liked, which was probably way more people than liked me, and a bunch of them came. A few parents called my parents to ask about dancing and when told there would only be dancing if the kids knew how, they pulled their kids' invitations.

The bulk of my friends showed up. And my father, to advertise the correct location (he told me) took out the regular yellowish bulb in the porch light and installed a red one. That flashed.

I thought, what a cool dad, he found a red light. I never even knew such a thing existed. (It was 1967....)

When the police showed up my father laughed his ass off. It meant some neighbor had turned us in for running a house of ill repute, and the party went on.

It wasn't till years later that I finally learned what a flashing red light means in the rest of the world.

A plate of Cochinita Pibil from
Dona Chayito's restaurant on Guadalupe

So imagine my surprise to discover that every Saturday night, many streets in San Cristobal de las Casas turn into red light districts.

Entire families are engaged in this business activity. The city condones it by ignoring the hygiene laws and not inspecting the premises. No license is required. Any family that wants to participate in this illicit and normally illegal activity simply puts a wood frame with red plastic panels over their front light, and they're in business.

Potential customers walk up and down the street and when they feel the urge, they stop in at a house with a glowing red box and get serviced. Each house had its own specialty. Some like it big, overstuffed and hot, some like it small and mild.

Tamales that is.

Steaming hot tamales, in banana leaves or corn husks, stuffed with cheese and nuts, or mole and pork, cochinita pibil, or red hot peppers and shredded beef. The varieties are endless and the sizes vary with the chef. All over this part of town tamales can be purchased for a late dinner or for Sunday breakfast. Some places have tables and chairs in the patios but mostly you buy it "para llevar" (take out).


Saturday, 12 May 2012

Indoors and out - the way Mexicans live

Steps in the garden leading up
to the neighbor's house through
that little gate. 
At this time, I'm house sitting for a woman in San Cristobal in her lovely home right on the curve of La Cola del Diablo, the local name for a sharp right angled curve on Calle Dr. Navarro. The street is so narrow, the sidewalks are barely 15 inches wide, and there is room for only one car. They come whizzing down this street. Sometimes there are drunks who've fallen asleep on the sidewalk and are lying with legs or arms flopped into the road. People get hurt and killed on this narrow section fairly often, hence the name: The Devil's Tail.

The street, and the homes along it, are typical of Mexico. The sidewalk is stone, raised above the level of the road by about 10 inches or more. Since it rains here so much, that's actually a good thing, but sometimes trying to hop up onto the sidewalk when a car is fast approaching can be a challenge. The sidewalk butts up against stucco walls made either of concrete blocks, stones, or adobe. Set into those walls are metal or wooden gates. Some walls have portals large enough for a car to pass through, as well as a sloping driveway into the property. A smaller people-door is then set inside the larger doors for the car. If the property has a large exposure along the street, there might also be a pedestrian door further down the wall.
Across the patio from my room, the oldest
building on the property houses a
studio and meditation room.

Walking along any street, one has no idea how wealthy or poor people are. What lies behind those walls and gates is any body's guess. The walls give clues....if they are covered with graffiti then probably the entire neighborhood is rather impoverished. If not, it means the owners are out every day checking and painting over the graffiti from the night before. After a while, the taggers give up and leave that home or neighborhood alone.

Some people have murals painted on the walls of their homes to keep from being tagged. For some reason, the taggers generally won't spray over a mural, especially if it's of the Virgin Mary. On the next street up the hill is a raggedy old house with paint peeling, rotted wood door, and crumbling stucco. It has an interesting and well done sprayed-painted mural of four women's faces set in curls of smoke and flowers. The house has been for sale for a long time, and may not even be occupied. But the taggers tag around that mural.

The door and window of "my"
room. On the other side of the far
wall is the busy Cola del Diablo.

Once in a while, a gate will be open and you can get a glimpse of the interior. Most of the time the view is into a patio and garden space. Homes typically are built with multiple rooms side by side surrounding the patio, each with its own door. Many homes will have a second level, often accessed by an outdoor stairway and sheltered by overhanging portales or porch roofs. Since the lots are small, the actual living spaces share walls with the neighbors without much sound-proofing. In theory, when you build something new, you're supposed to put up your own wall, but many people just use the neighbor's existing wall and build out from there. That's why, in the little casita I've been renting, I hear the neighbor's son practicing with his band as if they are in the next room, which in fact, they are. I'm grateful they're actually pretty good!

My Mexican friend Malena, who has an uncle in Florida, came over for a little visit at my house-sitting gig, and was impressed with the house and it's beautiful garden. She asked me a question. "Why is it that Americans have big houses with beautiful yards but then they put curtains over the windows and use electric lights inside, even in the daytime?" I wasn't sure I could answer that, but after more discussion, the answer finally dawned on me. It's a question of control. We like to control the climate, so we build these homes that are so contained you don't even have to open a window for light or air or temperature. The temperature inside is maintained so perfectly you never have to put on a sweater or take off any clothes. You never have to interact with the real world.

In most of Mexico, there is no heat in the homes aside from a fireplace or a freestanding electric or gas heater. People wear layers of clothes and sleep under many blankets and together, for warmth. In the summer, when it's hot, you go inside those block and stone houses where the temperature is cooler and go out after the sun sets. People here live with the natural world and it's fluctuations. The idea of controlling it never occurs to them, and if it did, they'd see right away how expensive that can get.  It costs far less to keep just the body warm or cool than to try to keep an entire house at a certain temperature. As a result, the homes here are open to the world and whatever it brings in. Security is provided by those tall walls and metal gates; inside, it's open and free.

Into the bathroom, from the patio.
Years ago I heard a talk by an anthropologist who had studied the culture of the Pueblo Indians in New Mexico. In the days before electricity and indoor plumbing, when people built homes that were adobe brick rooms with a single door, people lived and worked mostly outside. They worked when it was cool and rested in the heat of the day, a custom still practiced throughout Mexico with the afternoon "la comida" or 2 hour siesta. In the winters, people gathered around the fire and told stories, sang old songs, visited with each other, and in this way passed on their culture.

In the 1950's the American government began a plan to upgrade these poor people by supplying them with new houses featuring indoor plumbing, forced air heat, and running water with modern kitchens. The result was that all of a sudden, families had their own homes; gramma and grampa had theirs, kids had their own room, or at least shared with other kids away from where the parent's slept, and there was no longer a need to sit for hours in the one warm room in the evenings. The kids were being taught solely in English at school, and quickly, in just a generation, the culture began to fade away. Many of the tribes have worked very hard to reinstate their native languages in school, and bring people back home, who have moved away, for the annual dances and in some measure preserve what they were in danger of losing forever.
Through the dining room window.

What struck me about that man's talk was how architecture makes all the difference. If your home is such that you live indoors and outdoors at the same time, you adjust to that with your clothing. If you have only one heat source and it heats only one room, then everyone hangs out in there. Social skills are honed, people learn how to deal with each other and their conflicts can't last as long. Nobody would want to leave and be "out in the cold".

So many of the American ex-pats I meet here say they love Mexico because they feel so much more connected with other people. What they were missing is the sense of being part of a community. There are ways to achieve that in the US, of course. But the way we live physically fosters an environment in which isolation is the norm, not community.

A jaguar plate from the village of Amantenango.
Every few days I take my large zippered shopping bag and I walk up the hill to the Mercado.  I see the same people every time I shop. I interact with them, and since I stick out as a foreigner, they remember me too. The potatoes are still covered in the wet dirt from which they emerged that very morning, the eggs still have goo and crap on the shells, the lettuce leaves sport an occasional friendly slug, and the carrots have tops. Almost anything I might want to buy is available in a stall there, I only have to ask and I'm pointed in some direction. It's smelly, dirty, noisy, and crowded.  In contrast, we Americans get into our little "living rooms" on wheels and drive to spotless shopping malls where we buy things (we have no idea who made them or where) from a person we will probably never see again. We buy fruits and vegetables already scrubbed in sterilized Styrofoam packages covered in shrink wrap. Much of our food (grain especially) has not even been touched by human hands. It was grown, harvested, processed, and packaged entirely by machines.

We value that control over the dirt and chaos, we value the total privacy and safety of isolation. We see it as independence. The isolation is certainly no illusion, but the idea that we are independent is.

Living room with ceramic fireplace,
called a chiminea

Back yard with drainage channels for all the rain.
Mural the taggers ignore. Note the
tags right next to it, but not over it.
This house is abandoned and almost
completely covered in grafitti.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

At the bottom of the sea.....of humanity

I'm an upbeat and reasonably positive person but I realize that no aspect of life or country is all good. On this blog I've talked once in a while about the inequities of the indigenous people in Mexico, how they've gotten the pointed end of the stick fairly often since the Spaniards showed up, and truly, many groups got the shaft from powerful Mayan city-states and the ferocious Aztec empire, to which they had to give up their children for blood sacrifice.

Here in Chiapas there was a movement about a hundred years ago during which the Mayan people tried to get this whole area of Mexico returned to Guatemala, after all, the Mayans in Guatemala are cousins. For whatever reason, the Mexican Government never forgave them for that, and when the Zapatistas started their rebellion in 1994, it was squashed within a few months with a heavy hand that has yet to lift. The military is everywhere, and brand new beautiful army bases have sprung up throughout the Lacondon jungle and highland forests. The military supports (financially and with weapons) paramilitary groups throughout Mayan country, who infiltrate indigenous groups and murder Zapatista and other rebel leaders. The bleeding from the stick continues.

A drop in the sea of humanity.

Although Mexico claims to be a democratic socialist government, providing medical care for everyone, free of charge, and even offering it to foreign immigrants for a nominal fee, it does not have much of a social net that encompasses the seriously infirm, the blind, the mutilated or orphans. Those people beg for a living, and it's not much of a living. More than once I have almost stepped on a beggar in the market or when just walking down a city street. There is a man with no arms or legs who is placed each day, by his family I presume, at various spots in front of the cathedral. He has a knitted hat into which a few people drop a few pesos. It would be nothing for someone to dash by, grab up the hat and run off with it. Several blind men and women sing for a living, accompanied by children who collect money. One blind man walks with his elderly mother slowly down the middle of streets. Cars stop to keep from running over them, then the driver is asked for money. A man in a wheel chair begs on the Andador, rolling around using his two good arms, with the urine bag attached on the front of the wheelchair. Several extremely old women, who seem barely able to move and who speak in whispers, sit in front of the OXXO and the electronics stores on the wide veranda across from the central Zocalo. A young man, missing one leg and on crutches often begs by peering into stores and asking for money from tourists who are shopping inside.

Children beg too. One boy, about seven years old, without shoes and always wearing the same raggedy clothes, wanders around begging with a beseeching look on his face. Others are opportunistic and beg if they can't sell enough of their tiny packets of gum. One time John wanted a French pastry from the nicest bakery in town. While I waited for him, a little Chamulan girl pointed to a chocolate pastry and said in perfect English, "I want that one."  I told her, in Spanish, "no it's bad for your teeth". Not missing a beat, she pointed at a strawberry tart and in Spanish said, "Then that one, it's not sugar, it's fruit." I laughed and ignored her. As John wandered off noshing his own chocolate pastry, I glanced back into the shop to see that little girl tugging on the white sweater of a tall thin blond lady.

When Derek was here we ate outside at the Argentinian steak house. It was almost impossible to carry on a conversation between being asked to buy rebozos, belts, clothing, jewelry, gum, or a shoe shine. We were also asked directly for money by old and young. With all meals, a basket of corn tortillas is provided wrapped in a cloth napkin. So we unwrapped the tortillas and offered them to anyone who wandered by looking hungry. That little shoeless boy took just one. A tiny girl asked if she could have two, one for her sister. Derek was impressed that not one child took all the tortillas even though we offered it without restrictions. I have on numerous occasions taken a stack of tortillas, wrapped them in a paper napkin and given them to children who were peering in through the windows of a restaurant. You feel like such a pig when hungry children watch you eat.

I met a woman here, named Laurie. She volunteers at a place called Casa de Flores. It's a respite for the children who work the streets. So many of the indigenous, especially after the age of 10 or 11, work the streets selling clothing, shawls, belts, and other hand made goods. Casa de Flores provides a good breakfast, a place to take a shower, and some classroom learning for these kids. Some kids come every day for a few hours, some only come once in a while. There is a girls orphanage, run by the state, here in San Cristobal, but nothing for orphaned boys. Orphans are especially vulnerable to the sex slave trade, where they are quickly whisked away from anything they know, and sold to the highest bidder.

I haven't checked out all the facts, but this is what I've been told. Many children never see the inside of a school. Their parents live out in the hinterlands and school is too far away and expensive. The parents must provide uniforms and supplies, and get the children to and from school daily. For very poor families, barely able to feed themselves, the children need to help on the farm, and there is no money or time for school. There are some organizations that provide help, but many of those use their money to lure people in to listen to their brand of Christianity, and provide help only if the families convert. For families that do convert, they are often kicked out of their native villages and isolated from the extended family. The rationale for this is that the people in the villages want to maintain their old valuable religion and language. They've seen far too much destroyed over the centuries by missionaries and dominant outside cultures.

Years ago, when my son was in grade school, he asked me about pessimists and optimists. I told him the glass story: half full, or half empty, optimist or pessimist. He made the insightful comment that I was neither, the water is always enough. It brought tears to my eyes, because truthfully, we Americans always have enough, even if it's very little. The poorest people still have the government's safety net, even street people can find enough food. I remember reading a book written by a formerly homeless man who was rather overweight. He commented that people throw away slices of pizza, still in the box, but they don't throw away perfectly good oranges or tomatoes, so high calorie unhealthy food was all he could get unless he had some money to buy fresh produce. In Mexico, if a person were looking through garbage for food, they would be competing with the dogs who had already been there. In Mexico, those living at the bottom of the sea of humanity have glasses that are not half full or half empty. The glasses have almost no water at all, and it's not enough.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Chiapa de Corzo: Lacquer Artists

When you visit Chiapa de Corzo, the first thing you notice, aside from the heat, are the lacquered gourds and bowls hanging from the ceiling of the portal on the west side of the plaza. Well, you might first notice the plaza and it's huge castle-like structure complete with buttresses. For sure you would notice the ancient ceiba tree that is fenced off to protect it since it may be older than the town which goes back 2000 years before Christ. The indigenous people saw the Ceiba as the tree of life, probably because they live longer than most people could imagine.

But after all that other noticing, you would surely see the gourds. The entire west side of the plaza is devoted to shops that sell artesania: clothing used by the festival goers, the flowered full skirted dresses of the women, the masks and "blond" wigs used by men during the Parachicos festivities, painted furniture and objects in lacquer with bright colors on black, red, and dark blue backgrounds, handmade ice creams and ice cream hot dogs served on platters smothered in chomoy sauce and chile powder, and carved objects like Mayan heads and Jesus nailed to the cross.

Dona Marta with a young student

Lacquer work is a local tradition revived by a woman named Dona Marta. People have been doing it for a long time, but she began to teach it and now it's wide spread. She is now 70+ years old, and still teaching in the school for traditional arts, where they also teach building and playing marimbas, pottery, and wood carving.

Brigitte and I went on Saturday to Chiapas de Corzo specifically to see a woman named Graciela, winner of numerous awards for her lacquer artistry, to view her work, take photos of her workshop, and possibly  invite her to the Feria in Lake Chapala next November. Brigitte had an appointment with her for 11:00 but when we arrived at her place nobody was home. We were fashionably late, by 45 minutes, but when we called her cell, she was even more fashion conscious. She was in Tuxtla and apparently forgot about the meeting or thought it was later. Who knows? It's Mexico. She promised to return so Brigitte and I went to the plaza for lunch. We ate cochinito asado, chunks of tender pork in a rich brown chile soup with bits of potato and onions. It was fabulous. Then we sweated our way across the giant plaza to the ice cream store and got a cone to cool down. The cool lasted for a few minutes before the outside temperature returned us to dripping mode.

Polishing the Japanese "seed"

We stopped at the school to see Dona Marta and talked with her while a couple of students painted pieces. A young man was lacquering some seed-shaped wood pieces to be used by a Japanese artist for a sculpture. He spent at least an hour on each "seed" putting layer after layer of color and polish until each one shown brilliant in the sunlight.

Finally Brigitte called Graciela. She was home and waiting for us. Brigitte, in spite of living in Mexico for 13 years, still gets frustrated with the lack of business mentality. If she was ready, why didn't she call us??

Her house sits up on a hill overlooking the city, and is a pleasant plain cement block house with a long driveway. At the back of the property there is a large covered open-air studio. A helper was washing caliche, mined nearby from a hillside. This is the base for the paint they use in lacquer work. I'm not sure what they may have used in the old days for the lacquer part, but now they appear to use car polish. Graciela makes all the paint from caliche, car polish and commercially available tints. Her paints were stored in shoe polish tins. On shelves were her finished products: boxes, crosses, bowls and platters. Unfinished wood boxes and sculptures sat on other shelves, and hanging from giant garbage bags from the ceiling were dried gourds of all sizes and shapes.

Painted gourd

We spent about an hour there, setting up photo shoots of her artwork, and then I took photos of her working. She sits in a chair next to a table and paints the objects in her lap. Many of the basic flower shapes are first dabbed on with a finger tip, then other paints applied with a paintbrush she makes herself from a feather and hairs from a cat's tail. Considering the amount of time and effort that goes into each piece, it's amazing how reasonable the prices are. Small painted crosses are less than $50 pesos ($4.00 US).

She pulled out a photo album of her life's work. Even the album was gorgeous, thin wood lacquered with flowers was fastened to a plastic binder with brads. Brigitte fell in love with that idea and suggested that Graciela make some lacquered books to bring to the Feria as well as her more traditional pieces. The book contained many diplomas, awards, and photos of her receiving accolades. She is top notch. I photographed her over a period of ten minutes painting the side of a box. The development of the design was amazing. She started out putting on blobs of paint with her finger, and ended with a trail of flowers and leaves.

Graciela starting the
flowers with paint on a finger.