Thursday, August 27, 2009

Broadway Loves Casita Linda Musical A Success!

L-R: Casita Linda supporter, the talented Kathryn
Murphy and me, at the cast party.

The Broadway Loves Casita Linda Musical on Aug 19th and 20th was spectacular! Kathy Patterson did a superb job coordinating the Casita Linda volunteers and I really enjoyed reading Jean Gerber's interview with Broadway actor, Colin Cunliffe, in Atencion San Miguel, the local newspaper. You can read the interview on the Atencion website. Just go to the following link, click on Theater and you will see a link to the August 14th article: Atencion Archives

Colin was introduced to Casita Linda by his father, Charles Cunliffe, a member of the Board of Directors of the non-profit organization.

Colin explained the theme of the performance:

"Our show is a journey to, through, and about the home. Home is what brings us together. Home is the place where we are able to hope. Everyone deserves a place of home, regardless of age, race, sex, sexual preference or financial status. We want to join Casita Linda in altering the destiny of poverty and helping everyone in attaining the best home they are able."

Colin went on to tell Jean about the Broadway regulars, who joined him for the performance:

"They’re all in the business here in New York City. I worked with Ben Cameron, Kathryn Murphy and our Musical Director, Elizabeth Nantais, on the national tour of Sweet Charity with Molly Ringwald. The other cast members, Austin Lesch and Stephanie Umoh, I’ve worked with on different ventures, and they are all very talented. It’s so nice for us in the city to work with our friends and not have to succumb to the casting director’s or the director’s decisions on who they want to put in the show, and it’s great to pick people who are very talented and whom you enjoy working with."

After the show, these talented performers joined Casita Linda volunteers and supporters for a margarita cast party across the street from the theater. While I could not take photos during the performance, here are a few photos from the evening.

Nichos - Mexican Folk Art

¡Me encantan los nichos! I have grown quite fond of nichos, the colorful, decorated tin boxes that are displayed everywhere in Mexico, in public places and in homes. A nicho is a type of 3-dimensional mixed media collage. Nichos have traditionally served as altars for religious icons or patron saints or as memorials for loved ones and to mark significant religious events. The above photo is of a traditional religious nicho.

The photo below is of a rustic, outdoor display of the Virgin of Guadalupe. I saw this nicho on one of my morning walks through San Miguel de Allende.

I also like some of the contemporary folk art nichos created by local artists.

One of my favorites is from folk artist, Jade Muriel. Her nicho, "Dream Box - My Love", with Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, is on display in her shop JADE at Zacateros #8 in San Miguel de Allende and on her blog Jade Muriel - Mexican Folk Art.

Among Jade's "Frida" nichos is Selva Nocturna (Night Jungle).

An American expat has even created Obama nichos!


"Obama Walks on Water"

I just had to purchase this one for my son, Chris, for his Obama memorabilia collection. I'm also looking to add to my own growing nicho folk art collection at home.

I have my eye on that "Diego y Frida" nicho!

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Trip to Atotonilco

This week I visited the pueblo of Atotonilco, the site of El Santuario de Atotonilco, an 18th century Jesuit church listed in July, 2008 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Atotonilco means "Place of the Hot Waters". The area has many thermal hot springs, which were thought to have healing powers.

Construction of el santuario began in 1740 under the direction of Father Luis Felipe Neri de Alfaro and took more than 35 years to complete. The walls and ceilings are covered with exquisite frescoes painted by Miguel Antonio Martinez de Pocasangre in what is known as the "folk baroque" style.

El Santuario de Atotonilco is a pilgrimage church. People from all over Mexico make the pilgrimage here to pray, meditate and/or duplicate the suffering of Christ. Thousands come here to do penitence by walking on their knees, tying crowns of spiny nopal cactus thorns around their heads, wearing hair shirts, or flagellating themselves with whips.

The sanctuary continues to undergo extensive historic restoration. No flash cameras are permitted inside, therefore my photos do not really convey the magnificence of the church's chapels, altars, sculptural figures and paintings.

Click on the following slide show to enlarge it and join me for a tour of El Santuario de Atotonilco.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Tour of Rancho Via Organica - El Cortijo

Today I visited the Rancho Via Organica, an organic farm, school, store and conference center located several miles outside of San Miguel de Allende. The farm just opened this past year to promote healthful, organic food, organic agriculture, fair trade and sustainable living practices. Via Organica is the sister organization of the Organic Consumers Association in the U.S.

The 20-acre ranch was built in the early 1990s of adobe and rocks, with thick Huasteca-style palapa roofs. The large, beautiful timbers used as support beams were brought from Parque Juarez in San Miguel. In addition to the ranch house, the property also contains several casitas and other buildings, including a conference center. The walls are thick stone, allowing the rooms to stay naturally cool during the hottest months of the year.

Outside the ranch house is a large terrace, a palm-shaded yard bordered by a botanical garden and waterfalls, home to many species of birds. Down the cliff, following a staircase of stone and walled by many plant species, is a round adobe suite.

The views are lush and tranquil, looking down upon fields which are slowly being converted into organic vegetable gardens. Far below the residential buildings are the stables. The organic gardens, chickens and other farm animals living at Rancho Via Organica are one of the reasons for its name. In October 2008 the garden was revived and replanted. Rows of vegetables are ever-expanding, replacing water-guzzling alfalfa fields with drip irrigation and more sustainable practices of plant cultivation.

The water that comes out of the ground is around 90 degrees F. and is used to fill a lap pool located near the main sala, then fed weekly into cisterns and a large bordo where it is used weekly to irrigate the gardens. Below is a slide show of photos I took at the farm.

Organic Farming at Via Organica

Luke at Rancho Via Organica gave us a tour of the farm and discussed their training program in organic farming for campesinos. Apparently, there is a large organic farming movement in Mexico.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

El Festival de Música de Cámara de San Miguel de Allende

We've been enjoying the 31st season of the San Miguel de Allende Chamber Music Festival this past week. There will be 14 concerts in just 11 days - from August 5-16th -- with masterpieces from the Baroque to the Contemporary. And, how wonderful that some of these performances are free! This seems to be true of many art and cultural events in the city.

To read more about the festival, click on the link above.

Broadway Loves Casita Linda Musical Extravaganza!

The Broadway Loves Casita Linda benefit concert is only one week away and the excitement is building!

Our host committee met this morning to create a schedule for the various tasks that have to be assigned -- selling tickets this week in El Jardin, handing out programs at the concert, ushering people to their seats, selling Casita Linda t-shirts and taking pledges.

The funds raised by this event will go toward constructing more Casita Linda adobe houses for families in need. After each night's performance, volunteers can attend the rooftop cast party near the theater!

Several Broadway stage performers have generously donated their time to help Casita Linda and include Colin Cunliffe, Ben Cameron, Stephanie Umoh, Austin Lesch and Kathryn Mowat Murphy.

Among them the cast boasts credits in such major productions as: “Cry Baby,” “Wicked,” Elton John and Tim Rice’s ”Aida,” “Footloose,” “High Society,” “Annie Get Your Gun,” “Fosse,” “Pal Joey,” “Altar Boyz,” and “Sweet Charity.” The group has also enjoyed roles in the national touring companies of: “Sweet Charity,” “Fame,” “State Fair,” "Tommy,” “The Boyfriend,” “Chicago,” “A Chorus Line,” and “Cats.”

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Global Issues

During this past week, students in my online course, SOC 415 Global Social Change, discussed the role innovation can play in helping to solve the water crisis. Here are some student comments about how entrepreneurs around the world are approaching this problem.

Two innovators, Trevor Field and Paul Ristic, created PlayPumps International, which is a company that makes pumps that children can use to play with that ultimately help pump cleaner water to smaller villages in third world countries. "The PlayPump systems are innovative, sustainable, patented water pumps powered by children at play. Installed near schools, the PlayPump system doubles as a water pump and a merry-go-round for children. The PlayPump system also provides one of the only ways to reach rural and peri-urban communities with potentially life saving public health messages." (Play Pumps International) "I chose C Kumar Ganguly (India) Ganguly showed people how to carry out protection and regeneration of degraded, drought ridden lands in South India. He rebuilt an agro-forest habitat on 32-acre piece of land where one of the worst drought affeted distric in India. He uses simple, natural water preservation technique to improve productivity of land and livelihoods. I think he is doing a great job, by improving productivity and lilielihoods he is also improving people's live in India." (Ashoka)

"Angelique Smit is the director of Ideas at Work. She is responsible for marketing the water rope pump to low income families in Cambodia. This great tool has helped to lighten the burden of household water collection for individuals. The tools to maintain this pump are now available locally at the markets in Cambodia so the individuals are able to repair them as needed. They can be adapted for use on wells, rivers or ponds. Ideas at Work is responsible for installing 400 pumps which has benefited 20,000 people! They are addressing the gap between the technological products that are out there and bringing these tools to individuals who otherwise couldn’t afford it. Angelique Smit is really an inspiration to all for the great work she has done to help these families have convenient access to safe water." (Social Edge)

"I chose to research Eugen Tóth. He is from Slovakia and is creating new possibilities for water conservation. The idea of collecting rain water is brilliant and it gives the community an opportunity for total involvement. Some ideas that have come about require a lot of money and not every one is able to get involved unless they are making a donation. Rain is a natural resource and everyone can pitch in and begin collecting in order to solve the water crisis. Eugen realized this and then came up with an integrated water management system that would keep rainfall circulating in the same area. Every one would like to give water to the whole world but the best way to solve any problem is to start small. By circulating the rainfall in one region it divides the large area into smaller modules geographically. Water management will also be incorporated in the cities legislature to define different zones and what specific module would be appropriate for each. The first stage of his project “Water of Prešov for People” will cover an area of 7,040 hectares and directly impact 95,000 people. Another project called blue schools is more of an education campaign to teach young children about public space and the water management system. This will localize the rainfall system. Teaching the children is very important because they will one day have to put their knowledge and efforts into effect to keep the system going." (Ashoka)

Here is a video that explains rainwater harvesting. Programs have been implemented here in the San Miguel de Allende area, but also in many areas of the U.S.