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February 2, 2012 / la otra Mexicana

My! What a lovely scarf!

I was attending a wonderful conference last week on Global Education. Another friendly attendee approached me, saying, “What a lovely scarf! Did you get that in London?”  I was completely stunned, and barely managed to stutter out a reply, as visions of the place where I did buy it passed through my mind’s eye.

Dolores Hidalgo is a very small, provincial city, almost city, in the central Mexican state of Guanajuato.  It’s central plaza is pretty,tall,old trees, home to hundreds of squawking birds, surrounded by colonial limestone buildings. There are ice cream vendors on the corner, selling every flavor you can imagine, including beer and avocado. Strolling vendors sell balloons and small toys for children. Old men pass the afternoon seated on the wrought iron benches.

Dolores is nationally famous for being the birthplace of the Independence War against Spain in 1810. It is from the belltower of the central church, carved pink limestone, that Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla gave out the first cry for freedom.

The Course of Mexican History  says, that although the exact words are unknown, “the essential spirit of the message is…’My children: a new dispensation comes to us today. Will you receive it? Will you free yourselves? Will you recover the lands stolen three hundred years ago from your forefathers by the hated Spaniards? We must act at once… Will you defend your religion and your rights as true patriots? Long live our Lady of Guadalupe! Death to bad government! Death to the gachupines!'”

It is required that every Mexican President spend one Independence night, of his six year term, in Dolores, giving the Grito or Cry, which is followed by massive fireworks and much celebration:

Today’s version:
Long live the heroes that gave us the Fatherland!
Long live Hidalgo!
Long live Morelos!
Long live Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez!
Long live Allende!
Long live Aldama and Matamoros!
Long live National Independence!
Long Live Mexico! Long Live Mexico! Long Live Mexico!
Viva Mexicoooooo!
Dolores is also internationally known for its pottery. If you have seen Mexican tiles

 in kitchens or bathrooms, they probably come from Dolores. Everyone in Dolores makes pottery. A kind of cheap, but lovely majolica, nowhere near the quality of that of Puebla or Guanajuato City.

But I love to go into the real, every day Dolores, so when I go there, after an hour of twisting turning not exactly highway with no guard rails, through the beloved woods of Santa Rosa’, ‘alli no mas tras lomita’ up, around and finally out into the plain, I walk away from the main plaza and go to the market where they sell live chickens and sombreros meant for workers, not tourists.

I found a pair of huaraches there once, that I loved. The kind that people in Dolores wear every day. I wasn’t sure about the size, so the vendor, a smiling older woman, braids of grey hair, and checked apron covering her dress, pulled out a tiny child’s chair, placed it in the middle of the aisle, for me to sit on and try  the sandals. We both laughed at me, this tall, (in Mexico, I am tall)

gringa, out of place in the mercado, but still welcomed, trying on the shoes of another world.

Well, by now, you know that it was in this humble market that I bought my scarf, far away in miles, kilometers and centuries from London 2012.



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