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January 10, 2009 - Tonala, Jalisco, Mexico

Written by GingerBlossom Published in

Yesterday was a long, but productive day, I´d left the hotel at 9 am, and didn´t get back until after 8. I´m trying to get an order of copal incense shipped from Mexico City to here. Copal is a type of aromatic tree resin used since pre-columbian times as ceremonial incense. My first introduction to copal was about 12 years ago. I was down in Chiapas, Mexico, and was visiting one of the small towns outside of San Cristobal de las Casas. This particular town had an interesting brand of catholisism, right next to the big colonial church as a smaller church, which housed clay statues of animals as well as various saints.

All of the statues were prayed to, but they had to be put in a seperate church, as this wasn´t officially sanctioned by the Catholic Church. The statues of saints were seen as the embodiment of the actual saint, not just the representation, and one of the saints was really getting a good cussing out from an old petitioner. Anyway, I´m just sort of taking all of this in, and I see two little alter boys approaching, giggling and whispering behinds their hands, and heading straight for me, I knew they were up to no good.

Just when they reached me, they threw a huge handful of copal into the hot insensor. The smoke was so thick that I had an out of body experience, for a few seconds I was floating about 10 feet above my body, and I could see myself standing there, slack jawed and stupid, and the two little kids laughing and running away. I can probably guarantee that you will not get an out of body experience from the copal incence, but I can guarantee that it is long burning and has a lovely fragrance, it´s the meso-american version of frankencense.

Between trips to Mexico, I forget all of the little things that I like so much about this country, including the street sounds. From the hotel, I can hear the day starting with the loudspeakers for the propane trucks, first with the El GGaaaassss recording, then later comes the snappy tune of Zeta, zeta, zeta gas. Next comes the ttuuuweee sound of the knife sharpener´s whistle. I also heard a new one, it´s the call of ambulatory sewing machine repairmen. This year instead of the ubiquitous sounds of Ranchero music floating down the streets, I am hearing an overload of Brittany Spears womanizer womanizer womanizer. Brittany is not singing the requiem for Old Tonala, however, some of the past still lingers in the old guys bringing in milk cans on the backs of their burros.

My only regret with this trip to Mexico is that I don´t have enough time, I had bought my ticket to here first, without knowing when I was leaving for Asia, so I only have time for the bare bones minimum. No excursions up into the mountain town of Mazamitla, no knocking around in Huichol county.