Postcard from Marfil, Guanajuato, Mexico: Artists gave new life to ancient hacienda

Silver from el Minero de Santiago Marfil afforded one of the Spanish elite settling in Mexico to purchase land above the Rio Guanajuato and oriented toward a church for a luxurious hacienda in the late 1700s.

Centuries later in the 1960s when Canadian artist Gene Byron (1910-1987) and her husband Virgil Fernandez del Real purchased the ex-hacienda Santa Anna, Marfil was somewhat of a ghost town. The couple transformed the ancient buildings and grounds into a showcase for their collections of Colonial art and the results of their own artistic endeavors. In addition to her painting, Byron learned to craft handsome punched tin and copper pieces that are found throughout the house museum her husband opened to the public after her death.

The museum often hosts live classical or jazz concerts on Sundays in an intimate setting. During the week, wandering through the house with a docent often is a private tour.

There is a restaurant on site, but we visited on a Monday when it was closed. Although the road through no longer-sleepy Marfil has traffic speeding along, we walked along the narrow sidewalk to ascend to the colorful church perched above and then passed by the ancient statue-topped dam across the river on our way to score an incredible Italian feast at Piccato di Gola, fifteen minutes away at the other end of town.

Postcard from San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico: An Intimate Colonial City

1528. That is the year Spaniards founded San Cristobal de las Casas on a site nestled in the mountains of Chiapas.

The vestiges of their low-slung buildings lend this colonial city a distinctive intimacy.

These snapshots, postmarked after our return, provide a glimpse of the architecture in the heart of the city that has grown to about 150,000 people.

Thick stucco walls. Wood-framed windows. Clay tile roofs. No fear of color. Whimsical details. And… wait… even a Burger King?

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Postcard from Oaxaca: ‘Hecho’ street art invades museum’s colonial walls

The contrast of edgy modern art housed within colonial-era walls is always striking, but even more so at Hecho en Oaxaca, an exhibit bringing urban art into the Museum of Contemporary Art, or MACO, in Oaxaca.

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As a linguistically challenged blogger, translating websites from Spanish to English to conduct my own research would not be a reliable option. Instead I’ll rely on Carole Turkenick’s words from her Oaxaca Tips (a great, inexpensive resource to pick up at Amate Books the second you arrive in Oaxaca) relay the late-17th or early-18th-century building’s history:

The mansion initially belonged to the noble estates of the Pinelo and Lazo de la Vega families whose coats of arms are engraved in the stone façade on either side of St. Michael Archangel. Following Independence, the structure passed through a series of private owners including in the early 1900s a professor at the local Institute of Sciences and Arts who had the distinction of owning the first automobile in Oaxaca. By the 1970s, the building had seriously deteriorated and was taken over by the state to be converted into a museum of colonial history. The effort failed and the mansion passed to a local civil organization led by Francisco Toledo who together with the National Institute of Fine Arts opened the MACO in 1992. The building was restored again in 2009-2010,