Whoopee, biannual roundup: Favorite postcards from this blog

Above: Remnants of the South Austin Museum of Popular Culture are found at its former home on South Lamar Boulevard.

Yes, I know. This blog is suffering a bit of an identity crisis. First, 2020 abruptly cut short my boulevardier ways, and then in early 2021 we pulled up stakes and moved up the road to Austin.

This blogger entertained herself throughout much of the pandemic by posting her entire novel – An Ostrich-Plumed Hat, and, Yes She Shot Him Dead – online, slowly unfolding it chapter by chapter. A few of my readers actually followed Hedda Burgemeister all the way through her 19teens trial for murder; although, I had been hoping for a little more feedback and filming rights have yet to be sold. Others have embraced posts about our new neighborhood as we started boulevardier-ing north and south off Lamar Bouldevard.

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Postcard from Guanajuato, Mexico: Basilica of the City’s Patron Saint

No matter from what direction one approaches, the rich hues of the Basilica of Our Lady of Guanajuato make it stand out against the city’s blue skies. Built between 1671 and 1696, the church houses an Andulusian statue of the Virgin and Child encased in glass on its altar.

The statue was a gift from King Felipe II (1527-1598) of Spain presented to the city in 1557 in recognition of all the riches sent from the mines to enrich the crown. The Virgin represents the city’s patron saint and is believed to be the oldest image of the Virgin sent to the Americas. Along the way, her scepter was replaced with a rose, particularly appropriate as the basilica fronts the Plaza de la Paz.

 

Tucked around the images and statues of the saints inside are reminders of the prayers of those who visit. A silver arm or leg left in hope of a mended limb. A heart milagro for assistance for an organ beginning to falter with age or a young heart broken. Photos of babies in need of cures. Ribbons of wishes for the safe return of family members who have crossed the border to seek work in el norte.

Postcard from Madrid: Gigantes y Cabezudos parade to greet us

We arrived on a holiday, a three-day weekend for Madrilenos as they honor their patron saint, San Isidro Labrador (1070-1130). San Isidro was credited with hundreds of miracles, but the one most coveted by working stiffs? Angels would fill in for him, kindly taking over his plowing while Isidro lost himself in religious meditation and prayer.

Madrid has changed a lot since adopting the patron saint of farmers as its own. Arriving here after staying in small cities surrounded by farmland, we were shocked and a bit overwhelmed by the city’s size, both in the scale of the buildings and the number of people. Major sidewalks and pedestrian-only streets were packed.

But celebrations for San Isidro Labrador brought things back to a more human scale for us. The first thing we encountered was a hokey, hometown, colorful parade of Gigantes (Giants) and Cabezudos (Big-Heads) weaving through the streets. One of the shorter advance enforcers, a big-nosed Kiliki, hurled his foam weapon at Mister photographer; the event would be at home in any small town in Mexico.

San Isidro’s remains still reside here, or most of them, behind nine locks in the church bearing his name. Only the King of Spain has the key, and even he is not allowed access without the approval of the Archbishop of Madrid.

The high level of security might seem extreme, but even royalty can’t be trusted from temptation to take a bit of a saint home with them to provide a few miracles needed around the kingdom. Supposedly, Charles II had one of San Isidro’s teeth pulled to keep underneath his pillow. And what of San Isidro’s wife, Santa Maria de la Cabeza? Her head used to be trotted out and paraded around every time the farmers in the area needed rain.

Which brings us back to the parade of big-heads on May 14, followed by the saint’s official day on May 15 that began with many Madrilenos donning traditional fashions of yore and ended with an explosion of fireworks.