Thursday, December 29, 2022

Virgin of Guadalupe then & today, Hempstead, Texas

According to Nican Mopohua, a 17th-century account written in the native Nahuatl language, 

the Virgin Mary appeared four times to Juan Diego, an indigenous Mexican peasant and once to his uncle, Juan Bernardino. The first apparition occurred on the morning of Saturday December 9th, 1531. Juan Diego experienced this vision of a young woman at a place called the Hill of Tepeyac, which later became part of Villa de Guadalupe, a suburb of Mexico City.


 According to the accounts, the woman, speaking to Juan Diego in his native Nahuatl language (the language of the Aztec Empire), identified herself as the Virgin Mary, "mother of the very true deity". She was said to have asked for a church to be erected at that site in her honor. Based on her words, Juan Diego then sought out the Archbishop of Mexico City, Father Juan de Zumárraga, to tell him what had happened. Not unexpectedly, the Archbishop did not believe peasant Diego. Later that same day, Juan Diego again saw the young woman (the second apparition), and she asked him to continue insisting. 

The next day, Sunday, December 10, 1531, Juan Diego once again spoke to the Archbishop. The latter instructed him to return to Tepeyac Hill and to ask the woman for a truly acceptable, miraculous sign to prove her identity. Later that day, the third apparition appeared when Juan Diego returned to Tepeyac; encountering the same woman, he reported to her the Archbishop's request for a sign, which she consented to provide on the next day (December 11th). 

However, Juan Diego's uncle, Juan Bernardino, was very ill on Monday the 11th which obligated Juan Diego to attend to him. 

In the early hours of Tuesday, December 12, as Juan Bernardino's condition had deteriorated, Juan Diego journeyed to Tlatelolco to get a Catholic priest to hear Juan Bernardino's confession and help minister to him on his deathbed. 

To avoid being delayed by the Virgin and ashamed at having failed to meet her the previous day as agreed, Juan Diego chose another route around Tepeyac Hill. Yet the Virgin intercepted him and asked where he was going (fourth apparition); Juan Diego explained what had happened for which the Virgin gently chided him for not having made recourse to her. 

In the words which have become the most famous phrase of the Guadalupe apparitions and are inscribed above the main entrance to the Basilica of Guadalupe, she asked "¿No estoy yo aquí que soy tu madre?" ("Am I not here, I who am your mother?"). She assured him that Juan Bernardino had now recovered. Then told him to gather flowers from the summit of Tepeyac Hill, which was normally barren, especially in the cold of December. 

Juan Diego obeyed her instruction, finding Castilian roses, not native to Mexico, blooming there. According to the story, the Virgin arranged the flowers in Juan Diego's tilma, or cloak. When Juan Diego opened his cloak later that day before Archbishop Zumárraga, the flowers fell to the floor, revealing on the fabric the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe. 

The next day, December 13th, Juan Diego found his uncle fully recovered as the Virgin had assured him. Juan Bernardino recounted that he also had seen the Virgin Mother while praying at his bedside (fifth apparition); that she had instructed him to inform the Archbishop of this apparition and of his miraculous cure; and that she had told him she desired to be known under the title of 'Guadalupe'. 

The Archbishop kept Juan Diego's mantle, first in his private chapel and then in the church on public display, where it attracted great attention. On December 26, 1531, a procession formed to transfer the miraculous image back to Tepeyac Hill where it was installed in a small, hastily erected chapel. During this procession, the first miracle was allegedly performed when a native was mortally wounded in the neck by an arrow shot by accident during some stylized martial displays performed in honor of the Virgin. In great distress, the natives carried him before the Virgin's image and pleaded for his life. Upon the arrow being withdrawn, the victim fully and immediately recovered. 

Zumárraga having recognized the miracle, ordered a shrine to the Virgin of Guadalupe to be built on the Hill of Tepeyac, with a basilica to her constructed below. Today, the original miraculous tilma image hangs in the new basilica at Tepeyac in Mexico City. The image left on Saint Juan Diego's tilma is the only true picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe in existence. The image has remained intact with all its original vibrancy for 475 years.

The 12th of December is the traditional day to celebrate the Virgin of Guadalupe not only in Mexico but in all of the Hispanic Catholic world.

The St. Kathrine Drexel Catholic Church is in Hempstead, a predominantly Mexican-American ranching community near Houston, Texas, They hold it's celebration on December 12th. Starting with an early morning ritual of Aztec dancing, drumming, and prayer followed by breakfast. 

Everything starts with the 5 AM mañanitas,  or early morning rituals followed by Mass.

Aztec dancers perform during the mañanitas.
In the lead dancer's hand, one can see the symbolic bow and arrow of the first miracle. 

Performers are of all ages, passing on the heritage.

After Mass, parishioners exit the sanctuary 
seeking the warm food and hot drink that awaits them..

For many steadfast followers attending this religious observance, 
it has been a family tradition for as long as they can remember.

Breakfast tamales and atóle are served by church volunteers. 
Atóle is a Mexican beverage with warm milk, water, cinnamon and vanilla extract.

In the afternoon, the four-mile procession for the Virgin winds its way from a country ranch, through Hempstead, before reaching the church of St. Kathrine Drexel.

Some walk the entire distance. Others with small children 
start walking a little closer to the church. 
Most important, the tradition is passed on to the next generation.

Some decorate and ride their four wheels. Note the statue of the Virgin on the back rack.

The Aztec dancers will walk the route together.

After drumming all morning starting at 5 A.M., 
then the four mile procession back to the church.
His arms must be tired.

This makes for a very long day as they have been up since 4 AM.

...and many rode their horses. 
Being a ranching area of Texas, vaqueros and horses are a common sight.

Parade Drill Teams participate with their show horses.

Young and old, in groups or solo, the Catholic faithful turn out for this special holy procession 
despite rain and gloomy weather. 

Their horses are groomed, saddles polished, and Sunday best attire.

Father Juan Pineda from St. Theresa Church in Sugarland, TX
joined the procession.  He formally was at St. Kathrine Drexel.

Roberto Rodriguez was one of the organizers for this year's procession.

Two friends, both faithful members of the St. Kathrine Drexel Church in Hempstead

The camera thought this gentleman was very photogenic

And this young man too, 
with his captivating eyes.

If you can ever attend a Virgin of Guadalupe celebration, do so. 
Outsiders are warmly welcomed. 

Remember it's December 12th, though in some regions they celebrate it 
on the Weekend closest to the 12th, so people from afar can attend.

Ride safe, my friends, there is more on the horizon in 2023.  
Several long sidecar rides are planned as well as 
have some adventure photography projects in the works.

Details in upcoming posts.


Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Ronin and Family in Austin

Sunday we drove to Austin, Texas to see our youngest grandson, little Ronin, and his parents. 
We have not seen them in several months. 

For his first real photo session, we took Ronin to a small community park.

Mom & Dad bringing Ronin into the park. The Austin area has very nice parks and walking trails. 

Enjoying a peaceful afternoon in the park. 

The oak leaves are gone, and winter is coming.
But today was nice to be outdoors. Quiet, no one else was in the park.
Austin seldom gets snow, but it can be cool in January and February. 

Sergio, our youngest son, with the love of his life, Amanda,
and their precious little Ronin, four and a half months old now.

Ronin doesn't seem very happy 
when he is not the center of attention.

But he is thrilled when his Mommy laughs with him.

Sergio is a proud papa, with good reason too.

While having lunch, Ronin voiced that he was hungry too.

Before we left the park, Tita joined in for a family photo.
Poor little Ronin was getting tired from all the attention.
Nap time.

Later that day, Tita and I drove back to Cypress, 
after spending a wonderful afternoon with Ronin, Amanda, and Sergio.

Another set of family photos to record memories. 

Ride safe ya'll


Monday, November 28, 2022

Family Portrait session

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, we staged a portrait session with various family members. 
Here are a few of the results;

Three generations in color

Three generations in B&W

Then we tried individual portraits, 
first my sister, Nancy

Then her daughter, Megan

Wrapping up with Megan's daughter, Madeline

From a photographer's point of view, the 28mm wide-angle lens on the B&W camera 
is not the best for portraits, unless you want a softer image.

Nevertheless, we all had fun creating memories that will last.

Hope your Thanksgiving was relaxing with family and friends.

Ride safe, my friend,


Saturday, November 12, 2022

Spain - Madrid Plaza Mayor

On our last day in Spain, Amparo suggested we go to the Plaza Mayor (trans: Town Square) in the center of Madrid for Paella. Some consider paella to be the national dish of Spain, but Spaniards think of it as a dish from Valencia. The recipe calls for rice and seafood 
cooked in a large round, shallow copper skillet.

The Plaza itself is a large open-air market of numerous cafés, street vendors, entertainers, tourists, statues, and more; enclosed on four sides by multi-story residential buildings. 
There are always people here doing whatever 24/7. 
Are you lonely? Go to the Plaza. You will find someone to talk to there.

There are numerous arched walkways leading into the Plaza. 
Of course, lovers take advantage of the dark shadows to steal a kiss.

An artist works on a new painting while displaying his other works for sale.
In the background, one can see the residential buildings that enclose the Plaza. 

There are pigeons in every major city where there is open space, people, and food.
If the birds congregate together in one spot, they are eating whatever was thrown out or spilled.

 They ignore people until someone blindly intrudes, putting them all aflutter.

Hearing a loud disturbance at the far end of the Plaza, we wandered over to find 
a very boisterous group of Rugby fans in town for a tournament.  
All wearing the same striped blue and white shirt. 

Loudly singing team songs, chanting slogans, and cheering to raise the enthusiasm of the fans. 

A television station news crew was on hand to film the fans in action. Although, the announcer seemed distracted by the lady fan pushing a baby stroller through their filming setup.

In the middle of the chanting throng was an African vendor trying 
to make a living selling sweet treats to tourists. 

She was not having much luck with the Rugby people, 
who were more interested in yelling and drinking.

Before leaving the Plaza, A got her Paella...
that looks like a lot of food for one person,
 but it is a very shallow pan.

Outside the Plaza, we encountered two boys playing soccer in a back alley.
He has good form and technique. A future pro?

And for the final image from Spain, 
while waiting to cross the street outside the Plaza,
spotted two ladies on the other side dressed so differently from each other. 

The blonde wore a casual cotton tee shirt and sneakers.
The lady on the left was elegantly dressed for an evening on the town.
The guy sitting behind them was uninterested in either.
Thought the juxtaposition was eye-catching.

Casual, Chic and No One cares in Madrid.

This concludes our 2022 trip to Europe.
Thank you for following along.


Sunday, October 30, 2022

Valladolid dèjá vu... but different

NOTE: This is a longer than normal posting, as we wrap up our time in Spain. 
Thank you for joining us as we explored this beautiful country.

We have returned to explore more of Valladolid before going on to Madrid and our flight back to reality.
Much smaller than Rome or Madrid, Valladolid has a lot of history. Some of which is still standing, other buried or recycled into other structures. Once the capital of Spain, Valladolid has many old catherals and government buildings, some dating as far back as the 11th century.

For our return visit, we found a small third floor, one bedroom apartment across the street from the main Cathedral. From here we can explore on foot without the need of taxis like we had to do in Rome. Being in the heart of the old town offers easy walking access to the most interesting monuments, churches, dining and shopping. Old town may sound like old dusty edifices, but in reality the neighborhood is full of families, retirees, youngsters that bring the streets alive every morning, sometimes late into the night.

It's ten pm, looking down from our balcony. 
The area is very walkable.

Stepping out into the Plaza the first night, 
captured an iPhone photographer shooting the same scene.

For the next few days, I planned to sit in the Plaza in front of the Cathedral, people watch and capture their images under the watchful eye of Miguel D. Cervantes' statue. Miguel is an author from Valladolid. 
He wrote Don Quijote, Man of La Mancha.

Classic Valladolid street crossing to the Plaza

Under watchful eyes of M. Cervantes

Threatened to rain but never did

Settled in with the old folks and watched... 
people coming and going.
This was one of the few plazas we have seen that have chairs and benches.
Am really liking Valladolid. Has all the offering of a large city 
with a small town pace.

With her daily newspaper, she enjoyed the fresh air and cool weather on a plaza bench.
When did reading the morning newspaper go out of fashion?

Observed the younger generation go about doing what young people do today.

It became a guessing game: Name that person's field of study or occupation!

Or just be entertained watching them interact with each other

Watching the older generation can be interesting too.
What did he do before his iPhone?

Then another senior passes by with iPhone in hand.
Cell phones here are as common as people smoking. 
Though have not seen any retirees smoking.
Maybe smokers don't live long enough to retire?

Look at the building directly behind the two gentlemen - shades down, third floor up.  
That's where we are staying, one bedroom airbnb.

There one can hear all the sounds of life in the Plaza up there. 
We love it.

 Because parking is such a problem, most people walk, or bicycle, or scooter or... The lightweight electric T-bar scooters are gaining popularity here. Some even have a headlamp, tail light and a disk brake. 
One sees them mixing in with the cars going by just like bicycles and motorcycles.

North of the Plaza is the College of Law for the Universidad de Valladolid.
Lawyers or Professors are frequently seen walking nearby, in suit and tie with briefcase in hand.

Back in the Plaza, a teens share time together...
If it looks cool here, the temps are low to mid-fifties in the mornings, rising to low 70's by 4 pm.

The Cathedral finally opened their doors, so we could go in.

Anchoring the Plaza de la Universidad is the Valladolid Cathedral. Construction started in 1527 on the site of a former 13th century Collegiate (old royal chapel). It was completed in the 17th century. We found this church to be one of the most authentic cathedrals we have seen in Europe. No ornate artwork, no smooth marble floors, or heavy tapestry, just rough cut, hand laid local granite. 

Some floor stones even rock a bit when you step on them. Stiletto heels are not recommended. It is very obvious this Cathedral does not have a wealthy patronage. With a dozen or so different catholic churches in Valladolid, support is spread thin.

Quite dark inside, I asked Amparo to use the light on her iPhone to illuminate her face for the photo. 
That was too bright, but here it is anyways. 

This is the entry alcove, it gets darker further in. 

Had to adjust the exposure on the camera to capture photos in the dark interior.

Central Cathedral nave and altar. 
During Mass, the altar and transept are illuminated

Original Cathedral lighting fixture, still in use today.
Behind it, is an old non-original hot water radiator.

Returned the next day to get a better photo of the church altar. 
Even the gold center altar cannot overcome the humbleness of the cold granite stone.

From the Cathedral, we walked the narrow streets toward the Plaza Mayor.
Yes, cars can and do drive through here too.

One of the typical newsstands found in Europe. 
A worker refills his mop bucket from the public water fountain. These public fountains are quite common. They told us the water is safe to drink everywhere in Spain. We did not try it. 

We did see many fill bottles, draw water for their dogs or drink directly from the fountain. 
The people here love dogs as they are a common sight being walked, especially in the evenings.

We found all Spanish cities to be very clean. 
Those are falling leaves on the pavement, not trash.

After meandering through the narrow streets, we arrived at the Plaza Mayor around noon. Other than the numerous restaurants with outdoor seating surrounding the large Plaza, not much going on today.

The imposing building above is the civil government building, courts, administration, etc. 
We saw a couple emerge after being married in a civil ceremony. The family gathered to take the traditional family wedding photos in the middle of the Plaza.

Our final day in Valladolid, we drove to Rueda once more, 
then to Olmeda where we visited La Mota Castle.

Tomorrow we drive to Madrid for a few days before departing for Texas.
This trip has been an adventure for Amparo. Her first time to travel international without a daily destination, without knowing where we would be sleeping every night.

This has been a great learning experience, with many pleasant surprises, 
interesting food choices and many very nice people everywhere we went.

We could spend a month or so in Spain, using Valladolid as a base. 
Maybe in 2024 or 26...