Wednesday, May 4, 2016

"Messages From Within"

In the centre of the Historical District of Mexico City, near the famous Bellas Artes Palace lies an inconspicuous treasure, possibly holding a key to the mystery of life's origins. It is here just within the gateway to the Palacio de Mineria where thousands walk by daily; unbeknownst to many of them, is an exhibit of extraordinary objects studied by scientists worldwide over the course of the last century.

Three enormous meteorites at four and half billion years of age, Chupaderos I and II and El Morito are on public display. Chupaderos I is the second most massive class of iron meteorites weighing in at some 14 tons. They were discovered in the northern desert of Mexico, shortly after the Spanish conquest, bearing no markings or inscriptions by the recently conquered civilization.

Originating as behemoths of asteroids from the depths of our solar system, they are usually blasted off course by catastrophic collisions; some having journeys with infinity are deflected to final destinations with earth. With lifespans of billions of years, these space rocks encounter a final shape shifting, rude and fiery passage through our atmosphere at speeds of 100,000 miles per hour, causing their appearance to transform dramatically. Upon entry, meteorites are superheated to thousands of degrees, their surfaces melt, boil and fragment to form beautifully sculpted features.

These ancient messengers from a different space and time are composed of elements that may in fact hold information about our primordial building blocks of life, here on earth and possibly the creation of the universe.

It wasn’t long ago, that sudden appearances of these fiery emissaries were interpreted as signs or visions for the times…any fragments found were treated as sacred power objects containing a  message or connecting it’s finder with prosperity or even spiritual guidance.

Similarly in our present day, the fascination of a meteorite experience, creates a state of heightened awareness. At first, our perceptive faculties come alive, as we scan for another. Wonder and awe take us to a place of reflection. Intuitively, we contemplate our own existence, like a reminder, the flash of light announcing the time to seize the moment. Perhaps this natural reaction is inherited from our ancestral roots.

This series of photographs represents my insights and reflections upon the mindfulness experienced while spending several hours of studying, photographing, and trying to comprehend the astronomic reverence felt during the spellbinding attraction I had for these inconspicuous treasures.

All photos are taken with a Samsung Galaxy 5 for practical reasons, so as to simply blend in without any permits or professional equipment nor distractions and interruptions while maintaining a concentrated focus on the subject matter.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Journey to Ixcateopan

I heard about the sacred ceremony and celebration of the last Aztec ruler Cuauhtemoc, that takes place  in the small village of Ixcateopan every year. According to the indigenous communities of Mexico this is home to an ossuary containing Cuauhtémoc's remains unearthed from under an alter, hidden from the public until 1949. Today the ceremony remains deeply rooted as one of  respect to a ruler and his people and as a symbol of hope, dignity and pride and resistance for the Mexicas of link!

 After reading some historical accounts  and visiting the museum of anthropology in Mexico City several times, it wasn't long before I realized that there was a magnificent, highly evolved culture and evolved peoples of the New World that were basically destroyed by the spanish conquistador Cortes in the 16th century. According to one elder I met, the death of Cuautemoc represents the death of a unique human race that existed for centuries prior to the conquest who were unadulterated by money or church while still being spiritually advanced directly connected with the divine laws of nature, mother Earth and the universe.

Photo Tenancingo photo by Juan Estevez

Our Journey to Ixcateopan started from picturesque Tenancingo about 1.5 hrs. south of Mexico City just below the foothills of Toluca Volcano.

My guides were Juan Estevez and Daniel Pedraza, both local certified guides and taxi drivers.  Daniel was driving his pickup truck today. We stopped at the edge of Tenancingo to supposedly accompany a rented tour bus of locals also attending the ceremony which is some 3 hours away in the mountains above the famous silver mining and of course picturesque town of Taxco.

Upon arrival of the bus I was surprised with the realization that our journey was actually a pilgrimage led by well respected Shaman Miguel Pavlon from nearby Tenango who owns a Temazcal just below the ancient ruins and pyramids of Teotenango. I had met Don Miguel on prior visits to Tenancingo through my friend Daniel, a paragliding pilot from the area. Yes, by the way this area produces some of the finest thermals during the winter months, and boasting several launch pads in the areas mountains.
Our last 30 km. leg into Ixcateopan included a relay run with most people in our group carrying the sacred staff belonging to Shaman Miguel as a symbolic gesture of sorts. It was great to see such enthusiasm amongst both the elders and children.

                                                The Museum of Santa María de la Asunción,  was the parish church for the community from the 16th century until 1949 when it was declared a national monument. Since the discovery of Cuauhtémoc’s tomb under the main altar, this building and its grounds have been converted from a religious sanctuary to a civil one. Most, but not all, of its Christian iconography has been taken out                                               
 The town was bustling with people, buses from afar with only one way in and one way out! The town square was the only place to make  an 8 point turn around., while the remaining streets eventually narrowed to walkways.  I was surprised to see so many buses had made it to the village considering there was quite a washout of the road back some 10 kms or so!

The air was filled with the smell of food, incense, and copal. The vendors were out selling local treats from other regions including jewellery, feathers, sacred objects, and talismans of all kinds.

The first thing we did was make our way towards the temple. Along the main road through town were many vendors, and people preparing their costumes, face paint and pruning the very elaborate feathered headdresses. Peoples backyards, the school gym, and many open areas were strewn with tents for the many visitors that will camp out during this 5 day event. I believe there is only one 10 room hotel here. Luckily, I'll be sleeping in the back of Daniel's pickup with a couple warm blankets a short distance away from the all night drum beating.

The temple was quite old with little light, but still a perfect backdrop for such an event. There were Azteca Danzas and drummers warming up or practicing their routines for the big night ahead. The air was tense with activity!

La Danza Azteca, "The Aztec Dance", is a visual representation of the culture and art of the native people of Mexico. It does not refer solely to the Aztec people, but is rather a mixture of the various tribes and cultures that comprise Mexico.

Danza Azteca is a blend of pre-Columbiana and Christian traditions and, in a real sense, is both a means of prayer and a search for integration and harmony in the world.

As part of my ongoing search and sharing of great sacred places, I will be hosting an annual pilgrimage/tour  for like minded adventurous types especially photographers for the array of incredible potential photographic subject matter. Interested parties would be wise to follow the developments of this tour as this blog will be my main venue to increasing your awareness of the workshop/tour. 

I will be adding more photo highlights of day tours to areas surrounding Tenancingo de Degollado, which is home base. Some of the surrounding places I have already blogged about in previous posts, and will certainly be adding more.

The history of Chuahtemoc and this temple is nothing short of spectacular.  Indigenous communities from all over Mexico participate in this ceremony. It was estimated some 5,000 dancers are attending the ceremony in this community of 2,000 residents which seemed to me an ongoing event with large groups of Aztecas danzas coming and going increasingly more as the afternoon wanes.

It was non stop drumming and dancing in the temple, outside the temple and also in the village square a few steps below the church. At times there were 10 drummers beating ferociously in a mysterious rhythm that always changed tempo but the danzas kept the pace ...many were barefoot on polished white marble slabbed surfaces, inside and out.

At times I was crouched low near this location in the temple while my own drums (ears) received  quite a  workout. Halfway through the night I remembered I put a set of complimentary (AC) earplugs in my backpack. They worked well..the spongy types that set deep inside. I heard nothing except when I went into the temple again later on, I felt my ribe cage and heart vibrating with intensity. At one point I was on top of an old concrete monument outside and felt it move underneath me including the grounds and all the concrete structures were moving in a unifying vibration. 

The sounds of the old church bells, still intact for the temple, the conch shells, whistles, drums and the many other musical instruments sounding the beats and rhythms all in unison yet strangely and uniquely distinct sounded more like a vibration or drone with variations created by the many sources that went through everything. My body felt the sounds more than my ears did, with the earplugs in place.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Time Travel into the Past

 Once you walk through this medieval looking door, it gives one direct access into the past! The largest and oldest cathedral of the Americas, The Metropolitan Cathedral is situated in the heart of the historical district of Mexico City. I visit this cathedral each time I come into Mexico City as it is so close to one of the hotels I stay at either after arrival or just before departure to and from the international airport. I can never tire of it's ambient energy that seems to easily transport me back in time some 500 years.
Cortes and his Spanish missionaries converted the Aztec in the 16th century, they tore down their grandiose temples and used much of the stone to construct a church on the site. Nearly all of the stone from the nearby Templo Mayor was built into the cathedral. Built across three centuries, we can recognize Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassical elements which harmoniously come together to form a piece of great cultural and spatial richness, unique in its genre.  
The first stone of the Cathedral was placed by Hernán Cortes in 1524 in an act of great symbolic significance, as it was placed at the crossing of the avenues which, from the four cardinal points, lead to the sacred and spiritual centre of the Aztec capital  and an energetic centre of the American continents

Just inside this doorway is a myriad of passages and doorways, transporting one into a state of timelessness, especially upon climbing the bell tower. Truly a symphony of stone. The spiritual energy of antiquity flows freely through this magnificent work of architecture.

The cathedral has 25 bells—eighteen hang in the east bell tower and seven in the west tower. The largest bell is named the Santa Maria de Guadalupe and weighs around 13,000 kilograms

The following triptych represents my best expression of the cathedral. An extension of passageways, stairwells, doorways, and further  portals into the past. A walk through this cathedral is nothing short of spellbinding.


Here's a couple of views of the interior of the cathedral. Majestic, mystical, spiritual and certainly as spacious and heavenly as meant to be in it's design.

The lighting was a challenge here, I think I set the ISO at about 6400, and held my breath each time I gently squeezed the shutter. One time I tried to use a monopod for extra brace but was asked to put it away. Tripods and monopods are not permitted.

The design of the interior of the church is to reflect the feeling of the heavens from the inside. I have exemplified this notion with a composite image of some soft sunset colored clouds. 
 The exterior of the cathedral is also quite beautiful at night when all lit up. Here too I have added another sky that I had shot earlier that week to introduce a more dramatic element into the photo.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Further Journeys

The next day Daniel had agreed to go along with my sketchy map and list of peublos I had written down to navigate a circuit of taxis and bus that might easily bring us full circle back to Tenancingo in a day.
I checked google earth for a route which had names of towns that didn't Daniel mentioned earlier.

After catching the first leg of the trip that took us past La Cumbre, where we were last night, we got off at San Nicholas, on the way down to Malinalco.  No more than 2 or 3 kms. into the second bus as I was thinking how nice it would be to come across some of that artistic grafitti I saw on an earlier bus ride into Tenancingo. Bang! There it was ...we jumped out at the most convenient spot to pullover all buses usually do. The 7 pesos (40 cent) fare was well worth the forfeit.
A masterpiece of a mural that I must spend some time with, unfolded itself along my path.

This work of art is actually an official community of Malinalco announcement billboard with a graffiti style, written emergency number to call in case of a forest fire. The artist even left his signature on it!

While on the same topic of subject matter,  the other day I came across a group of sign painters/artists who were waiting for the OK from a home owner so they could to repaint a new billboard announcement along the front face of their high stone wall fence. Seems that this kind of community advertising is a common practice. There are many walls in Mexico,  the perfect medium for transfer of such messages and for a few pesos a sign, owners can rent out their wall space. Here I was, in the middle of discovering the art of practicing a legal business of graffiti and sign painting that is a common prolific form of street art in Mexico. It was a feast for my eyes and camera to watch these guys in action. ...only in Mexico.

Our next stop was the town El Picacho, perched on top of another ridge that we continued to climb from San Nicholas.  The ridge jutted outwards towards the vast Malinalco valley we left behind and was surrounded by the deep valley on both sides of the ridge. Geographically, the place is an excellent location known by paragliders and locals for the perfect thermals that rise up from the valley floor below. From the main road in town, the walk down to what looked like a good unobstructed vantage point to catch the  panoramic view was a good hike.

As we walk along the many field crops of corn, overabundant peas, beans and napoles (traditional mexican quisine) and maguey!...   Let me tell you about the maguey plant!!

Mezcal and Pulque are both made from this plant.
It is called a wonder plant and been used by the people since ancient times. Both are staples for the people and economy of Mexico. The large ones resemble those late night movie ...creatures with tentacles about to grab you by the leg!! Ha Ha ! If you're not fast enough to get away.

...back to the journey.
My thoughts about the possible existence of ancient ruins on this place was confirmed by Daniel. Most energetic places were situated strategically by nature's forces; also as  a vantage point and as a place of transition when moving or travelling. I must return with the intention of executing some twilight and dawn panoramics of the view. There is a perspective looking down the road that would make an interesting lead into the picture by streaking the automotive lights into infinity. I could only imagine the visibilty on a clear day/night after a summer rain.

This photo is a composite of 21 photos shot off the hip so to speak, strictly a documentation for the real McCoy so I can locate a more strategic spot on my return. I've also used some effects  it to cover up the hazy atmosphere.
For beginner paragliders especially, There is a gentle slope, set aside by the local farmer and paragliding schools that lease the spot, (so to speak) that is a very suitable area  to catch, feel the lift and play with the wind, for a stretch without crashing down a cliff below. Next time I return I want to feel the physical sensation of flying. Daniel has a paraglider.
I remember reading this story about some buddhist monks  that climbed up a steep chimney high in the Himalayas.  They tied each other, one at a time to a large kite while the others held onto a couple ropes  as they caught the winds that shot straight  upwards from a strategic rock. I always thought that to be a practice among the  daredevils  of the 21st century only, but also a practice by many before us.

After a hike back up to the main road to catch the next bus or taxi closer towards our adventurous dream, we got off in the next little busier town called Joquicingo. Our first little hike was to a powder baby  blue and white church that just glowed with angelic vibrations of the subdued blues and stark white paint against the pure blue midday sky.

Interestingly, I've noticed engraved prehispanic cornerstones embedded in the facade of most churches. Usually an aztec temple or ruins existed prior to the church of which most of the building materials for the structures of these thousands upon thousands of churches originated from existing ruins, temples and civilizations scattered out  in the vast countryside of valleys and mountains in Mexico.

The name of L'onantario  appears on the top stone which is probably hispanic but the flowery face below I have recognized at other churches and ruins.

I believe my friend Daniel had a conversation regarding the word and the blocks set in the cement.Hopefully D will comment directly below or may shed some light on this query.

 The rest of the town was painted in many tones of pure color. Here's a view looking back to the main church along the main road of Joquicingo deoicting the multi rainbow colors of concrete homes and businesses.

Our next stop was in San Francisco another 20 minutes further up the mountain towards Tenango where we will catch a bus back into Tenancingo. The first and most obvious place to visit in each village is the "Centro" part of town which usually houses activity at the main square, church, town hall and market all usually a stone's throw from the Centro. Chances of finding a taco or cervesa here are usually good.

Now the entrance gate to the main church of San Fransisco was dressed up to the nines..but unfortunatley, this time, fake flowers were used but certainly still a work of art and color. Many churches decorate with real flowers or even seeds to integrate  the customs and celebrations of the time of the year.

Looks like the Illuminatti was alive and strong 700 years ago in the reconstruction of the "New Mexico" by the spanish and the church just after the conquest of the Aztecs. Here's a closeup of the front facade of the above church.

Inside, the architecture and artwork is equally more impressive with a traditional cupola, intricate and sometimes pure gold foil designs. There are many stories regarding the safe keeping of the churches gold during the revolution.

and many larger than life murals of   Saint Francis of Assisi, a man of wealth taken to spiritual wanderings, founder of the Franciscan Order and who is the first recorded person to bear the wounds of Christs' passion. Saint Francis is the patron saint of animals and the environment.

 Most churches in the small villages and towns of Mexico have an established saint dedicated to it. Hence the religious celebrations occur quite consistently from town to town. There's always a party for some and for others a glorious day to participate in celebrations in a more religious and spiritual way of prayer and devotion!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Journey into the Heart of Lightness

 I was taken to this place by my friend Daniel. Both Daniel and Juan accompanied by others, have witnessed these plasma balls before. Looking for something to do on a night of a full moon, we drove to the summit of the road pass where there is a chapel and picnic area. In the daytime, at the edge of the clearing, there is usually a taco stand and the odd vendor selling trinkets.   I have crossed this pass by taxi and the local public bus several times now, mostly to visit Martin who has given me and a few select others permission to photograph and blog about him and his work.

Passengers and drivers make the sign of the cross at this summit as they pass by. Daniel has mentioned Le Cumbre a few times before.

Daniel hid the truck in the small roadside parking area from view of  the main road and turned the engine off to an eerie sort of silence. We quietly walked around the area for a bit to familiarize ourselves with our new surroundings. Silently but with a quick pace we turned onto the pavement of the road and ran about 100 metres down the highway towards Malinalco below.  I was here earlier that morning and walked down the mountainside along the road to try and capture some of the magnificent views along the descent into the valley below. The hazy hot day was a bit disappointing for that reason alone.
Along the right side the road, was a steep cliff created by the road cut through the top of the pass probably a hundred years ago. Just downhill of it, a winding set of concrete steps with a wrought iron hand rail led straight upwards. The climb was steep and breathtaking as I had to stop a couple times to catch my breath. Perched on a rock outcrop well above the road below, was an old shrine, with a copy of the Virgin Guadalupe behind a glass enclosed sort of altar, built on concrete blocks with a back wall of  blocks. The shrine was painted in a zigzag pattern of the green, red and white Mexico colors. It was all decorated in worn and torn colors of ribbon and flowers hissing from their movement by the cool mountain pass breeze. There were many burned out candles on the altar ledge. Earlier that day, a couple of them were lit.
 Daniel broke our silence  ...whispering that the place had a classic haunting look and feel to it. Overhanging the side of the shrine was a creepy looking dead tree that was missing a couple crows or vultures to perfect that reflective mood of energy we both felt. Here is my daytime version looking night time that I shot in HDR earlier.

After a quick prayer and respectful pause to breathe in the essence of the place we continued upwards along a winding narrow path amongst the shrubs and trees that followed the ridge line. The hike required me to focus on the task at hand with a keen awareness of my surroundings. In some places alongside the path it  dropped dramatically out of sight.

The top photo was taken from La Cumbre (summit) between Tenancingo and Malinalco,  two small towns with well known ancient ruins amongst the mountains surrounding many more magical pueblos. Evidence of some surviving cultural knowledge amongst the remaining aztecas generations, since the conquest of Cortez, harmoniously blends itself amongst the deep rooted and very popular catholic blend of spanish and the indigenous peoples. I will discuss this topic further in another time but not necessarily another place.

Right behind me from where the top photo was taken, is the valley of Malinalco (in the photo below). The rock outcrop I used as a tripod was limited to get a panoramic view....the winding road from the view you see of Teneria  drops  some 2000 meters along the mountain side I am on. A knife edged ridge giving a 300 degree view of the valleys on both sides of the ridge. Both valleys have different climates! Avacados grow in Malinalco but not in Tenancingo being much higher and much cooler in temperature. By the way this is the direction looking towards Acapulco and Zihuatenago, 3 to 400 kms away ...and its all down hill ... to the ocean. Tenancingo is at 2000 metres.

La Cumbre is not a place to visit at night. By the way, these photos were taken under the  luminesence of a full moon. |Normally it is a superstitious place and where many of the police, cab drivers, and some locals have spotted plasma balls of light. Some moving and some still as a rock ...which I believe I have captured in this night time 5 minute full moon lit exposure of a beautiful valley below La Cumbre. This ridge is  known as  the place where the brujas gather.
I must mention that in Teneria there still exists a hanging tree from the days of the mexican revolution. Although people have tried to burn it down but it still grows today. There are also legends that talk of secret caves and tunnels that link churches to escape routes in the mountains.

For those of you having persevered through this post, the link below will take you to my website of the hi res image.  Zoom in on the far left mountain side facing you, a dark spot  that looks like a cave. Here you will see a red plasma ball.