Statues, Fountains, Churches and Party Dresses

If we were playing jeopardy, the correct response to the title of this blog post would be “what do you find in every plaza in Querétaro”?

Remember a couple of posts ago, how excited I was about those green patches I saw on my Google map?  Well, turns out, this place is even better than I ever expected. There are plazas aplenty here! Far more than what appeared on the map. These squares are truly the hearts of the community–beautiful public spaces, with statues, fountains, vendors, music and happy people. There is a whole lot of living going on in this town, much of it taking place in these wonderful plazas.

Here is a brief tour of just a few of Querétaro’s plazas.  If you want to see more, you may just have to come here yourself.

This cool sculpture represents an Otomi warrior. The Otomi were living in Querétaro when the Spanish arrived.
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I had expected The Plaza de las Armas to have a military theme. Instead of cannons and guns,  however, this beautiful fountain dominates the square. I’ve seen lots of creative ways to get water gushing forth, but this is the first time I’ve ever seen it coming from dogs’ mouths.

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You don’t have to walk very far in this town to stumble upon a church. The interiors are much the same–crucifixes and lots of gold, but I found the exteriors rather compelling.

I particularly like the Templo of Santa Cruz. (I have no idea why they are called ‘templos’ here instead of iglesias. Maybe that terminology is particular to Mexico?) Anyway, this Templo has it all–fountains, a convent,
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a statue representing the indigenous population the missionaries were sent to “save”,
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and a replica of the stone cross that the Spanish and the locals saw in the sky on July 26,1531, during “the battle for domination”.
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According to legend, that day, there was a total eclipse of the sun, followed by the appearance St. James, riding a white horse across the sky and carrying such a cross, (sans serape, I would expect). The legend states that this celestial event frightened the Otomi and their allies, resulting in a Spanish victory.

Okay, so enough of the history. On to the party dresses. They are EVERYWHERE.

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Which reminds me.  Time to go shopping!

Queretaro, Mexico

Okay, for those of you that have visions of me basking in the sun, with a cerveza in one hand and sangria in the other, while you shiver amid the snow flakes, let me disabuse you of that notion. This morning started on the nippy side—39 degrees, according to Weatherbug.

I hit the street early, looking for an ATM. The good news–people on the street understood my Spanish. The bad news? They thought I could actually speak the language, so they went into “rapid” mode for giving directions, but quite fortunately accompanied it with LOTS of pointing.

Those green spots on the map in the last post? They are indeed lovely squares.
Near the hotel

Check out what the locals are wearing. See, I wasn’t kidding about the temperature.

On the taxi ride from the airport, I got the night view of the bustling city of Queretaro, as we roared along the six lane highway.  From what little I could see, it appears to be quite large and modern.

Our hotel is in el centro, the historic district. No cars are allowed on the street in front of the hotel, so the taxi driver very kindly walked me the half block to my destination.
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That yellow building is where I’ll be hanging my hat for the next 17 days.

My room is on the second floor, 31 steps up. There is no elevator, so I was grateful that I had taken Pam’s advice and packed light. And I’m happy to have this built in opportunity for exercise.

My room is small, but very clean, and the bed is extra firm, which is my preference. The best part–the wi-fi seems to be working really well from my room.
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Okay, so after looking at those photos, wouldn’t you think that my room is windowless? Well, that’s what I thought too, till I stepped into the shower this morning, and found one hiding in there. Not only do I have a window, but it was open all last night!
However, between the blankie on my bed, and el Diablo, I managed to stay quite warm.
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Off to explore the old town!

Getting Ready for Global Volunteers

Tomorrow, if the snow gods allow,  I will be winging my way toward my fourth Global Volunteers experience, in Queretaro, Mexico.   Although I’ll be sticking to North America, and will have no jet lag to contend with, I’m still giving myself a couple of days to acclimate to my new surroundings.  And what wonderful surroundings they will be!

I will freely admit to having extremely limited knowledge of our southern neighbor’s geography. I signed on without having any idea where Queretaro is, or anything else about the area, for that matter.  But that is all changing.  In the past two days, I’ve been cruising the internet, like a college student at exam time, trying to learn everything I can about the place I’ll call home for the next 17 days.  And I’m more than happy to share this new-found knowledge with you–oh, my loved ones.

In the past, my experiences with Mexico were confined to the coasts:  Cabo San Lucas and Playa del Carmen.  This time, I’ll be in the interior of the country, so no need for bathing suit or flip-flops.  Here’s a visual, for those of you, like me, who need to see where you are going, with Texas providing a point of reference.

Queretaro, Mexico

Queretaro is right smack dab under that red dot.  The city and the state share the same name–although the city is officially called Santiago de Queretaro.  I didn’t even know that Mexico was broken into states–I just thought of that land mass as “Mexico”.  But there are 31 of them, and Queretaro is one of the smallest, as you have probably figured out by its obliteration under the dot.   It’s about two and a half hours from Mexico City, to give you an idea of distances and scale.

As with other things in life, don’t be fooled by size.  Queretaro may be small in territory, but it has a lot going for it.  It is chock full of beautiful 17th and 18th century buildings, enough to be named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996.   Many were former churches, convents and missions, (not surprising given the Franciscans founded the city in 1531, looonnnng before those Pilgrims and Puritans set foot up north).  There’s scads of history in them thar hills, but I’m saving all that for future posts and possibly a quiz or two.

Here’s a sneak peek at my new world.  I’ll be staying at the Hotel Hidalgo, which unlike the Casa de la Marquesa, probably didn’t give Google any advertising dollars.   Still, what did we do before Google maps?!

my world

The green patch in the bottom right corner is the street market, which I will undoubtedly visit.  I also checked out Jardin Zenea, and that looks to be quite lovely.  I’m thinking I’ll have plenty of photo ops on my days off.

In the upper left hand corner is where I’ll be working:  the Technological University of Queretaro (UTEQ), giving the students opportunities to practice English.  (I am reluctant to describe what I do as “teaching” English, given my lack of teaching experience…but hey, I sure know how to talk and to listen!)

This will be quite a change of pace for me.  For my other three projects, I worked with either preschool or elementary school children.  This time, I’ll working with adolescents and will be following a varied schedule.  To accommodate early and late classes, some days we’ll go from 7AM to 2 PM and others from 3 PM to 9 PM.  Because the volunteers are in such demand, and the need is so great, we will not see the same class twice, something else that will be quite different for me.

I’m lucky enough to have an Ecuadorian sister-in-law, who humors me by letting me practice my Spanish on her.   Any time yo hablo espanol, it is guaranteed to get a laugh out of mi hermana preferida.  I’m sure it is because of her amazement and admiration of my fluency.  We’ll see how it goes with the students.  I’m betting I’ll be able to pick up a phrase or two from them to completely dazzle and amaze the folks back home.

I’m not sure about the internet capabilities in the hotel, or MY capabilities given the work schedule, but I plan on posting whenever I am able.

Hasta luego!