Category Archives: Mexico travel

Frida in 5 at Casa Azul

“I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best.”

Frida Kahlo
Self-Portrait Wearing a Velvet Dress (hand colored photo print 1926)

Frida Kahlo is undeniably beautiful in this Modigliani-like 1926 self-portrait, and why not at 19 years-old. Yet it was only a year after her near-fatal tram accident. It’s not an idealized painting; it’s a photograph hand colored in oil by Frida.

Self-Portrait Wearing a Velvet Dress greets you in the entrance hall of Casa Azul fittingly alongside that of her famous photographer father. Casa Azul is the house her parents built in Mexico City where Frida was born, lived and died. It’s the “lived” part that created a legend.

Countless books and films document a turbulent and creative life that near-death simply sparked. In a recent visit to Casa Azul, a museum to all that was important to her, five images stayed with me. A prolific writer, Frida was known for her wit and insights. In her own words Frida provided for me a frame for the image I was remembering.

“I never paint dreams or nightmares. I paint my own reality.”


Marxism Will Bring Health to the Sick

Frida’s survival in the Mexico City tram accident of 1925 was eclipsed by her determination to not shatter her creative soul. “Passion is the bridge that takes you from pain to change.”

In Marxism Will Bring Health to the Sick she accepted that her own life of multiple surgeries followed by months being bedridden and still frequently in pain would not dim creativity in art, love or politics.

Whether camping across the North American continent, being honored in Paris or her love affair with Leon Trotsky, physical disabilities may have complicated plans but never stopped her.

“Diego was everything; my child, my lover, my universe.”

Casa Azul is blue. It was her home and that of her husband the renowned Mexican bad-boy creative genius Diego Rivera. Their relationship lasted her lifetime and his connection to Casa Azul until his death.

“There have been two great accidents in my life. One was the trolley, and the other was Diego. Diego was by far the worst.” The friction between these titans matched their artistic legends. Both had numerous lovers – “Take a lover who looks at you like maybe you are a bourbon biscuit.” They divorced in 1939 but remarried a year later.

Perhaps she shed insight on both their personalities, “I was born a bitch; I was born a painter.”

Yet in the garden of Casa Azul there’s a photo taken of Frida and Diego as they stand on the terrace that’s just above. Their eyes are locked. The tension of mutual passion, competition and life’s complexities is captured in a photo.

“I am not sick. I am broken. But I am happy to be alive as long as I can paint.”

in Frida’s studio at Casa Azul, Mexico City

A horrific tram accident in Mexico City in 1925 when Freda was only in her late teens ought to have killed her. Instead it left her, in her own words, “broken.”  Her spine had been fractured in multiple places, her right leg in 11 as well as the pelvic bone and collarbone. She also suffered severe internal injuries.

She was a pre-med student. Her injuries, pain and long periods in bed became the catalyst for an artistic expression of her life experience. In the process she created a unique life experience that has inspired many.

I am sure the comfortable, airy, light filled studio on the second floor in Casa Azul is neater than it was when a working room. Frida had space with most essentials easily accessed, and large windows overlooked the garden courtyard. In the center was her easel.

The easel is as it would have been the last couple years of her life. A still life, which she enjoyed painting – “I paint flowers so they will not die” – may have more meaning than simply a pretty picture, and it was the wheelchair that caught my eye last.

Its brown color blended into the studio as if her disabilities were of little importance. Frida had lost her feet a few years before her death, but that did not dampen her great passion… as long as she could paint.

I want a storm to come and flood us into a song that no one wrote.”

Frida Kahlo’s Death Mask on her bed at Casa Azul

Frida Kahlo’s Death Mask rests on her bed in Casa Azul. There is serenity to her face, especially after a life of pain, yet not a countenance of finality. She looks as if she’s sleeping as she had in that bed for so many years.

Frida may have said, “I hope the exit is joyful, and I hope never to return,” but does that mean she wanted creativity to stop. Perhaps the turbulence of storm and flood (written to one of her lovers) was freedom – being swept into an unknown reality. Behind those sleeping eyes she could be fashioning a new song.

When you go: Museo Frida Kahlo (Londres 247, Del Carmen, Coyoacán, 04100 Ciudad de México, CDMX) is 11 km (6.5 miles) from the historic center of Mexico City. It’s accessible by bus or taxi/Uber.

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Leon Trotsky (left ) with Frida Kahlo (center) at Casa Azul

Insects return to Mexican menus

According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, Mexico has 300 to 550 species of edible insects, more than any other country.

chinivuiles (Red Maquey Caterpillars) Mercado San Juan, Mexico City

The ancient tradition of eating insects is steeped in culinary tradition, not lack of other foods. In pre-Hispanic days insects were an easy power house of protein to gather as ingredients and enjoy as a convenience food.

Chapulines, roasted grasshoppers, Mercado San Juan, Mexico City

The UN report  in praise of entomophagy — insect-eating — as a promising source of sustainable protein stressed that “The case needs to be made to consumers that eating insects is not only good for their health, it is good for the planet.” After all, insects outnumber all other living creatures – and many are edible.

In the past decade there has been a revival in Mexico from street vendors to celebrity chefs reincorporating insects into the cuisine. What was dismissed after the Spanish conquest is chic again.

Mexcal cocktail with Chapulines at las Piramides

At Restaurante las Piramides within the UNESCO Zona Arqueológica de Teotihuacán they serve a traditional Mexican menu with some ancient exotic foods. An appropriate introduction is a Mexcal cocktail with Chapulines (roasted grasshoppers – they do have a nutty taste and texture). Chapulines have been a popular fast food since the ancient Mayan days, especially in southern Mexico.

Chapulines

From their starter menu there is a selection of dishes that would be a perfect introduction to tasting insects.

Fried corn cakes with quacamole y chapulines.

Excamoles al epazote (sauteed ant larvae with wormseed herb)

chinivuiles (red Maquey caterpillars) and gusano blanco (white Maquey caterpillars)

Tacos with Chapulines at El Arrayan, Puerto Vallarta

In Puerto Vallarta at El Arrayán the Oxacan inspired cuisine includes tacos stuffed with chapulines.

serious seafood & fish at Mercado San Juan

The Mercado de San Juan Gourmet is Mexico City’s food mecca for the serious eater and chef. Among the food stalls are small attractive cafes where locals frequent and visitors can experiment with new tastes.

serious meats, Mercado San Juan

I will not address the “disgust” factor when it comes to “exotic” foods. I’m interested only in the “wow” factor that there is so much  to try. The world is a pantry.

serious colors, this is Mexico! Mercado San Juan

 

When you go: Mexico City is well served by international air. For accommodations I recommend the historic Hotel Geneve (1907). It maintains and polishes its glory every day.

roasted insects: fast food at street vendors

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Puerto Vallarta lives on its streets

From food festivals and music on the Malecon to affordable week long book fairs, just walking Puerto Vallarta offers too many distractions from work.

aguachile festival

A recent email from a friend living in a popular south Florida destination praised its beauty but bemoaned a culture not interested in much more than lying around a pool or beach. Although that is fine for some, for others there’s vibrancy on Puerto Vallarta streets and beaches rare in North America. Whether it’s the riot of colorful craft stalls on the Isla de Cuale, neighborhood street festivals, processions, parades or oyster vendors on the beach, there’s no lack of stimulation.

Rio Cuale, Puerto Vallarta

Of course that’s all beyond the major events that attract locals, expats and visitors from vacationing Mexican families to gay singles. Food, naturally, is a major focus either as a side component or on the center stage. Northwestern Mexico with its Pacific waters teeming with sea life is a veritable food market.

It’s appropriate that Puerto Vallarta and a nice selection of its many restaurants annually honor aguachile with its own festival – a native dish that can define Mexican food in the northwest. Aguachile (chili water in Spanish) is a “cousin” to ceviche. Like most regional dishes, recipes do not believe in boundaries.

3 different aguachiles

Whereas both dishes include seafood and lime juice, aguachile infuses the lime juice with hot chilies. Both dishes also have variations from the most common, shrimp, to octopus, scallops, salmon or any combination of shell, seafood and fish. The single imperative is that these raw ingredients are as fresh as possible – sushi grade is not too extravagant.

Additional ingredients are both traditional and optional. Ceviche has a bit more onion and less chili. Both include cilantro, frequently other vegetables and even a combination of juices.  Aguachile always includes generous slices of cucumber for the soothing qualities that vegetable provides given the spicier nature of the dish – after all, it is called chili water.

If you happen to own a molcajete for preparation, it doubles as a beautiful bowl with its black basalt contrasting with the colors of the ingredients. A number of internet sites have recipes for aguachile. Hispanic Kitchen has a good basic shrimp aguachile recipe. America’s foremost chef on southwestern Hispanic cuisine, Rick Bayless, provides ideas outside the box.

The annual January Aguachile Festival was held in Parque Lazaro Cardenas, currently undergoing a transformation with stunning mosaics.

Annual Book Fair in Plaza de Armas

On the same day, the annual Book Fair, a week long event, was taking place on Puerto Vallarta’s main Plaza de Armas. Dozens of book stalls sell new and used books in a variety of languages for all age levels. The prices are below reasonable.

Food for the stomach and the mind, stimulation for the eyes and the ears with enviable weather and fronting the Bahia de Banderas: no wonder Puerto Vallarta greets all with “Welcome to Paradise.”

Aguachile Festival n Parque Lazaro Cardenas

 

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Naked Boys Singing: the ultimate selfie

The peppy opening number of Naked Boys Singing, “Gratuitous Nudity,” pokes fun as to why we’re in the audience but promises, “No crudity. Just gratuitous nudity.” (Certainly easy on the eyes and naked 99% of the time the ensemble of Max Albertos, Mitchell Guzman, Joby Hernandez, Fidel Rebolledo, Renzo Sotelo and Luis Villanueva are handsome talented singers). Yet, most important, at the end of the opening number the men sing, “Than nakedness is just another window to the soul.”

Incanto Theater, Puerto Vallarta

Naked Boys Singing is an entertaining comedy revue with some real life pathos. Yet the lyrics and even the sequence of songs fail to develop this cohesive theme. The lyrics are gay oriented, a good selection for Incanto Theater situated in Puerto Vallarta ­–the gay friendly capital of Mexico. Yet most people evolve beyond potty humor after discovering the magic our naked bodies can create.

Perhaps edgy when originally produced Off-Broadway in 1998, I was getting bored and puzzled with Robert Schrock’s current version of his 20-year-old musical Naked Boys Singing by the end of the third song. I stress bored with the production not the boys.

Is Naked Boys Singing a vaudeville revue poking fun at our attitudes on nudity and sex? Or is it a musical of how we men see ourselves, literally, develop from the potty humor of 9-year-old boys, through teenage angst, to a celebration of why we (men and women) have beautiful, biologically designed bodies that produce fun, brainpower and love. Unfortunately creator Robert Schrock fails to ask himself these questions.

A lack of imaginative direction leaves six handsome naked men basically singing a concert in a straight line. One potty humor opening number would have been fine. “The Naked Maid” is silly but at least it was choreographed.

“Fight the Urge” (sung by Max Albertos, Mitchell Guzman, Joby Hernandez) speaks to many men, especially when gay teens, of uncomfortable moments in school locker rooms. It’s funny, true and in the last stanza sets up what could have continued a developing theme for the musical, “I can’t let anyone know what’s happening inside. I am all alone.”

Following that number, “Window to Window” (sung by Fidel Rebolledo and Luis Villanueva) provides a glimmer of thoughtful lyrics that brought more meaning to this play. In “Window to Window” two neighbors view each other frequently from across their apartment buildings’ divide. In a beautiful duet they communicate through attraction and desire. In the final lines their thoughts mesh even though physically separated when they sing, “Take a risk. Be daring.”

The beauty in “Window to Window” is that we do not know if the desire will be fulfilled. How many of us, gay or hetero, have not felt this same longing? That is the direction that could make Naked Boys Singing relevant theater and still retain its humor.

Unfortunately Robert Schrock concentrates on a miscellaneous list of minor topics ­from gay gym rats in “Muscle Addiction” to being a “Perky Little Pornstar.” Too many songs are just gratuitous entertainment. The lack of creative direction and a thematic vision fails to take advantage of the talents of six handsome naked men.

Yet the second act does have three songs of significant interest that capture a universal sense of humor, longing, fear and acceptance. The lyrics in “Nothing But the Radio On” (sung by Joby Hernandez) comically compare reactions to Marylyn Monroe’s famous 1950s nude calendar photo with still hypocritical sexual image attitudes.

“Work of Art“ (sung by Luis Villanueva) was appropriately a tableau recreating athletic nude marble statues with four of the cast members. The central, classically posed statue (Luis) sings of a particular man that frequently visits the museum. In silence they are doomed in expressing their mutual love. Once more the longing for love shines in this song.

The third to last number, “Window to the Soul,” a tender duet sung once more by Fidel Rebolledo and Luis Villanueva, should have been the final number in the production sequence. The “Window to Window” couple discovers the true nature of their love. They take the risk as scary as it is, “And now I know that who I am isn’t shameful or obscene.”

Naked Boys Singing should be an entertaining exploration of nakedness as both physical beauty and its impact on everyone’s self-image. Yet out of fifteen songs only a handful explore this identifiable theme – “nakedness is just another window to the soul” – that the musical introduced in the opening number, “Gratuitous Nudity.”

Still, the six talented naked young men in this Incanto Theater production have fun proving that nudity is the ultimate selfie.

Outdoor cafe, Incanto Theater

Despite production flaws, Naked Boys Singing is entertaining and worth seeing. It is running several times per week along with Incanto’s stellar concert calendar for the 2018/2019 Winter season.

Lady Zen, just one of the stellar singers in Incanto Theater’s concert series this season

 

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La Fortuna: reverting to tradition in Puerto Vallarta

“A business we can do together; something we can grow together.” Alan Mundy

Drying the coffee “cherries” (ripe beans) at La Fortuna

Just imagine light, creamy, hand crafted peanut brittle and rich aromas of organically grown Mexican coffee. Alan Mundy and Ausel Diaz Arguello did, and in the process La Fortuna Organic Coffee and PVs Finest Peanut Brittle blended their lives. Yet when Alan and Ausel met just a few years ago they were both in flux.

The date “1985” on the package of PVs Finest Peanut Brittle means more than the start of a business. It wasn’t actually the start of a business. It was Alan’s stress therapy.

PVs Finest Peanut Brittle

In Louisiana Alan was in the real estate and electronics businesses. Yet in an urge to do something creative, he started making his grandmother’s peanut brittle in 1985 as gifts for friends. That soon turned into a marketing tool – gifts to clients at the holidays.

For thirty years Alan made upwards of 2,000 pounds of peanut brittle annually as gifts. Yet his life altered several years ago when his mother’s health started to decline. For a variety of reasons, relocating to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, was desirable for both Alan and his mother.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Ausel was fresh from culinary studies at Puerto Vallarta’s Casserole Instituto Gastronomico. He was also from Chiapas, the southwestern most state in Mexico, known for its lush tropical beauty, abundant agriculture and poverty.

Ausel’s grandfather had developed a 20 acre coffee farm nearly a century before. Despite the fact that it grew to 120 acres, like many small farmers, his grandfather and father sold the beans wholesale to coffee dealers. Profits were meager.

La Fortuna, Chipas, Mexico

A regional outbreak of Coffee Leaf Rust five years ago led to a downturn in both coffee production and prices, which resulted in the loss of the family farm. Prospects for Ausel’s family were dire. Then Allan and Ausel met in Puerto Vallarta and a plan that would benefit all developed.

With Ausel’s knowledge of Chiapas, family ties and traditional organic farming methods used for centuries, Alan’s entrepreneurial logic saw a way to revitalize the family by reverting to tradition. In the process they created La Fortuna Organic Coffee by elevating common Arabica beans to premium status.

Securing title to 200 acres for the family simply started the process. The densely planted acreage thrived in the mineral rich tropical mountains of Chiapas. The chaff from the roasted coffee beans was the only enrichment added back to the soil.

Fresh harvested Arabica coffee cherries (ripe beans)

Planting, maintaining and harvesting coffee have always been hands-on tasks due to necessity. During harvest season in 2017 (November to March) demand for workers exceeded the local supply. La Fortuna employed four workers from Guatemala.

Alan and Ausel created a business plan for La Fortuna that relied on personal attention to every detail by those involved. Traditional hands-on techniques from sorting, roasting, packing and marketing have been essential to ensure premium quality. “It’s a labor of love,” quipped Alan, and he was correct, but not just in the common understanding of that phrase applied to business.

Coffee beans are food, and the cooking method has a major influence on flavor. Using a clay oven, the beans are hand roasted in small batches in a heavy iron bowl topping the wood fire of Indigenous pine and robles. The beans are stirred with a wooden spoon.

Roasting coffee beans over a wood fire at La Fortuna

Subtle chocolate and spice undertones were enhanced by the gentle roasting process while hints of smoke from the pine and robles wood complimented rich, earthy notes in the beans. The coffee was smooth, medium bodied and light on acidity.

Hand packaging of the beans minimizes breakage that releases essential oils, which trap flavors. The packaged beans are shipped to Puerto Vallarta where Ausel and Alan take over marketing. Yet that’s not the end of the Chiapas connection – there are peanuts.

Peanut brittle was a Southern United States invention from the late 19th century. The South was awash with peanuts and sugar so their combination was to be expected. The recipe Alan grew up on was from his grandmother, who like many gleaned knowledge from regional variations.

(right) Alan Mundy

Alan had the idea that once in Puerto Vallarta the peanut brittle recipe he had used the past thirty years could be turned into an enterprise that involved his mother. Unfortunately, her health soon made that an unrealistic expectation. Then culinary trained Ausel entered Alan’s life along with peanuts from Chiapas.

What makes the superlative “finest” believable was not just the taste but also the texture. Having grown up on Northern versions where the caramelized sugar was truly brittle – like breaking glass – PVs Finest was creamy. The tan brittle crumbled in the mouth becoming a smooth caramel counterpoint to the deep flavors of roasted peanuts.

Sponge peanut brittle was one variation in Louisiana that existed for well over a century. Alan and Ausel have taken note that Canadians liken it to English sponge toffee. Considering Puerto Vallarta’s popularity among Canadian tourist, that’s a good marketing connection.

Sorting fresh coffee beans (right) with Alan Mundy

Organic peanuts and small batch production are the hallmarks of PVs Finest Peanut Brittle. The peanuts are sourced from farms owned by Ausel’s extended family, which provide over 3,000 kilos (6,600 pounds) of roasted peanuts per season. No changes have been made to the recipe of Alan’s grandmother.

Enhancing the basic recipe though was always considered. Alan and Ausel are developing a recipe with the addition of coconut. Coating PVs Finest with chocolate would pair a Southern tradition with the birthplace of chocolate.

Made by Ausel in their climate-controlled kitchen, the week’s production sells out quickly. PVs Finest Peanut Brittle winter production coincides with the seasonal schedule of Puerto Vallarta farmer and craft markets. During the winter season Alan and Ausel work five major markets selling La Fortuna Organic Coffee and PVs Finest Peanut Brittle.

Riveria Market in Nuevo Vallarta (Tuesday)

Forever Spring Market in Bucerias, Puerto Vallarta (Wednesday)

Marina (Public Market) Puerto Vallarta (Thursday)

Marsol Market by the Pier (Los Muertos Pier –Friday)

Three Hens and a Rooster, Puerto Vallarta (Saturday)

Before meeting, Alan and Ausel had separate desires to make a difference in the lives of loved ones. Together they succeeded – a proud mother and a revitalized family – based on centuries of tradition. What they could not have foreseen was how candy and coffee would grow their own love.

(2nd from left) Ausel Diaz Arguello

 

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Pride: pink peso power in Puerto Vallarta

It’s not like the gay community has had to hide in a Puerto Vallarta ghetto. It has been welcome ever since Puerto Vallarta attracted Hollywood artists in the 60s and 70s. So the 6th annual Puerto Vallarta Pride festival is as much pride in this city as in being gay.

Puerto Vallarta view from El Centro to the Romantic Zone

Being the gay friendliest city in the Western Hemisphere has advantages. Few care. There’s little stereotyping in this family friendly vacation destination.

There is a center of gay life in the city. The historic zones of El Centro and Emiliano Zapata (aka the Romantic Zone,) and they have many of Puerto Vallarta’s best restaurants, shopping, bars and nightlife but for all tastes. The general acceptance may best be summed up by the participation of the city’s policeman and mayor in the Pride 2018 parade.

If LGBT life does not have to hide it’s because Puerto Vallarta is a paradise, as its tourism logo proclaims. Yet despite civil unions nationwide and same-sex marriage approved in Mexico City, the country has one the highest homophobic hate crime rates on Earth. It’s comforting having the police part of the Puerto Vallarta Pride 2018 parade.

Pride 2018 parade on the Malecon

Invited by EnRoute Communications along with a small group of travel writers, we had a personal view of not just what makes Pride work but Puerto Vallarta tourism thrive. In 2017 over 24,000 participated in the weeklong festival. Simple math proves the economic impact of the “pink” peso.

Highlights of Pride 2018

The Pride 2018 Parade sauntered down the Malecon on a typically beautiful Puerto Vallarta evening with the sun slowly setting into the Bay of Banderas. Floats from dozens of gay-owned businesses, local organizations and participants just having fun where watched by all on the city’s waterfront.

Fiesta en la Calle, Pride 2018

The Fiesta en la Calle street party took over the heart of Emiliano Zapata ­–­ Boystown – stretching down Calle Cardenas. The nighttime party was a blur of sound, music and bodies as the bars and businesses of Boystown spilled into the street. With laser lights and sweet abandon the city celebrated a freedom not available to all.

Mantamar Beach Resort and Club is one of many gay friendly/owned luxury hotels in Puerto Vallarta. Located at the end of wide white sand South Beach (south side of Playa de los Muertos), Mantamar hosted two major events during Pride, the Big Top Party at Sky Top Bar and the White Party. Popular gay DJs in the international circuit kept energy flowing both high up on the Sky Top Bar and on the beach for the culminating White Party (white clothing…)

Big Top Party at Sky Top Bar, Mantamar Beach Resort

Puerto Vallarta, as a municipality, turned 100 years old in 2018 appropriately during Pride Week. Celebrations continue year long including a series called 100 Tables to Celebrate 100 Years. These events invite local businesses to display their products in a festive atmosphere.

Parque Lazaro Cardenas, recently decorated with extensive mosaics by the artists of Tile Park PV, was the site for gay businesses to show their stuff. From restaurants offering sushi to the best leather halter, the power of the “pink” peso was evident. Celebrity underwear designer Andrew Christian, who owns condos nearby, presided over a live display of his latest creations.

100 Tables to Celebrate 100 Years marketplace w/ Andrew Christian

Sapphire Beach Club, also on South Beach, offers fresh, inviting food especially at breakfast. The open-air restaurant easily captures the cool Bay of Banderas breeze. The absence of canned music means the waves provide relaxing ambient sound to compliment refreshing cocktails.

Madregal is a new addition to Puerto Vallarta’s enviable culinary stable. Oscar Moran, who owns Oscar’s on the Rio Cuale, has created an Oxacan influenced menu. This southern Mexico state is known for unique preparations of a wide range of produce, meats and cheese. I did not see chapulines (grasshoppers) on the menu?

No Puerto Vallarta restaurant can ignore the abundant sea life in the Bay of Banderas. For Chef Fernando Sánchez Aceves fish and seafood intermesh creating the imaginative fusion of cuisines for which Puerto Vallarta’s known.

Pickled vegetables with vinegar and chili at Madregal

A creamy gazpacho with shrimp and citrusy seafood ceviche were refreshing on a warm late May evening. Pickled vegetables with vinegar and chili, lentil salad, guacamole and a salad with Oxacan cheese displayed the diverse abundance and ingenuity in Mexican vegetable cookery.

Madregal has an extensive mezcalito list – cocktails made with smoky mezcal, a distillation of the agave plant and aged in wood barrels. Smoke, quite literally, has become a popular cocktail ingredient. Madregal infuses a glass with smoke from a burning fresh rosemary sprig and rims the glass with smoked salt before pouring the cocktail giving the drink a smoky boost.

Mexcal Cocktail w/Rosemary Smoke, Madregal

Garlands del Rio is a boutique luxury bed and breakfast on the Rio Cuale in Emiliano Zapata. Seventeen individually designed rooms surround a courtyard with pool that captures the river’s cooling breeze. The Rio Cuale forks around a narrow islet, Isla Cuale, before emptying into the Bay of Banderas. Isla Cuale is a mini jungle paradise in the middle of Puerto Vallarta – combination park, restaurants and crafts market.

Garlands is fully equipped 21st century hotel with WIFI in all rooms and Flat Screen TVs. The atmosphere though is that of being a house guest in a mansion townhouse. Breakfast is served and you can enjoy a poolside drink.

Garlands del Rio Boutique Bed & Breakfast w/the group NOA performing a unique guitar duo

Garlands del Rio hosted the journalists of Pride 2018 at a riverside reception and dinner. A chilled shrimp and vegetable plate along with local wine followed guacamole and margaritas on a humid evening. A tropical setting, on a tropical evening with tropical food in the Romantic Zone does fit the logo Puerto Vallarta – Welcome to Paradise.

Los Arcos National Marine Park

Vallarta Adventures explores the unique biosphere of the Bay of Banderas from it’s fleet of luxury yachts. On a trip hosting the Pride 2018 journalist, we leisurely floated along the coast of Puerto Vallarta, sipping marguerites, to the protected bird sanctuary of Los Arcos. The wave carved steep rock islets south of Puerto Vallarta are a scuba divers dream.

Many tour boats stop at Los Arcos but it never seems crowded. Vallarta Adventures is well equipped with all gear necessary for a safe scuba experience. Fishing is available in other locations during the cruise.

The beautiful, warm clear water of the Bay invites swimming, paddle boarding or just floating. Yet lunch did interfere. A sumptuous and artistic “bento box” (form follows function on a gently swaying sailing yacht) of salads made perfect sense in all respects.

Vallarta Adventures on the Bay of Banderas

Vallarta Adventures provided an experience of Puerto Vallarta that could only be had from accepting the naturalness of the sea. Pride 2018 provided an experience of Puerto Vallarta that could only be had from accepting the naturalness of human life. Economic stats prove that per capita an international gay tourist spends US$1,700 on an average trip compared to $760 per hetero tourist – the power of the pink peso. It’s nice to have it all in one place.

Pink Power at the White Party, Mantamar Beach Resort, Pride 2018

Disclaimer: The author was a guest of Pride 2018 including the businesses and events mentioned. Arrangements were facilitated by EnRoute Communications, New York City

 

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Incanto excites Puerto Vallarta with Greater Tuna

After over 35 years Greater Tuna is firmly rooted in the regional theater circuit. Written in 1981 by Jaston Williams, Jow Sears and Ed Howard, it deals with the small town everyman. Relying heavy on comedy, it can too often fall into the trap of parody.

Ron Spencer (left) Tracy Parks (right) as Arles Struvie and Thurston Wheelis

Ron Spencer as weatherman Harold Dean Lattimer

Yet in the accomplished hands of Incanto Theater’s Ron Spencer and Tracy Parks the deftly crafted script bristles with pathos. Greater Tuna is a current day Everyman, that seminal play of the early Medieval Era. From the pain of Bertha Bumiller, clueless Harold Dean Lattimer, sociopathic Pearl Burras to the one character that has, perhaps, found inner peace, Jody Bumiller, Greater Tuna pulls at the heart as often as causes uncontrolled laughter.

Parody and comedy are classic devices in theater and human life to both cover and highlight inner inadequacy. The “3rd smallest town in Texas,” Greater Tuna is, of course, our town. It’s where we live; it’s inside our heads.

We belly laugh as OKKK DJs, the play’s anchors, Arles Struvie and Thurston Wheelis tell us the town foibles and at a variety of eccentric characters that float in and out of the play. Yet it’s human drama, especially the Bumiller family that causes the audience to be drawn into emotional periods of silence.

Ron Spencer as reporter Chad Hartford w/Tracy Parks as Bertha Bumiller

Incanto’s Tracy Parks sensitive portrayal of Bertha Bumiller creates what could be a drag parody – the hair alone – into a poem to aloneness. There are few human feelings more devastating than feeling alone when among many.

Through Ron Spencer, teenager Charlene Bumiller’s ineptitude at cheer leading and profound disappointment at her failure to make the team speaks to all that have ever bullied or been bullied.

Tracy Parks as Pearl Burras

Greater Tuna is a daunting performance for the two actors that play nearly two dozen characters – not to mention the costume changes. Ron and Tracy’s split second timing controls the rapid flow of both comedy and our emotions. One second you’re laughing and then realize what a terribly racist comment Ron’s Vera Carp just made or how chilling Tracy’s dog-phobic Pearl Burras would be to have as a neighbor. Stanley Bumiller – fresh from reform school – will survive through street smarts, but we will not be aware of that until we stop cheering. Then we’ll cringe.

& Ron Spencer as Vera Carp

The tight script flowed effortlessly during the first act as the DJs, eccentric vignettes and the drama of the Bumiller family unfolded intermeshed as a tableau. Unfortunately the authors, not the actors, wrote the first half of the second act with less cohesiveness being too dependent on eccentric vignettes. It seemed a bit disjointed but soon the Bumiller/Burras saga returned and united the action.

Dogs are an important character in Greater Tuna – all pantomimed. Their loved, tolerated and murdered. Just  like humans. They’re the innocents.

Ron Spencer created two dog-centric characters through humor and pure acting talent that many would dismiss – “eccentric” Petey Fisk and a “troubled boy” Jody Bumiller – that allowed me to leave the theater hopeful. Although a modern day slaughter of the innocents just might irreparably break Petey’s heart, it will not be before he struggles to the bitter end. Yet if Jody is allowed to nurture his innocents, his soul may survive.

Tracy Parks as Bertha Bumiller & Ron Spencer as Jody Bumiller

Greater Tuna is everyman; it’s also a comedy. Yet as in all good theater it stirs the heart.

When you go: After a successful 2017/2018 winter run, Greater Tuna is back at the Incanto Theater every Wednesday at 8:00 pm for summer 2018. Incanto is a full service cafe and bar on the beautiful Rio Cuale in Puerto Vallarta. Dining is available either along the river or at your seat in the theater.

Incanto Cafe and Theater, Puerto Vallarta & set for Greater Tuna

You can read more articles by Marc d’Entremont at:

Hellenic News of America (Travel with Pen and Palate)
Hellenic News of America (Marc d’Entremont)
Travel Pen and Palate Argentina