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danieldurazo Daniel A. Durazo

A fellow [email protected] đŸ“· Surprise yourself and get a little lost
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"Everybody falls in," Juan says. Even though it's a mild 70 degrees, he's drenched in sweat from the effort of rowing. Our raft (locally known as a "trajinera") is called "Las Niñas Fresa," roughly translated as "the preppie girls." And propelling it through Xochimilco's centries-old canals is no easy task. Juan relentlessly shoves the large staff, usually made of oak or a similarly dense wood, into the muddy silt at the bottom of the canal, and glides the raft forward. I ask him if I can try, and he chuckles. "Keep an eye on your footing." He hands me the staff, and after a few pushes, I see what he means. I almost fall in twice over the span of a couple of minutes, and lose track of where I'm going long enough to gently bump into the bank of the canal on our left. Juan smiles as I sheepishly hand the staff back to him, and he straightens the raft and puts us back on course.

113 8 Dec 31, 1969
danieldurazo: I was born in the U.S., but

I was born in the U.S., but I grew up in Mexico. I've been away for several years now, and I miss Mexico more and more. And t's not just my family I miss; it's not just the food. There's something about the feeling of Mexico that I miss. . . My girlfriend and I wander through the narrow rows of the Artisan's Market in the Ciudadela, in Mexico City. Ricardo Rangel Mota tells me he has been selling his paintings there for over half a century. Although to hear him tell it, it's less and less a market for artisans. He laments how many have sold their booths to commercial outfits that buy cheap knock-off handicrafts from China, and sell them to tourists at a mark-up. "It used to be real artisans selling here. People who just made one thing," he muses. He says they weren't in it for the money and though they struggled, they were happy. They sold what mattered to them. But times change. "There aren't a lot of us left, and customers don't know the difference," he says, as he gestures to shops around him. Nonetheless, he smiles as he proudly proclaims that he's still here. His five children have all left Mexico City and he runs his booth alone. But he says he paints because he must. He shows me newspaper clippings from when he was younger. He says he was apprenticed to one JesĂșs Álvarez Amaya. Mr. Amaya, who died in 2010, was an assistant of one of Mexico's most famous painters, Diego Rivera. Rangel talks to me about some of his paintings. I can also see a few additional articles for sale, decorative wooden trays and boxes, and some cheap t-shirts. He says he has to make ends meet, too. Foreign tourists don't want to carry a large painting with them on the plane. Whether Rangel was actually an assistant to Diego Rivera, or not, I'm not really sure. Frankly, I have no evidence, other than his word, that he actually makes the paintings hanging in his shop. Regardless of what the actual truth is, I appreciate that he, and this place, exist. I believe in the kind of magical realism of this marketplace, and I'm glad Rangel is here to tell his story. This is part of what I miss.

132 14 Dec 31, 1969
danieldurazo: For a man selling balloons, he was awfully

For a man selling balloons, he was awfully stern. But there he was, working hard, walking the block, working the crowds. All in a day's work. I miss how much life there is in Mexico's public places. City parks and streets, filled with people buying, selling, walking, talking. It makes a city feel alive. And I miss it.

188 13 Dec 31, 1969
danieldurazo:

"If you're trying to open a bottle, you need the right tool. If you try to crack it against a table, you might break the bottle, or hurt your hand if you try to open it with something else. But once you have a bottle opener? POP! it's easy. The same is true for dancing." This is the explanation that Lalo gives me when I tell him I'm a terrible dancer. He insists there's no such thing as a bad student, only inexperienced teachers without technique. When I ask Lalo how long he's been giving dance lessons, he chuckles as he says "I can't tell you how many years I've been doing it; instead, ask me how much longer I have left to go!" He teaches young and old, mainly salsa but also a few other forms of dance. The students I see with him today are an elderly couple that doesn't stop spinning and stepping while I talk to Lalo. They dance with him every week, as do many others, here in the park in front of Mexico City's Ciudadela Artisan Market. Lalo doesn't have a studio, and says he doesn't need one. "I'm a professional. I do it full time, right here" he says. Mexico is the only place in the world where I've seen anyone take dancing lessons in a public park. This story of Lalo and his dancers is one of the many reasons I miss Mexico as much as I do. Despite the inequality (it is vast), despite the poverty (it is common), and despite the many other problems (there are a great many), Mexico is a place where people make things work, one way or another. It's a place where people make the best of it. I grew up in Mexico, but know only an embarrassingly small portion of this country. I've recently been able to visit more often, and I hope to keep going back, to get to know it much better. Mexico is a story worth listening to.

81 8 Dec 31, 1969
danieldurazo: Nick n Six are not part of the

Nick n Six are not part of the regular staple of musicians who try to liven up the mornings of Foggy Bottom's commuters. One is from New York, and the other is from Arizona; they've been criss-crossing the country touring for four years. I was on my way to work, and didn't have a chance to chat with them for as long as I would have liked. But I thoroughly enjoyed the short time I spent chatting with them. Their philosophy is to spread love and light through music. Not a bad idea to live by.

138 11 Dec 31, 1969
danieldurazo: A young man carries his son as they

A young man carries his son as they look at the Rainbow Fountain in Lima's 'Parque de la Reserva.' Originally built in 1929 as the 'Parque de la Exposición,' the park gained its current moniker after reserve troops were stationed there during the 'Guerra del Pacífico,' between Chile, and Bolivia and Peru. After years of neglect, president Luis Castañeda Lossio renovated the park in the year 2000, building 13 huge fountains, the most of any public park in the world.

82 5 Dec 31, 1969
danieldurazo: The city of Paita, PerĂș, is a fishing

The city of Paita, PerĂș, is a fishing town, through and through. The pelicans seemed quite at home, and appeared to be very comfortable in the company of humans. I was less than a foot away from this one before it finally decided I was too close, and flew off.

104 13 Dec 31, 1969
danieldurazo: A tree standing still at the end of

A tree standing still at the end of the line. For some reason it reminded me of life and death, frozen in time.

114 7 Dec 31, 1969
danieldurazo: Wild #horses have lived on the island of

Wild have lived on the island of Assateague for about 400 years. According to local (and a fair amount of historical evidence), the herds are descended from horses that survived the wreck of a Spanish galleon in 1750. The horses are now under the of the Chingoteague Volunteer Fire Company.

128 12 Dec 31, 1969
danieldurazo: What has been your most recent culinary discovery?

What has been your most recent culinary discovery? Before I visited Lima, I had never heard of Butifarras. They sound simple: a turkey and pork sandwich. But the devil is, as they say, in the details. Elías Mezcua cooks the turkey and pork to juicy perfection; that's before the gravy. The bread is so soft and light that José, behind the griddle, deftly tosses the loaves into a stack along the window of the cart. The lettuce is crisp; the onions are lightly pickled; the sauce is hot. Throughout the evening, customers line up at the busiest food cart in Parque Kennedy. Elías has been running his shop for 26 years, but he insists he's not the boss. He says he and his partners take turns doing everything, as he reminisces about the time in the mid 90s when he'd sell 600 sandwiches in a night. Apparently those were the good old days of then president Alberto Fujimori, when Elías says the economy was stronger. Now he's lucky to sell 100 sandwiches a day. But still he grins as he tells me about how he left his small home town in northern Peru as a young man. He had come to Lima to study medicine, but couldn't afford it in the end. He started working at a restaurant instead, moving from wait staff to head of the kitchen. The restaurant closed down due to bad business, and Elías drove a cab for five years, got married, and saved as much as he could, hoping for an opportunity to do something more. Then one day he saw an ad in the paper: the restaurant where he used to work was up for sale. He approached the woman who owned the property, and made his case as to why she should sell it to him, even though he wasn't the highest bidder. He knew the shop and the restaurant business, better than anyone else, he argued. She agreed. With the restaurant as a foundation, he made a name for himself in Peru's culinary wirld. He still runs the restaurant, and this butifarra cart is one of the top food spots in Lima. Elías is now a grandfather of four, and happy he'll leave a legacy to his family. People come from all over the world to try his sandwiches. "People come here from Germany!" he exclaims, beaming. I can't help but smile along with him.

113 12 Dec 31, 1969
danieldurazo: I don

I don't have anything deep or clever to say about this one. It's just a goofy looking camelid whose face I found adorable (I forget if this one was a llama or an alpaca). Look at those teeth!

311 9 Dec 31, 1969
danieldurazo: She was giving me heavy #sideeye from under

She was giving me heavy from under her motorcycle helmet. I deserved it.

104 5 Dec 31, 1969