Sunday afternoons in Guanajuato we usually go to a small concert at Museo Gene Byron in Marfil, a smaller town just outside the city. The museum is in an old, restored Hacienda. Yesterday was the first Sunday concert so far this year–most cultural activities seem to shut down for December and January. These concerts are held in a small narrow upstairs room at the museum, set up to seat about 80. The musicians are sometimes small groups from the state orchestra (which plays Friday nights and starts up again in a couple of weeks), sometimes guest musicians who are in the city for other events, and often young musicians who are just beginning their performance careers. Yesterday, we listened to two young men, brothers, playing piano and violin. Most of their selections were short, melodic pieces, the kind of music you can float with. They also tackled a couple of pieces they probably shouldn’t have quite yet–one played on a single string (if I understood the introduction correctly) with a terrific range that disintegrated into a bit of squealing and squawking.
These concerts are both musical and social events. A lot of the Gringo community goes, so we run into people we know–almost like a concert at White Pines in the Sault! Unlike a concert at White Pines, though, the music is followed by a reception in the museum’s spectacular garden.
From one hacienda to another. We were talking with a group in the garden after the concert and ended up going back to one couple’s place for more wine and nibbles. We’d been to their house a couple of years ago; it’s a gorgeously renovated section of an old hacienda. I was looking forward to seeing it again, but no…instead we drove a few meters past that house and went to their second renovated home, also part of the hacienda. It had been in complete shambles–no floor, no ceiling, weeds growing through the walls and windows. They decided to take it on as a project. It took a year to restore, and they use it as a guest house and to entertain. They did all the design work themselves, had ancient and disintegrating woodwork restored, had furniture built following traditional designs. The result is splendid. I think it’s a work of art more than a second home. But I can see how, if you lived here full time (which they do), it would be easy to get into the “grand house” mentality. The old structures are marvelous, the cost of renovating is very low (by our standards), there are tradesmen with amazing skills looking for work. All of which contributes to what a Mexican friend of a friend calls “obsession Gringa”–the house-pride of Americans (and us Canadians, too). My Spanish teacher says this is not how middle-class Mexicans choose to spend their money, but I wonder. There are a lot of very nice places being built by Mexicans, too.
Our own more modest obsession Gringa continues to be tantalizing close to completion. And yet, never quite there. Surely this week…