It's Christmas season in Puerto Vallarta. Familiar images from North of the border are here — Christmas trees, wreaths, lights, decorations, aisles full of toys, wrapping paper, and baubles at Sam's and WalMart, carols and holiday standards playing over the supermarket sound system, and plans for holiday parties.

But more than that are the Mexican traditions — the processions celebrating the Virgin of Guadalupe. The miracle of the dark skinned virgin who appeared to an Indian farmer in 1531, became the unifying symbol that brought the indigenous population into the Catholic church of the conquering Spanish in all parts of Mexico.

In Puerto Vallarta, there are processions on December 1 – 12 from every section of the population and the city. The Tourist Office on the main plaza posts a schedule. Bus service to the center of town is closed every night and some days during this time. From the north side of town it is best to take a taxi or a "tunel" bus to the South Side on the bypass road behind the city. The streets are full of pilgrims singing and chanting, bands, Aztec dancers and drummers, floats, and candles. And the posadas – parties for employees, neighborhoods, and organizations with music, food, drink, and dancing.

But the history of the posada is quite different from the current celebration. In the past, children marched from house to house singing and carrying a cr่che. They were invited in and given treats along the way......

Gift giving is not focused on the 25th, but instead on January 6th, the day the Three Kings arrived bearing their gifts for Jesus........

Whale sightings have begun!! I haven't had that thrill of the first fluke yet, but they are here in the bay enjoying PV hospitality, too.....

Last month brought San Francisco sailors to Coming About...any Woman's Sailing School for several day-on-the-Bay excursions. As we enjoyed perfect winds, sky, and sea someone remarked, "If we had conditions like this on San Francisco Bay, we would need traffic police on the water." Need I say more?? Those wonderful onshore-offshore breezes give us great conditions everyday.....

I am finally listed in the Puerto Vallarta phone book. This is rather important because when someone calls Telmex "information" to get a number, the operator reaches for the phone book, looks it up for them, and charges them for the service. So any number that isn't in the book can't be found. I looked under "Henry," then "Patricia," and finally found myself under "Kay." In Mexico, what appears to be a middle name is actually the family/father's last name. The name at the end can be the mother's last name or the husband's last name, but it is never used.....

One has to keep a sense of humor and remember that we are here for the experience of a different culture, not to judge the culture. Often the things that have me pulling out my hair are also the things that bring the most delight. Last Wednesday, my friend Carol Anne and I were strolling down Juarez Street at 11pm when the flashing lights of the police in the next block caught our attention. They were not chasing a bad guy, or handling an accident; they were directing traffic for an amazing parade of Volkswagens...at least 80 or more. The Bugs came in every color and condition. Some had totally chromed engines, or were fully restored to mint condition, others were someone's fantasy with art covering the sides. There were surf boards on top, families wedged into back seats. Why weren't there announcements in the paper that this was happening? Our friends might have enjoyed this, too. But really it was more fun just stumbling into it by accident.

It's those wonderful surprises...a concert on the waterfront, a fair in the plaza, an exhibition on the Malecon... that make it delightful to stroll in the evening just to see what's happening.....

On one of my leisurely walks around town, I found the best surprise of the season — a real, live bookstore with English language books. The Book Store just opened at V. Carranza #334-A on the South Side and is stocked with a wide range of interesting books. What isn't there can be ordered and will arrive within two weeks. The prices are almost the same as in the States.....

Speaking of books, I have found an author who is particularly inspiring for me...Charlotte Kasl, Ph.D. Her small books go straight to the heart of things. Some of the titles include: Finding Joy: 101 Ways to Free Your Spirit and Dance with Life; If the Buddha Dated: A Handbook for Finding Love on a Spiritual Path; and If the Buddha Married: Creating Enduring Relationships on a Spiritual Path. She weaves insights from many sources into a clear way of looking at who you are, where you are, and where you want to be......

That is a privilege we take for granted — setting a course for our lives. All around us are those for whom this is not even idea, let alone a goal... the street children of the world. Those in Vallarta have a champion in Philippa Vernon-Powell from the UK. She has been working in PV to provide shelter for the street children. From 150 on any given day three years ago, Philippa says the number is below ten today. Now working with Gente por la Educacion, (People for Education) and with a commitment from the government of Mexico, Philippa is helping put disadvantaged children into the education system. To find out more or how you can help, email Philippa at pvp@newlifemexico.com If you are coming to PV, she can give you a list of school supplies to tuck into your suitcase to help one more child know the joy of learning......

Wishing you and yours a very joyous and blessed holiday with family and friends.

Until next year,

---Pat
 

My new writing corner for morning letters


Holiday Greetings from Pat


Pilgrimage to the Virgin of Guadalupe


Ballena...the whales are back
Photo credit by Mark Callanan

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