Friday, January 29, 2010

The Road to Juquila - Part 3: Not A Journey for the Feint of Heart

The Road to Juquila is a most difficult one.
This is definitely not a journey to made by the feint of heart.
It is a five hour drive from the city of Oaxaca to Juquila.
And most of that is through the mountains.

If you easily get car sick then this trip is not for you.
The road winds and twists and turns and zig zags.
And if you aren’t accustomed to the way folks drive in Mexico,
well, it can get pretty scary,
especially when you’re traveling up the mountainside.

I know I already said this
in my previous blog entry.
But it does bear repeating.
Four of the five hours is like a roller coaster ride,
quite literally.
Thankfully, I was smart enough to forgo my morning coffee.
I wasn’t thinking of the twists and turns in the road,
but rather that there would be no rest areas in the mountains.
Smart, smart move on my part.
I got the dry heaves about 2/3 of the way up.
I love amusement parks,
though I don’t care for roller coasters all that much.
I’m the cool aunt who loves the Demon Drop at Cedar Point.
But this drive does not compare.

Our vehicle left at 5a.m. and I thought that we would sleep
at least for the first half of the way.
Let me tell you that won’t happen.
When you see that there are no guard rails
you just want to stay alert.

Once we arrived at Juquila
We quickly found a pharmacy
to be sure that we all had Dramamine
for the ride back.
It would have been smarter to start the day that way,
but live and learn.
this is NOT a journey to made
by the feint of heart.

If you have never taken a ride
in a taxi cab in Mexico City,
if you’ve only done the luxury tour bus thing,
well, you’ll be in for a BIG surprise.
Take a cab in Mexico.
Sit in the front seat.
And then, imagine that cab
twisting up the mountainside with no guard rails. . .

But the Road to Juquila
is a journey that is worth it
if you have a love for
and devotion to Our Lady,
under any of Her various titles.

Once you get beyond the roller coaster ride
and just let go and let God
you will become absolutely amazed
at the grandeur and the beauty.
It is just amazing what our God can do
with dirt and stone and clay and rock.
It is a tremendous thing that our God has done
with trees and plant life.

It touches the heart
to see horses running,
just running because they are horses
and that’s what they do.

It is a gift to gaze upon goats as they gracefully graze
or bulls as they meander on the side of the road,
right next to the van.
And chickens cross the road like squirrels.

It’s just so inspiring
to see nature and wildlife
in this area of the world
as it was meant to be
. . . clean and free. . . .

But you’ll miss all of this
if you sleep
or if you are getting car sick
or if you are worried about safety issues.
Just let go
and be in the sacred space
that leads to Her sacred space.

And once you finally arrive at Juquila,
well, let me just say
that this is NOT a place
for tourists who want something fancy.
You’ll want to bring your own toilet paper
and maybe even disinfectant spray.
I would forgo the hand sanitizer
and just bring alcohol to wash your hands with,
and plenty of it.

And there aren’t that many hotels.
And the hotels are small,
not that many rooms.
I understand that the few that are there
fill up quickly on the weekends.
In fact,
it is quite common for pilgrims to camp out
in the mountains
when there is no room.
Although we didn’t spend the night there,
I, for one,
wouldn’t have a problem staying in of these hotels.
But let me assure you,
these at not like the Best Western.
But really now,
what do you need?
A bed and a shower, right?
You’ll get that and you’ll also receive
perhaps the finest hospitality there is to offer.

I have journeyed to Mexico many times
to several different areas
and have never had any stomach issues
or anything like that.
But if you have a sensitive stomach
or if you are a pretty picky eater
Juquila could prove a bit of a challenge.
You won’t find restaurants
that cater to the American tourist,
nor will you find McDonald’s, KFC
or any other fast food favorites.
Juquila is Oaxaca.
Come prepared to eat
the Oaxaca specialty dishes.
Come prepared to eat
mole Oaxaqueño.

The food is prepared by people
who won’t use a heat lamp or a microwave.
It’s prepared for you when you order it.
It’s fresh and it’s good
and it’s a delight to see people
so eager to serve you and make sure
that you eat well and are satisfied.

The tortillas
were probably made fresh that day
and the eggs probably couldn’t be fresher,
probably laid by that chicken you saw outside
as you entered the restaurant!

The pan de yema, a Oaxaqueño specialty bread,
was probably also just made that morning.
And the fruit
is probably much more healthier
than any you’ve ever had,
even if you’ve never seen a fruit like that before,
even if you can’t name what kind of fruit it is.
Even the candy is handmade.
Leave the finicky eaters in your family at home.
And forget the diet and just enjoy!

What you will find
is that the food is prepared
by a people who understand
what many of us seem to have forgotten:
That all of life is sacred,
even our work,
even our workplace.

The Road to Juquila
is not a journey to be taken
by the feint of heart.
But if we can clear the path of all these obstacles,
obstacles that only we, ourselves,
place in our own way,
obstacles that are born in our heads,
we will be open and ready
to receive in our hearts
all the sacred
that so graciously awaits us
when we decide to travel
that Road to Juquila.

I haven’t even finished
writing everything I want to write
in this blog about the trip
and I am already ready
to go back. . . .

. . and when I go back
if there is no room in the hotel,
that’s OK because I know
that even Our Lord had no place to lay his head.
Even Our Lady,
who is the reason for a trip to Juquila,
knows what it’s like
when there is no room in the inn.
those pilgrims camping out
along the road
are truly a people of scripture.

But, there again,
you’ll miss all of this
if all you want is creature comforts.

. . .so, are you coming with me next time???

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
About the photos:
The first to pictures are of nuts, peanut brittle and handmade candy. All of which can be purchased by street vendors just near the church.

The last photo is of an "altarcito" (a little altar) in the restaurant where we stopped to have lunch, St. Martin de Tours (San Martin Caballero) and Jesus. These little altars are very common among faith-filled business owners. (these little altars abound in SWDetroit as well!)

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Road to Juquila - Part 2: Obstacles on the Journey

The Road to Juquila
was a road with many obstacles.
We almost didn’t make the pilgrimage
for one reason or another.

It had been our hopes,
once in Mexico,
to rent a bus
to take family and friends
on pilgrimage with us.
It was extremely hard
to call the various bus stations
from the U.S. to Mexico.
Often there was no answer
or the phone number was incorrect.

Once we finally were able to make contact
we experienced the clash of culture:
Sure we could rent a bus for a private trip
but they didn’t accept credit cards.
We would need to pay in cash.
We finally decided to forego this idea
and those of us who wanted to go
would each just buy their own ticket.
We were going to Mexico
to visit Juquila
and would iron out details
once we got there.

The fiasco at the airport
as we were leaving Detroit
is the worst I have EVER seen.
I did check the flight the day before
and even got our seat assignment via the internet.
All we had to do was check our bags
and go through the security check. said to be there 2 hours early.
Having done this before,
we gave ourselves much more time.
We parked at the long term parking
and took the shuttle in
and came upon what was every traveler’s nightmare,
lines that zigzagged right out of the building.

We got informed
and got in the right line for international flights.
After a while a northwest rep
moved us (and all with electronic boarding passes)
to another line
telling us we would get through faster.
Well, that was lie.
This second line hardly moved.
3 ½ hours later
it was finally our turn
and the NW lady yelled me
for putting my passport in the Kiosk,
which is what we are supposed to do.
She must have been having a bad day
and decided to take it out on me.
our bags were checked
and we were on our way to the security check.
I kept telling them that our flight was boarding at this time,
but they told us not to worry.
Once through the security check,
we heard them calling our names. . .
. . .our plane was going to leave without us. . .
. .we raced through the terminal,
but once we arrived the doors had already closed.
I was very angry
and told them that it was their counter personnel
that didn’t move us through the line,
that we had been there at the airport
almost 4 hours.
they opened the doors and they let us on the plane.

. . and let me digress here and say
that the return flight from Mexico
was a totally different experience.
We checked in and went through security
and were at the gate all within 15 minutes.
And the security check was phenomenal. .
Every bag, every zipper to every bag,
anything inside of something else. . .
Everything was checked.
We went through the metal detector
and a pat down. . . and carry-ons were checked again
just prior to boarding. .
And still, it moved very quickly. . .

. . but back to the story. . .

Once in Mexico
we needed to decide
what day we would actually take the trip.
Family members all had different schedules.
Many of our family are business owners
so it’s hard for them to get away.
Some were available on this or that day,
others on other days.
Some wanted to go,
but were actually planning to go to Juquila
within the next few months
and decided to just wait
until their schedule allowed.

It finally began to occur to me
that what was my goal
was not necessarily the goal
of the rest of the family.

But isn’t that the way it is?
When you have something in your own backyard,
it just doesn’t seem to interest you.
I love art,
but must admit that I have seen
the Diego Rivera mural in Detroit
only once.
I love history,
but it has been years
since I’ve gone to the Henry Ford Museum
or Greenfield Village.
And I have never been to the Imax.
I guess,
with my family,
the same goes here.
They can go anytime
to visit La Virgencita de Juquila,
but just don’t go.

In the end,
it was decided that four of us
would take the trek up the mountain to Juquila.
And that was just fine by me.
I was going!

But then,
the inevitable happened:
My husband and I both got sick.
At first,
I thought my throat was just dry
from the Mexico City air.
If you’ve ever been to L.A.,
Mexico City air is much worse.
I love Mexico City so much. . .
. . .the art. . . .the museums. . .
the history. . . the churches. . . .Guadalupe. . .
I love it so much
that I am rarely bothered by the thick air.
But it wasn’t the air.
I got this flu bug that just put me out of commission.
I was in bed for ½ a day
and when I finally got up
I thought it best that I not take the trip
in case I got more sick.
I got some antibiotics and cough drops
and nursed my way a little better.
But I was bummed.

The next day
I decided the heck with this sickness.
I was going!
I didn’t do all of this planning
to be sick in bed.
We would need to rearrange our schedule a bit,
but we could still make the trek up the mountain.

One of my niece’s,
who wasn’t a part of the original group of four,
decided that she would go
along with her daughter
and that she would drive.
There was only one problem.
Her wallet had been stolen
and she had not yet replaced her driver’s license.
But we figured,
what the heck!
We’ll risk it!
Let’s go!

I still wasn’t feeling better
the next day
and decided, again,
not to take the trip.
Five of us in a pick-up truck
with a two-year-old child
just didn’t seem like a smart thing to do
with of one of us (me) coughing
all they way up the mountain.
The days were quickly passing
and we would need at least two full days
to reach our destination
and accomplish our goal.

after a few days of this cold,
I felt better.
We purchased the bus tickets to Teohuacan,
the first stint of the trip,
and called our in-laws to tell them to meet us there.
The trip to Teohuacan
was a two hour bus ride.
The hotel Casa Real
is a fine place to stay while in Teohuacan.
We met up with our in-laws the next morning
and got the afternoon bus for Oaxaca.

The bus ride to Oaxaca was five hours.
And it was a pretty shabby bus.
Note to self:
When traveling longer distances in Mexico
take the ADO GL.
The GL is roomer and much more comfy.
Coffee, snacks. .
. . .dinner if the trip is during the dinner hour. . .
. . .even a headset to watch the movie. . .
Yeah, take the ADO GL for longer distances.

We spent the night in Oaxaca (the city of)
at what seems to be the only hotel
that accepted credit cards.
Yes, that’s the culture clash
one may often find:
many places just don’t take credit cards.
And less and less banks
are accepting American Express Traveler’s Checks.
Even most of the infamous Casas de Cambio
are no longer exchanging traveler’s checks.
Come with cash.
Or be prepared to get money from your plastic.
if you’re interested,
the Hotel Rivera del Angel
in Oaxaca, Oaxaca
does, in fact, take credit cards.

The bus to Juquila,
we later found out,
was not a bus at all
but a series of vans.
We were advised to be in line for tickets
at 4:00a.m.
If we planned to be on the 5:00a.m. van.
the following day,
we left the Hotel
and walked a few blocks in the dark
to be in line for our tickets.

the Road to Juquila
was not just an idea in my mind
and in my heart
but a concrete reality!

One thing I have often found
to be a little humerus about Mexico
is the people’s intolerance to cold.
Coming from Michigan
I guess we just sort of
develop this tolerance for cold.
People dress in what I would only describe
as winter coats
complete with hat, scarves, gloves.
I mean,
I know the morning is a bit chilly,
but a sweater or hoodie will do.
Not for theses folks.
They were dressed as though prepared
for the next winter blast.
“Ah, well,” I thought to myself,
“to each his own.”

Once in the van however,
I quickly began to roast.
Fifteen of us in one of those larger vans
and all the windows closed up tight.
I was getting hot.
I took off my sweater.
I asked the lady seated in front of us,
the one wearing a winter coat
and covered with a blanket,
to please just crack the window.
She refused.
Done deal.
I was in a slow cooker to Juquila.

I began to feel the droplets of sweat
pouring down my face like tears.
About two thirds of the way up
the inevitable happened.
I began to get car sick.
I had nothing for breakfast,
not even coffee that morning.
Knowing that there would probably
not be any rest areas up that mountain
I thought it best not to eat or drink anything.
Just dry heaves.
Another person in the van
wasn’t so lucky.
I wasn’t sitting next the them
or my reaction could have been much worse.

The thing is,
apart from what I thought
was an extremely hot vehicle,
the Road to Juquila
is a road up the mountain.
It twists and turns and winds.
There are no guard rails.
While I am accustomed to folks driving
on the right side of the road,
people drive in the middle of the road
up the mountain,
and veer to their appropriate side
when another vehicle approaches,
which is hard to tell
with so many twists and turns
so the veering is jolting and sudden.

I would say that
four of the five hour drive up the mountain
was this roller coaster.

But finally,
we arrived!
All obstacles had been conquered!
I stepped out of the vehicle
and into the fresh mountain air!
We were here!

Not finding a private tour bus
couldn’t stop me.
Delays at the airport
could not stop me.
Illness couldn’t stop me.
Not being able to use credit cards
couldn’t stop eme.
Car sickness couldn’t stop me.
Twelve hours total by bus,
but we were here!

Once there I asked my mother-in-law
how it is that she didn’t get car sick.
She said,
“It’s simple.
I told Our Lady that I was coming to Juquila
and asked Her to make sure I didn’t get sick
on the way up the mountain.”

Ask and you shall receive.
How come sometimes I still don’t get it???
But you know,
that simple and profound faith
that is found in the people of Mexico
is one of the things
that just keeps me coming back.

Despite all obstacles,
we were here, in Juquila.
The next step,
even before finding something to eat,
was to walk to the church. . . .

- - - - - - - - - -
About the photos:
The first photo is of roses growing high up on a hill,
a view seen just as one gets out of the van
when arrive at Juquila.
The second photo
is of one of the tickets sellers' stations
for the several vans that make the trip
to and from Juquila.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Road to Juquila - Part 1: The Desire to Get to Know Her, La Virgin of Juquila, Begins

I have so many, many thoughts,
so many things run through my head
after my recent pilgrimage to Juquila.
And so,
this will be the first of many blog entries
about that most wonderful trip.
It has been a process.
And like all processes,
it started somewhere. . .
. . .when I least expected it. . .
and only now am I realizing
how many years ago
this desire to visit La Virgen de Juquila
began in me.

I have always had a devotion to
and a love for
Our Lady.
Anyone who knows me even ever so slightly
knows this about me.
I’ve even built a website in Her honor.

And I have always had a particular interest
in the titles given to Our Lady
by the peoples of the Americas.

But I must admit
that I do not know
a great many of the stories
attached to these titles
of Our Most Blessed Mother.

And such was the case for me
with the Virgin of Juquila.
I knew that this was a title of Our Lady
venerated by the people
of the state of Oaxaca in Mexico,
but I really didn’t know much more than that.
I also knew several people
who had gone to the little church
where she is venerated by that title.

And then, several years ago,
a priest said something in casual conversation
that just made me absolutely angry.
At the time
I just could not believe the words
that were coming from this man’s mouth.
At the time
I found his words to be unforgivable.
Oh, I know, I know.
We are all human
and as such
we all say and do things
that we later regret.

The thing is,
there were others there
who actually believed what he said.
And that’s what made me angry.
If it were just a conversation with me,
well, that’s one thing.
But he said some things
that others present believed to be true.

You know,
to whom much is given
much will be expected.
To be ignorant of a subject matter is one thing.
But to speak things that are so untrue
that is another matter entirely.

And if one is uncertain of what the truth is
of a particular subject matter,
would it not be better
not to speak what you are unsure of??
Would it not be better
to keep one’s tongue silent????
this man made me angry.

He said that the veneration to Juquila
was a veneration to an abortion clinic.
People who said that they visited Juquila
had actually gone to have an abortion
or have accompanied someone who had an abortion.
He said that there was no title to Our Lady
under the name “Juquila,”
but rather that it was all about abortion cover up.

Juquila is the name of the little mountain municipality.
(Actually, Santa Catalina Juquila.)
That being the case,
there could very well be a clinic of some sort
that uses that name.
having recently returned from Juquila
I can honestly say
that I never saw any abortion clinic.
this is not to say
that maybe there isn’t one
somewhere up in those mountains,
but I never saw it.
But more,
he spoke a blatant lie
when he said
that there was no Lady of Juquila,
when he stated that there was no real veneration
to Our Lady by that title.

But you know,
his cold and callous untruth,
his sheer stupidity
started the fire
that began to burn in me that day.
And that desire
was to travel the Road to Juquila.

Little did I know
that when he spoke his untruths
I would begin developing the promesa
I would later make to Our Lady,
the promise to tell and share Her story
with as many people as I can.

It still angers me,
and a justified anger, I do believe,
that this priest could somehow
make an abortion accomplice of Our Lady.
I am thankful.
Were it not for his unwillingness
to study the matter further,
his stubbornness at not wanting to know the truth,
the desire would never have been born in me
to seek the truth for myself
and to visit Her at Juquila.
I suppose that Spanish colloquial statement
fits well here:
No Hay Mal Que Por Bien No Venga
(There is not bad from which good doesn't come.)
And so while he may choose
to distance himself from Our Lady,
I grow ever closer to Mary of the Magnificat,
La Virgen de Juquila.

And thus,
I began my travels
down the long and winding
Road to Juquila
about six years ago
during a time in my life
when I had
neither the gumption needed to correct this priest
nor the financial means
to take a plane south of the U.S. border.

I’ve since flown to Mexico several times,
with hopes of returning to Mexico
twice more this year alone.
I just returned from visiting that shrine in Oaxaca.
And now, with this blog,
I hope to set my mind at ease
and correct this man’s error
as best as I can.

one day
in him will also be born
the desire
to travel to the state of Oaxaca in Mexico,
the desire to travel
that long and winding road,
full of twists and turns
up that high mountain,
up that road full of obstacles.
Perhaps one day there will be born in him
the desire to travel
The Road to Juquila.
I certainly hope so.

At the very least,
I pray to Our Lady
that this minister of God
would learn to respect
the popular religiosity
of a people so strong in their faith.
For as I see it,
he is the living embodiment
of why some people
are a people of faith
in spite of the Church
and not because of her.
In the end,
I guess it is always
a Holy Spirit thing.

As I write about my experiences
on the Road to Juquila
(which will include the story
of La Virgen de Juquila)
I will keep this gentleman in my prayers
and I ask all who read this blog
to do the same.

And you know,
I’ve always said that sometimes
we need to hear the exact opposite
of what we know to be true
to move us from our complacency.
Sometimes it takes someone
saying something we know isn’t right
to make us stand up and take notice,
stand up and take action.
And with those thoughts,
I think of my father,
who always taught us
to stand somewhere.

And so I do not think it is a long stretch to say
that the Road to Juquila
really, really began in me as child
with my father teaching me
to love justice and truth.
Wow. . .
. . . . Our Lady has been waiting for me
for quite some time. . .
Sort of reminds me of that Spanish hymn
to Our Most Blessed Mother:
“Una madre no se cansa de esperar. . .”
(A mother never tires of waiting. . .)

And thus began
my journey to Juquila.
Like most journeys of faith,
it began with a movement of the heart,
when and where I least expected it.
It has not been a journey of miles,
but rather, one of years.
And I am ever grateful
that I headed the call
to take The Road to Juquila.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Pray For Us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, Pray For Us.
Our Lady of Fatima, Pray For Us.
Virgen de Juquila, Ruega Por Nosotros.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
About the photo:
I picture I took of some statues of La Virgen de Juquila,
handmade by local artisans,
sold by the local street vendors.