I experienced a small but decidedly noticeable shift in reality perception these past few days. And one of the reasons for this was due to the total submersion in an new environment which I didn’t poison by diluting the experience with contextually irrelevant nonrealities like world news or American politics.
When my hotel – La Provincia – reneged on dinner I was forced to seek food elsewhere.
And that’s when I fell down the rabbit hole because that’s where the next convergence occurred.
Note: The town of Sayula doesn’t have restaurants save 2 bogus sushi places and one cheap Chinese. I think I mentioned that in an earlier post, right? But I don’t believe I mentioned the reason why. As Maria explained to me on Wednesday, the town has no real tourism so what few tourists there are eat in their hotels and the locals all eat at home.
So beginning again, I was forced to seek food elsewhere. And it was purely by design that I didn’t chose the place that my hotel manager was pushing me towards. Instead I took a left turn and did a flyby of another hotel that was a couple of blocks closer.
I was walking into the hotel to inquire when a man about my age was entering through the parking area as well so I thought I might as well ask him.
He replied, ‘Yes, the hotel serves food.’
I asked, ‘Good food?’
He smiled slightly before replying, ‘Yes, good food.’
With that news, my day suddenly got a little brighter. I walked into the hotel, found the dining room and took a table. I was comforted by the quiet and well maintained beauty of the space.
The man I had spoken to on the way in eventually made his way into the dining room and took a table.
I ordered a nice steak, medium rare, some fries and a nice bottle of Spanish Tempranillo red wine. The food arrived and one bite of that steak and sip of good wine told me I was definitely in the right place.
A woman came and joined the man at his table. I immediately discerned they were father and daughter. After their greetings she looked across the dining area and saw me, the old gringo, and asked in perfect English what I was doing there.
I replied matter of factly that I was there seeking Juan Rulfo.
She sat up straight in her chair and got a surprised look on her face like she had just swallowed a bone before standing and making her way over to my table. She was amused that I was alternating bites and sips while making notes on a used brown paper bag:
So as irony would have it, the man was not just her father but the owner of the hotel; hence his bemused smile when I asked if the food was good.
And more than that, the hotel had direct links to both the book Pedro Páramo and it’s author, Juan Rulfo.
That’s the rabbit hole. In my quest for sustenance I wandered into quite possibly the only place in town that had not only woven the theme of Pedro Páramo into its recent restoration but also carried the ending of the novel in it’s very own history.
The hotel’s history links with Pedro Páramo’s murder at the novel’s end. A local historian, Federico Munguía has written a book – The Murder of Don José Bobadilla or the Crime of Sayula – in which he maintains that Pedro Páramo’s murder was inspired by the very famous murder which occurred in the hotel (then a hacienda) in 1893 when the extremely wealthy owner’s philandering husband was mysteriously stabbed to death in the doorway (much like Pedro). Don José Bobadilla’s murder was reported all across Mexico, including the capitol because the owner, Doña Paula Guitierrez was fabulously wealthy.
Today the present owners, Heriberto Cota and family spent 6 years renovating the estate into a beautiful hotel and in doing has furnished each and every room with a painting that were inspired by the photographic works of Juan Rulfo. The bed linen and curtains carry embroidery with writings from Pedro Páramo.
This is a very large property – approx. 30 meters X 200 meters – just a block off the central plaza it spans 2 streets, with outbuildings, covered parking and multiple floors.
Heriberto Cota and his family did such a outstanding job in their stylish renovations that the casa has won several architectural awards and has been rated in the top eight boutique hotels in Mexico.
After dinner, Maria Cota gave me a lengthy tour of the hotel.
There is a beautiful little chapel on the top floor:
During our tour Maria told me she was meeting the next day with the architect of the new Juan Rulfo Museum that was being built a couple of blocks away and ‘do you want to go?’
I was planning on leaving but I couldn’t pass up an opportunity like that. Besides I was already down the rabbit hole so I said, ‘Sure’, if she could find a nice quiet room in her hotel for me.
Note: See the Juan Rulfo inspired painting? Beautiful. See their faces are painted gray? Those are some of the wandering spirits – las animas – from Pedro Páramo.
What a wonderful trip this was turning out to be. I took a wrong turn out of my nasty old hotel (shame on you La Provincia!!) only to land in the heart of my true destination.
I said before I don’t believe in coincidence. No, it is opportunities that find us but only if we are amenable to see an opportunity for what it really is. And it has been my most recent experience that opportunities can cascade and converge like here, the hotel and me meeting Maria.
Maria spent a good part of Wednesday (Nov. 15th) with me. Or better said, I with her as she took me on a drive up into the hills leading toward San Gabriel.
That’s Juan Rulfo graffiti’d on the wall.
Note: Juan Rulfo is not from San Gabriel and Camala is not Camala (Jalisco).
No. The Camala in Pedro Páramo is really San Gabriel and Juan Rulfo was actually born in Sayula. Confused?
At an event honoring their father’s 100th birthday in Guadalajara this year, Juan Rulfo’s two sons said their father was actually born in Sayula and that he had always given contradictory reports to the press because he wanted his readers to more identify the writer with the lonely hills and the dusty sleepy village than the town.
How do I know this? Because the most venerable and esteemed knifemaker, Jose Ojeda was at the event. And Maria Cota knows Jose very well. And…
(Can you see how all of this Juan Rulfo quest business is converging?)
This was kind of an interesting story too. I went up the modest Ojeda Knife shop for my second visit on Tuesday the 14th to finalize on my knife purchases. On my way out I was walking by the workshop entrance, when a little voice spoke to me and told me to go in. I reluctantly went determined only to take a photo or two before ducking out. I was there just long enough but who should walk in but the patriarch himself.
He obliged me with what to him was probably just another simple photo but for me it is a memory I will long cherish. Senior Ojeda learned his trade as legend has it by studying the workings of a .22 caliber rifle. Then using only the forge, steel and tools he made his own. The museum downtown now has that rifle. That’s pretty damn cool if you ask me.
And of course Jose Ojeda knew Juan Rulfo. (Which now makes me only one person removed.)
I got a text from Maria about 6 pm (Wednesday, Nov. 15th) asking me if I wanted to ride with her down to Ciudad Guzman as she picked up some supplies for her spa. Absolutely! I never turn down good company with an attractive woman.
After the errand, we stopped in a great little bookstore and on the way out we bought some good bread stuffed with mushrooms and cheese at a stand on the street then found a great place with a balcony with a good view of the plaza and drank some wine while we nibbled at the bread and continued our conversation (which was wide ranging).
We got back to Sayula in time to stop at a friend of her’s place that did a tasty smoke grilled cochinita pibil with a most awesome homemade habanero salsa.
I think we got back to the hotel just before midnight for the wrap-up on what quite possibly could be one of the greatest Wednesdays of my life in memorable history.
I am so inspired to write another novel.
I have so many thoughts here thanks to all the new ideas and places I was introduced to on this most marvelous trip to Sayula.
PS – I loved the reoccurring image of San Gabriel throughout the hotel. Here is a painting of San Gabriel in Reception:
Note: I confess to being slightly baffled how Gabriel obtained saint status. I say this because Gabriel was actually an angel (he’s wearing wings in the painting so at least the church got that right).
But really, how does an angel become a saint?I mean does an angel really need that extra recognition? I don’t think so. Angels are those ever ceaseless workmen and from what I’ve read they all report to only one of two bosses. So as such I don’t think they need mere mortals giving them useless not to mention unnecessary accolades.
The bible best as I can remember only calls out a couple of angels by name. Can you name another one? Hint, the one I am thinking of somehow mysteriously was given saint status too.
Give up? It’s Michael. He’s an archangel. That’s like 5-star general status in the angelic realm. (I don’t think he asked to be a saint either…)