The Legend of the Kwaytays

The Legend of the Kwaytays

1AAAOnce upon a time, there was a village on a beautiful lake in the mountains of a very faraway land that had perfect weather almost all of the time. The people fished, grew crops, raised families, were peaceful and happy, and spent a lot of time thanking their gods for their good life.

They had a very wise leader named Mixitupalot, who had prophetic dreams. One night, Mixitupalot had a clear vision of a group of light-skinned, strange invaders who would come to take over their land and change their lives forever. The vision also revealed the peaceful Mixit people repelling these strangers, not with bloodshed, but with sheer annoyance, by preventing the invaders from communing with the invaders’ gods in their strange ways.

It came to pass that in Mixitupalot’s lifetime, the Early Invaders (called an unprintable name by the Mixits) did arrive, and his prophecy became reality. Mixitupalot told his people that they could repel these ugly strangers by making as much noise as possible. The villagers, inspired and energized, built much larger drums and other noisy instruments. And, they began having much longer and louder rituals, which had previously been used to repel evil spirits—plus lions and tigers and bears. It had been a successful strategy.

However, the Early Invaders did not quite respond as expected. They were fascinated by the use of all the drums, but desired to change the rituals to better suit their own goals. These conniving conquerors showed the Mixit people a powder of wondrous properties which could be made to explode in the sky with much noise and bright flashes of light while propelling the peoples’ prayers to their gods. 

The Mixits became fascinated by this miraculous powder. Its use began a strange hybrid of the customs of both groups of people, resulting in a new form of worship that propelled the prayers of the people to their gods, was mostly agreeable to both, and was a lot of fun, to boot. The explosive powder was used in a form that came to be known as Kwaytays. 

This magical powder was also used in complex displays. The displays were constructed at fiesta sites and enhanced with all manner of thrilling, whirling, swirling, sparkly, spangly things which bore a curious resemblance to the spiral galaxies of outer space, supposedly invisible to the pre-modern human eye.

Centuries went by in the lovely fishing village with its many noisy and fun fiestas until new invaders began to arrive. With the vision of Mixitupalot entrenched in the DNA of his descendents, and the lore handed down from the elders, the Mixits realized what was happening and what they had to do. 

The Later Invaders were not hostile or warlike, but rather, very annoying in some of their customs, such as their elders parading around the pueblo flashing their flaccid flesh as if they were perpetual teenagers, a propensity to anger quickly and complain about small things, and a somewhat arrogant but befuddled pomposity. Therefore, annoyance seemed to be the best way to get rid of them.

Mixitupalot’s descendants sometimes witnessed the worship of the Later Invaders, which curiously occurred not in public rituals, but inside their houses. These people had strange devices that allowed them to connect to their main god, Haytec, and his daughter, Teleheroina, and her brother, the lesser, but still great god, Gugul. They spent hours a day worshipping this trinity, but that required perfect quiet and concentration—a somber form of worship, indeed.

The descendants of Mixitupalot then made their own worship rituals even louder and more frequent, hoping that their exuberance would interfere with the connection of the Later Invaders to their gods and that they would just leave out of frustration.

Neither group wanted all-out warfare, so a certain subtle friction ensued between the Mixits and the Later Invaders. The Descendents of Mixitupalot loved their traditions too much to change, and the Later Invaders loved the weather too much to leave.

Eventually, an uneasy truce evolved, and both groups lived happily ever after. Sort of.

Epilogue:

In modern times, it came to pass that some of the descendents of Mixitupalot traveled to the original country of the Later Invaders. Somewhat familiar with their culture and ways, the Mixit people were then able to see the invaders in the context of their own strange culture.

Upon seeing the incomprehensibly drab and identical houses that the invaders lived in, the Mixits wondered why these people didn’t paint their houses in colors like orange and turquoise and pink and purple, like back home.

Upon seeing the fussy and hyperactive invader children, the Mixits wondered why they forced them to worship their indoor gods all day, and not let them out to run around and play and have fun like normal children.

Upon experiencing the insanely hectic pace of life there, especially around centers of business at Christmas, a holy time around the world, the Mixits wondered why these people didn’t just slow down and enjoy life and the company of one another.

The descendents of Mixitupalot also wondered why the invaders couldn’t manage to sing and play some cheerful music and dance once in a while. Why couldn’t they laugh heartily without watching Teleheroina?  With all their apparent riches, these people never really seemed very happy.

But most of all, the descendents of Mixitupalot wondered why these Later Invaders simply didn’t celebrate more often. In their cheerless, puritanical, workaholic culture, these dour people only had one or two days a year where they used anything resembling Kwaytays to bring joy to the people. 

What kind of people would want to live like that?

 
Lakeside Little Theatre: The Jewel in the Crown

Lakeside Little Theatre: The Jewel in the Crown

 

LLTThere are a lot of reasons to relocate to the Lake Chapala area. Obviously, the weather is often the primary one. The arts community is another. Lakeside Little Theatre, in fact, is celebrating its 50th season this year.

photo 1For fifty years, amazingly, there has been a community theatre in this area. As a matter of fact, it is the longest running English-speaking theatre in all of Mexico. If you haven’t visited it in awhile, it might be time to make another trip. And, if you have never considered it before, it’s definitely time.

I sat down with President Peter Luciano and First Vice President Dave McIntosh recently. I learned about their vision and direction for the theatre. With a rich past and a very exciting future, LLT is breaking ground and having a lot of fun doing it.

LLT started with a bunch of retired actors and theatre people sitting around and reading scripts while drinking and just having fun. “It was a bunch of friends, ex-patriate actors who decided to show off. They got together at the old railroad station in Chapala, and acted out plays just for the fun of it. It was a drinking occasion and… the rest is history,” explained Peter. During the early years, the actors performed wherever they could get the space. Sometimes it was Chula Vista Country Club, or a church. The theatre as we know it today was completed in 1987. It is similar to California’s Pasadena Playhouse in that the people who designed it were performers there. It is a very professional and interesting theatre, complete with a large props room, wardrobe storage room, and rehearsal space. And there is enough seating for 112 patrons.

Ever wondered about the process—how plays are chosen, and how the shows are produced?  I did, and this is what I learned. Up until recently, the directors were chosen first, and they decided on the script. This year is a bit different. A committee is chosen, and they read as many plays as they can, and prepare a list that they present to the board. “The play-reading committee is very anxious to produce a season that gives our audiences a lot of variety, and also gives our performers have an opportunity to do different things,” said Dave McIntosh. “ The mandate of the committee is to find successful plays that we think we can cast.” The board then approves the season line-up. The next step is to choose the directors. Most of the directors have previous experience in other community theatres, but several of them were mentored right at LLT by serving as an assistant director. “Most of the directors here have directed quite a number of plays,” Dave goes on to say.   

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Once the director is chosen, the next step is to select a production manager. Each play then should have a stage manager. This person and the director have a very close relationship and often will get into the habit of working together on more than one play. The entire production crew is then chosen. This will include everything from wardrobe, makeup, props, and sound.  This all has to happen from three months to about six months in advance of the show date.  Casting is next, so auditions are scheduled. Meanwhile, the director is providing vision to the production crews. Next are the practical issues of building the set. There is also, of course, a budget that has to be adhered to. Rehearsals begin once the casting is complete. Rehearsals are around six weeks out. They begin by rehearsing 5 days per week. Once the actors are “off book” (they’ve memorized their lines), rehearsals move from the rehearsal hall to the actual stage, and the next play begins rehearsals. So, the season is a busy one, making constant use of the building. This summer, there was an extra play that served as a fundraiser. That created a lot more activity in the facility.

“The great thing about community theatre is that it doesn’t just require a bunch of extroverts to be part of it because there is a practical side to theatre. You could be an electrician, so you could get involved in lighting. Backstage, there is construction of sets and painting….. So you don’t just have to be an extrovert. But, it is a great social event, and attracts people from all walks of life,” remarks Dave.

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The new vision for the LLT is to expand membership to more than simply attending the six plays and being able to work on a play. There will now be workshops, such as improvisational acting workshops. One of these was recently held, and was very well attended. “They are social in nature, and educational, but are also benefits to the members beyond acting in a play or painting a set. People think of the theatre, and think they aren’t actors or singers. But as they learn, there are many people who work behind the scenes doing a lot of different things. For every acting job, there are probably 20 other jobs people can do.”

Another new opportunity for members is NT Live. This is the National Theatre of London.  Plays are being filmed in London and replayed for audiences in the theatre. The way this came about was quite serendipitous. A member of LLT was visiting the National Theatre in London.  A woman conducting the tour mentioned that the National Theater exports their plays. Peter found out, and called London, and worked with them for LLT to become a venue for the National Theatre. Plays are licensed to a select few around the world. The performances are very compelling, and offer a new variety. The next performance is October 31, and will be “Frankenstein.” Two benefactors donated a special screen and projector to improve the quality of the films for this purpose. The LLT is the smallest theatre that is approved for this relationship. “Who would have thought? But we won’t lose sight of being a live theatre,” adds Dave.

These kinds of relationships help the live theatre because it no longer relies entirely on ticket sales for income, and will enable the theatre to make upgrades to the infrastructure. The theatre will be able to make improvements without doing a capital campaign. The lobby is slated for a remodel, and members can see the proposed design hanging in the lobby. Another benefit to the added revenue comes in the form of being able to choose more innovative plays. 

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Peter and his team are working together to make changes that will help the theatre grow and develop even further in the future. Peter comes from a strong business background, having consulted with hospitals in his career. And, Dave has a very strong community theatre background, having directed over 50 plays before and after moving lakeside. They are very proud of the leadership team. Together, the leadership has been able to combine the very rich history of fifty years with a strong and innovative vision of the next few years. If you have not taken a look at LLT lately, you should. From play selection, to renovations, to new and exciting relationships forged and developing, the Lakeside Little Theatre is truly the jewel in the crown of the arts offerings in the Lake Chapala area.

 

 

 

 
Village Vignettes and Magical Moments

Village Vignettes and Magical Moments

HPIM3208Still in their crisp, white kindergarten uniforms, two young girls are playing out in front of their house, when a certain cowboy, a well-known local character, casually rides up to the girls to give them a better look at his horse.

Beside themselves with excitement, but with great trepidation, they tip-toe up to the horse and then touch it, immediately recoiling, shrieking and squealing with an equal mixture of fright and delight…again…and again. I stop and smile.

–  Same character is spotted riding his horse halfway into the Chameleon Bar. Their resident dog, a seemingly hermaphrodite Wiemaraner, isn’t having it.  

–  A certain Very Fashionable Lady is spotted “chewing her gingham” at a recent gala charity dinner. (Ed. Note: This is an American Southern expression, having to do with getting one’s dress caught while sitting down and then standing up.)

–  A gaggle of handsome teenage boys comes running my way on the cobblestone street, racing like track stars, all the while pelting each other with overripe fruit and laughing, laughing, laughing at the joy of it all.

–  With explosively cheerful energy, the exuberantly talented drummer boy down the street plays his upside-down paint buckets with cut-up broomsticks, using a rickety old metal folding chair for a cymbal, while belting out some tune at the top of his lungs—OK, a tad off-key, but with all the gusto of a drunken cantina singer. I smile as I pass by, easily picturing him one day soloing with a major banda in an arena in front of 50,000 people.

–  One day at the tianguis, the open air market, where I buy most of my food for the week, I hear the high-pitched Mexican grito, usually saved for occasions involving tequila. So, I ask the vegetable vendor (with his handsome son who looks like an Aztec sculpture) what is happening. A fiesta? Is he drunk?  The vendor tells me, no, it’s just alegria, the spirit of good cheer, which is just in the air here—a deep part of the pre-Hispanic culture, a deep tradition of Ajijic, itself…I know it’s not a European thing.

–  Three little boys are playing in front of their house. One has a little plastic flute from kindergarten, and the other two are drumming with scraps of metal found nearby, sounding remarkably pre-Hispanic. I said to them, “You are little musicians. If you practice, practice, practice, you can become real musicians.” Later, I’m returning, and two of the little boys are still out there. I ask them where their instruments are. One, who is busy eating something, springs up and very animatedly mimics a stand-up bass player, singing “dum, dum, dum…”, while laughing with his mouth full of food, visible between his missing two front teeth…a tad gross, but endearing.

–  An ancient couple with familiar faces walk past me as I’m chatting with someone on the corner of the plaza. We exchange “buenas tardes.” Later they pass the church as a wedding party is leaving and the bells are pealing, holding hands— neither one using a cane—smiling and gazing into each other’s eyes as though they are still love-struck teenagers.

–  At the crowded Christmas Eve Mass, I slip into the very last pew with one space remaining next to me.  One of the priests kneels down beside me to say his preparatory prayers. He looks a lot like my ex boyfriend.

–  A group of participants in the San Andres Fiesta allegorical float procession is sitting around Calle Galeana behind the church, waiting for the procession to start. The town banda is warming up a little as the padre comes out to bless the floats. A female horn player pulls her cell phone out of her amply-filled low-cut blouse to take a call.

–  My water delivery guy brings me a single, perfect rose. My friend’s water delivery guy speaks to her of matters of the heart.

And so goes the daily, delightful minutiae of life in Ajijic.

 
Radio for Expat Ears

Radio for Expat Ears

old-radioOf the 51 radio stations in Guadalajara, 50 are in Spanish, and only one is in English: XEABCJ on AM 1440. It is an ABC affiliate, and it doesn’t stream on the internet, so the best place to find it may be on your car radio.

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Book: Solid Slices of Expat Life

Book: Solid Slices of Expat Life

BoomersI’ve just read a new book that should interest anyone trying to imagine what it’s like to be a north-of-the-border expatriate living at Lake Chapala, Mexico. That includes potential expats, as well as those who are initially horrified at the prospect of their loved ones falling into ruin across the border.

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Report: Chapala is #1 Place to Retire on a Budget

Report: Chapala is #1 Place to Retire on a Budget

CHAPALA HOYCBS News has reported that International Living Magazine completed an extensive survey of international expats to determine the most economical places in the world to retire. Heath care costs, groceries, housing, transportation, city amenities, distance from relatives, quality of the expat community, and the cost of eating out were all taken into account. The top three turned out to be in Mexico.

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