Friday, March 6, 2009

Hair of the Dog

First of all, I moved.

Yep, itchy feet again. After 4 very pleasant days with my buddies in Playa del Carmen, I'd had enough of the tourist thing and decided to get back to the business at hand (finding a town in Mexico to live in). As you faithful readers may have noticed, after 25 towns and counting, I'm fast running out of places.

Actually, I feel no pressure at all to "just pick one." I'm enjoying the process and the incredible opportunity to indulge in this odyssey. Yes, I do realize I'm lucky, and I'm grateful for it. What I'm doing now is going back to places I skipped on the first leg of the trip last fall. And that's how I now wound up in Queretaro (what's that? you ask). It's pronounced "kair-ET-a-roe." And it's back in the Mexican central highlands, only about 45 minutes from San Miguel de Allende, which I stopped in last fall. At that time, I skipped Queretaro. For what reason, I don't remember, other than it wasn't on my original list of places I wanted to see. Being my compulsive self, before I retired and headed south, I made a loose-leaf notebook with a page for each town I wanted to visit. In it, I entered things like population, altitude, geography, etc.

A short bit of Mexican history: Queretaro's claim to fame is that during the period of the French Intervention in Mexico (1862-1867), this city was the last stop for Emperor Maximilian. The Mexican Republican forces defeated the French and executed Maximilian (via firing squad) on a hill just outside Queretaro. (Maximillian thus became history's first recorded tourist to have a REALLY BAD Mexican vacation).
If you're a history nut like I am, Wikipedia has a good explanation of the French Intervention:

The hair of the dog title above is from my very first ever sighting of a Mexican hairless dog, known here by it's Aztec Indian name: Xoloitzcuintle. Yeah, I can't pronounce it, either. But, lordy, it's an UGLY animal. It looks like some kind of mutant dinosaur reptile. I was sitting out in the town square park tonight, along with dozens of local families, busily people watching (my favorite sport). And who comes along, but a guy with one of these hairless dogs. His, a puppy, full of energy and playful. It's bark was like one of those kiddy squeek toys, high pitched and loud. He said they're still fairly rare here. They almost went extinct in the early part of the last century, until around 1950 when there was a movement to protect them. When the Spanish conquistadors arrived, they were amazed at the hairless dogs the Aztecs raised. Xolos were so popular with the Aztecs, in fact, that they ATE THEM. Umm, umm, doggie for dinner.