Dalí was a poseur

Trip Start Feb 03, 2006
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Trip End Jun 20, 2006


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Sunday, June 4, 2006

So we left off talking about food, so we might as well start up there again. We took what (on the map) looked to be a short journey from Pachuca to the small and grimy mountain town of Tazamunchale.....this took about seven hours through a road so windy it makes the Oaxaca-Pacific Coast road look tame. The scenery was incredible though--very lush mountains, a bit reminiscent of the Oregon Coast, but with banana trees and huge cliffs. From Tazamunchale it was a two hour bus ride and a 45 minute van ride to our real destination, Xilitla (he-LEET-la), another grubby town, this time clinging to the sides of the mountain. There, we discovered Zacahuitl, a giant (4' long, 16" in diameter) breakfast tamale, served with bad coffee so sweet Andrew could barely swallow it. You simply order how many pesos worth of tamale you would like, and choose between chicken or pork meat, which are both steamed in the same tamale, but separate from each other. 20 pesos of tamale is a very big breakfast.

The reason we came to Xilitla, however, was not the food. Instead, we were there to see Las Posas de Edward James, a huge garden on the mountainside created by Edward James, an English lunatic, said to be the illegitimate grandson of King Edward VII. Edward was a big fan of the surrealists. Dalí said of him "Edward James is crazier than all the surrealists put together. They pretend, but he is the real thing." We heartily agree. Edward came to Mexico in the 1940s to escape WWII, and came to Xilitla in 1945 to cultivate orchids. In 1962, a freak freeze destroyed his orchids, and he decided to cultivate a more....lasting garden. He and a local friend, Plutarco Gastelum, created a surrealists' dream (or nightmare) mostly in concrete. It is impossible to depict with words or pictures the scale or grandeur of the thing, but we will try to give you a sense of it. The complex covers acres and acres of valley and mountainside. It has a stream running through one side of it, and every nook and cranny of the jungle reveals a new absurdity cast in concrete. There are 3' hands coming out of the earth, an airplane, lots of concrete bamboo, spiral staircases to nowhere, flying buttresses supporting cliff sides, the impression of a reclining human upon an altar, and all sorts of crazy half-finished platforms and dwellings. You can easily see traces of Roman, Italian, Morroccan, Indonesian, Japanese, and other influences, all jumbled together and twisted by Mr. James' mind. He died in 1984, leaving no provisions for upkeep of the place. It is now a popular weekend swimming hole for locals, and the concrete creations are slowly moldering back into the jungle. It is, to say the least, fascinating. It is definitely one of the strangest places we have seen on this trip, and well worth the hellish bus rides to get there.
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