was playing a Spanish radio station full blast in the car next to mine as we stopped
at a red light in Hollywood California. The cacophony of Mariachi brass, not a
shy sound, bombarded my ears with alacrity. Before I knew it, there I was, not
at Sunset and Vine waiting for the light to change in the year 2003, but back
in Ajijic eight years ago.
It was 1995 again, in my beautiful hacienda
in San Antonio Tlayacapan on the shores of Lake Chapala.
I had decided
to have a fiesta to thank everyone in Ajijic and surrounding villages for their
warm welcome and enthusiastic friendship during my opinion-forming months in Mexico.
The guest list was easy to compose. I just asked everybody I knew.
turned to my first friends in Ajijic, the Eager Family, owners of the warmly elegant
La Nueva Posada. Judy and Morley introduced me to their son, Michael, who managed
the hotel at that time, and we sat down together to plan the menu for about 200,000
Left to my own devices, I probably would've had mashed scorpion
on scorched tortillas, with a little cucarachamolé on the side. Instead, Lorraine
Russo, the Hotel's inventive chef, immediately removed from my shoulders the burden
of menu decisions. She came up with Pico de Gallo, Guacamole con flautos, arroz
Mexicana, Frijoles refritas, Chile rellano, pork tamales, Argentinian empanadas,
chicken breast in molé, homemade breads, pastry buñuelas topped with fresh fruit
and cinamon creme. Perfect.
The memory was so vivid, I could smell it
in my mind's nose, as I waited in Hollywood for the traffic light to change. I
remembered how cleverly the food was kept warm, mounted in huge copper bowls atop
stacked, flaming-hot bricks.
There was no question about hiring help,
since Michael Eager supplied all of it, from cooks to bartenders to servers to
clean-uppers. He even had a young man (handsome devil he was, too) to help the
oldest living Ajijic resident make her way gingerly across the patio to the seat
of honor, the seat closest to the bar.
As for entertainment, I accidentally
hired Los Flamingos, a quartet romantico. That turned out to be a fortuitous mistake
on my part -- I had thought they were flamenco, not flamingo, and that we would
have Spanish dancing, complete with the clackers and heel stomping that traditionally
accompany José Greco. But with Los Flamingos, it was even better; the guests did
the dancing. Some of them were even vertical at the time.
the fantastico Ballet Folklorico de Chapala, Michael just happened to have a hardwood
dance floor in the bowels of the Hotel, which was assembled and installed in the
garden. You might be asking, "Was there nothing he could not supply?" No, there
Because I am a firm believer in excess, flamingos and folkloricos
were simply not enough. So we added Grupo de Tito Ninojoza, Mariachi, plus Banda
de Caramela (the local high-school band in which one of my housekeeper's sons
played first clarinet).
In addition, we had an incredible fireworks display
by José Zuñiga, due to which people were recipients of sulphur raindrops as far
away as Riberas for the next two months.
I was particularly pleased with
Sr. Zuñiga's fiery airborn version of the Mexican flag since I had painted the
flag on my handmade invitations. At least that was my intention, but I made a
mistake. Although I painted the right colors, they were in the wrong order, so
people were invited to my Mexican fiesta with a picture of the Iranian flag.
Everything Michael Eager, Lorraine Russo, and their staff did was perfect.
Everything the musicians and dancers did was perfect. Everything the guests did
The sole imperfection lay with the hostess. The first act
was Banda de Carmela, who so loved to play, I had no choice but to pay them 100
pesos to stop. I do hope I didn't hurt their feelings, but all the other hired
musicians were queuing up, smoking, glowering over their mustaches, and otherwise
finding ways to signal that they wanted to make music and they wanted to make
it right now. ¡Ahora Señora!
Guests were far too polite to point out
the fluorescent green areas on the grass where the hostess had earlier spray-painted
over the brown spots where her dogs relieved themselves each day. Some people
said that this sight caused a few guests to guffaw themselves into a state of
unconsciousness. Others said their condition was caused by the Mimosa cocktails.
I can only hope that the next time I'm stuck at a light someplace, the man
in the car next to mine has his radio tuned to the same station. I could use the
Copyright Maggie Van Ostrand
Balloon In Cactus" 2003 Column
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