The poetry of Guanajuato
Exiting from a deep slumber, I heard a voice from outside my window. It was soft and deep, reciting a poem. I lay in bed listening, not hearing the words, but enjoying the music of the poetry.
It seemed so fitting that here in Guanajuato, where romance flutters through the air like so many rose petals released from the flower, that a poet should serenade me at dawn. That poet was Rafael Vasguez Aguilen, poeta errante, originally from a town near Vera Cruz, but a wanderer who knows all of Mexico, its history, its stories and its poetry. A man who had had nine wives and three children. A man who in his past had been a musician, a jockey and gymnast. A man who had for years practised yoga seriously and had aspired at one time to be a yogi of the highest order. A man who made his living reciting his poetry in all of Mexico’s cities. A man who was confident he would one day be famous for his writing.
Rafael and I had met the night before as we both rushed through the sweet Mexiamore Plaza, where an old and surreal black and white Mexican movie was playing on an outdoor screen. It’s theme, like everything else in this part of Mexico at this time of the year, was death.
A cold wind had picked up and both of us were going home to put extra clothes on and planned to come back to watch the movie – which we did. We sat on the curb together, along with the 20 or so viewers. When the movie ended Rafael suggested a drink, so I went to my room, just a block away to get the bottle of brandy I purchased. We imbibed on the roof top of his hotel, overlooking the city until I heard the music of the roving street musicians/actors throwing a traditional street party – callejoneadas.
Soon we were among the small crowd, following the musicians through the night through the narrow streets of Guanajuato, among the beautiful colonial era churches and buildings. We meandered through its plazas adorned with fountains and statues lined with colourful houses and storefronts. We ascended and descended its steep cobblestone streets, onto the elegant stairway of its university.
By the time the music stopped, the bottle of brandy was empty. It was then that Rafeal told me he would go to his tiny, untidy windowless cell where he had his unmade bed, his guitar and piano and stacks of poems – to write me a poem.
The following day my ardent suitor continued to show me around town. Together we went to the lyrical Plaza de San Fernando where we sat for a while and he talked of yoga philosophy and explained the history of Mexico through the indigenous names of its cities and ancient ruins. We went to the museum of mummies and viewed the horror on the faces of macabre mummies excavated from the Santa Paula graveyard.
We took a walk down into the city’s famous tunnels where he expressed his desire for me, then to the Museum of Don Quixote Iconography where we delighted in the many artistic interpretations of the Man form La Mancha, Sancho Panza and Dulcinea and he energetically attempted to convince the management to allow him to play one of the pianos in the museum. We stopped to have coffee and listen to mariachis play their exuberant music.
Yes, romance found me in Guanajuato. And then I had to go. Unfortunately I disappointed Rafael.
As I was leaving the city in a taxi I got my last glimpse of el poeta errante. He was in a cafe fervently engaged in conversation with another woman. And I was happy to know Rafael is not only single-mindedly passionate in his pursuits. He is also a very resilient man, with a pocketful of poems at the ready for the many women he meets and woos.