Edward James’ Fantasy Life

June 6th I made a guest post on  fabiolaofmexico ‘s blog, My heart of Mexico. Thank you Fabiola I love your blog.

One interesting comment to Fabiola’s blog about my post was from another blogger, La Potosina, pointing out a video from her blog of the Fantasy Gardens. Check it out.

Her blog, Aculturame is very interesting with several posts catching my attention. One in particular was about Cahokia.

I recently read Native Roots, How Indians Enriched America by Jack Waterford. In the second chapter,  Pyramids on the Mississippi, Waterford discusses Cahokia. I suppose I have driven by it on the Interstate and never knew it was there. So, also check out that post.

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Here’s a repost of my post on Fabiola’s blog:

The Fantasy Gardens of Xilitla

Edward William Frank James in his fine red bathrobe

This goofy looking guy created one of Mexico’s more unusual tourist attractions.

Mexico has a long history of accepting immigrants, refugees and travelers from all across our world. Republicans fled here from Franco. Communists escaped purges in Russia and Jews hid out in Mexico after their expulsion from Spain. Italians and Germans came running from fascists. Americans drifted south in search of a more libertarian society. To all, Mexico opened its doors—proud and accepting.   

However, sometimes people come to Mexico with bizarre stories.

We encountered the legacy of a most unusual expat near the village of Xilitla in the state of San Luis Potosi. There, Alice and I visited Edward James’ Fantasy Gardens, Las Pozas, The Pools. Our tour of the gardens left us wondering what the hell?

Edward James was the grandson of an American merchant who amassed a huge fortune trading with the British. His father, William, inherited the fortune and married Evelyn Forbes, a Scotch socialite, reputed to have been fathered by the then Prince of Wales—later King Edward VII.

In a curious twist, William’s son, Edward William Frank James, our subject, became the godson of King Edward VII.

Edward grew up in an unusual environment. Around him were the King of England, his court and others suffering serious delusions of grandeur. He was lavished with more money than he could rid himself of in a lifetime of hard spending

As a young man, the “family” gifted Edward a cushy government job. He bungled it such a bad way they sent him away—essentially fired.

He recovered by devoting himself as a patron of the arts, zeroing in on Surrealists. A principal supporter and collector of Salvador Dali, he also housed Magritte in his London digs.

Edward married Tilly Losch, an Austrian dancer, choreographer, actor and painter in 1930. He poured money into several productions created for her.

In 1934 Edward divorced Losch, accusing her of adultery with Prince Serge Obolensky, an American hotel executive. In her countersuit, she accused Edward of being homosexual.

To put it all behind him, Edward travelled to the highlands of the Sierra Gorda Mountains of northeastern Mexico where in 1947 he purchased a coffee plantation near Xilitla.

For several years, Edward used this plantation as a home for orchids and exotic animals he collected. In 1962, he started building his surreal gardens accented with cement and rebar sculptures.

Inspired by the orchids he brought to the gardens, Edward spent more than five million US dollars paying local artisans to develop his concrete fantasies.

In the 1970s, he sold what was the world’s largest and most important collection of Surrealist art to fund further development his gardens.

In 1984, Edward died leaving Las Pozas to his Mexican foreman, Plutarcho Gastelum. However, he left no money for its maintenance. Plutarcho attempted to operate the gardens as a tourist attraction, but the jungle worked to slowly reclaim the sculptures.

Our guide told us that at night, snakes rule the gardens.

In the summer of 2007, the Fundación Pedro y Elena Hernández, the state of San Luis Potosi along with the company Cemex—a most appropriate additionpaid a reported $2.2 million US dollars for Las Pozas and created Fondo Xilitla to oversee the preservation and restoration of the site.

Hello Dali

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We drove to Xilitla from the city of Guanajuato breaking the trip into two days. We stayed in a Bed and Breakfast within walking distance of entrance to Las Pozas.

The highlight of the drive was the crossing of the continental divide in the Reserva de la Biósfera Sierra Gorda There the hot dry sparse landscape abruptly changed while crossing through a single mountain pass to the lush wet tropical jungle directly influenced by the Gulf of Mexico.

 

Street Art III

Link to Street Art I

Link to Street Art II

The Rooster/El Gallo

It’s been a long, dry winter in Puerto Vallarta. I’ve been sick with gripe, flu. We’ve moved across town to a much quieter place—except for this rooster.

Pesky Rooster at Dawn

He’s a really little guy and has a harem of just one little hen, but he’s extremely vocal. He starts his quiquiriquí, crowing, at 4:30 am, then again at 5:30, 6:30 and finally signs off around 7:30 as daylight breaks.

My landlord tells me he is una mascota, a pet, of our next-door neighbor. He told me to get a slingshot and pelt the little strutter.

I’d be afraid to hit him with a rock as I might badly injure or kill him. So, I’ve decided to embrace this particular noise and the soul currently inhabiting this little rooster body. And I determined to learn to live with him.

Except—I woke up a couple of days ago in the grip of the gripe, fuzzy-headed and cross. It was 7:30am and the little rascal was rocking out with his screechy crowing. I couldn’t take it.

God, he’s on the terrace just outside my window—trespassing! I’ll teach him.

I staggered out of the bedroom and onto the terrace, flushing him and his concubine to the adjacent rooftop. Quickly, I grabbed the garden hose, turned the water on full blast, and shot him. Well, maybe not shot. The water pressure here is not all that good and the distance was such that I had to lob the water in a lazy arch. But I hit him dead square!

Instead of fleeing the area, the rooster began to dance—alternately twirling, shaking and adjusting his position to get the optimum shower. And his girlfriend immediately joined him. For as long as I held the water in their direction, they followed and luxuriated under it.

Yep, it has been a dry winter. And I guess I really do like this little rooster. 

 

Nothing to fear??

carambola-fs

Another take on elections from Mexico.

Richard Grabman writes a blog, The Mex Files. I find it most interesting and recommend it to all interested in Mexico.

The following is a post from the Mex Files on the US election.

https://mexfiles.net/2016/11/09/nothing-to-fear-but-fear-itself/

 

In an obviously divided US, I hope Trump can find his Becket-Self and govern in an inclusive way.

Día de los Muertos

day-of-the-dead-altar-fs

Looking at individual altars set up in doorways, on porches and even in yards, parks or other public places during the Day of the Dead celebration in Mexico, I am struck by an unexpected realization. There is nothing spooky, macabre or sinister about this celebration. In fact, the opposite appears to be true. Viewing photographs of those now dead, seeing objects that are reminders of their lives on these altars and offering a little rum, tequila or some of their favorite foods there prompts memories of loved ones. This is a commemoration of lives gone before, a celebration of the continuous nature of life.

Unlike Halloween in the US where trick-or-treating while wearing scary costumes has become a contest to see who gets the most stuff and plays the meanest tricks, the Mexican celebration is a time for introspection. It is a time to take stock of what is important in your life, a time to share traditional foods with family and remember loved ones now dead.

The colorful sugar skulls and displays of marigolds, cempazuchitles, are fun to see, but do not distract from the real point—to make us aware of the natural cycle of death, birth, love and loss.

day-of-dead-sugar-skulls-2-fs

Street Art II

Another slideshow of Mexico’s not so permanent art forms

Link for Street Art I

A Dare?

inca-dove-fs-22

 A tiny Inca Dove, Tortolita Colilarga, flew into the casita where I was writing today

He landed on an interior windowsill and we studied each other for a moment

I see this bird and his mate side-by-side in the jardin every day

I glanced outside and there she was—his companion—waiting on the stonewall

I moved toward the dove and cupped my hands around—no resistance

The dove turned his head back and forth eyeing me—first from his left eye, then the right

At the doorway—openhanded—I watched him fly the short distance to the wall

The couple touched bodies then flew away

Street Art I

In Mexico there is a great tradition of Institutional Public Art  heroic bronzes, massive bas relief works, large scale frescoes and many other “permanent” art forms.

There is also a deep vein of anarchical art, more ephemeral in nature—chalk or flowers on the sidewalks, paper maché, cheap house paint, collage and glue. Most is only one good rain away from oblivion. This art form is expressive and shuns the idea of “precious art.”  Often political making social comment or celebrating Mexico’s sense of libertarian personal freedom. This is a peek at the art form, Street Art.