There was one fact, however, that Lowelito and I could not ignore. It was the precise location of our house, in all six directions: east and west, north and south, and up and down. Our house was situated at the base of a high and steep cliff. On special religious and patriotic occasions those Mexicans who considered holidays a time to celebrate in a truly effective manner would assemble on top of that cliff.

Among those celebrators were some who had access to an endless supply of dynamite. An American miner told me this dynamite was stolen from the mines, but knowing the attitude of Mexicans toward holidays I am convinced that "stolen" is the wrong word to apply to their possession of that explosive material. The sticks of dynamite may have been removed from the mines quietly, but it would seem incorrect to say that what is done for the honor of mankind, or the love of Mexico, or for the glory of God, could possibly involve theft.

But stolen or not, those sticks of dynamite could not be ignored, especially by those down below them when they began flying through the air and exploding with deafening noise. Our apartment was so situated that if the dynamite did not explode high up, it would then explode near, and possibly within, the apartment. Sometimes it appeared that the Mexicans up above were trying to interest us in a sort of relay game, in which our part was to give those sticks that reached us still fizzing a new start on down the hill.

In contrast to the noise of the dynamite was the sound of the church bells, which had a soothing effect so different from the jarring one of explosions. Fortunately the explosions came only on holidays, while the bells rang out --- all over the city --- every hour. In between the ringing of the bells, one might become vividly aware of silence, especially if he was upon some hillside overlooking the city. The silence he would then notice would seem to be a part of the brilliant white sunlight, and even a part of the view of the city below. On those hillsides around Guanajuato grew many big tree-cactus plants, which produced a little dark red berry called garambulla. When ripe, this berry had an unforgettably delicious flavor. Lowelito said that it was not only the sunlight but also the view of the city that went into the making of that unique flavor. He said that the berries on those cactus trees over the hill, where there was no view, did not have as good a taste as the ones that could see the city down below them.

This blending of things may be a part of the secret of the strange spell of Guanajuato. For there sounds have a way of seeming integrated with colors, while colors seem not to exist apart from textures and solidarities. Just as the old city allows the hills and the sky a full share in its total effect, so the people of Guanajuato refuse to make separate compartments out of time. Were it not for this, those little processions led to the panteón by a barefoot father carrying on his head a little blue coffin would be altogether too tragic to be seen as having beauty of any sort.

--- From Burros and Paintbrushes:
A Mexican Adventure

Everett Gee Jackson
©1985 Texas A&M University Press
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