Skip to content

One January Day in Taxco

February 2, 2019


NOTE:  Due to the Polar Vortex, I did not post this “January” piece on the usual Wednesday (January 30).  On January 24, I wrote the memoir for my critique group and now for you, my WORDWALK readers,  although I realize that many of you will not read this piece until Groundhog’s Day.  Can you believe the calendar has already turned to February?  Well, for the next few minutes, please imagine that the calendar has turned back to January.



One Cobblestoned, White-washed,  Golden Day in Taxco


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



On this January night in 2019, a year whose sound seems foreign to me, I am recalling a January day of 1974.  While tonight I am weary of shoveling snow and weary of excited voices of weather forecasters proudly announcing the wind chill will be twenty-five to thirty-five below zero, I drift into thinking of a trip to Mexico in late December of 1973 through January of 1974.  On each day of our journey around Mexico, D.F., only a blazer or light sweater was part of my daily traveling outfits.  On the one day of a dozen or so I could recollect, I am focusing on Taxco, once a silver-mining town.


Rather than a comfy seat in a large bus, a private car was our mode of transportation into the higher altitudes of Cuernavaca and then Taxco.  Jorge, who spoke English very well, was our apt guide and driver for the day.  We listened and learned from all that he had to tell us on the winding roads to Cuernavaca, where we visited the church in which the first guitar mass was celebrated.  Unlike all the other churches and cathedrals we toured, this church in Cuernavaca was more contemporary.


My sister was my traveling companion; I spoke Spanish,; she did not.  She had perfect visual acuity; I did not.  At 23–eight years into something called “legal blindness”–I had planned, with virtually no qualms, to travel alone to Mexico; however, to help my dad feel a little more at ease, my sister decided to join me on this winter vacation to a warmer climate and to a land where I could practice speaking Spanish and tour points of interest.


Besides my sister and me, a vivacious woman of around fifty years of age and another much quieter woman whom we had not previously met were also fellow tourists and passengers in Jorge’s car.


After the short stop at Cuernavaca, we continued through the mountains to our main destination–Taxco, in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero.


In this relatively small village, no vehicles are allowed on the cobblestoned inner streets of the town.  Thus, we could walk through the streets without any concern about vehicular traffic.  My first experience of walking on the cobblestone streets did not disappoint:  although one had to be a little more careful with simple walking, the tactile journey was interesting and memorable.  All of the houses and stores that hugged the mountainside were white-washed with red-tile roofs.  While I have a distinct remembrance of the bluest sky I had ever seen, the white-washed abodes washed out in my limited field of vision.  However, at that time, my photography hobby focused on slides.  Later, at home or in my classroom, I could better see the white-washed buildings with the contrasting red-tile roofs projected from the slide carousel onto a large screen.  Back home again in Indiana, I could much better see Mexico.  (One of these slides, I had developed into a print; framed, the print of the Taxco hillside joins four other framed prints on a wall in my bedroom.)


Before we entered the town square of Taxco, Jorge seriously reminded us that we absolutely should not give anything to the children who would come near us and beg for a peso.  “If you give something to just one child, a minute later, a dozen or more children will quickly gather around you to beg for more,” Jorge explained.


As we exited a shop on the festive  and cheery town square, a physically challenged boy did come near us and carefully asked, in English, for a peso.  Jorge’s words echoed in my mind.  No matter what I did, I was uncomfortable, unsure.  Jorge had also told us to give in another way to help appropriately.  We did walk on:  somehow, we walked past the little disabled boy whose image is forever unceremoniously pressed into the photo album of my mind.


Past the brightly decorated square, we strode to the stairs of the Santa Prisca Church–an impressive structure, built from 1751 to1758 in the New Spanish Baroque style and known for its gilding.  (“The Golden Church” was the tallest building in Mexico from 1758 to 1806.)  Inside the Santa Prisca Church, the air was cooler, sounds crescendoed, and I wished for the moving chords of the organ.  In the candlelight and streaks of natural lighting, the gold decor shined in contrast to the relatively dark (to my eyes) church.


The confessional for men was on one side of the church; the confessional for women was on the other.  Did I ask God’s forgiveness for my not giving anything to the little boy?  Midst the quiet gold, did I kneel and pray for him; or did I just squint and admire the architecture and gilding?


I knew that Senor Jose de la Borda had the church built after he found not a vein of silver–but a vein of gold.  De la Borda said, “God gave to de la Borda, and de la Borda will give back to God.”  He did:  de la Borda gave the quaint village of Taxco the Santa Prisca Church.


Throughout these intervening forty-five years, I have periodically thought of the Santa Prisca Church and the little boy.  Often, I have thought of the famous quote: “God gave to de la Borda, and de la Borda will give back to God.”  With each passing year, I try to live by this motto more and more because I know that even in the midst of this Polar Vortex, I find that I am better if I  do not count degrees below zero, but count blessings.


January 24, 2019, Thursday


POST-SCRIPT:  After two substantial snowfalls came the twelve-inch snow, followed by the Polar Vortex (gift from Canada).  However, most gratefully, Willow and I survived the actual temperatures as low as the record-setting negative twenty-three on The morning of January 31 and a wind chill of minus forty-nine on the morning of January 30.  (Some wind-chill readings may have been as low as fifty to fifty-five below zero.)  Nevertheless, we are happy to report that all is well.  I have, indeed, counted blessings that my heat pump (furnace) did work well throughout this unbelievably cold week and that my Willow has been as wonderful as usual.  Despite the amazing stacks of snow, the temperature on Saturday may reach 40 degrees.  What a remarkable change from the forceful and whimsical Mother Nature!  I hope that all of you have stayed well and warm during these temperatures which were lower than those of Alaska and Siberia.


Warm wishes for a happy February!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


February 1, 2019, Friday



From → Uncategorized

  1. Dear Alice,
    As usual, you have erased the cobwebs of my memory in painting such a beautiful picture of our memorable trip to Cuernavaca and Taxco. I always enjoy seeing on your wall the impressive photo of the tile rooftops on the tiered hillsides of Taxco. The Floating Gardens of Xochimilco located in Mexico City was another picturesque place that we visited on that trip. The warm sunshine and colorful flowers at the Gardens certainly would brighten any frigid January day!

    I am so thankful that you and Willow are safe and sound after the polar vortex, and I wish you blue skies and warm sunshine for your walks in February!

    • Hi, Mary–Many thanks for commenting on this post!  I also clearly recall the restaurant where our little touring group, serenaded by guitarists at our table, enjoyed dinner.

          After the Polar Vortex, our 43-degree day today seems like a trip to Florida.  What an abrupt change in the weather!

      Have a good week!

      Alice and Willow

  2. Sue McKendry permalink

    Alice–Thanks for the descriptive escape from a Wisconsin winter, and so happy that you and Willow made it through the snow and cold. Friday early evening we enjoyed a beautiful sunset and afterglow with the snow still pristine, but we are now left with dirty snowbanks from the neighbor’s plow and the barren fields which surround our house. We are enjoying the warm temperatures that caused the snow to melt, however.

    • Hi, Sue–Thanks for your comment!  I am glad to hear that you enjoyed the piece about a place with a much warmer climate.

          Yes, how the prestine snow too quickly has changed!  Now I heard that we may have two upcoming nights with ice!

      Take care, and be safe!

      Alice and Willow

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: