Monthly Archives: January 2020

Our El Rio BBQ Experience

This was funny. Our friends Bob and Carol made a reservation at the El Rio BBQ in Puerto Vallarta. It is a large outdoor venue with live music and the best pork ribs on the west coast.

We bussed it to Bob and Carol’s condo in PV for a pre-drink and then took another long ride bus up the steep winding road‎ that follows the Cuale River into the hills here. Arriving at 4 PM‎, the place was already packed as the popular Quatro Amigos were playing today. Well our reserved table no. 30 had been given to another group. So after squabbling a bit, they set up a new table for us but it had no number.

We ordered beer and food – ribs of course. Our beer came and we enjoyed it – Pacifico is light delicious with a hint of molasses! We danced a bit and really enjoyed the band who played familiar Boomer hits from our youth.  

We were getting hungry and after more than a 90 minute wait, our food orders never arrived. Bob calls the manager over and he promises to look into it. After another 10 mins or so we get up and decide to leave. On the way out Bob expresses his displeasure to the manager about the mix-up and that we are not paying for the beer.  

So we left after having free beer and dancing outside to live music on a beautiful day in the mountains by a beautiful river. We also hed met Bob and Carol’s friends from Calgary and Winnipeg and all had a great time. (We eventually did have fantastic dinner of shrimp fajitas with more Pacifico of course, once we got back to PV.)

So in the moment, we learned to go with the Pacifico flow!

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Spain in our Hearts

This is an excellent read. I had very little understanding of the Spanish Civil War 1936-39 when a friend leant me a copy of this book.

Who were the good guys? Who were the bad guys? What happened? What was Canada’s position. How about the Church? Best selling author Adam Hochschild takes us through the very sad and brutal story of all this with some great prose. His 2016 book is well documented with maps, notes and photos.

Due to rising popular pressure, King Alphonso XIII abdicates in 1931 and the 2nd Spanish Republic is proclaimed. In the feudal system that had prevailed up to then, no one other than the existing land owning class was permitted to buy or own any land. In January 1936 the Socialists, Communists and Republicans work together under the name the Popular Front. They win the election, defeating the National Front consisting of monarchists, landowners and the Catholic Church hierarchy. It is the overthrow of the feudal system in Spain. Unwilling to accept this outcome, monarchist General Francisco Franco launches a coup. When the coup fails, a civil war erupts and he quickly becomes leader.

The Nationalists (led by Franco) are supported by fascists Adolf Hitler and Benito Musolini with troops, planes, bombs and guns. The Republicans are supported only by Joseph Stalin. The United States, Canada, Britain and France decide to remain neutral, refusing to supply arms to either side. The Nationalists win the ugly war and over 200,000 civilians are killed making it one of the most brutal wars of all times. Thousands of Americans, Canadians and Brits volunteer in several international brigades fighting on the Republican side and are in the end decimated. The Vatican surprisingly to me, aligns itself with the Nationalists as it is strongly opposed to the secular Republican state. Hence it is a war of the rich and privileged against the meek, poor and destitute.

In the book we learn about the key role of journalists such as Ernest Hemingway and authors like John Dos Passos and George Orwell in getting the word out about what is happening. Also about volunteer leftist American fighters like Bob Merriman who commands the volunteer Lincoln-Washington Battalion for the Republicans. Some 1500 volunteers from Canada join the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion (the Mac-Paps). However, Texaco supplies oil for Franco’s war machine while the U.S government looks the other way. Hitler and Mussolini’s arms, planes, bombs and troops turn the tide for the Nationalists.

Guernica by Pablo Picasso

Guernica, a small town in the Basque country in northern Spain is carpet bombed by the Nationalists killing over 200 civilians. It takes 40 years for the truth of this and many other like events to get out. Prisoners are routinely shot on the spot, thousands of priests are murdered by the Republicans. Later the Catholic Church would canonize many of these martyrs but still refuse to officially recognize the hundreds of priests in the Basque country who supported the Republican side, many of whom were murdered by the Nationalists. You can see how poisoned these times were. It seems the western allies were paralysed by their fear of communists on one side vs. fascists on the other, and consequently did nothing.

While the book is more a rendition of American volunteer participation on the Republican (democratic) side and the nasty role Texaco played in fueling the Nationalist (fascist) side, it makes for a good introduction to these troubling times. I rate it 9.5 out of 10, a great read.

Spanish Cardinal making the fascist salute
Ernest Hemingway reporting from Sapin

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Settling Into Mexico

Our home for the next 3 months
The forecast was bad – freezing rain, snow and cold – on the very day we were to fly to Mexico. Darn!  More than 19 fl​ights out of Ottawa were to be cancelled that day including ours to Toronto. So we called Air Canada the day before after they had declared a travel advisory. They put us on a flight to Toronto the day before we were to leave for Puerto Vallarta. Thanks AC. We spent a short night at the Hilton Garden Inn at Toronto airport rather than at Ottawa. However it was hectic, bags checked, off the plane, on the shuttle, off the shuttle at the wrong Hilton, back on the shuttle, off at the right hotel, back on the shuttle, off the shuttle and finally checked in on AC to PV. Travel is not for the faint hearted! lol!
New Years Eve Party
Checking into our condo a little early, we surprised the cleaning and maintenance staff. Our property manager Jesica arrived and took us to Mega to do a grocery shop. The Scotiabank ATM was out of money! Hey this is Mexico, the credit card free society. Luckily, Mega takes credit cards. And we were able to sign up with Telcel – 26 days, unlimited North America calling, 4 gigs of data for only $11 for each cell phone!!! After hiking to the nearby Oxo store for some jugs of water, we spent a pleasant evening watching the Dreams Villamagna Hotel guests party hardy on New Years Eve. Our condo being part of the same complex.
The beach beckons
Riviera Nayarit attracts many Canadians particularly from the West
A couple of days later we did a Costco run. This involves taking the bus ($1.5 each) into PV, walking about 2 km to the Costco and taking a taxi back ($15 with tip), with all our stuff to Nuevo Vallarta. Then we have to find a couple of shopping carts to take everything up the elevator to the 7th floor. It takes a good half day, but now we are all set.
The Norwegian Joy is in
Before you know it, it is Sunday. We walk the 3 km to our local church which meets in a large hall for Mass. An Oblate, James Holland, OMI and another Canadian have donated the Sunday Missals again this year. Our priest arrives early and the Mass proceeds, mostly in Spanish. A Canadian woman reads the gospel in English and gives us a synopsis of the homily. It is packed, over 400 people, most of them Mexican.
Then it is off to our favorite breakfast place, the Riviera Grill. The food is fresh, the service great and you can help yourself to a free orange on the way out. Huevos Mexicanos with some hash browns, black beans, toast and coffee. Yum.
After a pleasant day on the beach in 30 deg heat, we catch the perfect sunset in Banderas Bay. Ah, we have settled into Mexico again, thanks be to God.

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