During next week’s solar eclipse (92% of totality occurring where I live) I managed, inadvertently, to schedule a doctor’s appointment. Still, I am thankful I have my memories of July 11, 1991. That’s when my husband and I witnessed a total solar eclipse, not here in the Pacific Northwest, but in Guanajuato, Mexico. For those of us who found ourselves in just the right narrow swath of sea and land between Hawaii and Brazil that year, the view was perfect.
The best part was that we just happened to be there for Spanish study in the Instituto Falcon, and were living with Marilu Reynal, a Mexican friend, so we were not vying for limited hotel rooms, though it’s likely, since everyone else in the U.S went to Hawaii, that we would had found one. And we saw no traffic jams, as are predicted for central Oregon next week, except possibly one caused by the odd burro walking down the middle of the street.
Years later, I learned that what we observed was a special kind of eclipse, which Wikipedia calls a “central total eclipse” that lasted nearly seven minutes and will not occur again until 2132. We’ll probably miss that one.
Since it was Mexico, we couldn’t observe an eclipse without a party, so the school’s director, Jorge Barroso, hosted La Fiesta del Eclipse on the morning of the event. A week or so before the eclipse, he hired a professional folkloric dancer named Sofia (center front in both photos) to teach the women students a traditional dance. She even managed to find matching costumes to fit all of us, who were not exactly petite. The dance she chose was La Danza de Las Tortugas, dance of the turtles, which originated in the eastern state of Veracruz. (I’m the second tortuga from the left.) All I remember about the dance is that we were supposed to be depositing our eggs on the beach.
The men also had their chance to perform a mini-skit. My only memory of this is that my husband, Greg, played the figure Chac-Mool, whose role in historic Mayan culture has many interpretations, including the one we chose, which was that his flat belly served as a “platform to receive blood and human hearts.” Greg was thankful he had a non-speaking part and wishes he still had the flat belly.
Then there was the eclipse, what eclipse photographer Fred Espenak describes this way: “In the last seconds as totality begins, the daytime sky is quickly replaced by an eerie twilight as the Moon’s shadow sweeps across the landscape at speeds in excess of 1,200 mph.”
I would add that everything around us, including the roosters, grew silent and suddenly we were as cold as we would be in the middle of the night. After what must have seemed the shortest night of their lives, when the sky brightened the roosters went back to crowing.
I haven’t thought of the eclipse and its accompanying fiesta for many years. Even if I could see the totality of the eclipse next week, for me it could not generate fond memories like those from 1991.