My first eclipse

Guanajuato, Mexico, photo by Instituto Falcon

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.

Real folkloric dancers

Fake folkloric turtles

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.

photo by Luis Alberto Melograna from Wikimedia Creative Commons

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.

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About stillalife

I retired June 30, 2010 after working for 40 years in the field of education and most recently doing school public relations/community outreach in a mid-size urban school district. I wrote for superintendents and school board members. Now I'm writing for me and I hope for you. In this blog, I offer my own views coupled with the latest research on how to preserve our physical and mental health as we age, delve into issues most of us over 50 can relate to like noticing wrinkles and forgetting where we left our keys, discuss the pros and cons of different ways to engage our minds and bodies after we leave the workplace, and throw in an occasional book review, all peppered with a touch of humor, irony, and just plain silliness.
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One Response to My first eclipse

  1. Darlene says:

    Sounds like a marvelous way to celebrate an eclipse. . . enveloped in another culture, dancing with friends, listening to your husband play the guitar, enjoying some local cuisine. It would be hard to beat that. Needless to say, you were lucky to have witnessed even once such a celebration of the “total eclipse of the sun.”

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