I experience one surprise after another during each trip to Colima. After many years, it’s now become the norm. Out of the way beaches, calm inlets for snorkelling, golf courses not played and newly opened or just-discovered restaurants all make each trip even more special. Infrastructure projects that have popped up within months, where only old or nothing was before. Learning about a true artistic genius during one trip really stood out for me. His name was unfamiliar to me but I knew I’d seen his distinctive work before. It was a real surprise learning that he was born in Colima!
Friends Proudly share their Home State, Colima
Circa 2007: Hi it’s Brian Gancheff here to share a bit about my very first visit to the State of Colima. Since we’ve landed I have seen beautiful sights, met great people, loved the heat, eaten amazing food and become keenly aware I brought a lot of inappropriate clothes. We’re thoroughly enjoying a tour around the State proudly guided by several new friends. Friends who were born, schooled, employed, married, raise children and continue to live here in beautiful Colima.
The pride that our friends, Leonor Sanchez, Miriam Herrera, Rebeca Gonzalez, Gabriel Gonzales, Hugo Vazquez Monts, Guillermo Brun pictured on the left with me, (as if we’d be confused!!) display for their home State of Colima, Mexico is palpable.
There’s one stop they’re all very excited about! We are about to visit a museum here in Comala displaying the works of famed Colima born artist, Alejandro Rangel Hidalgo. They tell us it is a very popular spot for locals and visitors to the State alike.
Tasty Surprise in the Town of Comala
Prior to heading over to the museum, Guillermo suggests that we enjoy some lunch at a nearby, outdoor restaurant. Melanie and I tell the group that we would like to pay for lunch to thank everyone for all the time and care they have taken showing us around. There is no pushback from the group unlike when we tried at supper last night.
With everyone’s eager agreement, Guillermo orders a round of ice cold cerveza. Before the beer even arrives, dishes of amazing looking food are being delivered to the table. These aren’t salsa and chips snacks. There are plates of tamales, tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas and empanadas being placed between us all. I’m convinced the combination of this great food and the warm greetings shared between our hosts and the waiters is due to our friends’ notoriety in the community.
At their urging, we start enjoying the food immediately. As plates of food are finished they’ve been whisked them away and replaced just as quickly by new amazing dishes including guacamole, shrimp, and ceviche. Another round of drinks appear and the food just keeps on coming.
The big-shot from Alberta offers to pay for Lunch
Did I mention that I’d offered to pay for lunch for the ten of us? Seriously, I really wanted to pay today but looking at all the food and beer I’m getting a little nervous about whether I have enough pesos with me. I lean over and quietly ask Rebeca if this restaurant takes credit cards. She says no, gives me a big smile and resumes eating. Now I’ve totally stopped eating and am feeling nauseous. Melanie is on the far side of the table enjoying the lunch and deep in conversation.
Just as it appears that the meal has ended, a waiter comes by to ask if anyone has room for dessert. Surprise, of course, several do! OMG, rice pudding, platters of fruit and cookies all arrive moments later. I’m trying to get Melanie’s attention to let her know that I may need some money but she’s far too busy enjoying her friends and the fruit.
The waiter is now at my shoulder and hands me the “cuenta” (bill) and I begin to stare at it. I’m trying to interpret 28o appearing at the bottom of the bill. My blood pressure is spiking. What’s the conversion rate? Roughly 10 pesos per dollar I think? Well this can’t be right! If these are pesos it would be $28 Canadian. My head hasn’t come up once. This must be only my bill! What the hell is $28 Cdn in pesos times ten? I know for sure I don’t have that much with me!!
Can I Stomach this Surprise?
I look up to get the attention of the waiter and am met by the eyes of all of the other people at my table, including Melanie. Besides their eyes, they’re all sharing broad smiles. Some ask me if the bill is alright. Is it too large? Lots of good-natured laughter erupts and it’s all directed at me.
Surprise, I’m finally let in on this little joke. This restaurant and one other in town provide this incredible food free of charge for three hours each day. All you pay for are your drinks!! The Coronas (yup, same ones we pay $6 for back home) were 14 pesos per ($1.40 Cdn) and the food, gratis!! Including a 100 peso tip that our Mexican friends claim is outrageous, the bill for the meal and two beers for ten people is 380 pesos ($38 Cdn) I shall definitely return!
The Hidalgo Museum Experience
The museum is at the Hacienda de Nogueras right here in Comala, just 10 kilometres north of the capital city, Colima. The Hidalgo Museum is filled with a wide variety of his works including his uniquely styled paintings and furniture that we learn have both become synonymous with Colima. As I said we had never heard of Sr Hidalgo. We understood how historically significant a painter and innovator he must have been to have an entire museum dedicated to his works. It was a surprise to find out that Sr. Hidalgo had died only seven years before in 2000 at age 73.
Colima’s culture and an affinity for nature are evident in Hidalgo’s art. The paintings are bold and bright. Children, animals and nature are major focuses in most paintings. Hidalgo created the majority of his paintings through a painstaking process. Instead of the traditional painting stroke, he laboriously dabbed each area of the canvas. It’s why his paintings resemble modern computer drawings, like the one I’ve chosen, more than traditional paintings of his time.
There’s a section here displaying UNICEF cards he created in the 60’s and 70’s. I realize this is where I had seen examples of his work before.
The furniture is traditional and distinctive. It features many pieces made from a local tree called Parota. We just learned about the Parota tree yesterday while driving. It has an impressive, widely-spread canopy reaching far out into the street, that is just amazing to pass under.
Here in Comala, we’re not too far away from the iconic and active, Volcan de Colima, showing off with quite a lot of steam today!
https://www.tripadvisor.ca/Attraction_Review-g1744419-d2435401-Reviews-The_Museum_Of_Alejandro_Rangel_Hidalgo-Comala_Pacific_Coast.html Rated 4.6/5.0 on Trip Advisor’s Review Guide.
Early Influences and Lasting Impact
The literature presented explains that Sr Hidalgo’s talents were developed very early in life and strongly supported by his parents. He received much of his education in normal school and in artistic studies in Colima and neighboring states.
Sr. Hidalgo is buried in Comala together with his wife beneath the entrance to a school as you enter the town. In Colima, Hidalgo is not one of those ‘unknown creative geniuses.’ The people of Colima adore his work and proudly display furniture and originals, copies and/or prints in their homes. We realize that we had already seen examples of his paintings and furniture in a friend’s home yesterday.
Prior to leaving Colima, it was a real surprise and honor to be presented with a beautiful framed Hidalgo print from Governor Ceballos that continues to be displayed in my home.
I hope this blog and these examples interest you to do more research on Alejandro Rangel Hidalgo and his exceptional creativity. You may already be surprised that you recognize his work, even if you’ve never heard his name.
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