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Mexican Culture: In the Theater and in the Streets

By Carole Schor

San Miguel Literary Sala presents
Jesus Ibarra
El jardinero de fantasmas, vida y obra de Carlos Ancira
Judith Gille
The View from Casa Chepitos: A Journey Beyond the Border
Thu, Oct 10, 5pm
Hotel Posada de la Aldea
Ancha de San Antonio 15
70 pesos; 50 pesos for Literary Sala members
Includes wine reception


The Literary Sala is proud to present Jesús Ibarra, editor of the Atencion and author of El jardinero de fantasmas, vida y obra de Carlos Ancira, the story of one of Mexico’s most famous actors, Carlos Ancira; and Judith Gille, author of The View from Casa Chepitos: A Journey Beyond the Border, the story of one family’s expatriate life here in San Miguel.

Jesus Ibarra

Jesús Ibarra, editor of this newspaper, has written several books about Mexican history and the arts, including The Bracho: Three Generations of Mexican Cinema. His work includes accounts of the famous actors and actresses of Mexican stage, screen and television including Carmen Montejo. His next books will be about Sergio de Bustamante and Magda Guzman (Carlos Ancira’s mother-in-law and a famous actress herself). At the Literary Sala, he will present his latest book about Carlos Ancira, considered by many to be an even finer actor than the great Sir Laurence Olivier. According to Sr. Ibarra, “In fact, he [Ancira] won the award in Russia for the best foreign actor (over Laurence Olivier), for his performance of Diary of a Madman, by Gogol.

Ancira was not only an accomplished actor; he was a writer, director and acting teacher who worked on 300 plays, 50 movies, and over 2000 telenovelas, Mexican soap operas.

Jesús feels it is important to write about these Mexican stars in order to preserve their memory and make them known to the younger generation of Mexicans.  Carlos Ancira, according to Jesús, represents, as no one before or since, an actor capable of an intense and moving display of artistry, commitment and dedication. Ibarra believes Ancira was one of the greatest actors of the twentieth century.

Writing a biography is a long and complex task, and this book took a year and a half for Jesus to complete. “To write a biography, I first do a chronology of the life of the person I will write about; this is always my first step. In this way I can easily develop each stage of his or her life.”

What would Jesús say to all of the aspiring writers of San Miguel? “I would tell them that they must feel a special passion for the topic they have chosen to write about. I would tell them also to be constant and patient. At least here in Mexico, publishing is difficult; you have to knock doors until you find someone who believes in your work and decides to publish it.”

Judith Gille

Judith Gille, like many transplants to San Miguel, fell in love with a vision of bougainvillea and jacarandas and a life of less stress and more fun. Like so many others, she plunked down a sizeable amount of cash for a rundown house in the middle of heaven. Casa Chepitos, a hot pink house in an alleyway filled with Mexican families, gave Judith and her family a new way of life, far removed from her life in Seattle as one of the city’s most successful and hard-working retail entrepreneurs. Judith’s family, first her young son and daughter, became part of the callejón’s life, playing ball with the macho boys and playing dolls and dress-up with the sweet young girls. Judith sat on the stoop outside her door and learned about Mexico and Mexican women, learned the language, and integrated herself into a foreign culture. She was challenged, and her neighbors were wary of the gringos moving into their neighborhood and bringing strange looks, customs, and language.

Over the years in this little alleyway, the cultural difference between the Cordovas and the Gilles began to soften and fade away, as each family received help and love from the other side of the street. Judith attributes her acceptance into her Mexican community (which eludes some of us) to her gregarious children who befriended the other kids quickly. For Judith, “it was harder because, as you know, Mexicans hold their cards close to their chest.” She felt lucky her neighbor, Gracia, “ . . .opened up and took me under her wing, and that allowed me to get close to others in the alley.” Weddings, holiday celebrations, baseball games, and even illegal immigration across the border to the United States, provided opportunities for the families to lean on one another for joy and for security, blurring the lines of cultural differences and uniting the families in a kind of universal similarity of mothers, brothers, fathers and sisters growing up and helping each other while learning to live together in multi-cultural harmony.

Finishing this book took Judith six years of writing every morning for an hour or two before going to work running her retail empire in Seattle. Her advice to those here in San Miguel aspiring to write a book? “Be persistent. Work at it. Writing is hard work and if you want to be good at it you have to practice. But I believe everyone has a story to tell and writing it down can be rewarding in so many ways.”

Join Judith and Jesús for a lively program at the Literary Sala’s monthly event, October 10 at 5pm at the Posada de la Aldea. Admission is 70 pesos, 50 pesos for Literary Sala members, and includes a wine reception.


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