Thursday, December 29, 2011

Liz's Top 5 Weird Travel Stories of 2011

I traveled as far as Guatemala and wrote articles close to home, down the street in fact. But these are my top weird travel stories of 2011.

Finding the Mayan god of smoking and drinking in Guatemala: When you visit Guatemala, you may run into images of  an intriguing folk saint who, to some tourists, is known as the “god of smoking and drinking.” Maximón is depicted in European dress with trousers, shirt and hat. You’ll find him seated with a cigar in his mouth or an opening where alcohol can be poured. Not the usual saintly image! We actually visited Maximón in a little village and witnessed the dedication of his appeasers. Yes, it was weird. Shamans sat drinking, chanting and smoking, all in the name of religion. More on Maximón.

Santos or Beatles? In northern New Mexico there is a man of Hispanic descent who retired and started painting religious paintings. But what is weird about these paintings is that his most collected are his depictions of the Beatles as saints! You'll find Richard's work at Theresa's Gallery in Chimayo. More on the Beatles Painter.

Santa Fe Pet Parade: In this traditional Santa Fe event during the time of Fiesta, you'll find children and adults alike parading their pets through the downtown streets. About 2,000 children in costumes participate in the parade, with thousands of supporters and tourists looking on. This event culminates with an awards ceremony on the historic Plaza de Santa Fe.
In addition to the children you'll see plenty of dogs, some chickens, ducks, turtles, guinea pigs and many more pets. I even saw a young girl carrying her pet lizard in a terrarium. There is so much imagination in Santa Fe! More on the Pet Parade.

The Burning of Zozobra: Easily the most popular Fiesta event takes place at Fort Marcy Park with the Burning of Zozobra, also known as “Old Man Gloom.” At the ceremony, Zozobra, a 50-foot tall white marionette typically dressed in a black bow-tie, black belt and cuffs, neon green glowing eyes and huge red lips, goes up in flames to burn away all of the hardships and disappointments of the past year. There is no way to overstate the spectacle, party atmosphere, and sheer zaniness of Zozobra. More on Fiesta and Zozobra.

A Festival of Gourds: Just south of Phoenix is a festival that just may make you chuckle. It is the Wertz Gourd Festival. There is plenty of “gourdgeous art” to keep you interested. Look for more than 100 Gourd Artists and Vendors. In one building you’ll find the Arizona Gourd Society's Judged Show. Gourd enthusiasts can take classes - Kindergourden - 4 days of reserved classes.

I love finding interesting stories. Each of these finds was weird in its own way. And, I thoroughly enjoyed each and every one of the experiences!

Photography copyright: Elizabeth Rose Photography