The Americas were not explored or painted during my twenty years of wandering Africa, Asia and Europe. They had been my original destination of choice prior to the Peace Corps and my international teaching experience. And, when I moved back to this side of the planet, it was time to restomp some of my old stomping grounds as well as blaze a few new trails of my own.
The most surprising mural destination was Haiti. I had sworn for decades that it was the one place on the planet that I NEVER would return to. I know, you aren’t supposed to swear and you are NEVER supposed to say NEVER. But, I was fairly certain that this NEVER was safe to say. After a prison experience, an angry voodoo priestess and a wild van ride down a mountain without breaks, there was no need to ever tempt fate (or my guardian angels) again. But, the earthquake in Port au Prince changed my mind. When the invitation came to paint at a children’s hospital, I grabbed my brushes and nervously made my way through customs. I wasn’t arrested this time.
There are travel destinations across the Americas that I’ve wanted to see for a long time. So, while I go muraling these days, I’ve included trips to Machu Picchu, Iguazu Falls and the Mayan sites of Chechín Itzá, Tikal and Copán. I don’t have connections to all the places I’d like to visit, but I’m hoping to someday paint my way to Angel Falls and Sugarloaf Mountain.
The hat of choice in Honduras was the cowboy hat. As I walked through the charming, little town and on to the Mayan ruins outside of Copán Ruinas, I was on the hunt for the right portrait. So, fortunately for me, I spotted this old cowboy and asked for the photo. It wasn’t until later that I noticed the detail on his jacket, the emblem of the U.S. Postal Service.
I visited Chechín Itzá in Mexico with thousands of guests. In Tikal, Guatemala, two hundred people strolling the pyramids. But, in Copán, I roamed the grand plaza alone for twenty minutes. There were about twenty other people at the park. They had guides who saved the plaza till last. I marched directly to my goal and enjoyed it with tropical birds calling through the rain forest. Yes, you really should have a guide, but only AFTER you experience the solitude.
As I said, Copán Ruinas was a sleepy little town. It was that charm that brought me back to Honduras for a second dose.I needed more time there.
Copán Ruinas was small enough for everyone to at least recognize each other. My hotel hosts knew my old cowboy. They didn’t know his name for sure, but Humberto thought it was Juan. I just loved the sound of Don Juan de Copán for the name of this portrait. It wasn’t meant to be. His name was Don Pedro. And, in case you don’t know, “Don” is a respectful title like “Mr.” is in English.
Humberto brought me to Casitas Copán to discuss a possible mural. While I spoke to the orphanage director, who should pass by the orphanage but my eighty year old cowboy! Humberto ran after the poor little man. I don’t think my little cowboy fully understood why a gringo wanted to see him. However, we set up an appointment to meet in the town square that afternoon.
Don Pedro showed up and I gave him two copies of my portrait. But, I didn’t get much of a reaction. I can’t speak much Spanish and dear old Don Pedro wasn’t speaking any. There was a long silence and a lot of awkward waiting. I didn’t know what to do.Finally, fortunately, a man on the other side of us decided to intervene. Someone had to rescue the situation and this stranger rose to the occasion. He explained, in Spanish way better than me, about the portrait. There was conversation. There were smiles. The situation was rescued. And, I appreciated the kindness of a stranger more than I could express in Spanish.
Continue on to Americas Image 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 or back to the Portraits Home Page.