Newsletter #6 A Late December Update

Mary Jane Gagnier

I wish everyone fair weather and good footing as we crest the pass to the new year. 2020 has gone by at a racehorse gallop. Despite no tourism in the 2nd quarter, I was determined to keep the horses fit and trained, and with the help of my son, Gabriel and two terrific young Dutch women Tess Plein and Iris Van Driel, I am proud to say that Horseback Mexico and Rancho Pitaya have never been better! Heading up this year’s achievements is the launching of the new Horseback Mexico website, I wrote the text and the design is by Iris. Please send feedback! Enjoy a Oaxaca Christmas experience wherever you are with this organ and choir concert presented by The Historic Organ Institute of Oaxaca.

Casa Murguia is decked out with piñatas and poinsettias and now, thankfully, occupied by guests. The staff at the casa and the ranch: Maria Antonia, Gregorio and Gina are well. Gabriel and I are working hard and enjoying life. I’ve been fortunate to take a couple of road trips south to Oaxaca’s Pacific coast, to harvest honey from my bees at Hacienda Guegorene and to spend countless hours in nature: riding, walking and looking through binoculars.

Excerpts from Late December Life in the City of Oaxaca and at Rancho Pitaya.

Honey bee in a cactus flower
Honey bee in a cactus flower
Nueve Puntos seen from Rancho Pitaya at dawn
Nueve Puntos seen from Rancho Pitaya at dawn
Gray-breasted woodpecker at Rancho Pitaya
Gray-breasted woodpecker at Rancho Pitaya

December 25

Morning: I slip a baby Jesus, modeled from clay, into its bird’s nest basinet to complete one of the three nativities cradled on the window ledge of the dining terrace at Rancho Pitaya. The mismatched creches are a memory lane of my folk art era: woven tunics on Mary and Joseph from Chamula, Chiapas, black pottery nativity from San Bartolo Coyotepec, a Maria Jimenez wooden rabbit, angels by Josefina Aguilar and the Alfonso Castillo family. With Gabriel and his girlfriend Evelia, I reincarnated as a Christmas tree an “inflorescence”, the dry stem and flowerhead of an Espadín agave that bloomed this past summer. We adorned it from head to toe with ornaments: from travels to Japan and India, other’s my mother acquired as a newlywed and Mexican ornaments crafted from glass, gourds and marsh grass. Swinging piñatas and dancing strings of paper cuts festoon the covered porch.

Gabriel and Evelia arrive in time to help me stuff the turkey. My son, the vet, sewed it up. I draped it with a butter-drenched bib and together we slid the bird into the oven. Marvin, who I’ve known since he attended pre-school with Gabriel, arrived with dessert just as the bird was browning. We feasted, al fresco, to a traditional Canadian Christmas Day dinner.

Mary Jane with Boris Spider who decorated the façade of La Mano Magica
Mary Jane with Boris Spider who decorated the façade of La Mano Magica
Mary Jane and Gabriel with poinsettia bush
Mary Jane and Gabriel with poinsettia bush

December 26

Mid-afternoon : After six weeks without guests, I welcome to Casa Murguia an extended family from the state of Hidalgo. They are here for a ten day stay, and brought their own sanitizing vapor machine and two cooks.

Casa Murguia is completely available to rent after January 5.

Late afternoon: Slipping my face mask on, I walk west out of Casa Murguia heading for La Mano Mágica.  Alcalá is alive with pedestrians but no throngs; 99% of the people have face masks on. Gabriel comments that for all the people in the street, few are entering  the gallery and I wonder out loud, “Perhaps visitors are reluctant to enter indoor spaces”. I suggest a sidewalk sale. To receive via email the latest catalog of featured art: [email protected] 

Mary Jane, Gabriel, Evelia with crèche and king
Mary Jane, Gabriel, Evelia with crèche and king

December 27

Morning : Two hours of armchair birding on my porch delivered up twenty-seven species. Seven of these are endemic to Mexico, and the Dusky Hummingbird, White-throated Towhee, Boucard’s Wren and Gray-breasted Woodpecker are virtually limited to the state of Oaxaca.  Kiskadees, seedeaters and finches are having a time of it at the birdbaths: drinking, dunking, splashing. shaking and then doing it all over again. How something so simple as a tub filled with water can bring so much joy – to them and to me! To paraphrase Richard Attenborourgh, ” To preserve our species’ existence, we must restore the plenitude of the biodiversity by “rewilding” ( that is his exact word ) the planet. On a micro scale, I’ve seen this happen at the ranch in just a decade; small plots of land have been allowed to “rewild” with the fascinating biodiversity that is the dry deciduous forest of Oaxaca’s interior highland.

Covid news in Mexico

According to the BBC, 3,000 frontline healthcare professionals were vaccinated in Mexico this week as Mexico City went back to red light and lockdown and Oaxaca regressed from yellow to orange. Chiapas, the state to the east, remained green as did Campeche to the northeast but much of the country is currently orange. While face masks and safe distancing are the norm in Oaxaca city and the surrounding valleys, travelers that just came from Mexico’s Caribbean coast said that the multitudes of tourists in Cancun and the rest of Quintana Roo have carelessly thrown all precaution to the wind. Check the state-by-state COVID status here.

More Newsletters

Newsletter #5

Newsletter #5 Posted on 25 October 2020 Year of the Pandemic By Mary Jane Gagnier I urge you to read the on-line version with photos on

May 12 Oaxaca Update

2nd Oaxaca Update May 12, 2020 Dear Friends and Family,  Last Sunday, May 10th, was coincidentally Mother’s Day in Mexico as well as the rest

News from Oaxaca

Dear friends,  I think many of you are wondering how Oaxaca is doing. Oaxacans are resilient, elastic and resourceful; they expect change and assume impermanence.