Mexico City

Mexico City

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Yet Another Museum

I doubt if I will ever see all of the museums in Mexico City... there are supposedly 150 of them... but on Wednesday I added another to my list of places visited. 

Busy, pedestrianized Moneda Street in the heart of the Historic Center runs from the Zócalo, the main plaza.  It is a raucous slice of inner city life with crowds of people and vendors hawking their wares at the top of their lungs.

A couple blocks down the street is the Church of Santa Inés which dates back to the year 1600.

Turn the corner onto Academia Street, and the former convent attached to the church is now a museum.

For the last 25 years, this 400 year old building has been a museum of contemporary art, the José Luis Cuevas Museum.

The Mexican artist José Luis Cuevas was a leading figure of the "Generación de la Ruptura" (Breakaway Generation) that challenged the muralist movement which has dominated Mexican art for the last century.  He led a controversial and scandalous life.  (One room in the museum is filled with self portraits of him with prostitutes.) 

Cuevas died just last month at the age of 83.

In 1992 he purchased the former convent, restored its colonial architecture, and opened it as a museum containing his private collection. As you enter the courtyard you see a 26 foot high statue entitled "La Giganta" (The Giantess).  It's the most impressive item in the museum.  (In my opinion, the only impressive item.)

A couple of galleries are devoted to Cuevas's collection of contemporary Latin American art.

Several galleries are devoted to the artwork of Cuevas, mostly drawings.

Cuevas is really not my cup of tea, but I will admit that he is better than some contemporary artists that I have seen.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Snowy Mexico City

(image from the web)
No, it didn't snow here, but occasionally Mexico City has a heavy hail storm that makes the city briefly look like a winter wonderland.  We had such a storm yesterday afternoon around rush hour.  Some places had accumulations of nearly four inches of hail.  It didn't hail where my apartment is, but Alejandro was on the road, and said that the hail was piled up like snow in nearby Colonia del Valle. 

Here are some more pictures of the storm which Alejandro found for me on the internet...

The Supreme Court of Mexico

Standing next to the National Palace in the heart of Mexico City is the austere building of the Supreme Court.

I had read that the building contained some paintings by the famous muralist José Clemente Orozco (one of the "Big Three of the Mexican Muralist Movement").  I decided to see if I could enter the building as a tourist to see the murals.  Visitors are permitted, but you must leave a photo ID at the front desk.   I was given a visitor's badge, and  I was able to wander through the corridors of the entire building with no problem.  Photography inside is not allowed, and I had to check my camera.  Fortunately I was able to find a few pictures on the internet so that I could share with you a bit of what I saw.

The Orozco murals were painted in 1941, and are located in the center of the building.   Some of them are quite critical of the establishment.  Corruption and "phony justice" are shown as rampant, but they are defeated by the flames of "true justice".

Although the Orozco paintings are interesting, I discovered that there is much more artwork to see.  Since 2000 the four stairwells at each corner of the building have been decorated with three story murals.  The artists may not be as well-known, but their art was quite interesting.

One stairwell was painted by Luis Nishizawa, an artist of Japanese and Mexican ancestry.

The most compelling murals were those of the stairwell painted by Rafael Cauduro.  His paintings are a bold, "no holds barred" representation of INJUSTICE in Mexico.  The disturbing images portray the dark side of Mexico... torture, rape, imprisonment, secret files on dissenters, and the trampling of protestors.  It is quite remarkable to find this scathing indictment of the justice system to be located in the headquarters of the highest court of the land.

The paintings by Cauduro in themselves make a visit to the Supreme Court Building worthwhile.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Water Park

Chapultepec Park ( or "Bosque de Chapultepec" - Chapultepec Forest - as it is called here) is Mexico City's most important park and the largest urban park in all of Latin America.  It is divided into three sections.  The first section which contains the Anthropology Museum, the Modern Art Museum and Chapultepec Castle is the part which most tourists visit.  The third section is a largely undeveloped nature preserve and receives few visitors.  The second section does not see many foreigners, but Mexican families flock here for the Children's Museum, and the amusement park, "la Feria de Chapultepec".  

In my opinion, the overwhelming theme of this part of the park is WATER.

Let's start with this fountain which was designed by the famous painter, Diego Rivera.

In the large pool there is a reclining figure of Tlaloc, the Aztec rain god.

Here is an aerial view of the fountain which I found on the internet.

In one hand Tlaloc holds ears of corn symbolizing the crops which are made possible thanks to his rain.

Behind the fountain is a small, domed building called the "Cárcamo de Dolores".  It stands at the terminus of the Lerma Water System, an engineering project which via hydraulics and tunnels brings water over the mountains from the Lerma River to the city.  Diego Rivera was commissioned to paint murals inside the building.  (Where else but in Mexico would the city waterworks be decorated with paintings by a world-renowned artist?!)

Within the "Cárcamo"  you see the tunnel through which the water arrived at the terminus.  In the mural painting Rivera portrays the workers who constructed the tunnel.  This mural was supposed to be partially under water.  (The floor is painted with images of aquatic life.)  However, they soon realized that the water was damaging the paintings, so the water course was diverted around the building instead.

On the opposite side Rivera portrayed the engineers who planned the Lerma Water System.

The murals to each side have the theme of "Water, the Origen of Life".

Behind the "Cárcamo" are four large underground reservoirs which receive the water from the Lerma System.  Each reservoir is topped with a decorative tower which in fact a pumping station.

Encircling each of these four areas are carvings of Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent deity.

Water is in abundance at the Xochipilli Fountain.  The structure is inspired by Aztec architecture and art.

The fountain faces a long promenade all along which there are jets of water which spurt from the sidewalk.  The children delight in running through the water.


At each end of the promenade are larger jets of water.


Finally, as I was leaving the park, there was another fountain... actually a series of fountains all along the walkway... called the Myth of Water.  Carvings and mosaics of pre-Hispanic inspiration adorn the fountains.

Back to "El Cardenal"

I wrote that we had a somewhat disappointing dining experience at "Fonda Mayora" last Saturday.  On Sunday when Alejandro and I were downtown we went to one of our tried and true favorites "El Cardenal".  Once again we enjoyed an excellent meal.

We both started with a cream of "poblano" with corn.

As a main course, Alejandro had lamb "al pastor"... the meat was prepared with onions, chiles, and pineapple.

I had chicken breast stuffed with spinach and covered with a goat cheese sauce.

Alejandro is hamming it up over his dessert of a crepe filled with plantains and covered with "cajeta", Mexican caramel.  We also had "café de olla", traditional Mexican coffee flavored with cinnamon and brown sugar and served in clay pots.

I had "tres leches" cake... a decadently delicious cake soaked in evaporated milk, condensed milk and heavy cream.

A delicious meal at a restaurant known for its traditional Mexican cuisine!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Culture on the Alameda

On Sunday Alejandro and I took the Metrobus and the subway to go downtown.  We emerged from the subway near the Alameda, the downtown "central park" of Mexico City.

At one end the entire width of the park was taken up by the "Feria de Libros" (the Book Fair).  There were dozens of booksellers and every kind of book... classics of literature, children's books, cookbooks, popular fiction, etc., etc.

Alejandro's six-year-old nephew is an avid reader and takes pride in his own personal "bilbioteca" (library).  One of the reasons I wanted to go downtown was to go to the bookstores and buy him some books.  Well, I didn't have to go to a bookstore; I did my shopping here at the Book Fair.

As we continued our walk through the Alameda we saw a special outdoor exhibit of sculptures by Rodrigo de la Sierra.  A native of Mexico City, de la Sierra began his career as an architect, and years later developed a new career as a sculptor.  His most famous works portray his comical "everyman", "alter ego" Timo.

De la Sierra is certainly not a Michelangelo or Rodin, but I found his sculptures to be charming and endearing.

At opposite end of the Alameda, by the Palace of Fine Arts, a screen was set up and a documentary was being shown.  The film was about Susana Harp, a well-known singer of Mexican folk songs.  

This outdoor cinema called "La Cultura a Pantalla" (Culture to the Screen) is apparently a regular feature on the Alameda on weekends.  The program listed all the films that were being shown that day.  They also included a documentary on Mexican handicrafts, and filmed performances by the Ballet Folklórico, the National Symphony and the National Dance Company.

The Alameda is not just a pleasant place for a weekend stroll.  It offers free culture to the masses.