Sunday, March 31, 2024

Blooming for Easter

I already mentioned that the poinsettia plant that I have in the apartment is still blooming.  Just a short walk from the apartment there is a house which has a poinsettia plant outdoors that has grown to the size of a small tree.  I had not been down that street since I moved down here, but a few days ago I happened to pass the house.

Yes, that poinsettia, known here in the land of its origin as "flor de Nochebuena" (Christmas Eve flower) is still flowering for Easter.

Happy Easter

 I send best wishes for a happy Easter to all my readers who celebrate the holiday.

Alejandro and I went to the family house last night.  We filled the plastic eggs with candy and hid them throughout the house.  We are all set for Ezra, Alejandro's nephew, to have his Easter egg hunt.

Today is also Alejandro's sister's birthday, so we will have a double celebration.  We stopped at a bakery last night on the way to buy a birthday cake.  We are also taking the family out for dinner later this afternoon.   I will post photos of that in a later post.

Happy Easter!

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Getting Ready for Easter

Because Alejandro's birthday is in April, for years Easter has coincided with one of my frequent trips to Mexico City.  I would always buy plastic Easter eggs, wrapped candies and a funny Easter basket to pack in my suitcase.  On Easter morning we would have an Easter egg hunt for Alejandro's nephew Ezra.

Well, now I live in Mexico City.  Even though Easter eggs and Easter baskets are foreign to the celebration of a religious holiday in Mexico, it seems that those customs have filtered down from north of the border.  At Walmart I now see the plastic eggs, and containers to hold the eggs.

I asked Ezra if he still wanted to have an Easter egg hunt, and even though he is now an adolescent, he said "yes" without hesitation.  So, I went to the nearby Walmart a couple days ago to buy to Easter supplies.  They don't have traditional Easter baskets, but there were clear containers shaped like a chick that were filled with plastic eggs.

Surprisingly, I had a harder time finding candy.  There were plenty of bags of candy, but not many of them were individually wrapped.  I finally found a bag of wrapped caramels.

Later today we will head to Alejandro's family's house.  After Ezra has gone upstairs to bed, we will fill the eggs with candy and hide the eggs around the house in preparation for Easter morning.

Do Drink the Water

Visitors to Mexico are always warned, "Don't drink the water!"  It is certainly true of water from the tap.  At least once a week I would go to the supermarket and lug back to the apartment a six pack of liter bottles of purified water.

Well, I won't be carrying home water anymore.  Alejandro bought a water purifier which we now have in the laundry room just off of the kitchen.

You pour pitchers of tap water into the top of the purifier.  The water then goes through several stages of purification.  There is a microfiber filter that removes visible particles.  Then there is a carbon activated filter that removes minerals and parasites.  Next is a chlorine processor that kills viruses and bacteria.  Finally, a clarifier removes the chlorine to leave the water with a natural taste.  The apparatus is obviously effective because Alejandro's family has a couple of these purifiers in their home.  I have been drinking water from them for years with no gastrointestinal distress.

While we are on the topic of water, you have probably read articles or heard news reports that Mexico City is going to run out of water within a couple months.  The water supply has been an ongoing problem for years, and people have long been urged to conserve water.  At the apartment or the family's house, I take short showers and, when washing dishes, I never fill the sink with water.

Water rationing in which the supply is turned off for certain hours has supposedly been put into effect, but I have not had any lack of water here.  Many buildings, including the apartment building and even Alejandro's family's house, have underground cisterns which are kept filled in case of emergency.  Several years ago, water was actually turned off completely for several days while repairs were being made.  Even then I never lacked water.  There are also large tanker trucks called "pipas" which carry water to places that are lacking.  In the last month I could count on the fingers of one hand the number of "pipas" I have seen filling cisterns.  Although I do not discount the seriousness of the problem, we have not been personally affected.  By the end of May, the rainy season will begin.  As much as I love the sunshine, I hope that there will be abundant rainfall to help replenish reservoirs.    


Friday, March 29, 2024

A Life Cut Short

The one special exhibit at the Modern Museum of Art which I found truly fascinating was the collection of works by Abraham Angel, another Mexican painter that I had never heard of previously.  Angel (1905-1924) died at the age of 19, and he only produced 26 paintings in his short lifetime.  He lived a relatively open life as a gay man in an era when homosexuality was taboo.  The exhibit, 100 years after his death, gathers together most of his work.  With his unique and colorful style, he stands out among the artists of early 20th century Mexico.

"Self Portrait" 1923

In 1922 Angel met fellow artist Manuel Rodríguez Lozano.  The two became lovers and lived together.

"Portrait of Manuel Rodrígues Lozano" 1922

"The Cadet" 1923
The painting alludes to the men seeking companionship on the streets of Mexico City at night.

"The Indian Woman" 1923

"The Family" 1924
Angel painted himself with his mother and sister.

"Portrait of Concha" 1923
Concha was the wife of Angel's older brother.

"Portrait of Cristina Crespo" 1924
This painting reflects the changes in Mexico in the 1920s.  The woman, the sister of an art critic, has the short hairstyle popular during the "Roaring Twenties".  In the background, the small-town street scene to the left contrasts with the modern urban landscape to the right.

"The Girl at the Window" 1923

"Landscape" 1923

"Tepito" 1923
Today, Tepito is one of Mexico City's most notoriously dangerous neighborhoods.  However, in those days it was a rural village on the city's outskirts.

"Self Portrait" 1924
This small painting is thought to be Angel's last work.

When his lover broke up with him, Angel fell into depression.
On October 27, 1924, he was found dead from a cocaine overdose, either an accident or suicide.
Today, his paintings are highly valued.  One can only imagine what he might have accomplished or the place he might have assumed in the world of Mexican art if he had lived.

Thursday, March 28, 2024

The Threshold of the Abstract

I wrote yesterday that most of Mexico City's Museum of Modern Art is taken up with special exhibits, and I found only two of the five exhibits to be of any interest.  One of them was called "Enrique Echevarría: the Threshold of the Abstract".  I had never heard of Echevarría (1923-1972), but he was considered an important Mexican painter of his generation.  The exhibit shows how his work during his short lifetime became increasingly abstract.

"Self Portrait", 1964

Early in his career he spent a number of years in Spain, and his work is largely figurative... in other words, his subject matter is recognizable.

"The Chair" 1943

"Pío Baroja" 1953
(Baroja was a famous Spanish author.)

"Landscape without Name" 1953

"Ballerina" 1955

"Santillana del Mar" 1956
(Santillana del Mar is a town in northern Spain.)

"Doña Flor" 1956

By the 1960s his style had become increasingly abstract, although his subject matter was still recognizable.

"Soccer Players" 1962

"The Flutist" 1962

"Thought" 1964

"Ester Guitarist" 1965
(Ester was his wife.)

By the late 60s, his work had become completely abstract and largely non-representational.

"Offering No. 1" 1968

"Reminisces of Landscape" 1968

"Astronaut" 1968

Readers of this blog know that my artistic taste tends to be rather old fashioned, so it should come as no surprise that I much prefer his earlier works.  However, it was interesting to observe how his style evolved over the years.

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

A Disappointing Museum

Years ago, when I went to Mexico City's Museum of Modern Art in Chapultepec Park, I found it very disappointing.  For a country which produced so many famous artists in the 20th century, I thought that the number of works from its permanent collection that were on display was paltry.  (Like most museums, only a fraction of the permanent collection is on display at any given time.)  After being closed for renovations, the museum reopened recently. Last week I decided to return and see what changes had been made.  I found the museum even more disappointing than before. There were five temporary exhibitions on going on.  One was of 20th century Italian art, another of photographs of "brutalist" architecture.  Only two of the five did I find at all interesting.  (I will write about them separately.)  There was only ONE small gallery, with perhaps 20 pieces from its permanent collection on display... just 20 pieces to represent the entirety of 20th century art.  There was nothing at all by the "big three" of Mexican muralism, Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros and José Clemente.  Pathetic!

Here are a few of the very few works from the museum's collection on display...

"Still Life" by María Izquierdo, 1928
Izquierdo was one of the first important woman painters in Mexico.  This is one of her early works, and I don't consider it one of her better paintings.

"Multiple Self Portrait" by Juan O'Gorman, 1950
An interesting work by O'Gorman who is best known for having created the mosaic murals covering all four sides of the library of the National University of Mexico.

"Homage to the Indian Race" by Rufino Tamayo, 1952
Although he is not really a favorite of mine, Tamayo is considered one of Mexico's greatest abstract painters.

"The Two Fridas" by Frida Kahlo, 1939
This is arguably the most famous work in the museum's collection.  I'm sure that Frida fans would have a fit if it were not on display.

If you want to see an overview of Mexican art, I suggest that you go to the Natonal Museum of Art downtown which includes a fairly sizeable gallery of 20th century works.

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Construction in the Park

The principal entrance into Chapultepec Park is a walkway known as "la Avenida Juventud Heroica"... Heroic Youth Avenue.  It leads from the Paseo de la Reforma to "el Monumento a los Niños Héroes"... the Monument to the Boy Heroes.  Behind the monument is a hill crowned by Chapultepec Castle.

When I visited the park last week, the area around the monument was closed off by a barricade.  The sign said that the monument was undergoing "rehabilitation".  To visit the attractions of the park, such as the castle or the zoo, you need to circle around the construction area.

At that time, I need not see any work being done on the monument itself, but workers were replacing the marble paving stones on the plaza in front of it.

The monument honors the six teenaged cadets who died in the Battle of Chapultepec when the United States invaded Mexico City in 1847 at the end of the Mexican American War.  Chapultepec Castle was at that time the site of the "Colegio Militar" (the Mexican equivalent of West Point in the U.S.).  In those days the castle was on the outskirts of the city, and the Battle of Chapultepec was the Mexican army's final, desperate defense of the capital.  Although the young cadets had been ordered to leave the castle, many of them refused and continued to fight in the battle.  Six of them, between the ages of 13 and 19 died.  According to popular legend, one of them, Juan Escutia, wrapped himself in the Mexican flag and jumped to his death from the castle rather than let the flag fall into enemy hands.


Monday, March 25, 2024

In Tamaulipas

No, I did not travel to the northern Mexican state located along the Gulf of Mexico and which extends all the way to the U.S. border.  In fact, I have never been to Tamaulipas.  However, to honor the bicentennial of Tamaulipas as a state, there was an outdoor photographic exhibit at the entrance to Chapultepec Park.

Here are a few of the pictures on display...

The mountainous Sierra Madre region

Viewing dawn from a lookout in the Sierra Madre

A field of sunflowers
Tamaulipas is a major producer of sunflowers which are used for oil, livestock feed and the production of soaps and cosmetics.

Dancers celebrate the feast day of Our Lady of the Snows in the village of Palmillas.

A trio performing in front of the bandstand on the main plaza of Tampico, the state's capital

Fishermen with their catch of shrimp, which is sometimes referred to as the state's "pink gold"

On the terrace of an old hacienda house

The endangered Tamaulipas parrot

Agave plants cultivated for the production of mezcal

"Laguna la Escondida" in an urban park in the border city of Reynosa

Sunday, March 24, 2024


Last weekend Alejandro and I were at Home Depot to pick up a few things for the apartment.  They had a large selection of orchids which were on sale.  I have never had an orchid before, but a friend of mine back in Ohio says that they are easy to grow.  After some hesitation, I went ahead and bought one.  It is in front of the living room window where it gets bright sunlight filtered through the sheer curtains.

The plant is in a plastic container filled with bark.  The directions say to water it every 10 to 12 days, although I know that my friend waters it by placing ice cubes in the container.  I am sure that when she reads this, she will give me some advice.

I set it in a small Mexican dish, but today we are going to the "tianguis (outdoor market) that is held every Sunday around the corner from the apartment.  I'll see if I can find an attractive pot in which to place it.

Saturday, March 23, 2024

As Night Falls

Last Saturday we left "Los Girasoles" Restaurant at dusk.  Here are some pictures that we took.

The statue of King Charles IV is silhouetted against the early evening sky.  Created by architect and sculptor Manuel Tolsá, it is considered one of finest equestrian statues in the world.  Because of anti-Spanish sentiment when Mexico won its independence, it came to be nicknamed "El Caballito" (The Little Horse) as if the King weren't even there.

Alejandro took this photo of busy HIdalgo Avenue with the belltowers and domes of the churches of San Juan de Dios and Santa Veracruz.

The Latin American Tower, one of the city's most iconic skyscrapers and the downtown flagship Sears building.

The Palace of Fine Arts is illuminated at night.  In the tents next to it a book fair was being held.  Other vendors had spread their wares on the sidewalk.  Downtown may be quiet on weeknights, but on weekends it is thronged with people until quite late.