Sunday, July 15, 2007

Frida y Lucha

Today was another "hip-hop-and-ya-don't-stop" kind of day, where we were pretty much walking nonstop. It's kind of interesting when you travel--you realize just how sedentary our lives are at home and how little we actually walk and move our bodies as they are meant to be moved. I am pretty much pledging my allegiance to the cult of Keen; I bought a pair of cute mary janes at REI before I left and they are saving my feet from destruction during these long days of constant walking.

We started off our day by getting breakfast at the corner food cart. A senora was making little quesadillas with homemade tortillas, nopales (cactus) and cheese. Yum! I had two since I had no idea when we were going to be eating again. We stood on the corner for almost an hour eating our breakfast. Everything takes a little longer in a big the T.E.A.M. likes to say, it's like herding cats.

After we finally finished our breakfast, we jumped on a bus towards downtown to check out the historical district and its surrounding buildings. We got caught in a bunch of traffic and decided to jump off when we found ourselves at a standstill by the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes and we noticed that the huge Frida Kahlo retrospective (to commemorate what would have been her 100th birthday) didn't have the rumored 4 blocks of lines. I had been wanting to check out the show, since I really appreciate artist gives you such a great idea of the artist's true interests, their motivations, etc. While waiting in line to get in, we talked a little bit about why Frida was so popular after her death. Raul says that her work wasn't very popular at all while she was living and that her fame has come posthumously because the story of her life is so vibrant and tragic. I am sure that is partially true, but I am also inclined to believe that her work is of particular interest now because her paintings (from this woman's perspective) alternate between a tender and willful expression of the female condition during the 1940s and 50s. Now that we're pretty deeply past the women's liberation movement, her voice is now, more than in the past, utterly relatable. For example, this piece, to me, was particularly heartbreaking:

Previously, I had only seen Frida's self-portrait painting work, but the show had a couple of her still life pieces and one work of collage that I found interesting. They also had a number of photos of her. I was glad that we got to see the show (i was afraid that we weren't going to go)...though I got the feeling that some of the group wasn't that into her...and I couldn't really gauge whether it was because we had to wait in line for a little while, or if because she was so popular and it was "cool" to be "over" her. Seriously, this show is a big deal...there are posters for the show plastered all over the city, and they proudly proclaim that this a "HOMAJE NACIONAL" (national homage). For those of you that have been to Mexico and know the level of machismo that can be achieved here, you know that it is no small potatoes when a woman is treated as a national treasure.

We walked out of the beautiful art-deco Bellas Artes building straight into a group of naked men who were protesting...something. Nobody--not even the locals--seemed to know what they were mad about [actual conversation: Hope--"What are they protesting?" Mexico City Resident--"I don't know...everything?"] It was the biggest group of naked people that I had seen outside of Burning Man, and strangely, enough, it made me feel really comfortable and at home, as weird as that sounds.

After we got our fill of the naked men, we walked through one of the oldest parks in Mexico City (apparently part of the Spanish Inquisition had occurred in this park) to arrive at the Museo de Arte Popular (i.e, the Craft museum). This was actually a really great introduction to the various crafts from different tribes from all areas of Mexico, and I took some photos of the work that I found particularly interesting (posted on my Flickr page here). Honestly, I was blown away by the craftsmanship and detail of some of these pieces. I apologize for the quality of the images...everything was behind glass, which made it hard to photograph, but in person the work was stunning, and made me even more excited to get down to Oaxaca (where a lot of this work originates).

After recharging with a couple of coffees made by the hardest working man in Mexico City (seriously, this poor guy was running the cash register, making the coffees, making the sandwiches, and delivering all the goodies to our tables), we went downtown to check out the old square and some the surrounding historic buildings. We decided to have lunch in a very fancy cantina, which was housed in an absolutely gorgeous building. I felt like I was in the middle of Provence, as snotty as that sounds. :) I ordered beef with squash blossoms (flor de calabasa). YUM. This place was great! Unfortunately, when the bill came, it was a serious buzz kill, as it's kind of difficult splitting the bill with 9 other people who had varying levels of drink and eat. All of a sudden, I remembered that I was with a bunch of college students, when I kept having to throw down 10 more pesos, and another 10 and another 10.

My harshed buzz was soon recharged with the thought of our plans for the evening. We were planning on attending the Lucha Libre fight that night. For those of you that haven't heard of La Lucha Libre, it is sort of like WWF, but the wrestlers wear iconic masks, fantastic costumes, and, as I found out later that night, have midget sidekicks in gorilla costumes. We really had no idea what to expect. As me and Adrien (one of the gals on the trip that has become my little buddy) are the ones with the most Spanish speaking skills, we were left to try to garner tickets for the rest of the group (we had tried to get tickets earlier that day, but the lady at Gandhi, the local "Tower music", said that they had no more tickets in any price level that were seated together. So, we found a scalper that had 5 seats together in a decent part of the arena Mexico, and after some tough bargaining, we talked him down from 200 to 180, and then down to $900 for all 5 (which, actually, is $180 per ticket). Math is hard...let's go shopping! Actually, I'm not sure that we could have done any better, as it was a serious madhouse there and we could barely make it through the crowd because it was so thick with people. All of that was worth it, though, as we got to see Mistico fight (apparently he is muy popular). It was SOOOO funny...the entire thing was staged and the kitsch level was VERY high. Whenever someone got thrown out of the ring, the entire front row would jump out of their seats to get out of the way because they knew that the next guerrero was going to jump out of the ring to body slam them. One fighter, Alex Koslov, was a favorite with the ladies for his good looks (he didn't wear a mask) and his gyrations. Whenever he made a good move, he would rub himself and rotate his hips, and the girls would go crazy.

All in all, I'm amazed by the number of things that we did in one day, and I am seriously grateful that I got to see la Lucha Libre live.

1 comment:

Kara said...

What a perfect everything-AND-the-kitchen-sink day!!! Oh, and thanks for taking the pic of those protesters um, from the back. Hee hee.... xoxo k