Monday, March 19, 2018

UNAM, Cuicuilco, Xochimilco, Bellas Artes, Ballet Foclorico de Mexico, March 18, 2018

I just spent the last few hours working on yesterday's blog and it just disappeared - poof!  That doesn't happen often but it has happened a few times this trip.  It is so frustrating, especially when the Internet is slow and it seems to take forever to post pictures.  Oh well, here I go again!

I decided to book another tour today just for convenience's sake.  The metro and buses are excellent but they take a lot of time.  I was picked up at 8:30 sharp from my hotel but it took until 10 am and 3 van changes until the tour officially started.  I guess the problem was that I was the only client with the company I booked with so they shuffled me over to a different company which unfortunately followed a different itinerary.  And as for complaining about George talking on and on yesterday, today's guide, David, was practically mute!  He did tell us a few interesting things though, such as the population of Mexico is 120 million and 24 million live in Mexico City alone with 4 million cars!  35 million live in the U.S.!

Our first stop was at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico and more precisely at the 1968 Olympic Stadium where we saw a mural by Diego Rivera called The University, the Mexican Family, Peace and Youth Sports.  It's kind of a long name for something that isn't very impressive.  It's made of natural stones and the university shield is in the center with the condor and eagle on a cactus, referring to the orders by Huitzi to the Aztecs about how to find a new place to live. The parents are presenting the dove of peace to their child and the athletes on the outsides are lighting the Olympic torch.  The feathered snake on the bottom refers to the god Quetzalcoati-

The nearby extinct volcano Xitle erupted in 245-315 AD.  The smog from those 4 million cars makes it hard to see and it's a clear day-

The eruption destroyed the city of Cuicuilco where all that remains is this round pyramid, also known as a huachimonton.  Cuicuilco was a city between 750 BC to 115 AD and is known as the oldest city in the Mexico Valley.  The platform, that they think was used for religious purposes, is 100 m in diameter and 25m tall-

It's made of lava rock that's packed around a pile of dirt.  There is no limestone holding the rocks together and the rocks weigh up to 30kg each-

They have found altars in the centre-

The pyramid is in a bad spot because developers want to use the land for new buildings and the rest of the site is covered in 8 - 10 feet of lava so it is nearly impossible to excavate.  I understand the importance of history but this pyramid is very small and it would be on the bottom of my list of things to see in this great city so build away I say.

It took an hour to get to Xochimilco and this gave me time to get to know the others on the tour.  There was a couple from Managua who have a son living and working in Calgary.  Two Taiwanese women had just finished a year working at the Banff Springs as housekeepers.  A Panamanian man lives in Connecticut where he's been assistant managing a KFC for 13 years.

Driving through the city we passed by the Angel of Independence, a 150 foot victory column built to commemorate the centennial of the War of Independence.  It was completed in 1910.  The image of Nike sits on top and she's covered with 24k gold.  She holds a crown above her head and has a broken chain, representing freedom, in her other hand.  There's a 200 step staircase inside leading to the top.  I forget what the first fountain is but I like it-

Once in Xochimilco, the city of flowers, we walked through the hordes of trinket booths to the canals where we were each given a rose to start our trip-

The 3000+ trajineras are all very colorful and named after women-

We were barely on Beatriz-

when our drink orders were taken-

and in no time I had a michelada in my hand-

I've only had one before and that was in Manzanillo when Jane and I went a few years ago.  I didn't like it then but thought I'd give it a try and oh oh, I loved it!

There was a lot of traffic in the canal-

but that just added to the fun!  There are numerous restaurants and bars floating along-

Some people bring their own food and have a picnic-

There is entertainment too:  mirachi bands play-

And there's marimba-

There are a few hundred creepy dolls in the trees on Isla de Las Muñecas.  The legend is that a young girl was found drowned in a canal by Don Julian Santana, a former caretaker of the island.  A few days later he found her doll floating too.  He felt so badly that he couldn't save her, he hung the doll on a tree to remember her but then became possessed by her evil spirit.  To free himself of the evil, he continued hanging up dolls for 50 years.  Eventually he too was found drowned in the exact spot of the little girl.  Dolls hang from the trees and have severed limbs and blank eyes.  It's rumoured they can move and blink because they are possessed too-

Unfortunately we didn't get to take this boat-

There is also shopping along the way.  This is the first time I've seen sombreros for sale since arriving in Mexico-

Blankets and ponchos-

Flower head pieces-

Dolls and other toys-

Even plants-

Who buys all this junk I'd like to know.  You never see anyone making any actual purchases.  It's a hard life.

There are over 175 km of canals.  Mexico City was built on a large lake so islands of reeds were built so there were places to live and grow food, similar to what I saw in South America.  There are greenhouses on some of the islands-

and homes-

Our canal trip was an hour long and that was sufficient although it would have been nice to get away from all the traffic but I don't think many do that.  After Xochimilco, we headed back to the city.  I knew the 28th of November was an important day and Mexico City recognizes my birthday with a square and beautiful fountain-

I stopped at a rooftop bar that has a great view of Templo Mayor-

And the Zócalo-

I wanted to sit at a table with a view so asked a man, who was sitting alone, if I could sit at his table.  He gave me a dirty look and told me to sit at another table inside the restaurant.  I told him I wanted a view so he rolled his eyes and said okay!  Asshole!  So, I decided I wouldn't disturb him by talking to him so I didn't.  Soon we were best of friends!  He's from Cologne, Germany and teaching video editing and photography at the university.  He's been here 3 years and loves it.  He lives in a small 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom apartment and pays $1000/month!  I find that expensive but he says he's in a safe area so it's worth it.  

After the view, I headed to Bellas Artes Museum because on Sundays, entrance is free.  They had an exhibit combining animal elements with humans.  It was kind of weird!

Taller (workshop) de Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1527-1593).  Primavera, 1573  (Spring)-

Pompeo Batoni (1708-1787)  Achille y el Centauro Chirone, 1746-

Pablo Picasso (1881 - 1973) El beso, 1925-

Prune Nourry (n.1985).  Squatting Holy Daughter, 2010-

Victor Brauner (1903-1966).  Mesa-lobo (it looks more like a fox to me than a wolf). 1947-

Orlan (n. 1947).  Surmas Woman with Lip Plug and Face of Euro-Saint-Etienne Woman with Rollers-

And my favorite by Dustin Yellin, Psycogeography 97, 2017.  It's a person made from 25 sheets of plexiglass with cutouts from magazines inserted between the plates to look like a collage-

His head-

The sheets of acrylic-

His leg-

There are also murals on display such as Katharsis o La eterna Lucha de la Humanidad por un mundo Mejor, 1934-1935 by Jose Clemente Orozco (1883-1949).  It's pretty violent-

They have a few of Rivera's too:  Mexico folclorico y turistico, 1936 which shows a lot of the costumes worn during Carnaval and Day of the Dead celebrations-

David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896 - 1974) painted Nueva Democracia, 1944.  These murals are huge; this one measures 5.5m X 11.98m-

Diego's El hombre en el cruce de caminos o El hombre controlador del universo, 1934, is 4.85m X 11.45m-

On my way home, I walked by the post office.  It was built at the beginning of the 20th century and has a combination of many architectural styles complete with marble floors-

The roof has some cool decoration-

It was closed but I could still take pictures.  It's retro-

I went home and had a nap, then went back to Bellas Artes to see el Ballet Foclorico which was one of the best shows I've ever seen.  The costumes and music were amazing.  They present the regions of Mexico across centuries of history-

The woman pulled this red ribbon off of the man's waist; it was like a cummerbund. She put it on the floor, and then with their feet, they tied it into this knot-

All the dances and costumes were so different, then, all of a sudden, these huge figures appeared-

A mariachi band was playing on the stage when all of a sudden drummers were pounding from the upper side boxes-

My favorite was a deer that was being hunted.  He sprinted around the stage, jumped, rolled, crawled and was finally killed.  That part wasn't why it was my favorite-

The finale went on forever.  They danced on the stage and in the aisles and even with viewers.  It was sooooo good-

It was a huge day so I'm looking forward to taking it easy tomorrow during my last full day in the sun.  All museums are always closed Mondays but it's also the birthday of Juarez, a former president so it's a national holiday.  Vive México!  

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