Our Tour

Well, our room mates, 3 young lads from the UK decided to finally come to bed at around 5:30am this morning. They had obviously been out on the town – the recked of alcohol and smoke. I was having a good sleep till the woke me!

When we had had breakfast and were waiting downstairs for our tour to pick us up I asked if we could change to another room, I had over heard the guys talking and knew they had booked another 2 nights. That was absolutely fine so we are now in the next room, alone at present.

Maricela, our tour leader collected us at 9:30am and we joined a French Canadian woman, Helene for our tour. It was such an interesting day and Maricela was so informative. She had studied Anthropology and Art at university so was very passionate about all she was showing and telling us. First we were taken to Frida Kahlo´s home – The Blue House. It was where she was born and raised and then came back to in her later years. It is really lovely and is full of her paintings, artifacts that she had collected and personal items such as her bed and the corsets she had to wear after her accident. The garden was lovely, a real oasis. Her father was a Hungarian Jew and reasonably well off, hence them affording such a lovely house. Her mother was native Mexican, and Frida obviously took after her. Both parents were very radical for their times much into supporting the underdog, she was exposed to the communist way of life and was totally enveloped by that way of thinking all her life.

Then we were taken to the house that was built for Diego Rivera and the adjoining one for Frida which they lived in after they were married and had came back from the three years in America. It was designed by Juan O’Gorman – architect and artist – itwas a very advanced style of building for those times. It is very simple. No unecessary stuff, all very functional. Compared with the other houses being built at that time such as the ornate hacienda styles it was very very different.

There was a display of sculptures and art by Bracho. It was wonderful to actually see in the flesh. I had never been aware of him as an artist but being able to see and feel his sculptures has made me really appreciate his work. The are all so full ond voluminous figures and so beautiful. Diego said that he was the first Mexican to represent prehispanic culture in his art AND he discovered it in himself while in Paris!!

We then went to the Xochimilco. It means ´the place of flowers´. This is an area based around the 200km of canals that were originally built to make the city of Mexico. When the Aztex arrived they had been told by the god to look for the symbol of the eagle with a snake in its beak. They found it on a small island in the middle of a large lake here in the valley surrounded by mountains. So to be abediant to their gods they went ahead and devised a method of reclaiming/building islands. They put long branches down into the water to form a fence, they plant ttrees along this with long reaching root systems. They then dug out soil and put it behind these fences. It was a massive undertaking but very effective. These islands have supported extremely heavy pyramids etc all these years. Only today in our modern times with so many people here now, the water underneath these floating islands has been all used up so everything is sinking. They are having to do some very skillful work to support the huge churches and towers. The Angel tower was sinking at 3m a year!!

The canal boats, called chalupa, are so colourful. There are literally hundreds of them. We spent an hour being poled up and down the canal, being serenaded by various mariachis (musicians), and other smaller boats coming along side trying to sell us food, rugs etc. It is so hard here to look at things because if you show the slightest interest the seller has the whole shop spread out in front of you in seconds and is showing you everything that they think you might like to buy. I tend to steer away from those ones and enjoy talking with the more non pushy ones. We had to bevery firm with them as we literally had no spare money and also no room left in our suitcases to fit anymore weight. We tried some of the corn mixed with cheese and corn. It was very yummy. The type of music here which is atypical is musica ranchera (ranch music – literally country music!!!) There was also small chalupa with men playing marimba (large wooden xylophones) which originate from Veracruz.

A few facts and figures that we have learnt are –

1321 – foundation of Mexico by Tenochtitlan

1521 – conquest by the Spanish

1810, Sept 15 – Independence from Spain and today is their biggest celebration of the year.

1847 – American invasion after which Santana sold New Mexico, Texas, Arizona and part of California to the USA to pay off the debts that Mexico owed. Hence his unpopularity today by many Mexicans!

1857 – Seperation of the church and the state

1865, May 5 – Battle between France and Mexico

1910 – Revolution led by Emilio Zapata and Pancho Villa. They are very much heros today because of this and in todays political situation we are seeing many pictures of them.

We had a wander around the markets at the entrance to the Xochimilco and found some beautiful wall hangings that were light enough and cheap enough to bring home one. A lot of their art work here involves the Aztec gods so even though it is very beautiful we just could not buy it to hang on our walls.

We then left and were taken to the Univsidad Nacional o Mexico (the National University of Mexico) It is a very big university, and is used by people from all over South America. It has beautiful grounds. There were students strewn all around the grassy areas. There seems to be no worries about displaying passion in this country. Couple embrace and show very demonstrative affection anywhere!

We wandered around the university grounds as Maricela showed us the huge murals and explained about them. There are 3 important murealists from this 1950´s era – Diego Rivera, Orozco, and Siqueiros. The three murals by Siqueiros were huge, one was totally mosaic. In all his works he involves movement, volume and socialist elements.

Then the major mural which covers the four sides of the library is enormous and took 6 years to complete. It is totally mosaic. The building and murals were designed and completed by O´Gorman.. The same man who designed Rivera´s house.  It represents the history of Mexico. It is amazing. I said to Maricela that it was comparable to Michaelangelo´s works and she said that in fact it was stated in one of the art museums here that is was comparable with the Sistene Chapel!!

We then were dropped back near our hostel. We got side tracked from actually going back there straight away as there were a couple of young street performers in action. They were real characters. We went on around to see the inside of the Metropolitan Cathedral, once again amazing architecture. Outside were so many beggers. One guy was in a wheel chair which had one complete wheel and the other was just spokes, no rim. He had only one leg and that leg had no foot, just a bloody mess at the end of his leg. There are a lot of blind beggers here too.

We walked around to see the model of Mexico as it was when the Aztecs had first developed it. Just behind it are the ruins of a Mayan temple. We came back and watched the two young guys for ages. Jesika videoed them. They were absolutely amazingly strong. They were preforming a mix of acrobatics & dance, machete and fire juggling.

We got back late and had a quick dinner and went to bed. Nathan not too wonderful. Off his food but not sick.


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