Friday, October 16, 2009

Festival Interational de Cine de Morelia

Last weekend I went to this film festival ( in Morelia. It was great to spend a weekend in such a beautiful city just watching films from all over the world.

We saw films from Italy, the US and England (a film called Helen which I thought was pretentious rubbish) but the best was definately Abrazos Rotos by Almodover, which while still quirky enough to be an Almodover was very funny and popular with everyone.

The festival is very well run making Morelia a popular location for the weekend but not over crowded nor over priced.

The city centre of Morelia is a world heritage site and also the capital of the state of Michoacan (famous for narcos.) The Spanish established a mission convent in the city and named it Valladolid in 1541. It is full of beautiful Spanish arhitecture and unlike in D.F the city is clean and well maintained (I'm told this was helped by the current governer who kicked all of the puestos [stalls/sellers] out of the centre.)

While Michoacan is well known for drugs and drug related crime (beheadings and the like), as one taxi driver explained this has very little effect on the people living here who are not involved in the drug scene. The Morelians seem calm, laid back people making Morelia an even nicer place to visit.

Anyway, back in D.F life is chaos once again with the Luz y Fuerza electritans' union marching down the main road (Reforma) all of yesterday making traffic an even bigger nightmare than usual. It seems Calderon has taken a very small leaf out of Maggie's book by shutting down this inefficient, corrupt and powerul union (there are still many more to go.) While he is offering 33 months redundancy payment it still means unemployment due to corruption amongst government and union leaders. And chaos to everyone else.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


A couple of weeks ago (yes, I know I'm slow) Zoe and I took a trip to Tula as this is one of the items on her list of things to do/see/eat before she leaves Mexico at the end of this month (noooooooo!!!) Sadly I am rarely the initiator of an archeological site trip (I call it "more into art and modern history" others may call it "pleb") so if this blog is lacking in detail I do apologise.

Tula (originally Tollan) was once the capital of the Toltec - those believed to have inhabitated and dominated pre-Columbian central Mexico between the 10th and 12th Century AD. I say 'believed' because Wikipedia considers the Toltec "possibly real and possibly fictional" (not that I would ever use such a lazy and unrealiable source as wiki for my blog.) However my guide book and those handy information boards around the ruins present the Toltec and its tradditions as historical facts so I shall proceed in this manner.

Anyway back to Tula: What I most liked about it and what it is most famous for are its Atlantean colossal statues (gigantes) that were originally used as columns to support a temple on top of what is now one of the site's pyramids. They are 15 feet tall and make still make a striking impression despite having been thrown down a ramp when Tollan was destroyed (possibly by the Chichimec [no tengo ni idea! Research it at your own risk.])

On the site there are also ruins of a palace... altar (TA-DAA!)...

...another temple...

...and, of course, a reference to sacrfice (on the serpent wall surrounding a small plaza) with images of snakes devouring human skulls.

There is also an ancient ball court (the largest in central Mexico) but this was undergoing restoration on our visit so I was unable to see it.

All in all it was a good day and I am pleased to have seen the site and been on a pyramid viewing venture since I do live in Mexico and am well aware how proud many of the Mexicans I have met are of their ancient culture.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Life in Swine Flu City

I realise that living in Mexico City I can not avoid a post on the current pandemic (or potential pandemic, however you see it). But I don't really know what I can say on the matter that has not already been said and overexaggerated in the press (see; any British newspaper.)
Hence I will try to correct or verify what has been said/shown:

1. Mexico City is not a ghost town: Shops and most businesses are open and most continue to work/shop/go on with their daily lives.
2. Measures have been taken: Restarants, bars, schools (includng my school) and gyms (AND my gym) are closed. People are taking extra care with hygiene and kissing hello has stopped (although people do still communicate with one another and while they keep their distance it is not 6 feet [shock shcok horror horror].)
3. The masks are worn and are stupid. Their name; tapaboca (mouth lid) is even dumber. The idea that a piece of cloth protecting your mouth is going to protect us all from the disease is ridiculous especially considering the number of articles I have read explaining that only good hygiene will help and that the moisture the masks absorb may only make things worse. They are however very popular with the Mexicans and I do wear mine on the metro out of courtesy but nothing else. I am now the proud owner of about 5 as they are being handed out EVERYWHERE. Another important point regarding the masks is that Mexicans have always been partial to a tapaboca even before this outbreak. Throughout my 8 months in this country I have often spotted Mexicans (with colds I assume) wearing them. This leads to my next point...
4. Mexicans are scared of getting sick. They always maintain high levels of hygiene and take real pride in a clean house (to such a level that even the most obsessive compulsive of British housewives (or husbands [this is an a pro equality blog I'll have you know] would be put to shame.) I fear this may be because in a developing country such as this people may well die of ordinary flu/illnesses. Hence I would really like to have more information about those who have died so far and exactly how many of these cases can be confirmed as having been caused by the virus.
5. I do not feel like like a character in John Christopher's Empty World (who'd have known that one of Mr. Kidd's dull choice of reading matter for my 12 y.o self would ever come up?) nor is D.F like the set of 28 Days/Weeks/Months/Fortnights/etc Later (a series I have never seen but which is currently popular amongst the other disaster movies selling out in movies stores/illegal puestos everywhere.)

6. And finally, as with any good Potential Pandemic, War (see Iraq) or Royal Death (see Princess Di) there are of course conspiracy theories a plenty. Most popular amongst Mexicans being that this was created by the U.S (who else?) for their evil plan for world domination (Obama did visit barely a week ago). In close second the virus was created by Calderon to distract from the financial crisis and his lack of success with the drug cartels (although many of his cabinet have recieved some financial success from those.)

So, as you may well have worked out by now I am currently at home with no gym nor bar nor restaurant. Hence I am having a rather pleasant government imposed relaxing time. I am listening to Spanish classes on Spanishpod (excellent podcast service for language learners) and finally have the chance to read Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments which Pat kindly bought me from the U.S (v.interesting so far, I'm on chapter 5.)
All I really want to say is please please please do not worry about me. It is terrible and devastating that people have died from this virus (as death always is) and I am truly sorry for all those Mexicans who have lost their loved ones and hope the current number of fatalities increases no further. However the POSSIBLE (remembered not all have been confirmed H1N1 cases) fraction of fatalitites from the virus is still very low and that yes, the WHO has raised the warning level but this seems to be more due to the spreading of the disease rather than the danger of the disease itself.
Obviously I am following the official advice given and while I am well aware of the risk here I do not feel myself to be in serious danger but I promise to keep monitoring the situation.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


After a load of complications and different offers for what to do for Easter, we simply rented a car and went to the beach. This time, instead of going to Acapulco (like the rest of the population in DF) we headed that way but drove a little further up the coast with 'the palace' (see below) and stayed on one of the many vigin beaches between Zihuatanejo and Acapulco, in a town called Arenal.

We followed the first signs we saw for cabanas and arrived at the above, owned by an old man with just some hammocks, tables and a small "restaurant" (a very basic kitchen serving only fresh fish, tortillas and beer). The people were lovely and let us pitch up our tent for nothing. The place was frequented by fisherman and families from Arenal with whom we spent some evenings playing dominoes and drinking cervesa.

On the Friday we took a small drive down the coast to a nearby laguna we had been told about to go swimming and have a BBQ (we bought ours with us but unfortunately forgot the grill; photo below) which was really beautiful.

Unforunately on our drive back to the cabana our car became stuck in the sand and there was no way of moving it. We went back to the laguna to ask a small family for some help and soon we had an army of Mexicans pushing the car out. After sharing out our vodka with them (modern manners) we were safely on our way back to the cabana.
Now, after a great break I am back at work with a big fat timetable just trying to think of the money and not go insane over the 3rd person singular (he HAS a car - he does not HAVE a car!) and of course looking forward to my next holiday.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Barbie Girls!

After hearing about Mum and Dad's visit to a Barbie exhibition during their stay in Mexico, Zoe and I obviously had to take that trip to the Franz Mayer (below) to see it for ourselves.
Celerating 50 years of the plastic icon, the exhibit shows Barbie reflecting the times and pop culture throughout the past half century.
Above: Gone with the Wind; Below: Wonderwoman and Bond
From French maid to baseball player to American president Barbie could both conform to and challenge sexist stereotypes.

She was created by Ruth Handler to offer a different type of doll that was neither a child nor a baby. She was named after Handler's child, Barbara, as was Ken (a little disturbing this me thinks.)

The exhibit displayed Barbies from all around the world, including Mexico (of course...)
...and Blighty (spot the British Barbie hahaha);

The exhibit also demonstrates Barbie's role in fashion and to celebrate her 50th Birthday, designers from all round the world have created new outfits for her. Below is one by a Mexican designer that I particularly liked;
In case visitng a Barbie exhibit full of young children was not barking enough, Zoe and I could not resist a photo in the Barbie boxes outside the exhibit (although some 5 year olds did have to be fought off first)

Overall it was a really fun day and we left with Aqua's Barbie Girl song stuck firmly in our heads (however, should anyone ask, I never owned a Barbie and grew up with educational toys only [- oh how I loved my junior laboratory and mini calculator!])

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera Museums

My last week of holiday before school was spent in DF and so I had the chance to visit the two museums I have been keen to see for a long time; the Frida Kahlo and the Diego Rivera...

The Blue House
This is where Frida Kahlo was born and where she lived periodically with Diego Rivera. The house is in beautiful Coyoacan, is ovbviously blue and has works by Frida, Diego and other artists, plus letters they sent eachother, a great big pile of Communist literature and a mini pyramid in the garden.
After seeing the inside of the house (taking photos unfortunately prohibited) I practiced my Spanish watching the video at the museum: From what I can gather Kahlo, in many ways had a very unhappy life, with a husband who had various affairs (including one with her sister) and spent a lot of time in hospital (due to polio at the 6 and a bus accident in 1925). She was also childless and suffered many miscarriages which she often references in her paintings.
Although, on the other hand I'm not entirely sure life for Frida was ALL the doom and gloom she made out. I think she was an outgoing, confident human being, always favouring the more tradditional Mexican dress and painting herself with prominent Mexican features (thick eyebrows and yes, a bit of a tash). She also managed to have her own affair with Leon Trotsky while he was exiled in Mexico DF...

...However in the painting below she does liken herself to a wounded animal.

It was particularly fun visiting the museum with my dramatic friend Vanessa who wandered around the house comparing herself to Kahlo at every oppourtunity.

Below is a photo V took of me outside the house:

Either way it was a great day and fascinating to visit the wacky house of this wacky but talented artist with my extremely wacky friend.


Rivera designed Anahuacalli as a place to display his Pre-Columbian artefacts. It is made out of dark Volcanic stone and is reminiscent of a Maya tomb, inside being cool and dark. In all honesty I was expecting this place to be rather dull, being a bit of a pleb when it comes to ancient history but with the (free [of course]) tour guide I found it pretty interesting especially thinking how old many of the items in the museum are.

Diego's collection is huge, and includes models of warriors...

...childrens' dolls made from the historic version of playdough...
...and what may look like a jug but, when filled with certain levels of water, wacked and blown into correctly is in fact a musical instrument:
I also liked some Diego's personal touches especially his snake and Communist (what else?) themed ceilings:

And the random frogs/toads on the ground floor:
From the terraza there are views of the surrounding city and volcanoes in the distance although I am sure they were easier to see when Dego built his museum and Mexico City was not one of the most polluted places in the world (got to love that filthy sky)!

Outside of the museum there was also an alebrije; a paper maiche cross between a monster and an animal. These are a very common and tradditional type of art in Mexico and come in all forms and sizes (although this one was a biggy). Having mocked other tourists for taking photos of themselves "fighting" the monster, Zoe and I later did the very same:
Overall it was a great week and one which makes me very grateful to live in such an interesting city with so much to do and such interesting inhabitants.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

2009 and Kings

Ok so after way too long a gap I will now be tryng to update my blog for January before February comes along with even more to add.

New Year in Acapulco
As mentioned in my previous blog I spent New Year in Acapulco at the beach as I was very kindly invited by my roomate. Acapulco is a lot of fun and a very popular tourist destination, being one of the nearest beaches from Mexico City. It was therefore packed with "Chilangos" (Mexico D.F dwellers) for the complete NY period making it a great place for parties but not for virgin beaches and stunning scenery. Either way a good time was had by all and the hangovers were probably not as bad as we deserved although the us joruney back could have been shorter...

6th January - Piñatas and the Arrival of The Kings

The arrival of the 3 Kings is yet another important festival in Mexico. Although many poor Mexicans do still have to go to work, the day does not pass by unnoticed. Fortunately for Zoe and I, IH was still on holiday and so we took ourselves off to the Mueso de Arte Popular (as mentioned in a previous blog) to see their Piñata exhibition (what else?).
[In the picture below I am just in front of a random Paper Mache peacock which has very little to do with the exhibtion, I just liked the bird.] ANYWAY... Piñatas are extremely popular at Meixcan parties and are traddtionally star shaped with 7 points to represent the 7 Deadly Sins. You then bash them about untill gifts (usually sweets and little toys) fall out. This is done blindfolded in turns and is actually a lot of fun as I have been lucky enough to experiance first hand. The exhibition however had a range of beautiful and unique piñatas. My favourites probably being the Kings (above) and this little guy below: After the museum I then had to buy la Rosca for the party Vanesa and I organised for Dia de los Reyes Magos. This party essentially involves gathering friends and eating Rosca (a sweet bread; above) with hot chocolate.
The only tricky part is cutting the Rosca as baked inside are small dolls (2 in our case) and whoever touches them with the knife is doomed to make tamales for all the people at the party on 2nd February.
The dolls are believed to represent the "hiding" of Jesus to protect him from Herodes, however I still don't know the significance of 2nd February although I'm sure I shall within the next fortnight...
Fortunately I was spared from the making tamales but look forward to trying Zoe and Pat's efforts shortly. Hahahahaha...