Whitney Museum of American Art in New York hosts a remarkable exhibit of the Mexican muralist painters that worked in the USA influencing and shaping the destinies of many American painters. The exhibit has also a reproduction of the Diego Rivera’s mural from Palacio de Belle Arte in Mexico City similar in concept with the one he started to paint in Rockefeller Center where he decided to add a portrait of Lenin to the chagrin of Nelson Rockefeller who ended up canceling the commission and destroying the mural.
Diego Rivera@Palacio de Belle Arte, Mexico City
Nelson Rockefeller’s letter asking Rivera to remove Lenin’s portrait from Rockefeller Center’s mural
Chac Mol Beach, Cancun, Mexico
I took a walk on the beach and looked at the people. Nobody was talking. They walked even holding hands. Silence. Sad, bored, featureless faces. Afar, way gone from the present reality. Each one with their thoughts. Couples were sitting slightly apart looking in opposite directions in their iPhones and texting away toward somebody else. They were together but far apart. No smiles on their faces. In paradise? Do they really smile when they make love? I was for only one day in Cancun and I was missing Cuba already. Its vibrant and incessant Brownian life. The cries of the streets to neighbors, the catcalls, the noise and the fumes, the agitation, the continuous mulling on the streets, the couples, old and young, the single and friends, the jineteras and the street smarts all smiling. The good time with nothing on the table, but a really good time better than at the king’s feast. And sexuality like nowhere else. In Cuba nobody has what Cancun can offer but people exult an explosive happiness and joyfulness and a joie de vivre that exceed even the sense of the expression. They cannot afford fancy drinks and don’t dance in glitzy clubs, they swig a shot of rum and wave their bodies on the streets and in squares in complete abandon. Cancun is life taught in school while Cuba is the pure, instinctive life.
El Castillo; Kukulcan Pyramid in Chichen Itza, Mexico
I remember going to Chichen Itza many years ago with my backpack and wondering where I can leave it to visit the ruins. The ticket office was a small booth in a field and I asked the attendant to keep my backpack till I wander on the grounds. It was nothing else close by, almost like it was when the Mayans left the place more than 1000 years ago. Not anymore. Chichen Itza is now a major tourist spot where buses cough daily hundreds of beach goers from Cancun for a one day cultural immersion among the Maya. A large parking place is right in front of an aggrandized entrance with a wall where the name of the old Mayan town is spelled large. On the entrance plaza, full of souvenir shops, are several guys dressed and painted to resemble old Maya warriors, ready for pictures, in a sort of Times Square Disney characters style but adapted for the local needs. The ruins are all there but are now completely surrounded by metal bars to prohibit the access. The good old days when you could climb on top of Kukulkan Pyramid and watch the entire square at your feet like an old Maya priest are gone. And taking in consideration the size of the crowds stomping the grounds it does not look like a bad idea. I was wondering if all the tourists would climb El Castillo, how many would come tumbling down descending its narrow steps.
Observatory, Chichen Itza, Mexico
I remember trying to find many years ago the Observatory, the famous building that look exactly as one in our days having represented on its cupola the sky as we know it. It was out of the main group of ruins, quite isolated and somehow lost in the jungle. Now the chances to lose yourself in the jungle are slim and you just have to follow the artisans stalls that are completely covering on both sides the entire complex’ alleys like in an gigantic mercado that somehow tries to stay in the shade. However in spite of all crowds tromping around the site remains impressive and hearing again the story of those amazing Maya, incredible astronomers and mathematicians, fighters and worshipers make you wonder how our own civilization would be able to survive the disasters caused by nature but mainly the ones by our own making.
Suytun Cenote, Mexico
Close by is a cenote, a large hole in the ground full of sweet water a prevalent feature in Yucatan and beyond. Being made out of a calcareous base the ground has just about 40 cm of dirt, a thing that made it hard to be cultivated even during the Maya times. Underneath, in the calcareous base are underground rivers that connect the approximate 5000 cenotes in a secret labyrinth of water. This cenote was discovered by accident. Walking his dog on his propriety, a man just happen to see how his dog fell into the earth through a hole and heard a splash. Trying to rescue the poor soul he discovered a large cenote whose ceiling is intact, except the small hole. In time he built around it and transformed it in a bathing place, probably less holy that during the Maya but a dive into it in the middle of a heated Yucatan day is like a blessing from another dimension.
Palacio National, Mexico City
The flight from Miami was quite bumpy over the Mexican capital but we made it and after the Mexican disorganization worked its way I finally was able to find my backpack thrown somewhere in the terminal . Got an official taxi, a good chance not to get robbed, and share it with a girl from Brooklyn who came here to study Spanish but was afraid to travel by herself with a cabbie in the night. Good idea, thou. After we dropped her I reached my hotel close to midnight. The morning is gloriously shrouded in sun and getting out I thought that the city was occupied by the army. Militares were everywhere, parading and being stationed in Zocalo, this besides the policia municipal in riot gear stationed on all sides of the square. It looks like the full blown war with the drug dealers is taken very seriously. The Police car lights are everywhere. I did not know if there can be so many. Cars, trucks, buses, moto were all on the road. It may have been some event in the square I hope. Did not have too much time so I investigated a little for when I will be back and hopped the airport bus, whose each stop was guarded by a government employee, that dropped me in a humongous airport, no relation to what I remember from the 90s when I was last time in Mexico. If you have luggage is a mess to schlep it all over and to my utmost surprise it does not have a immigration for departures; you go directly to the gate and they take you the entry form and that’s it.