Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Getting the Blues back in Mexico

London may be home, but it sure is good to return to the Winter light of Mexico. Having just ventured to the Big Smoke for the Christmas break, and for the first time in five years, it felt like moving underground and becoming a member of the mining profession. It was pitch dark by 3.30pm, and some days it simply never got light at all, with a grey, overcast and bleak sky to dampen the spirit....

Contrast the strong desire to hibernate in such a situation, or at the very least feel a little SAD, with the strong clarity and intensity of the light here in Mexico. All these shots were taken in winter months around and about in various locations of the country.....

Now as 2009 rapidly approaches doesn't all that bright blue sky lift the spirits?? Doesn't it banish all feelings of doom and gloom??

Photographs :-
1) View from Sierra de San Francisco, San Ignacio, Baja California
2) Ghost Town of Real de Catorce,
3) Templo El Santuario in Patzcuaro,
4) Sculpture, Malecon, La Paz, Baja California,
5) Back to Real de Catorce,
6) Ensenada, Baja California


And thanks so much for taking the time to stop by.....

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Posadas and Pinatas

December 16th sees the start of the annual posadas in Mexico, which are re-enactments of the journey to Bethlehem by Mary and Joseph, and the difficulties they experienced in finding lodgings. Mexico puts its own special twist on this event by ensuring that far from the traditional dry nativity representations, there is always a fun-filled fiesta at the end. A procession wends its way round the streets, continually being turned away from house after house, until of course it hits the designated party house (symbolically the stable) and then the real fun begins...........
Photo - Sanborns Restaurant - House of Tiles - Centro Historico - DF

Part of the fun is, of course, the traditional blindfolded bashing of the pinatas, with blow after blow raining down, until the pinata finally splits apart and gives up its goodies. Traditional pinatas are star-shaped with seven spikes - each spike representing one of the seven deadly sins. So the symbolism is that you are destroying the deadly sins in order to receive your reward. Most restaurants, shops, hotels, streets will also hang pinatas of gigantic proportions as festive decorations for this seasonal time of year. Pinatas can also be bought in every shape imaginable from superheroes to cartoon characters, from princesses to racing cars.......

Photo - Spiderman Superhero pinatas - Zacatecas - Mexico.

Two words of warning for pinata novices. One is a tale of a friend´s first Christmas in Mexico whereby an enthusiastic, blindfolded sister-in-law took a mighty swing, baseball bat style, connecting with the back of her head instead of the pinata, and landing her in Casualty with severe concussion. Two concerns an enthusiastic group of Brits who organised a rather cute looking Winnie-the-Pooh pinata for a little English girl´s first birthday party. All was going fine until a couple of rather spot-on shots left Pooh a double amputee and then quadraplegic all in very quick succession. As the four limbs sailed off merrily to the four winds and the four compass points across the roofs of Mexico City, the accompanying wailing and screeching could also be heard far and wide. In fact the kid remained inconsolable for the rest of the party, and the adults had to compensate with copious amounts of alcohol to blot out the bawling. Are Mexican kids simply bred tougher??

Monday, December 8, 2008

Skating in DF - Big Taco or Big Apple?

Eat your heart out Rockerfeller centre!! We only need to nip down to the Zocalo to put on our skates and join the seasonal festive fun. The ice rink was inaugurated last year by our Mayor to bring the best of the icy Winter Season to the masses here in the metropolis of Mexico City.

Allegedly billed as the largest ice rink in the world, it takes centre stage in the Plaza of the Centro Historico, overlooked by the Palacio Nacional which houses the Rivera murals, and the impressive Metropolitan Cathedral ( just a little lopsided these days due to serious subsidence ).

When I visited this time last year, there were very few people skating with confidence in the middle (although perhaps they were put off by the melting puddles...); most were clinging to the wooden sides for dear life and just trudging around the edge, but having the best fun with the biggest smiles on their faces.

Just in case you do momentarily mistake the scene, and suddenly think you may be in the Big Apple rather than the Big Taco, let me pull the camera back and let me show you what was happening in other parts of the Zocalo on the same day at the same time...

Limpiador - traditional Aztec cleansing ritual with copal.

Hordes of ordinary Mexicans queue to have this cleansing ceremony performed.

The skating rink is in the zocalo this year from 29th November until 10th January, open from 9am until 9pm... and totally free (including skate hire). Instructors from DF Youth Institute are on hand to help you if you feel ready to venture away from the edge!!

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Green Heart of Mexico City

Polluted, choked with car fumes, the stench of diesel, the blanket of smog, grey concrete jungle, traffic jam ridden, the metallic taste at the back of the throat, the equivalent of smoking 40 a day, asthma and many kinds of respiratory diseases - all common images of the centre of Mexico City.

And all true up to a point... but there is so much more to the heart of this city. Green spaces abound forming the lungs of the city centre. From topiary, to roof terraces, from parks to street gardens, from courtyards and patios to balcony plants there may be little grass in the city, but there sure is a lot of greenery.

All these green spaces are within twenty minutes walk of my centrally located apartment in colonias such as La Condesa, Chapultepec, and Cuauhtemoc, proving that the dominant colour is green not grey.

Roof Terrace Bar of the Condesa Hotel DF, Colonia Condesa.

Parque Espana, Colonia Condesa.

Jardin Botanico, Chapultepec Park.

Chapultepec Park, Mexico City.

Finally, yes, this is still the city centre - view from Chapultepec Castle.

Where is your favourite green space??

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Photo Booths at the Basilica Guadalupe

As the great annual pilgrimage to the Basilica Guadalupe begins to gather momentum to arrrive at the most visited shrine in North America on the Guadalupe Virgin's Day, December 12th, it may be interesting to visit the world of the traditional photographer and his photo booth.

Sunday, or family day, here in Mexico witnesses large groups of extended families spending the day visiting the shrine, praying at the churches, strolling around the gardens, buying Virgin souvenirs.

No Sunday is complete without the requisite "recuerdo", the souvenir which will enshrine these treasured memories forever in the form of the family photograph.

Located in the spacious grounds of the Basilica, families, couples, children queue to have their photograph taken, complete with all the necessary religious accessories of images of the Virgin and the Pope, but also the cultural trappings of glitzy sombreros, obliging horses, brightly-striped sarapes, vibrant flowers, and perfect ponchos.

For a mere 30 pesos (3USD) the photographer will compose, dress, take, process and deliver your unique souvenir all within about 5 minutes. It is another one of those Mexican traditions that alongside balloon selling, bubble blowing, and candy floss spinning hark back to an innocent and unspoilt era akin to the fifties - bygone in the typical modern metropolis.

Isn't it rather heartwarming in this clinical, digital age that such photographers can still run such thriving businesses??

What is your favourite setting for a souvenir photograph that will just summon up those memories at a single glance??

Photographs - Basilica Guadalupe, La Villa, Mexico City, DF

Monday, December 1, 2008

Meet the Terror Sisters!

From Guerilla knitting straight to the Terror sisters - creativity is certainly getting a little edgy in the Big Taco these days. Meet Nadia and Renata Sanchez, sisters who have both given up their full time jobs to launch their jewellery design business as of February this year.

Designing under the business name of Foufouchat, they are currently operating out of their exquisitely designed apartment in Colonia Escandon. The apartment is extremely spacious with a French influence in the furnishings and design.

The sisters currently offer friends of friends a sumptuous shopping experience in the apartment which starts with tea, gallettes, and conversation before progressing for a perusal of the jewellery cases which line the walls and display a whole selection of beautifully crafted necklaces, rings, earrings, hair-bands, keychains, bags - many made of gorgeous fabrics, pearls, semi-precious stones - all with a quirky style and vintage twist.

Each piece is a unique one-off hand-crafted creation - never to be repeated.

Watch out for the launch of the website which is promised very soon....... In the meantime, they would be delighted to be contacted on telephone number 2614 - 6660 or mobile 00445529221206... rumour has it that there will be a jewellery party hosted in the New Year.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Guerilla Knitting in Colonia Roma, DF

There seems an inherent contradiction in the term "Guerilla Knitting", used to describe the latest art intervention by Houston artist Magda Sayeg, which is currently parked at the Plaza Luis Cabrera in Colonia Roma, DF at the corner of Orizaba and Guanajuato.Perhaps inspired by Bulgarian wrap artist Christo, famous for wrapping the Reichstag in Berlin and the Pont Neuf in Paris, the art work takes the form of a DF city collectivo covered completely in crochet in clashing colours - not even the wheels escape. More details can be found at The Knitta crew was formed in August 2005 and in their own words they are "a tag crew of knitters bombing the inner city with vibrant, stitched works of art wrapped around everything from beer bottles on an easy night to public monuments on more ambitious outings". Indeed their work has stretched from wrapping the Golden Gate Bridge to the Great Wall of China!

Close up photos show the vibrancy of the choice of colours, patterns, stripes, designs, and combinations.
Minerva, her representative in DF for this particular installation, is shown here with a friend putting the finishing touches to covering the door of the bus in a strip of brightly-hued floral crochet.They were unsure how long it would be parked here, so if you are interested in quirky contemporary art installations, don't miss this particular bus!!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Day of the Dead in Patzcuaro - Sugar Skulls

The vast array of sugar skulls for sale on the Day of the Dead never ceases to amaze me, even though I have now witnessed this Festival four years in a row in different locations in Mexico. What struck me most, however, this year in Patzcuaro as I perused the latest wares on offer in the Zocalo, was the wide choice of personalities and expressions created.

From the dopily doleful........

To the daintily demure.........

To the disarmingly delightful......

To finally the downright deranged... and disturbingly dangerous!

Photographs-Patzcuaro-Portal Hidalgo-Venta de Calaveritas de Azucar.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Colours of Mexico

Whether it be buildings, textiles, flowers, food, streetlife or markets, probably the first thing that always strikes visitors new to Mexico is the intoxicating assault on the senses....led by colour and followed by light. It is usually the dominant memory that is taken home; even more so if you happen to be an artist, writer or photographer... or like me just a mere dabbler......

These photographs were all taken recently in Patzcuaro, and even when you live here in Mexico it is almost impossible to become so hardened or blase to the colours that you fail to notice them any more.....

How can anyone fail to be inspired??? Or not wish to try their luck creatively or artistically???

Photographs - Patzcuaro markets - PATZCUARO -Michoacan State.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Paricutin Volcano

It is a treasured story remembered from childhood graders about the Purepecha farmer who was ploughing his field on the afternoon of February 20th 1943, only to have to beat a hasty retreat from the smoking steam and sparks that shook the earth beneath his feet, as the volcano emerged.

A year later the volcano had risen 410m and buried the two Purepecha villages of San Salvador Paricutin and San Juan Parangaricutiro. The only trace of these villages today is the tower of the church set amidst a 20km solidified black lava field. Clambering precariously over the lumpy black boulders away from the tower, it is possible to reach the altar of the church still very well preserved amongst the lava.

It is even more fascinating when you manage to find a local who not only remembers the eruption of the volcano and speaks of the day from living memory, but also clutches an old, plastic bag of tattered, fading photographs of the villages and the church before they were engulfed and swallowed up forever.

This makes a wonderful day trip out from Uruapan, via the turn-back-the-clock village of Angahuan with its medieval wooden houses, cobbled streets and beautiful church. The site of the buried village and church tower is a very pleasant 90 minute walk from Angahuan, along a winding trail that wends its way through cool, pine forests and the lava field itself. Uruapan is a town in the state of Michoacan, six and a half hours by bus North-West of Mexico City.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Breakfast at the Condesa DF Hotel

There are so many wonderful places to indulge in a leisurely breakfast in DF, but one of my favourite locations has to be the cool, designer hotel - Condesa DF. Located on the edge of Parque Espana in Colonia Condesa, one can partake of a gourmet buffet of smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels, berries with granola, honey and yoghurt, plus a wide array of homemade breads, cakes and muffins.

Serving on a Sunday up until 1pm, there is plenty of time to glance around to see which celebrities are in town this weekend, and the gorgeous roof terrace where a leisurely afternoon can be whiled away sipping chilled wine at the treeline, is only one short elevator ride away.

The buffet costs 150 pesos (15 USD). Find the hotel at the corner of Veracruz and Parque Espana. Look for the antique car parked outside with the dummy chauffeur and the large wind-up key!!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Surreal Sights in the City - Alebrijes

Turn the corner in Mexico City and you are never quite sure what you will find next!! Nipping out to the bank yesterday, I found that over a hundred giant fantastical creatures had suddenly moved in and taken up residence in my neighbourhood on the stretch of Reforma between the Diana Fountain and the Angel Monument.

Made of papier mache with exquisite use of colour, design and imagination, these creatures are gigantic versions of the folk art alebrijes normally crafted from wood originating in Oaxaca.

Created by local artisans and organised by my favourite museum in DF - The Museum of Popular Art (Revillagigedo 11), these creatures form the annual "el Desfile de Alebrijes Monumentales" and are only staying here until November 2nd. The aim is to promote and find a wider audience for Mexican Folk Art. Don't miss this magical feast for the eyes!