Category Archives: Segment VI

Pandas in Polanco?

My last free hour in Mexico City was devoted to the pampered panda. They have a breeding center in the Mexico City Zoo which is walking distance to the Anthropology Museum and my hotel in Polanco.(Dedicated to Gee Kin!)

I’m adding a few scenes in the park, packed with local families enjoying the tranquility and perfect weather at the lake, arrival of holiday (they call it Christmas here) decorations, an array of animals in the zoo, food, and musical entertainment. (also dedicated to Gee Kin)

The last few shots are the Mexican semi-final version of American Idol on TV. Judges include Ricky Martin and one of my favorite international stars, Italian Laura Pausini. (dedicated to me)

This will pretty much wrap up my sojourn to Mexico, the highlight being the Anthropology Museum. Trips to the Teotihuacan Pyramids (granted the experience is driven by how the information is presented, so I’m sure it could have been much more inspiring), Puebla, and Cholula (with over 200 churches) are recommended. This can easily consume one week’s activities, along with the other attractions I described this week. Buona Serra!

Raiders of the Lost (Anthro) Park II

As always, it is highly recommended to tap twice on photos to see enlarged versions of these compressed photos in each gallery to appreciate the details of each photo. Some of the photos are for visual purposes only to give a flavor to the depth and beauty of the Mexican cultural precedents and only basic descriptions are provided for referencing item only. If you are interested in a particular item’s history and period in which it was created, please send me a comment and I would be happy to provide that information to you.

Photos above, top to bottom, left to right:

1. Eagle sculpture.
2. Figure.
3. Pottery
4. Layout of Temple to the Moon. The Temple to the Sun faces West, but was formerly a temple worshipping the rain in Teotihuacan culture.
5. Sample of original colors of painted plaster used.
6. Burial face mask crusted with turquoise mosaics.
7. Footed drinking vessels
8. Reclining God with bracelets, headdress, and ear ornaments
9. The site of Teonochtitlan, the site of current day Mexico City. Tenochtitlan was built over this ancient site, and the current day City Cathedral is built over the island shown. The lakes that surrounded the island were filled in before the arrival of the Spaniards. It explains its problem with pollution in MC as it sits in a basin surrounded by mountains.For more information, go to http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tenochtitlan.

1.Aztec sculputre
2. Sun Calendar: Shortly after the Spanish Conquest, the monolithic sculpture was buried in the Zócalo, or main square of Mexico City. It was rediscovered in 1790 during repairs on the Mexico City Cathedral.
3. Stone animal sculpture
4. Painted Base/Frieze
5. Decoration and Colors Used on Aztec
6. Stone Symbol with skull indicating Worship of the Dead
7. Pottery
8. Figurines
9. Sculpture

Raiders of the Lost (Anthro) Park I

image

This was my onslaught of the museum of National Anthropology, a full-on day of one of my favorite topics–the study of Man. It was satisfyingly clear on the seven major migrations out of Africa, as well as dioramas of the Apes, Homo Erectus and Australopithecus, as well as a few dinosaur bones and stone flints. By time I got to the last gallery on anthropology,I had pretty much burned off 4 hours of walking and reading at a pace that normally gives Gee Kin Museum Sickness. fortunately it doesn’t affect me, but I do get lost with all the periods and cute facial expressions generated by each figurine.

So, without bothering to sort them into periods here, I hope you won’t mind if I simply post a “no comment” version of the ones I liked. There were four giant galleries, or basically four museums rolled into one venue or giant museum: the Mayan, the Olmec, the Teotihuacan (all the artifacts are here, not at the pyramids), the Mexica (artifacts from the site upon which Mexico City is built), the Aztec, and the Anthropology Museum wing itself. The photos are a sampling of each of these. I’ll try to make heads or tails of these in order with the text that I documented after I return this week.

As previously mentioned, there are the pre-classic, the classic, and the post Classic. All of these fall into the Pre-Hispanic Or in some cases Pre-Columbian designations, depending on the context. You can begin to see the level of sophistication in processing materials, design, and craftsmanship as these periods progressed. There was also a wing for post-Colonial indigenous artwork that I did not focus on.

More Art and Architecture (from the Mexico City MOMA)

imageI couldn’t resist adding these favorites from my visit yesterday. Despite trying to restrain myself, I found myself yearning to share the other works from both the building architect’s original drawings displayed within the building that was designed, to some sweet artwork that I found irresistible. I hope you won’t mind these indulgences and will actually enjoy them as well.


Photos, from top, left to right (dedicated to Julianne)
1. Architect as “Master of the Universe”!
2. Portrait of Architect Pedro Vasquez–see what I mean about appreciation of architects in Mexico?
3. Sketch of MOMA
4. Model of building
5. Entry signage for exhibit that caught my eye immediately
6. Actual interior of Circular Building (OK, not perfect, but I love the complete package)

Second series of artwork (dedicated to Melissa)
1. Inlaid wood relief
2.3. and 4. unidentified pieces
5. Sculpture by artist inspired by Frida Kahlo Quote

Mum-Mum

That’s what we used to call food when the girls were little. Here’s a few random shots for the foodies in the audience (and dedicated to Melissa)

1. Mole, a Puebla specialty made of chocolate and seven spices, smothered over a chicken enchilada, with Day of the Dead decoration squeegeed over the top
2. A decent meal, of giant taco chips and 2 dips, one hot and one hot-hot, bread, tinto Rosso and fettuccine with asparagus, shrimp and dried red tomatoes to come
3. Grasshopper Al fresco, with option for bed of cabbage (or guacamole in restaurants for 10x the price) in a taco at a roadside stand.

Puebla and Cholula

Photos, from top, left to right:

1. View of Extinct volcano on the way to Puebla
2. Interior Dome of Chalula Cathedral
3. Chalula Cathedral, built on a former pyramid site
4. Interior atrium of restaurant, purported to be haunted. Piñatas were created by the Augustins to convert Natives to Catholicism by instilling fear in the devil. The monks wanted children to fear the Devil, who did bad deeds, from God, who would save them. Children “beat the devil” by hitting the seven points on the piñata (representing 7 deadly sins). By successfully beating the devil through the piñata, God would reward the children with sweets. As their patron saint is St. Augustin, boys and girls participated in this activity.
5. Street musicians in Puebla, a UNESCO world heritage site
6. Building along Main Street
7. Street vendor
8. Interior of the Church of the Rosary
9. Cathedral of Puebla

Museum of Modern Art–all in One

image

With my love for architecture and art, I couldn’t help but be completely contented with my late afternoon visit to the Mexico City MOMA.

With a wealth of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera artwork in the City, I managed to amplify my trip to Kahlo’s house with more original artwork.

1. Dual self-portraits of Frida, with the heart prominent.
2. Portrait by Diego Rivera, 1938
3. Portrait by David Alfaro Siqueiros, 1934
4. Portrait of worker by Rivera,1955
5. Sculpture by Contemporary Artist
6. Watermelon by Frida Kahlo
7. Sculpture inspired by Frida Kahlo quote
8. Staircase in central circular building, reminiscent of stairs scaled at the Pyramids
9. Detail of tread strips, just enough to work for those who need it and not for those who don’t
10. Architectural exhibition using drafting boards for presentation

Teotihuacan “Pyramids”


There are many pyramid sites throughout Mesoamerica, but this was my embarrassingly first visit to one, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Not to be disrespectful, but for me this was a bit underwhelming. It is worth visiting, but after overcoming my personal trepidation about making it up to the top of the first pyramid, I got cocky and culturally chauvinistic and decided that scaling these were a piece of cake.

The site is approximately one hour outside of Mexico City. Being alone and not managing to convince Gee Kin to take time off to come with me, I decided the safest and most efficient way was to sign up for a tour. Aviator made good on its commitment and duly picked me up at the hotel at 6:20am as agreed. There were only 6 people on the tour, and the mini-van easily and comfortably accommodated us. The guide was OK, not the “archaeologist” advertised nor able to pack us with details. None of the information at the pyramids were translated into English, so we were dependent on the guide’s words. The gist I got was that there were 3 periods: Pre-Classic, Classic, and Post Classic.

Pre-Classic entailed the period before the Teotihuacan people occupied and developed the site. They migrated here from another location in Mexico. Explanation why is sketchy, but there were other indigenous people living here before, who worshipped the subterranean earth, earth above, and the heavens.

Classic: From 100 BC-200AD, the temples were built. The Teotichuanan people built the large pyramid originally to pray for the rain. It was later converted to worshipping the Sun. The smaller temple at the end of the main axis is dedicated to the Moon.

The Teotihuacan people lived in this area from 100BC to 900AD, or nearly 1000 years, and had already been destroyed as a culture prior to the occupation of the Aztecs. The Aztecs used the temples, but they did not conquer the Teotihuacan people.*

Post-Classic: from 900 AD to 1521, this was considered the post-Classic or pre-Hispanic period. The Aztecs were the third culture to develop after the Olmec and the Mayan cultures. The Spanish came and destroyed the Aztec culture that had adopted this temple area. First Montezuma welcomed the Spaniards, then the second Aztec chieftain defeated them, followed by the final conquest of the third chieftain in 1521.*

But…back to the pyramids. The main axis approach was 2 km. and took about 1/2 hour to walk at a slow pace. We stopped along the way to look at a few houses that were set at corners surrounding an open courtyard. It was a very hierarchical and class conscious society from the get-go. Only the upper classes who managed the temple matters were allowed to live along the main access.

There is debate whether the human sacrifices used for prayers were Teotihuacan or other people in the area. The Aztecs continued this tradition. The Spaniards were horrified by this practice of human sacrifice so went about converting as many indigenous people as they could quickly. My way or the highway guys.*

The tour guide spoke sufficient English, but he didn’t deliver much more than a canned tour. The only good feature was that we left at the crack of dawn to avoid the crowds. That worked; what didn’t on the way back was contending with MC traffic that can kill your incentive to go anywhere by car. We managed to get back, however, at a decent hour of 2pm.

To do this site justice, please go to the UNESCO world website at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/414 to learn more.**

Having just climbed Emei Shan in September this year, I found this experience a bit disappointing. Maybe the high altitude (over 7,700 feet) made the Teotihuacan designers of the temples a bit light-headed. The large platforms served as the landings for breaks in the stairs and were a welcome relief. Cables covered with rubber tubing provided a sense of safety and were added (later, of course). Even as I became winded from the thin air, I couldn’t help but think that these temple makers appreciated the reduced sets of steps themselves and declared, “oh heck with it, let’s just call it a day here! Everyone gets the point!”

Photos, from top, left to right:
1. View of Temple of the Moon from the Base
2. Overview of approach to Temple of the Moon.
3. View of the Temple to the Sun from Temple of the Moon
4. View of Approach to Temple of the Moon
5.6. Details of initial stairs with sculptural elements

* a few errors in dates corrected thanks to the advice of the second guide. He also provided information on the conversion techniques of the Spaniards. What the local people didn’t like doing or thinking, the Spaniards stuck them with smallpox. The second chieftain, while succeeding in thwarting the Spaniards, died a few years later of chicken pox after his successful battle (per tour guide, he might have meant smallpox).
** Addenda

Frieda Kahlo Museum


From top, left to right:

1. Headdress by Kahlo. She may be seen as eccentric, but she used fancy headware to distract from her physical disabilities. She had polio as a child and had one foot shorter than another. At 18, she was in a severe accident where a streetcar collided with a bus she was riding. This required over 22 surgeries during her life and numerous prosthetic devices.

2. 3. Artwork and clothing design by other artists inspired by Frido Kahlo style
4. and 5. Kitchen and Back wall
6. Vestibule in Museum
7.8.9. Stone sculpture reminiscent of Mayan sculpture by friend of Kahlo and Rivera

Despite the worldwide fame of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, to learn the life of Frida from this museum visit was very sad. She was affected by her disability most of her life and had her foot amputated due to gangrene before her death.

Born in 1907 to a Hungarian-German father and mother who was Spanish-Mexican, she faced her physical disability from childhood. She was unable to have children due to her accident and many of her sketches and artwork showed her wrestling with this condition.

Still, her artwork rivalled that of Rivera. They were married, separated and remarried. Their work was shown in Europe, Mexico, NYC, and San Francisco of all places! They were in the company of many famous people, including Trotsky. Frida was a Communist supporter. She died in 1954.