On-line ticketing is not that widespread in Mexico. Just as credit card are very seldom accepted on shops, tickets for events are rarely available online. So if you wanna get to the Arena Mexico for a Mexican wrestling combat you gotta put yourself at the box-office, find out that is located at the Balderas area, pull your stupid looking face, swallow your pride and feel ridiculous asking the stewards whether there are any tix left.
It’s kinda funny that Balderas area. Not that I asked a couple of guys handing volunteering leaflets by the metro station where the arena was and that they, quite stupidly, had no freaking idea; not that a friendly passer-by heard me asking about directions and took me along to the arena while chatting about his late life as professional football player for the Guadalajara Chivas (although as chilango, Cruz Azul was his second team) . It happened that the area is a government offices neighbourhood that has some implications in the surrounding economy. In Madrid, while at the University, we all know you can buy illegally copied versions of the text books on the bookstore at the campus or tipping the bloke in charge of the reprography department to have the books and the official courses copied when filed by professors. It’s been long since the last time I’ve been to any campus and I’m pretty off the track on how new classes “smuggle” and “traffic” with apuntes. I heard from my brother there are loads of websites where students upload their material for P2P sharing. So, where I said “funny”, should I have said “familiar, cosy, makes-you-feel-at-home”? Maybe. I just hope I do not hurt anybody’s sensitivity. I tried to make it as clear as possible what Mexico inspires me and how I see nowadays Mexico as the 1.955 or even 1.990 Spain.
Getting back to Balderas you’ll see a whole bunch of government related small businesses. Stalls offering legislation compilations either on paper format or on CD format: “Criminal law for Sinaloa, Coahuila and Aguascalientes with the civil prosecution law in DF”. “Joven, lo que quiera se lo mostramos, tenemos acá la relación completa de material y si no lo encuentra se lo podemos preparar – Muchísimas gracias amigo, solo estaba echando un vistazo”. Besides that, some free-lance clerks settled comfortably on camping tables on the pavement typing reports and any other kind of official forms for some pesos to some customers that unfortunately were not around by that time. And I say unfortunately because it would have been pretty enriching staying by for a while, wouldn’t it?
Much more shocking was passing by one of the buildings of the Procudaría del DF and facing a bloke getting into his car with a gun placed between is belt and trousers, no gun-jacket. But who seemed to be his wife and daughter, waiting for him on the car, didn’t seem to care, why should I?
Finally I put myself at the box-office. A bit of asking to the stewards, always makes you feel stupid. No credit card accepted so rushing to the closes bank office. Always speeding on the streets when there is money involved in it… what do you want… I couldn’t help it… It turned out to be a Santander Safir which somehow gives you some national pride. In what extent to we get any benefit from that, I cannot tell, but once again, I cannot help it. Notice the security officer heavily armed and his bullet-proof jacket. Back at the box-office I realised how lucky I was to be in Mexico and not stranded somewhere unable to speak the language. The accent difference might be a invitation as well to be cheated but nothing like that happened throughout the trip. In fact, everybody I got to talk to showed themselves courteous, friendly, helpful and, bound by curiosity prone to dialogue, chatting and discussion. All that because when I paid for the ticket (N$25) I gave the guy a N$500 note and he gave me change for N$100. To a “That’s it”, a straightforward “¡¿Cómo que ya es todo?! ¡Si le he dado 500!”. That, effectively, became very it for the whole week.
Way back to Balderas and rushing to Zocalo. Some pics of the whole square, a bit of shopping, particularly some vintage posters. That good old looking pictures in sepia style. Some revolutionary snaps and the cathedral back in 20s or 30s. N$5 each, great deal. Then by the Casa del Marqués del Apartado at Calle Seminario, there was an sculptor selling his clay craft. You always have the feeling that you can get a better deal than the one you are originally offered and, certainly you have to bargain over, but don’t push to hard because most likely the price you are offered is a fair one. Just do, and I am addressing Spanish readers, as you would at home. If you have the feeling that the guy you are dealing with is professional enough and is not really chasing you the get the deal done, most likely the price is a reasonable one and don’t insist excessively on dropping it because you won’t succeed and you will be acting as a pretentious foreigner. I bought three statuettes, around N$10 each. It was nice buying by a mum who was glancing by, with her daughter, who she just had collected from the school, wearing a green jersey and grey pleated skirt. As back home There was also some shops with military supplies. Very good stuff. I bought the badge you see on the pic. It is now sewed on my travel bag. :-)
At some point I found myself without really knowing what to do in Zocalo. Ok, on my right the Palacio Nacional and in front of me the Cathedral. I could spend hours and hours roaming through the books fair they had on the square. A lot to see, a lot to buy and a lot to read. Latin-American literature on its most pure representation. But not time enough and it would be a delusion pretending I was gonna buy anything. So it became really useful pulling the guide and finding out that it is at the Palacio Nacional where the most important murals of Diego Rivera are at.
It appeared to be true what it said on the guide, and you are effectively carded at the main entrance. Not surprisingly, the palace is the seat of the President of the Republic. Although cabinet meetings do not take place at the palace, official receptions and welcomes to foreign dignitaries and other civil representatives by the incumbent President are held at Palacio Nacional. Unfortunately I had not brought my passport or my American ID but they proved very friendly are keen to let a Spaniard getting in. Some good manners and a paused speaking did it. Good for me!
The building was the seat for the government since the Nueva España era. Cortés placed there his government, or maybe he started the construction and moved afterwards. Anyway. The effect is pretty much the same. Huge amount of servicemen, since there seats as well the DF Army Command. Loads of officers coming and going from here to there. Not a frantic atmosphere though. There I saw the monument or memorial that I liked the most, or that meant the most for me. It’s a real pity I didn’t bring my camera with me but that is something we cannot fix at this point. The memorial was about the harmony, the peace and the coexistence of native Mexico, represented by a Indian with a sort of Aztec outfit and the institutions, religion and race mixing the Spanish conquest brought over. That was represented by a bearded conquistador with his characteristic helmet. Both heads were attached to a central pillar, not larger than 30 cms., nape of the neck to nape of the neck, nailed on the pillar there is a Spanish sword and what seems an Aztec spear. At the bottom there is a plate celebrating a common will, brotherhood… somehow I identify the place I come from with the conquistador and that blessed message of peace and reconciliation is a type of welcome to us coming from the other side of the Atlantic. There is a question I kept on asking myself throughout the trip and that was how managed the institutional Mexico not to teach Mexican youth onto a severe hatred towards Spain and Spaniards. Spain does not come off well on history books but weirdly spain is looked at with certain respect. Maybe it followed as an example on how reach certain economic and politic development or maybe it plays the role of an impartial referee throughout South-America…
I first started walking around on my own and kind of selfstudying the mural itself. it was not that difficult, you might need some Mexican history knowledge to get all the historic background but you can do pretty good catching the anticlericalism, the Marxism, the criticism of the conquest, the anger towards slavery and torture, the revering of Benito Juárez… I still remember that couple, with who might be their Down syndrome affected daughter. The mum was really stylish and sophisticated and knew how to look much prettier than she was. The dad was holding the girl, and coming up the stairs on shaft by the mural. And as they both passed by I bowed my head to the kid throwing a slight smile and amazingly she pointed me, peered over his dad’s arms, stretched his arms trying to reach, she did, and plonked a kiss on my cheek. Maybe the best I drew from Mexico…
As I said somewhere else, I was shocked by how many students and national tourists visited the national sights. This time, there was a complete school class, all dressed up with their green tracksuit. Some of us stood by, maybe more because we felt it was a good occasion to pay back our absent-mindness while at school ourselves than bound by any real curiosity on what the teacher was saying. From what she said, I’ll bring some real catchy phrases:
· On the left, and what I’ll say your mothers might not appreciate it ”pero ni modo”, you guys can see how a clergyman embraces shamelessly a public woman. On his hand you will see he is holding a purse that represents the alms he perceives from the woman, which, together with the carnal pleasures, is the payment he requests for pardoning her sins. So that you guys can appreciate what role the Catholic Church plaid in the development of our country. (wooo…. Is that official message to the mexican childhood?)
· By the priest, you guys notice those pipes feeded with money, how the peasants and steelworkers feed it with money and how this is redirected to those men who represent the capital. They throw it back again keeping the good currency and feeding the system with fake money. Raúl wants to represent how certain lobbies are interested in keeping the people with useless and forged wealth, avoiding its redistribution and pooling all the richness on their hands.
· At the ancient Mesoamerican section, Diego Rivera shows who seemed to be the ancient god of Aztecs, a bearded man with a pale skin, in opposition to native Indians, who are smooth-faced and of a darker skin. He is supposed to represent a sort of a Viking sailor who reached America before Columbus did and was worshiped by Indians as a god or a king. Said the legend that he would return to request what was his realm on a certain date, that matched the one at when conquerors approached what for them was the West Indies. The natives, beholding bearded men, riding horses and shiny armours, swords and helmets, took them as the new envoy of the former king. What would have eased dramatically the task ahead the Spaniards.
· By the Cortes approaching the beach, you will see a friar holding a transept that he faces towards the conquistadores. Some Indians on their knees are grabbing and pulling his habit. He is Fray Bartolome de las Casas, the only clergyman who behaved consequently with his vows and defended native Americans as best as he could.
· On the conquest section you guys note how the Spaniards tortured with pitiless cruelty. You can see Cortés on two stages of his life cheating the Indians and his cruel chief lieutenant, Pedro de Alvarado, who inflicted the worst tortures on natives on his way to the conquest. He particularly enjoyed branding his slaves with red iron, treating them beast of a herd of his own.
· On this other section Diego pictures the revolucionarios. Brave men drawn from the people, upraising to defeat the injustices of the powerful, the despots and the bully. To defeat a corrupted government and give to people what belongs to him. There is Zapata, Villa and Madero.
Not really worrying and at least, instructive.
I moved on and caught up with a group of four of five people taken by a girl, on her early 20s or late 18s. She was what she looked she was. A student from the College of Tourism, doing some public services and showing around the palace, the murals, the former parliament and finally the apartments of Benito Juárez.
She was really cute so I followed her through the whole circuit once again.
@ the remaining murals,… I cannot really remember what all the murals were about… what comes to stress the importance of keeping a timely update, but I guess that at this point we should just stick to the most relevant comments and facts. Since the whole visit was so political and historical, and I can talk in this way more accurately than on the artistic one (I do better remembering that), let me just throw here some comments that can sum up the visit.
· Funny was how the mural about the Aztecs life was described. The most easily recognisable character was the Aztec whore and the bunch of would-be candidates surrounding her offering all kinds of presents to get her attention. One of them offering a flute, implying that he wanted his given a bit of a shake…
· Then the conquest mural. A single mural fully dedicated to the conquest and the torture that Spanish conquerors inflicted on native Indians. It shows Cortés pale, with some traces of green on his face, his legs covered on bandages and swollen by blisters leaking out pus. Apparently he was suffering from syphilis, since, as a good decadent Spaniard, he devoted himself to a vicious life. Some of those features also were shown on some of the Indians describing how much they suffered from the Europe-brought diseases for which they had not natural defences. Some other Indians were iron branded by friendly Alvarado. Some others, were hanging from trees branches by the feet.
What stuns me the most is how a deep remorse or hatred towards Spain and Spaniards is not rooted amongst the Mexican society being the official message about the conquest so openly against. Definitely the Christianisation of Mexico proved hugely successful, for after so many years of anticlericalism did not delete it fully. Or maybe the church was effective in grabbing and holding certain powerful niches. For instance, despite the huge anticlericalism I saw on the government, the archbishop of Mexico DF, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, stars constantly on the main national newspapers airing his views about current political and economical affairs.
· At the former parliament the most shocking was what I were shown at the top of the ceiling. There is a mason sun with I don’t know how many rays. Those come to represent some kind of enlighten or purposes that freemasons believe in and I don’t really understood.
· At the back of the room, there is a huge red velvet curtain from which hangs the tricolour flag. We were told that before that, during the first constitution, or rather before Benito Juárez, there was crucifix that was taken off and replaced by the flag.
· Firstly, when pointing the mason sun, our little girl didn’t say precisely that it was a mason symbol. But then an Argentinean gentleman noticed that and his wife asked innocently what masons are,… to what she was answered candidly: “una organización que busca la armonía universal a través de la superación contínua y el bien de la sociedad”??????...... “it’s an organisation pursuing the universal harmony through a continuous personal challenge towards excellence and a social well being”…
Well, when you hear something like that from a government official you just have to wander what else remains to be seen or to blossom…
I’m not really familiar with what masons really are as of today. During Franco dictatorship it was an offence being a member of any lodge of any sort, they were, along communists, labelled as of the mayor enemies of the regime. Most of the independence movements in south-America were accomplished by criollos who travelled to Europe and embraced the masonry philosophy by meeting, studying and interacting with English politicians, teachers... from whom they drew most of their principles. Apparently, the Mexican independence was accomplished by non-masons criollos who were subsequently overthrown by another regime deeply mason. That is something that is not studied in Spain, as most of the ancient and modern history. History is not really taught in Spain, but, certainly, was it taught, the mason influence in the defeat in the colonies would have not been addressed. Masonry is somehow a taboo in Spain. If you hear about how English freemasonry steered the independentist movements in SA, is through English school books. It is not just that the do not hide how English masons influenced SA and its independence wars, they boast it. And they claim they never needed carrying out any military action in the continent because all governments were ruled by fellow masons of the English lodges. Some spanish authors claim the role of masons on the independence of the former colonies more as a huge discover of a fact severely covered and to beat masons than as part f history. About the rol of masonry in the independence of Mexico you might wanna visit http://www.yorkrite.com/gcmx/os1999mx.html and his English version on http://www.yorkrite.com/gcmx/os1999.html. those are mason-written texts, http://espanol.geocities.com/informes/masoneria/In Spain there is somehow a crossed-fire between certain rightwing politicians accusing socialists of being masons, to what they never get a response. Whether because masons have to keep their condition secret (in Spain, since for instance in the UK, the Duke of Edinburgh is said openly mason) or because they fear the reaction of a still deeply catholic influenced society, I cannot tell. Surfing the net I fount an interesting article that I include a link to, by kind permission of the author, somehow describing what the actual situation he thinks is. http://valparaiso.indymedia.org/news/2005/07/3887.php http://libros.libertaddigital.com/articulo.php/1276229578 and church related: http://www.corazones.org/apologetica/grupos/masoneria.htm More: http://www.seudexativa.org/Noticias/2005/01/LA%20MASONERIA/masoneria.htm
We finally made it to the Benito Juarez apartments.
· Really worshiped
· The father of the actual laic republic
· A would-be humble man
· An image more than of what should have been rather than political role?
Anyway it was nice getting to where lived the man after who was named the Cancun’s City Hall, which was my first experience of Mexico.
OFF ZOCALO TOWARDS REFORMA
I didn’t feel like I wanted getting the arena with my rucksack with all the statuettes in it and I wanted to do a bit of walking. So I headed to Reforma to make it all the way down to Sevilla, dropping off the stuff and jumping onto the metro towards Balderas.Getting off Zocalo through Francisco Madero or 5 de Mayo was like making it through any street nearby Salamanca’s Plaza Mayor. That, at least, was my perception. A Zara on a corner, little churches… low level contruction with that XV-XVI century appearance (is that accurate? No fricking idea…) maybe the weather… partially clouded and that it was getting dark recalled those escapes to Salamanca back to October 1,998… Am I getting that old?I could have made it all the way south on Reforma, through the Columbus, Independence Angel and Diana monument to Sevilla,… but suddenly got in a rush an got a public bus. Crucifix, a radio hanging on the dashboard, N$2, a bit of packed… and nice driver who told where Hidalgo was.I rather head straight to Banderas and take the bag with me.
Really busy. Huge crowd. Pretty familiar atmosphere. Loads of kids running here and there, asking their dads to buy a masque before the fight. Countless taquerias all over. Really cute and stylish women, making it through the VIP area with their guys. I would have said that the arena was a free-sitting venue, but I was really taken to seat whose number was on my ticket.It was supposed a good fight. I just got there cos I had heard before about Mexican wrestling, about how popular it is, it has been even exported to the US,… see… and getting those guys to see something not of their own is a real success,… so it’s gotta be really great!!So there I was, ready to enjoy my first real Mexican show. Once again I cursed myself for not bloody bringing the camera with me. Corona N$15, if I didn’t drink like eight or ten I didn’t drink any… whatever… at some point I though the guy with the basket was cheating me,… but no… that was the real price.I am completely unable to tell you how many wrestlers took part on the fights. The main one was a well announced duel between Mistico and Atlantis, experience against the passion of the youth. There was as well the Perro Guayo and all his buddies, the so called Perros del Infierno or something like that, boasting the slogan “Pocos son los elegidos” if I remember right… they welcomed the whole audience through the cameras of Televisa and that was a lot of fun.The choreography seemed so scheduled and to be pulled from a script that I do not understand how was that nobody really knows who the victor will be.Some wrestlers are masked (as most kids on the public) and others not. I cannot tell whether that is up to them or to the manager or it is a marketing requirement. At some point you might feel curious to see who the masked guy is, but when you see by them so many unmasked, you realise it is much more funny and colourful, somehow enigmatic, when they keep their masks.They really happened to be very friendly with all the audience, the drag their feet on the catwalk before they head back to dressing room and beam to be taken some pics. Apparently it is not allowed to snap the wrestlers and if you do you might have to face a suited gentleman asking you to hand him you mobile or camera. As far as I saw a bit of comedy and some apologies usually sort it out.It was interesting listening to the presenter of the event. The introduction he did for the event was really emotional!!!… I can’t tell how does it work on other events but that was really impressive…
· Welcome to the greates show on heart!
· The mexican entertainment by excellence!
· A real family show where parent can rise the kids in a healthy atmosphere!
· No politics, no left or right, just pure Mexican wrestling!
What else can you ask for, right? At the end of the fight, after the new challenger defeated the old dinosaur (don’t remember who was Misitico and who was Atlantis) you are (if rookie on the ceremony that MW involves) you are supposed to rush towards the catwalk and try to snap or grab an autograph from whoever the winner is. So I did. Back to my spot my rucksack had flew from underneath my seat. Then I heard “ya regresó el muchacho, dale la bolsa que no se la quiten”… thanks for that amigos…On my way back home I thought about getting a cab, but, apparently, that would have not been a good idea… definitely it was becoming ridiculous all those warning about safety and stuff… but whatever, I ridded metro, N$2 and it should just be 2 stations to Sevilla… and a cool atmosphere on the way to station,… pretty much the same we have in Madrid when getting back from the Bernabéu…. Los mexicanos q conozco son como mis colegas de Madrid… todos unos acojonados… no sé… quien sabe como me verán ellos a mí… Pero ¿Cuántas veces me preguntó C si gente del arena me parecía tal o cual? En fín… luego buscaríamos momento para los autoanálisis…