Saturday, 1 May 2010


It' s May 1st and it would seem that the whole of Mexico City is out on the streets enjoying La Vida. The streets are teeming with people, mostly young, arms and lips entwined. It's very very hot. In the 90s at least, maybe even the 100s. The streets are full of little stalls with tin baths of iced drinks, others selling mangos on sticks like lollies, cups of sliced tropical fruits, ice creams, hot and cold food wrapped in banana or corn leaves, that you can eat on the go. Or, you can sit by the stall, eat, chat and watch the world go by. We haven't done much of any of this as we've been cowardy custards fearing that some germ would get into our system and spoil our last few days in Mexico.
Today, we took the metro to Chapultepec to visit the park and the National Anthropological Museum. It's an impressive building, very spacious and airy and is said to be one of the best of its kind in the world. It tells the story of the indigenous people, their beliefs, myths and rituals and has rooms dedicated to different groups such as those who built the pyramids, like Teotihuacan, a massive site north of Mexico City and a contemporary with Imperial Rome. We're hoping to visit it tomorrow, our last day.
Yesterday, we visited the home of the great Mexican artist and communist, Frida Kahlo. Her home,where she was born and lived all her life including during her marriage to Rivera is in Coyoacan, a posh residential area of the city There's a small collection of her paintings: self portraits and narratives of key points of love and pain in her life. Some are a mixture of the literal and surreal. She uses the iconography of Mexican folk art. Rivero gets in on her act again, with a room displaying his paintings, portraits and landscapes. However, we get to see the bed ,where she spent so much of her time after the traffic accident that left her in so much pain. There's a canopy over it and on the underside is a huge mirror. She used it for her many self portraits. On the wall at the end of her bed there are pictures of Lenin, Trotsky, Marx and Stalin.  We also saw her studio with the wheelchair she used towards the end of her life after her leg was amputated. It sits against an empty easel and her paints, pastels and coloured inks are arranged on a table nearby. The room is also full of books in English and Spanish, including the history of art. I spied a book of Augustus John. There are also many books about communism.
It was very strange and probably totally psychological but when in her bedroom, I felt intense hot pain in my hip, dry bones rubbing against each other. I've been in pain with my hip over the holiday but this was different. 
I desperately wanted to see the larger collection of her work at the Museo Dolores Olmedo Patino, but before setting off for it, Rhys persuaded me that we might regret it if we didn't visit the nearby Trotsky Museum, the house where there were two attempts on his life and where he was assassinated by a Stalinist sympathiser. We did the tour led by a Mexican woman who'd done her masters at Sussex and spoke a Brighton English. She was clearly somewhat infatuated by Trotsky. On the tour was a Russian couple, who were n't able to throw much light on how Trotsky's role in the Russian Revolution is now taught in Russian schools. Given Trotsky's influence in revolutionary socialism in the UK, it is rather sad to see how politically sidelined he became with Stalin's rising popularity and influence. The Russian guy tried to tell the guide that when Trotsky was head of the Red Army, there were things he did and ordered that were n't good. But the guide didn't want to listen.
So, off to the Museo Dolores in a very hot taxi in a very crowded rush hour (Or is it rush hour all the time in Mexico City?)  only to find that the whole collection of Frida's work is in Europe (Where?) until December 2010. Grrr!
We took the overland train and metro (3pesos a single trip cf 70 pesos by taxi) back to the centre, the Zocalo, Constitution Square,supposedly the largest public square in the world after Tienamen Square. There we found a demonstration, speakers, banners, men in earnest conversation. We stopped several people to ask what was going on but could find no-one who spoke English. Eventually, someone we asked  found a school girl, who told us that some Mexican Electricians sitting under a canopy nearby were on hunger strike. The Union, SME are protesting about their rights and work opportunities. Her mother worked for the Union. Today, when we visited for the May Day celebrations, there was a large banner in English saying 'Famine Strike'. Everywhere, there were people in red shirts rattling tins to support the protest.
Trotsky would have been well pleased.

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