Saturday, December 22, 2007

Day in the City

As I stood in front of a Diego Rivera mural a feeling came up inside me. It was not the same feeling but a close companion to one I experienced a few months ago. In the first experience I was watching and listening to a performance by Andre Reiu and the Johann Sebastian Bach Orchestra. The beauty of the classical music, the innate talent of the performers developed after years of practice and the intent and message of the piece were overwhelming. How could there be war, oppression, greed? How could men and women compose and perform such moving beauty also be selfish, cruel, apathetic and do so much evil? It seemed so inconceivable.

Unlike the music, the Diego Rivera mural affirmed the cruelty of which we are capable but called for action. How can we – how can I – remain apathetic to suffering and oppression? How can I not be outraged and animated – moved to action?

We began the day at the Palacio del Bellas Artes. In a building of grandeur are murals by Diego Rivera, Jorge Gonzalez Camerena, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Jose Clemente Orozco and others.

The Palace was followed by a curiosity walk through a Sears store which was much more up-scale than the stores in the US. It was orderly and neat to the extreme. Clerks stood silently to the side of aisles and a few shoppers quietly browsed expensive items. Julie commented on the low height of the ceilings. The arrangement of the displays and the layout of the building camouflaged the approximately eight feet (maximum) ceilings. At one point I cautiously stepped up to a support beam and felt the side of my head make contact. It could have been no higher than six feet two. It was a superb example of conserving resources while designing a building that seemed open and roomy.

We considered going to the Museo Nacional De Anthropologia but our map was divided into two sections with different scales and no overlap. It was unclear how many miles we would have to walk. We investigated the subway but couldn’t decipher the system – how much, which direction where the trains moving? As an alternative we selected the Museo Nacional De Arte.

At the museum I chose not to take photos but to browse and study freely. The museum itself is a work of ornate art. In each gallery were a single chair and a security guard who immediately stood and moved to an area near a doorway or central wall. As we walked around the panels he or she would quietly move along the wall so as to keep us in sight. I nodded or spoke to a few guards and wished I could speak Spanish. Rather than treating them like fixtures it would have been enjoyable ask them to walk with us and talk about the art, their lives or any subject.

The museum houses some paintings from the early sixteen hundreds as well as pre-Spanish pieces that are over two thousand years old. I’m confident it’s my age, experiences and religious heritage but the four hundred year old religious paintings give me a dark feeling of shallow one dimension. I am impressed by the ability of the artists but not the message which seems to have been dictated.

A walk to Plaza Garibaldi took us through an area of broken sidewalks, dirty stores, poverty and hopeless people sleeping on the street. I took no photos and won’t. It seems obscene (from old English “off the scene”) to photograph people in their misery and suffering. I’m a guest of Mexico. I’ll acknowledge their problems but refuse to take photos for the gruesome entertainment of others.

The Plaza was full of Mariachi performers but no band was performing at the time. Next we walked in the area of the Cathedral Y Sagrario Metropolitano, Plaza De La Constitucion, Palacio Nacional, Zocalo and the Templo Mayor (excavated Aztec ruins next to the cathedral).

This hints at a few of our experiences of the day. I have more to write and photos but no time. We're about to leave for a tour of the pyramids.


Blogger Buffalo said...

Spanish and Mexican religious art seems to be infused with pain, agony and suffering. It differs greatly from French, German and English religious art.

You are giving an excellent account of your experiences.

12/23/2007 10:58:00 AM  
Blogger Alex Pendragon said...

I believe Mexico is the perfect example of pure capitalism in action. The haves have, the have nots don't, and that's exactly the way it will remain, short of all-out bloody revolution that results in a system run by people who put people first, which I doubt can ever happen. Look at Chevez. He's just another tin-pot dictator dressing himself up as a socialist. People benefit only so long as they sing his praises.

12/24/2007 07:48:00 AM  

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