An afternoon stroll in Santa María la Ribera

My new neighborhood claimed it could make me many memories. I’ve been here since September and can believe it to be true, though graffiti won over the wall that had told me so in an ongoing battle between the street art of public initiatives and the vomited symbols of gangster spray paint that find their glory in rebellion.

 

 

Walking the streets, I sometimes feel the pull of suspicious stares and glances that I would never get in the trendy, hipster part of the city where I used to live. In Santa Maria la Ribera, there’s a reputation for unlawfulness that keeps most foreigners at bay. “Santa Maria la Ratera,” it’s been donned: the rat, the thief. Yet so far, I have more tallies marked up to witnessing delinquency in my former home, la Colonia Roma. As people start to recognize me, their hesitation turns to grins, and they nod their heads and wave to greet me as, “güerita,” “blondy.”

 

 

Down the street from my apartment there’s a local shop and eatery run by a group of biologist who are trying to make the world a better place. They sell biodegradable shampoos and deodorants, essential oils, one-of-a-kind handmade jewelry, stuffed animals filled with recycled styrofoam, local and organic beer, chocolate, coffee, mezcal. Their specialties: tostadas, rabbit-meat hamburgers, and community. They know me by name, and when visiting I think, “This is how it ought to be,” as I daydream about leaving my work behind and forming part of their collective.

 

A few more blocks away, there’s a contemporary art museum hosted in a salient building that I guess to be the offspring of a love affair between industry and worship. Its iron skeleton towers climb into the sky like beanstalks from a fairytale; they frame a vast façade of crystal windows, and their pointed green patina caps are topped by weather vanes, telling us in which direction the wind will blow us next. “Jugendstil-style,” I’m told, “German Art Nouveau.” In 1902, it was built for a textile exhibition in Düsseldorf, Germany and then reassembled in Mexico a year afterwards. Like its vicinities, El Museo del Chopo has a history that flows in and out of grandeur and abandonment. Today, it boasts exhibits with subject matter like punk culture, human trafficking, forgotten regions, bureaucracy, and the feminine role in a misogynist and capitalist labor force. Among its events, it offers open-mic poetry nights in a framework of expanded literature and hosts an international festival of the Japanese theatrical dance Butoh. Modern day cultural ecstasy.

 

Turning and strolling down the sidewalk, the streets are a hodgepodge of cheaply-made constructions and splendid colonial homes. Their conditions range from slightly unkept to completely discarded with occasional buildings restored to their originally intended beauty. It was in 1859 that several ranches were converted into a district for the growing middle class to form one of the first neighborhoods developed outside of Mexico City’s historic center. History has taken its toll, but it has also left behind its mystique.

 

 

Arriving at the indoor food market, I feel romantically urban as I pull my two-wheeled grocery cart through the aisles. My doubts about buying a pear shipped in from the U.S. set off a political discourse from the vendor who is trying to sell it to me. In reaction to Trump’s nationalist position, Mexicans have proposed resistance in the form of a citizen-driven boycott, but the fruit man insists that politics are one thing and human relations something else. “We just have to work harder and treat one another with kindness and respect—this will be our reaction, not fear or anger.” I appreciate his warmth and positivity, but still wonder if I should buy the pear. A few stands over, the cheese man showers me with samples, trying to convince me to get a little bit of everything: queso menonita from Chihuaua, quesillo from Oaxaca, or a special gouda all the way from the Netherlands. I lament that I’ve cut back on dairy and will stick with the lightweight panela for now, but I might return for something special later, maybe if I host a party.

 

 

Today, tourism magazines gloss-over crime alerts, calling Santa Maria la Ribera a Barrio Mágico, magical for its culture, architecture, and history. The rising costs of rent elsewhere in the capital are pushing artists and young bohemians to set up shop here, and there’s talk that it will be the next “place to be.” Crossing the eje central to arrive at a tree filled park bordered by the streets Jaime Torres Bodet, Salvador Díaz Mirón, Manuel Carpio, and Dr. Atl, the scenery will quiet those who argue differently. Anchored at the center like a royal throne is the neighborhood’s jewel: el Kiosko Morisco, the Moorish Kiosk.

 

 

Gossip about the gazebo’s intricacy and exotic appearance told tales of it being a gift from a Turkish Sheik, but in reality, it was designed by the engineer José Ramón Ibarrola to represent Mexico at the 1884 World’s Fair in New Orleans. The elaborate structure also stopped by Chicago and Saint Louis before arriving to Mexico’s Alameda Central park, where it stood until Porfirio Díaz had it uprooted and replaced with a monument to Benito Juárez. The residents of Santa Maria received el kiosko with open arms and celebratory dance. To this day, its enchantment lives on and the dancing continues.

 

“The light here is different,” insists my friend from Australia, as if under a spell. “It’s true,” I confirm, having drunk the same potion. And while several streets over the impatient traffic of Avenida Insurgentes is unyielding in reminding us that we’re in the center of one of the world’s mega metropolises, this colonia popular keeps a tight grip on its history and tradition. Maybe the accounts of danger and robbery are only rumors spread by locals in efforts to preserve a charm they’re afraid they’ll lose to lookalike apartment towers and fashion-forward restaurants and cafes that threaten to paint the city in undertones of sameness.

 

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Jacaranda Bliss

Jacaranda-collageThousands of tiny lavender trumpets blossom into the urban terrain, prominently announcing spring’s arrival in a city that otherwise relies on subtleties to know that a season has changed.

A habitual walk in the park becomes a surreal experience—a stroll through an intoxicating purple haze. Flowers fall from the trees like snow, covering cars and sidewalks in florid adornment like hippies on parade. As shopkeepers rush to sweep away petals in their mechanized tradition of tidying up, I secretly wish they would leave the streets as they were, that they would let nature take over…if only for a while longer…at least until I’ve passed by.

Jacarandas, wipe away my tears.

Jacarandas, brush away my fears.

Jacarandas, make me wonder what is real and what is really worth it.

For under their spell, nothing feels urgent, and I reason that blissfully frolicking among flowers is the best possible plan for an April afternoon in Mexico City.

 

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Inspired by Mexico: Doctor Corso

Doctor Corso is a painter who combines historical painting techniques with a contemporary rhetoric that is influenced by art therapy, dreams, and the power of color in triggering emotions. He also conducts research in the field of applied creativity.
See more of his work.

Doctor Corso, Inspired by Mexico Series

When the artist and psychomagician Alejandro Jodorowsky reflects on why destiny wanted him to be born in Chile, he says it was definitely so he would be in the midst of the wave of poetry that came over his generation at that point in time. Poetic vision has provided nuance and flavor to his films, plays, books, comics, and theories.

If I also explore how my birthplace, Mexico City, has influenced my life, I can certainly see that it’s a place where I am inundated with the daily awe of creative acts—both sophisticated and crude—, which arise, moment by moment, from the intriguli of its chaotic dance when its many different realities join together.

Let’s imagine for a moment, a scene in this city, with thousands of vehicles moving forward together at a speed of a few miles per hour. A traveling tianguis street market is created among them with a life of its own that coincides in time and space with a religious pilgrimage of thousands of people who have come from afar to the Basilica of Guadalupe. Its participants have to shuffle between a protest that progresses through food stands, distorted music, the Chilanga Banda, sun in winter, febrero loco, súbale hay lugares, two soccer games in the south of the city, everywhere surrounding the stadiums is packed with cars, and it’s not long before it starts to flood from the rain. They’re making more apartment buildings, and another street market has already been set up—it is blocking the entrance of one of the world’s best restaurants, which is going to be featured in an American movie. They closed the street to film, so you turn around to try to catch a glimpse, the road is reversible at this time of day and its name changes every four miles…I think of Macondo. The Sting concert just got over in the National Auditorium, and a one-million-dollar special collection automobile exits the parking lot. There’s a 15 year-old kid driving it who left in the middle of the concert, he speeds up and barely misses a street clown who is crossing the avenue to catch the microbus. Not far away, thousands hum and reflect in a straight line underground, spellbound by screens above their heads: they’re watching a Juan Gabriel video while waiting for the metro to arrive. There was a power outage, it’s a full moon, and the weather is incredible…

I concur with André Bretón, one of the founders of Surrealism. As legend has it—when the French government invited him to visit Mexico City in 1938 as part of a cultural commission—he got lost on his way to give a lecture at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Several hours later, soaked by the psychedelia of chilangan phenomenon, he declared: “I don’t know why I’m here. Mexico does not need classes on surrealism. Mexico is surreal.”

Translation by Idiomatics Translation Services, LLC.


Cuando el artista y psicomago Alejandro Jodorowsky piensa en por qué el destino quiso que naciera en Chile, dice que en definitiva fue para que estuviera en medio de la ola de poesía que bañó a su generación en aquella época. La visión poética ha dado el matiz y sabor a sus películas, obras de teatro, libros, comics y teorías.

Si yo exploro también cómo es que mi lugar de nacimiento, la Ciudad de México, ha influido en mi vida, veo con certeza que aquí me inunda el asombro diario ante los actos creativos —sofisticados y burdos—, que surgen en el intriguli de la danza caótica de este lugar, momento a momento, cada vez que muchas realidades se ensamblan.

Imaginemos por un momento una escena en esta ciudad, con miles de autos avanzando juntos, a una velocidad de pocos kilómetros por hora. Entre ellos se crea un tianguis ambulante con vida propia, que coincide en el tiempo y el espacio con una peregrinación religiosa de miles de personas que vienen de otros lugares a la Basilica de Guadalupe, cuyos participantes tienen que barajearse entre una manifestación que avanza entre puestos de comida, música distorsionada, la Chilanga Banda, el sol en invierno, febrero loco, súbale hay lugares, dos partidos de futbol en el sur de la ciudad, los alrededores de los estadios saturados de autos, por poquito y se inunda por la lluvia, están haciendo más edificios de departamentos, ya pusieron otro tianguis —el cual tapa la entrada a un restaurante top mundial, que va a salir en una película gringa. Cerraron la calle para filmar, date la vuelta a ver si alcanzamos a ver, la vialidad es reversible a esta hora y cambia de nombre cada 4 kilómetros… Pienso en Macondo. Acaba de terminar el concierto de Sting en el Auditorio Nacional, de cuyo estacionamiento sale un automóvil de colección especial de 1,000,000 de dólares; lo va manejando un niño de 15 años que se salió a la mitad del concierto, acelera y libra por poco al payaso callejero que va a cruzar la avenida para alcanzar el microbús; a corta distancia en línea recta en el subsuelo miles tararean y contemplan embelesados la pantalla sobre sus cabezas: están viendo un video de Juan Gabriel, mientras esperan a que llegue el metro. Se fue la luz, hay luna llena, el clima está increíble…

Coincido con André Bretón, uno de los creadores del Surrealismo, quien, cuenta la leyenda, en 1938 visitó esta ciudad invitado por el gobierno francés a una comisión cultural. Cuando se dirigía a la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México para dar una conferencia, Bretón se perdió en el camino. Varias horas después, empapado de la psicodelia de fenómenos chilangos, declaró: “Yo no sé por qué estoy aquí. México no necesita clases de surrealismo. México es Surreal.”

Doctor Corso es un pintor que conjuga las antiguas técnicas pictóricas con un discurso contemporáneo influido por el Arteterapia, los sueños y la fuerza del color para detonar emociones. Es también investigador sobre creatividad aplicada. Ver más del trabajo de Dr. Corso.

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