We can’t talk about Art, Mexico, and Frida without Diego and his association/contribution to both. According to Hayden Herrera, Rivera and the crew functioned from the perspective that ‘Mexican art “is great because it surges from the people; it is collective and our own aesthetic is to socialize artistic expression..” ….

“To move away from the ultra-intellectual and the aristocratic…to make it tell the story of the people”…versus…the story of oneself or just ones personal image…Taking the walk through Mexico City, the works, murals, of Diego Rivera and his students represent this surge…telling the story not of an organization, an institution, or a government…but, if you look closely…the plight of the people….

Not long ago, my yogini took me through an exercise to further develop my yoga. She had me imagine that I was climbing a mountain…but, also in climbing…imagining the rigor, the obstacles, the exhaustion, the effort…and the crescendo…the feeling of getting to the top…and then at the crest…she had me focus my imagination on that feeling of being there…

Standing there…I could feel the wind against me…on my eyes, the open space, life’s existence and opportunity for expansion, every sound was subtle but with depth…my senses responded to feeling verses something easily identified as if it were buoying me in an elevated place, and the recognition of the horizon was a reminder that more was there…the overarching them was freedom and oneness with the reality of everything…even the limitless…

A feeling I’ve had before…Mt. Bromo or Tanah Lot in Indonesia, Monseratte in Columbia, Valle y Sierra Vinales in Cuba, or Las Montanas of the Pacific Coast Highway…the same as those moments when insight into the nature of the human story…rises to provide equivalents.

Do we ever ponder, how do we see ourselves? Can we recognize the limitless? Or are our lives caught up in the self-created grandeur of our own delusions. Whether we go with the mimesis that art imitates life or vice-versa…still, there is that existential question…Who am I? Who are you? Art? Life? Can I see myself within it? How do I see myself?

All questions we have to ask and then answer for ourselves!! It is necessary, if we want to grow, to step outside of ourselves…and as mentioned by Berger in ‘Ways of Seeing’….consider the lives of others and how we relate…how this relation helps to define who we are…particularly if this art surges from the people…their life stories are told. But, as with art…you can have your interpretation…

In your interpretation, don’t forget the significance of the history being shown in the murals…the labor, inclusion of the natural order (nature), the moneyed-haves, the exploitation and suffering, some of the basis of revolts and revolutions…

Despite hard times, the travails and vicissitudes…those amongst them representing other interests…. Being able to endure, the strength of the collective, the mutual support…the weakness of one being made up by the strength of the other…

Regardless to the insertion of technological advancements or the broader global economic dynamics, shifts of governmental intent…the community was collectively resilient…

And, the natural order endures…it prevails…

And, never forgetting the collective ‘Soy Porque Somos’….’I am because we are’….

This journey in Mexico was absolutely astounding with depth and meaning…some of it mentioned, but most between the lines!! I have one more post I would like to share on CDMX; however, this trip was penetrating enough that I am going to pull a quick turnaround and return in short order. So back to CDMX quite soon, and then I’ll post a few things about being around Ciudad de Mexico!! Amigos!! Nos Vemos!! 🙂

Comida Mexicana de la Calle y Clase de Cocina

Like with some things, I can be kind of moody. Indeed, I do have a side of me that is a complete ‘FOOD SNOB’…I admit it…but, the admission doesn’t mean it will change…in this case…it will most likely get significantly worse!! With that said, I hold street food within the highest regard…wherever I find it…most of my life I have gravitated towards it…and, now I have even more evidence to support the ‘Bourdain in Me’!!!

But, when I travel…I am prone to find groceries…this evening I was ending a long day…and just decided to grab a few things for the late night munch…lo and behold…I came upon a Walmart…

Sigh…and yes…

Walmart is UBIQUITOUS…it is everywhere…like GOD…it is everywhere…so yes..that is a picture of me…coming out of Walmart…But!! This isn’t the U.S. Walmart 🙂 Love when a place doesn’t have plastic bags…you have to bring your own…or buy one…a certain awareness/consciousness/responsibility…something to be learned there…

And, walking out of the door…ahhh yes…the deliciousness of comida mexicana!!! Mexican Street Food – Everywhere…my friends…I will never see a taco the same way…

The scents, the flavors, the freshness!! I will say straight-up, have not been a fan of corn tortillas…but, here in Mexico City…primarily, it is what you find! I’m not complaining..in fact…we have a believer now!! 🙂 We aren’t talking about adding powder to browned meat with some water….we are talking about something coming alive in your mouth and stomach…street food – it is alive!! 🙂

And be clear…eateries, restaurants…little shops…food stands…a table on the side of a street, with a table cloth…and someone cooking food…just at the corner…ahhh…yes, everywhere it seems…

My wanderlust began as a child. My mother began my travel experiences early…domestic and international…hence, my affiliations with West Africa and exploring overall. One of those early experiences was to Spain…and I always remembered the Paella. Not a dish easily cooked, I’ve learned…thus, not easily found…but, allow me to share this please…

As we say, I’m gonna leave that right there….

This trip, I decided to do a few things different – ehhh, different circumstances call for different actions!! A few I will share…

With all the exceptional food, I decided to sign up for a cooking class!! Food is a big culture item…and I am a culture person…so, FOOD, yes…let us get with it…

I signed up with a group called Mexican Food Experiences/Tours – ‘Private Mexican Food Cooking Class with Food Market Visit’ … what an exceptional day…lasted about 5 hours…and we actually started off at the market, Jalisco Mercado, with Chef Eduardo!!!

No can you imagine walking through an open market with a Chef, learning how to pick vegetables and meats for your special dish…a professional trained chef (masters degree)? Well, now I CAN…and now I see…what he means when he says, “if everything isn’t fresh…then it isn’t Mexican food”….

In my hand you see an authentic ‘Gordita’…not the one from Taco Bell my friends…so, I’ve never had one from there…but, I can imagine it is a bit different!! Always interesting to me how when you travel overseas, some places, there seems to be an abundance of fresh juice stands…fresh squeezed papaya…’shaking my head’…

The spice man…that’s his business…he makes a sells spice mixes…and under the suggestion of our Chef…I went ahead a purchased…a nice amount of his ‘Mole’ powder to make … of course … ‘Mole Sauce’….yes…I am most pleased!!!

And of course…in the land of the tortillas…a packet of them will do nothing…so right in the market, there is tortilla production process/factory…so many get consumed that they have these little shops all over…where you have the option of purchasing the tortillas or the actual paste to then customize your own…of course we took the later course…all righteous and good…

Our cooking class, took place in a home…not in a restaurant! That was an exceptionally nice touch…a wonderful experience, to spend time inside an actual home…and to take our time…and be guided…

There was no Sous Chef today, so we…well, I wouldn’t say 2nd in command…more like there were a lot of opportunities for learning… 🙂 And, it was wonderful learning…to actually be taught how to cook an excellent 3 course meal…under the guidance of a master…I won’t remember it all…but, I did retain some parts…and, I am wealthier as a person for the experience…

And YES, in the skillet…beginnings of homemade salsa…customized indeed!!! We had to use razor blades to trim leaf veins, cut, slice, refine…and the other cooking stuff!!! One of my tasks was to knead the dough for the tortillas…

Yup!! The goof smile!! I own it!! Admittedly, I didn’t know it would be this much work!! I am reminded to never take for granted the effort that goes into this type of preparation! In fact, even with this class…what most comes to mind is the seasoning of ‘Love’!! My favorite seasoning!! When someone puts that much effort into cooking for us…there is a lot of the seasoning of ‘Love’ going in it!!

Three course meal!! Can we say ‘Truffle Tacos’…never knew there was such a thing…and then again…why would I have known!! What I do know is that this was such a wonderful experience…I even worked on my challenged social skills – successfully, I might add!!

Some would say, “it is just a cooking class”…and that is fine…for me, it was much more than that…I learned so much…but, also not to be diminished…I learned a lot about myself. Exceptional it is to me when we can go somewhere…and learn, then bring it home…home being within ourselves…for future joys and peace…to share with those who appreciate enough to value it as well…For some reason, the folks at ‘TSA’ had the same affinity as I did for my brick of ‘Mole’ powder 🙂

As I mentioned…beyond COVID, this past year was its own thing…but, between those lines…yes, I feel the moment coming when you are on the peak…feeling the wind, breathing fresh air, accomplishing…and you can see off into the distance so far that your eye sight fails…however, inside you know there is more beyond the horizon…add in the fruit cup…fresh, spicy, and alive…you get my drift… 🙂

Keep climbing…digging…Yes, I am feeling a calling…as in ‘Malik/Bourdain – Parts Unknown’ 🙂

“Para todas las personas que se nos han ido”

“For all the people who have left us…”

For quite some time I have been curious about Dias de los Muertos. Like many people, my own life has also experienced some significant loss coinciding with COVID. Soo..in some ways it is quite fitting that now is the time I am exploring this cultural dynamic. Such an interesting cultural shift…how the dead are included. And within this cultural dynamic are certainly some major shits that can be incorporated into our own lives.

Forthrightly and honestly, the size of Mexico City had slipped my mind! Around 22 million people…and more than NYC…yes, I was asleep on this gem!! While the Day of the Dead is recognized within Latin America, its strongest affiliation is in Mexico!! I am not trying to summarize the entire significance in this post…but, only to place a few highlights.

Historically, it is said that Dias de los Muertos is essentially a Latin custom that came about from a mix of Aztec rituals and the Spanish conquistadors (Catholicism). Since there were hundreds of tribes in Mexico during this time, I’ll also assume they made a contribution as well!

More importantly, this cultural custom focuses on reducing the intense sadness/mourning that can come with death of a loved one and replacing it with festivities…I didn’t walk the entire parade route but imagine this stretched for a little under 9 mile…and, I walked a good part of it…the entire way was mostly shoulder to shoulder….

Obviously the parade isn’t the only aspect of these festivities, and the main focus is to include death as a natural part of life…of being a human being. To the degree that it is a way of including our loved ones in the day. Many people, such as myself, had the mask painted on half their face – indicating that both death and life are an equal component to the same thing….always with us. As Maria Popova, the Marginalian, writes perhaps, ‘death is not the assailant of life but the ultimate consecration of its lucky possibility…’…

Sure we’ve read the statement that grief is love with no place to go…as in loving someone or something…that is no longer present in your life in a form that allows you to express your feelings toward them or it…consequently, in consideration of people…they could be physically alive or dead. Often times…these people/things remain alive in our mind one way or another…yet these days provide a cultural means to identify and honor it in a healthy way regardless to the physical state of them or the means by which their presence changed…

Well traveled, I am!! Student of culture and life around the globe, Indeed!! An expert on Latin Culture, I am NOT!! However, with what I have experienced, I do love the emphasis on family. How it is included in so many aspects of the culture…families dressing together, made up together…so many babies on shoulders… and to have so many people together…it wasn’t a drunken festive party…it was unimaginably clean and wholesome…especially considering the number of people attending…

Obviously, some take these days very seriously!! 🙂 Love seeing the kids in the trees, on roof tops…screaming when certain characters came walking by… With the way people intermingled and talked, it was obvious the interactions weren’t just for blood family…there was definitely a feeling that people were treating each other a certain way…family that you choose…definitely a cultural item that needs to be transferred to some other places we know of…

And of course what is a festival/parade without food…particularly since Mexico is world renowned for its street food, more on that later 🙂 For awhile I lost focus on the other things and just absorbed the cooking that was going on!! Can I say righteous…and let’s put it right here… even the dead have bread….’delicioso pan de muerto’!!! Much Love!!

Outside of the parade, one of the most common parts of this custom is to honor the dead by setting up an ‘ofrenda’…an altar. Generally, they have set up flowers, candles, food, drinks, photos, and personal mementos of the person. The home I visited, picture bottom left, even had cigarettes and something to sip for the loved one 🙂 You will also usually see lots and lots of orange flowers that we call Marigolds, but out of respect…they call them ‘zempasuchitl’ (an Aztec word)… You will often see them around the city with the ‘ofrendas’. But, also inside of homes sprinkled on steps and stairs leading to the ‘ofrenda’…I was told that it serves as a conduit to bring loved ones, the dead, into this world…and invitation to come celebrate… 

There is no way to capture the significance of this day nor the feelings I am having by being here in one post. This is only an attempt to share a little piece of culture, some lessons learned, and a few tidbits of my own life (between the lines)….

It is no coincidence that this pilgrimage took place simultaneously with other events in my life these past 2 years. As sometimes the dead are a catalyst for the living…and the living are a catalyst for the dead…indeed the relation continues…even if in our own mind…

And to borrow a piece from my home culture, as O’shea Jackson – Ice Cube – said, ‘today was a good day…’….

Fact is: The Dead never really leave us…”Rather they are alive, but we perceive not…” 2:154…

with that noted…

“Para todas las personas que se nos han ido

Love…

While here in CDMX, I will see the sites, explore, expand my awareness…try and glean tidbits from the culture.  However, if you read between the lines, this post is more about personal life experiences and, as such, some of our own as well.

When I travel, regardless to where, I always want to capture something that reminds me of the human story. Our commonalities!!  Sometimes the dynamic of nationality or a general lack of awareness hides the fact that many of us walk a path with the same vicissitudes.  Obviously being a citizen of the United States, I can’t help but to have been influenced by the proclamations of ‘American Exceptionalism’!

I do recognize the benefits I receive from that designation; however, one of the benefits of cultural travel is to shed that shade of lens.  Every country has its wondrous exceptionalism. Especially when the culture is full of those dynamics that shape identity outside of jobs, money, and other accumulations.  Interesting point for me, in certain countries the question always arises quickly….as in “what do you do”? Whereas in others or other nationalities, the question generally does not arise immediately!! Simply put, if we are what we do for a living…then there is a lot to learn about living!! When regardless…we can just be…

So in visiting Casa Azul – the museo for Frida Kahlo…

The museo is rather touristy of course, but only to the uninitiated.  The Art is quite interesting! It captures…we see it…But, it also provides an opportunity for us to see what is in her vision….what she experienced….her resolution….

As a friend of mine taught me, we also assess the art based upon our ability to see ourselves in it.  And naturally, how we relate to it and that which is around us…hence we can watch a person just stare a piece of Art for an extended time frame…over and over again…figuring…

This post isn’t full of original ideas!  In fact, I’m mostly organizing my thoughts around what I have read from “The Diary of Frida Kahlo” forward by Carlos Fuentes and “A Biography of Frida Kahlo” by Hayden Herrera.  Pulling back the veil, what is in her…

Some called her the ‘Priestess of the Temple’,

Diego wrote of her, “For what she lives is what she paints.  But no human experience, painful as it may be, becomes art by itself.  How did Kahlo transform personal suffering into art, not impersonal, but shared.”

The rise and fall of native then Aztec empires, colonization by Spain (Cortes), a dance with the French, the implications of Protestant and Catholic Organizations, various dynamics of Mexican governmental policy (Oligarchs), subjugation to U.S. policy, a dance with the French, Benito Juarez, and the rise of Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata, but still the dichotomy of Mexican Society…just to name a few…

Prior to her existent, but then bringing her into being with the mixture of European immigration with what is called the Mestizo mix…to her own direct predicaments of a void of loneliness, early polio, impalation from an accident, multiple miscarriages and surgeries, and the piercing all-encompassing dynamic of love…to name a few….yet with those characteristics of her cycle of life, she always found love and returned to it…epitomized it…

Some implied that she was the ‘Mexican of Mexicans’, changing her actual birthdate to coincide with the actual start of the Mexican Revolution…

Carlos Fuentes says, that “Mexico is a country made by its wounds” …. yet, here comes Frida…with the poetry of her life and her understanding expressed through her art….

Fuentes also says, … looking at how Frida saw herself over time…” gives us successive identities of a human being who is not yet, but who is becoming…”  who are we? Are we becoming or are we stagnant?  How was she able to grow without replicating the pain she experienced and to do as many do…justifying their existence by placing it on others…how did she do this?  Up to each of us to get an answer for ourselves…so that we can do the same…If anyone epitomizes in Art…that it isn’t what you see…it is the meaning within what you see…it is dear pato….(ofrenda de dias de los muertos on the left)….

Ahhh Frida Kahlo…quite the person to know….