“ Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” - Gustav Flaubert
I have a friend, Nuria, a professor at Pacifica University in Southern California, whom I have known since I lived in Honolulu. We were colleagues and worked at the Youth Development Project together for a couple of years, developing and implementing a theatre project which had as its goal empowering youth through drama. She is an amazing person, and just spending time with her was an adventure. She has fascinating stories about her life and also of the people that she has collaborated with over the years. One of them is the subject of a mural that we made a point to see in Mexico City - Maria Guardado (powerful woman, will write about in another post).
Nuria is from Mexico, a city called Puebla, which we visited on my last week there. Our time together was a combination of places that she has never been before, and places that she wanted to revisit to share with me. I didn't really have a list myself, but I knew I wanted to see art, and Frida Kahlo was at the top of my list.
Nuria had never been to Xochimilco, which is in the area where Frida was from. In one of my favorite books by Barbara Kingsolver, the Lacuna, (fiction) it is a setting for a romantic encounter with Trotsky, who she is supposed to have had an affair with. I recognized the location when I saw it.
As soon as we got off the bus, we didn't have to wonder where the river was, helpful "guides" were there to show us the way. We didn't realize until later that they were trying to steer us to their particular boats. But we made it there, thought that they were asking too much for the ride (350 pesos) and determined that it was enough for us to see the bright yellow and red boats on the dock. We really weren't trying to get a better deal, but a teenage boy came running after us and offered to take us for 100 each for one hour. We agreed.
We stopped by the Dolores Olmeda museum and saw a little bit of Diego and Frida's art, but we were really determined to go to the Museo Frida Kahlo, or La Casa Azul, where she grew up and lived. I regret not paying the extra fee to be able to take pictures. Truly amazing to see where she was confined to her bed, the posters and artifacts that showed her obsessions, such as the poster of fetuses as well as one of butterflies. She also had a collection of toys in her bedroom. I think I remember reading that an urn on her dresser contains her ashes. We both felt a presence there. It was more than a house. There was mana, as we say in Hawaii. She is interesting, wild, mysterious. Her art, especially her self-portraits, are provocative, painful.
YAY! I made it! Bonus: Strange beauty moment seeing butterflies at the top, when there didn't seem to be anything there that they would feed on. Nuria later said that they were my Nahuatl, like my aumakua.
Later that evening, we went to the Zocalo, the city center, where the main cathedral is. Nuria knew there were also some ruins near there that we might be able to see. We found the area, but it was barricaded at the end of a dark, quiet alley. I looked around and saw a sign that said, La Casa De Las Sirenas, and a picture of a mermaid. That reminded me of Guam, so I was struck by it. There was no one at the door, but it appeared open. We walked up two flights of stairs and came to a restaurant. From the edge of the restaurant, we had a view of the Zocalo and the ruins that Nuria knew was there. We relaxed there for a while. I had a tamarind margarita. It was a good, unplanned find.
At the Museo Nacional de Anthropologica, I got a sense of the magnificence of the different indigenous cultures in Mexico. Fascinating.
Much more to see here in Mexico City, but needed to move on to the next leg of our journey.
I have traveled quite a bit, and am using this page to record some memories. Travel is a wonderful education, expanding your view of the world, of other cultures, of the beauty of diversity.