Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Movies and the Mexican revolution; Trip to Cuernavaca; Dolores Olmedo Museum; Rivera Mural Reproductions

 Set of posters for early movies about Revolutionary Hero, Pancho Villa

Barry planned this trip to Mexico so we'd be here during the Bicentenary of Mexican Independence and the Centenary of the Mexican Revolution.  Of course there are many exhibitions and special events commemorating these anniversaries at the multitude of museums in and around the city, but because he is also spending most of the working week in various archives pursuing his current research interests, we haven't been going to museums most weekdays.  (I have done a bit on my own in between walking and cooking and seeing friends - and will do more in the next two weeks before we head off to Berkeley.)
Last Sunday we managed to catch the last day of an exhibition highlighting the role of film in the myth-making of the Mexican Revolution. It was very helpful to have Barry around to identify who the various be-suited and be-hatted and moustachioed men were in the documentary footage, stills and movies we saw bits of.

A highlight for me was seeing a young and handsome Marlon Brando as Emiliano Zapata in  the Hollywood movie Viva Zapata. An informational placard in the exhibition stated that Zapata was portrayed in the movies as someone with deeper and firmer revolutionary beliefs than Pancho Villa, who was more prone to frivolous escapades. Having seen the teasers, now I want to get hold of some of these old movies - maybe Netflix will have them when we rejoin in Berkeley?

On Saturday we drove down to Cuernavaca with Herzonia, to visit friends of hers and of ours. Her friends, Manuel and Beatrice Bennett, have recently celebrated their 60th year in Mexico.  From New York, they came to Mexico with their 2 year-old son.  Manny had returned from WWII, and under the GI Bill he could go to school just about anywhere, and he opted to attend La Esmeralda, a renowned art school in Mexico City.  He had studied art and graphic design before the war, and working with mapping and surveillance during the war had learned a lot more about printing, reproduction, colour separation, architecture and design, so got deeply involved in this newly emerging industry in Mexico.  Obviously quite an entrepreneur as well as an artist, designer and engineer in these fields , he built a career he didn't really want running a 24*7 factory and consulting to very major clients on their printing needs.  He withdrew from this time-consuming activity, which was not giving him the life they had come to Mexico for, and became a consultant to many of his former and new clients.  Meanwhile his wife also finished college and became a teacher at The American School, initially so they could get their son into the kindergarten there (which is where Herzonia and her family first met them) .  Subsequently she ran her own school for many years.  They loved Mexico from the start, made many friends, and found the opportunities and life choices offered them were far broader and more interesting than what was on offer to their friends and family in the USA at the time.

We were so busy nattering that I didn't take any photos, but here is a link to Manny's web site, where you can see some of his beautiful sculptures, books and art. Well worth looking at!


They moved full-time to Cuernavaca after retiring (and had spent weekends there for years before) and have been there over 15 years in a wonderful house, which he designed and supervised himself, utilising his experience in extending and constructing factories. They're very delighted that none of the structures he built, in Cuernavaca or in Mxico City,  has ever been damaged by earthquakes, even the massive 1985 quake  and its  aftershocks.  The house is like a museum, full of Manny's sculptures and art works. We also got to see some of the many books he has written and/or illustrated, including some of his children's books , covering subjects from Olympic sport to Judaica, including an illustrated book of a translation from the original Yiddish stories of Sholem Aleichem, which were the basis of  Fiddler on the Roof. He also has designed several cards for UNICEF whose sales have raised more than US$1M for the charity, and he is still working collaboratively with all kinds of artists and film-makers.
Beattie considers Herzonia her honorary niece - they go back a long way indeed and some of the artworks around the house populated Herzonia's childhood. What a rich relationship indeed.

Photo below from January,2010:  Hilda Melgar with Barry and me in Melgar living room in Cuernavaca

 Barry and I left Herzonia there with some other guests and went on to have lunch with the Melgars. Ricardo, Hilda and Dahil were there - not sure if I have mentioned them before but we often see them.  Ricardo is a colleague and occasional collaborator of Barry's. He and Hilda are originally from Peru, which may account for why I find it so difficult to follow Hilda's Spanish in particular. Before she started Uni here,  Dahil studied English in Sydney for a short while, and when she visited Melbourne, we spirited her away from the Backpackers' place she was in and took her home with us, so we have an independent relationship with her.  She has since graduated from Uni and is working as a Research Assistant for a couple of different academics, at least one of whom seems to treat research assistants as cheaper secretarial staff, so it isn't as much of a learning experience as it should be for her.

In photo below, Ricardo Melgar on the right in the Garden at home in Cuernavaca, taken January 2010
For lunch, Hilda as usual produced a Peruvian speciality, this time a dish with a base of potatoes topped with chicken which may have been processed to its very fine texture in a blender or food processor - no idea what was mixed with it - it was delicious but I worry about how many Weight Watcher's points I actually consumed (I was pretty good not to eat any cheese at all from the starters, just a few olives and some baby corn, and there were heaps of veggies, but I also faltered and tried the lemon tart and dulce de leche ice cream, if only little bits.  Stuck to one glass of wine, however, but did drink the agua de jamaica, a drink made from a type of hibiscus flowers,  which I usually avoid as it has sugar. Theirs was a lot less sweet than many, though I prefer to avoid all added sugar if I can , but it can be very hard in Mexico.  Incidentally, for those of you who know about Caroline and Joy's Tamarind restaurant  and cooking school in Luang Prabang, Laos, Caroline makes something similar there from the same stuff which they call rosella).

Gorgeous riot of colour and plants
Huge variety of pots on sale.
One of the vendors whose display I liked

On Sunday I went to my Weight Watchers meeting, which is always a challenge for my Spanish but worth the effort, especially as I lost 300 gm this week. It is across the road from Viveros,  where I walk most days with Herzonia, other friends or alone.  It is a morning meeting, so I only  have a cuppa and a yoghurt  before walking the 20 minutes there.  It feels like I am cheating a bit, but once I started doing this, I worry that if I had a full breakfast before weigh-in, I would show up as gaining weight that week.  At home, where my meeting was just before dinner in the evening, the same thinking applied, and I was careful not to have an afternoon snack before my weigh-in.

I am taking the opportunity to post a few photos I took last week in the  Viveros - we usually walk through the treed area and the areas where they grow the saplings for the city's parks and gardens, but this day we were in the commercial plant nursery, where the colours really caught my eye - of the pots on sale, as well as the plants. I took a few shots in the cactus area too but as it was a dull day and I was using the iPhone rather than my camera, they look  rather dreary. Their annual dahlia exhibition starts this week, and Herzonia thinks it is worth another visit to the nursery to catch it.

After WW,  I walked back home for brunch and headed off with Barry to the Dolores Olmedo museum, in a wonderful old Colonial building called La Noria, which Olmedo extended and used as her home as well as a gallery for her extensive collection of Frida Kahlo (this collection is on tour in Europe, Germany I think, as it has been touring each time I have intended to to go to see it),  Diego Rivera, and Angelina Beloff.

Dolores Olmedo (from a postcard of one of  Rivera's portraits of her)  was made the custodian of Rivera's works and had the largest Kahlo collection anywhere.  Since her death, her private quarters and personal collections have been opened to the public - lots of pre-Columbian figures, jewellery  and artefacts, and such things as  lot of Emperor Maximilian's silverware, displayed in a wonderful tiled former kitchen.  Photography is banned, unfortunately, and even when I took out my iPhone just to take some notes on a particular painting I wanted to look up later, a guard insisted I put it away.  You can check out the museum at the website:


The grounds are lovely, and there are peacocks (and at least one peahen with 2 small chicks which were so cute all the visitors were taking forbidden photos in the gardens) and other birds, as well as a healthy looking pack of  native bald dogs,  escuintles, in various visible but fenced off sections. These were about all I managed to photograph.  My compromise here is to post photographs of two of the postcards Barry bought, one of the museum and one of a Rivera portrait of Dolores Olmedo, with apologies for the resulting lack of quality.
Pea hen and chicks (one hidden)

One of the Rivera reproductions  in the Jardin Hidalgo.

I am a big fan of Rivera's paintings, and it was interesting to see such a large collection n the museum, from his early landscapes and cubist works painted in the 20's in Europe, and later in the Soviet Union. Displayed as they are, juxtaposed with the pre-columbian figures he collected , I could see the continuity and evolution into the style he used in his most famous murals, portraying the sweep of Mexican history and representing the Indigenous peoples, the Conquistadors, and the archetypes of the military, the priest, the capitalist, the worker.  The ban on photography was really irksome! In older posts, maybe 2007,  I am sure I have shown some of Rivera's wonderful murals, but right now there are life-sized reproductions of some of his Ministry of Education murals on display in the rotunda of the Jardin Hidalgo, the plaza here in Coyoacan, which I photographed today with my phone.  I took a photo of each of them: I see they are a bit over exposed, but they do give an idea. Remember, if you click on an image you can enlarge it and see more detail. I have stuck them all on Picasa so you can see the lot:  As the Rotunda is in the open air, the light conditions as I went around varied a lot (and I didn't take them in order as there were people in the way). Some of them are displayed on a walkway and I took  a few close-ups of details here: to get far enough away to capture the whole panels I couldn't avoid the tape (apparently property of the Senate?) you can see in these on Picasa.


1 comment:

Carol Miller said...

Nice blog, Barbra, I put your link up on Facebook. If you've never seen it and get the chance don't miss the Elia Kazan "Viva Zapata". It's a jewel and Brando's portrayal gives you a very real, very loving view of Emiliano, who was the "good guy" of the Mexican Revolution. Never let anyone tell you differently.