Magical Surrealism

11 Mar

Magical realism is a genre of literature popular with many Latin American authors including many of my favorite authors such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Isabel Allende.  I often think that if you haven’t read some of their novels, you can’t really understand Latin America.  They are beautiful, surreal, and bizarre, and yet if you have ever traveled extensively in Latin America, you begin to understand their style and just how real magic can be in this part of the world.

According to the Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms, magical realism is “a kind of modern fiction in which fabulous and fantastical events are included in a narrative that otherwise maintains the ‘reliable’ tone of objective realistic report… The fantastic attributes given to characters in such novels—levitation, flight, telepathy, telekinesis—are among the means that magic realism adopts in order to encompass the often phantasmagoric political realities of the 20th century.”  If you’ve ever wandered the streets of Buenos Aires, Rio, or Mexico City, you have probably witnessed your very own versions of fabulous of fantastical events that seem to be imaginary or surreal, yet are in fact happening right before your eyes and are, indeed, very much a part of the reliable narrative of these cities.

This past weekend I experienced my very own version of magical realism, or as I like to call it, magical surrealism.  I was in the beautiful colonial town of San Miguel de Allende, soaking up the cobblestone streets, beautiful culture, and cute cafes, when I stumbled across hundreds of Aztec dancers writhing and jumping about in a trance.  I felt as though I was witnessing an ancient ritual, and yet I was surrounded by beautiful catholic churches and colonial mansions.  You could hear the pounding drums from miles away, and once you were in the thick of it your whole body literally shook with the beat of their ancient, rhythmic dancing.

But I wasn’t here to see an Aztec ritual- I was headed off to a circus.  And what a magical circus it was!  I walked through the crowds of hopping, spinning dancers and wandered around the block and into an ancient, glorious theater.  The circus, called “Phenomenon,” was in the same vein as Cirque du Soleil, but a more intimate, austere version.  The music and costumes were fabulous, and the sheer athletic and acrobatic feats of the performers was breathtaking.

A circus and Aztec dancing in the same evening would have been pretty magical, but my night was just getting started.  After eating a hotdog wrapped in bacon and covered in jalapenos, I jetted off to a fabulous party in a castle on the outskirts of town.  Lit only by candles and full of only the most beautiful and stylish people in town, the party was, as they say here, poca madre.

As the hipsters and the gente bien danced in the technicolor lights to the sounds of electrocumbia and smoked cigarettes on the steps of the ancient castle, I couldn’t help but look around me, ponder the insanity of it all, and take a deep breath.

As I always say, only in Mexico.  What an amazing, magically real country.


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