Tag Archives: Mexico City

Mexaesthetics

25 Sep

My memories of Mexico are painted in bright and vivid hues, dashes of crazy colors swirled together, stacked in neat little piles, splashed across the sky, and cut up in little cubes.   The Mexican aesthetic is beautiful and bright, chaotic yet orderly, surreal yet existing right in front of your eyes, and so very magical.  The devil is in the details in a country like Mexico, and to truly appreciate the essence of the country, you should buy some jicama and watermelon slices tossed with lime juice and chili powder, all prepared right before your eyes.  I can still remember the subtle combination of sweet, salty, tangy, and spicy all in one delicious and crunchy bite, in a beautiful package.  Beauty and creativity in such unexpected and magical ways, and this is just at the corner fruit stand.  Now that is what I call the Mexaesthetic.

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Photo of the Day

24 Mar

In Southern Mexico City, deep in the heart of the Xochimilco neighborhood, you can find some of the old canal systems that were once the life-line of the ancient Aztec capital built on a lake.  Although they are no longer used to bring in goods or transport war prisoners from faraway lands, the canals are still teaming with excitement.  No trip to Mexico City is complete without visiting Xochimilco and taking a trajinera, or gondala ride, down this unique and historic part of the city.

Colima

9 Jul

Calle Colima, a humble tree-lined street in the heart of Roma Norte, is one of the best places to find hot vintage items, unique designer t-shirts, and blue corn quesadillas. This is why I love my hood, because the senora on my corner still rolls out the tortillas by hand (and at only 10 pesos this is a serious steal) even though hip new boutiques have slowly started to pop up with increasing frequency. Take that, Condechi!

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The latest endeavor is Clinica, the atelier of Paola Hernandez, an up and coming young designer who has been called Mexico’s next it girl and whose designs have been featured in Elle and Vougue.  In addition to Clinica, Colima is home to Sicario, Goodbye Folk, U Store, Shelter, and, on the bougey side of Insurgentes, American Apparel.  While it was triste to see a corporate chain popping up in la Roma, at least it’s on the Condesa side of the road, AKA the part of Roma that doesn’t real count as Roma.  On this side of Insurgentes the only big-name brand I’ve seen is Subway (thank god there’s no starbucks yet!).

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A good friend of mine and an amazing journalist just made the switch from Condesa to Roma and has blogged about how she’s slowly succumbing to the undeniable charm and hip style that is la Roma.  Ugandanesque power outages and water cutoffs may come with the territory, but so does fabulous street art and my new favorite vintage store ever.

Daily Dose of Street Art

8 Jun

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This old house, on the corner of Alvaro Obregon and Insurgentes, is one of my all time favorites in the DF.  It’s constantly being covered by a plethora of crazy posters and graffiti which creates the effect of a continuously morphing collage.  Plus, it looks haunted.  And of course, it’s in Roma, the hippest neighborhood in Mexico City and a place I’m proud to call home.

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And if all that street art makes you hungry, there’s a pretty good taco stand, sandwhich stand (tortas) and a juice place all right on the corner.  Try the vampiro juice- beets, carrots, and oranges all thrown in the blender right before your eyes.

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Mexican Fashion grows up and gets classy

30 May

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Malinchismo, or preference for all things foreign, has always been a part of Mexican culture, and the fashion world is no exception.  Malinche was an indigenous slave who became Cortez’s interpreter and subsequent lover, a women who many blame for the downfall of the Mayan empire and, hence, for all of Mexico’s problems (a la Pandora and Eve and all women throughout history, but that’s a whole other blog post or 2 or 300 right there).   Thus the word Malinchismo was created in her honor (or dishonor) to refer to a predilection for foreign things or people.  It is important to understand the concept of Malinchismo because understanding Mexican culture in and of itself is a difficult operation, and the fashion world here in many ways reflects that.

Mexico has long struggled to define itself individually, after years of harsh colonial rule and dictators and then finally a political party that kept “winning,” mysteriously, for 70 years in a row.   Now a different party is in control, free trade is booming, and Mexico is finally growing up and becoming a global force in and of its own right.  Yet it is still dependent in many ways on other countries to help guide its path, and “free trade” for all its benefits has created a dramatic cycle of economic subordination and cultural influence that seems to be unbreakable.

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And so, just as Mexico struggles to break free from this vicious cycle and plods the long slow road towards economic and human development, Mexican designers also endeavor to define a uniquely Mexican style.  Unlike deconstructionist Japan or timelessly elegant Italy, Mexico has yet to create a singular, defining statement that remains, above all else, uniquely Mexican.  And while many designers embrace the ethnic patterns and traditional colors of indigenous cultures, many are frustrated by such a narrow, stereotypical view of Mexican style and long to break free of such suffocating interpretations.

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The struggle to create a uniquely Mexican style was vividly, and at times painfully evident at last weeks Mercedes Benz Fashion Mexico, an upscale event where over 20 designers presented their Fall collections.  In the face of swine flu, earthquakes, drug wars, and a financial crisis, the show went on, although it was twice rescheduled because of the influenza outbreak.

I saw some things I loved, some things I hated, and some things I couldn’t quite figure out.  I saw some great clothes, some gorgeous models (who, in true malinchista form, were mostly imported from Brazil and Argentina), and lots of high society elite.  But mostly what I saw, on runway after runway, was a culture trying to finally define itself and a fresh desire to create something beautiful that Mexicans can proudly claim as their own. Hopefully, in a few more years, that desire will come to fruition.

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La coleccion Jumex

20 May

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In a gritty industrial zone called Ecatapec, 45 minutes outside of Mexico City, hidden within the bowels of an unassuming juice factory, sits the largest private contemporary art exhibit in Latin America.  The Jumex Collection features heavy-hitting contemporaries such as Duchamp and Jeff Koons and fresh local talent such as Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco.

Every few months an international curator is invited to design a new exhibit from the collection, showcasing several of the unique and memorable pieces in a fresh way.  The pieces are selected along a common theme, such as “history of the ready made” or the latest exhibit,  “nothingness and being”.

To celebrate the opening of every new exhibit, the owner throws a Jay Gatsby worthy fiesta with lots of movers and shakers from the Mexico City elite.  Everyone is there to enjoy the art, of course, but also to take part in the debauchery.

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And debauchery it is.  Guests enjoy an open bar worthy of the gods with deluxe martinis handcrafted from Jumex juices, ginger, raspberries, and other fresh ingredients.  There is also a gourmet buffet, live music, performance art and skits, and lots of free juice on hand.

Oh yeah… and there was art.  Lots of art.

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Visiting details:  The Jumex Collection is open to the public by appointment only; admission is free.  Besides enjoying the exhibit, you can also visit the library and the reading room on site.

Phone: +52 55 5699 1961

The ones left behind

30 Apr

I may have been able to hop on a plane a few days ago, but the 20 million people I left behind in Mexico City and its surrounds weren’t so lucky.  Many of my friends there are journalists and have been working hard to get out on the streets and cover the story, infectious deadly diseases or not.

My friend Alexis down in the subway.  Photo by Deanna Dent

My friend Alexis down in the subway. Photo by Deanna Dent

Alexis Okeowo, above, is a freelance journalist friend of mine from Alabama who covers everything from Kenyan runners training in Toluca to Mexico City design firms to how the Mexican government is dealing with the encroaching drug addiction problems in society.  She worked for two years in Africa, so I guess after the dealing with the slums of Kenya the swine flu is no big thing for her.

The photo was taken by Deanna Dent, another good friend who has been working day and night to shoot the possible pandemic.  She has a great blog full of photos and sound slides that give you an idea of what it’s like in the streets.  Sounds pretty scary if you ask me.  Empty, quiet streets in Mexico City are not the norm, not at all.

A young girl in the upscale condesa neighborhood rides her bike

A young girl in the upscale condesa neighborhood rides her bike

As I sit comfortably at my computer and breathe in the fresh, spring air of Charlottesville, I can’t help but wonder what it’s like for the friends I left behind.  A good friend of mine from Emory had just moved down to Mexico City for a month or so, and recently decided it just wasn’t worth it and also packed up and left. Several of my exchange student friends who were in the middle of finals have also decided to leave.  The exchange office where I study also gave a green light to any of us who wished to return and said we could complete our finals from our home universities (I will be returning in a week to complete my finals at the school).  I also just heard a rumor the government is thinking about shutting down all non-essential businesses.  At least some people have something to smile about:

A young couple in the Historic Center of the city

A young couple in the Historic Center of the city

All fabulous photos by Deanna Dent (thanks girl!).