Sunday is family day in Mexico. Most people work a long six-day week often until eight or nine at night, so this is the only time they have together for an entire day. On this particular Sunday, the Zocalo is filled with families flying kites across the great expanse that looks as huge as Tiananmen Square in Beijing.
I love to stay in the historic center of Mexico City to walk the cobbled streets, take in the murals and enjoy the street life. There is a deep sense of ancient history here reflecting Aztec roots. The Templo Mayor is nearby with an impressive archeological dig going on to uncover more of Tenochtitlan.
For art glass lovers, two buildings boast art nouveau glass domed ceilings. The central atrium of the upscale department store Palacio de Hierro has a fine example. The other adorns the Gran Hotel Ciudad de Mexico. The hotel is at the corner of the Zocalo (entrance on Av. 16 de Septiembre) and the store is a block away.
On this particular Sunday, the last before Easter vacation ends and Mexican school children must return to the classroom, we are approached by youngsters needing to complete their school assignments: interview a foreigner who speaks English and record the interview. It is almost dusk. Time is running out. Parents are at hand with tablets and hand-held devices to help get this done.
We finish off the Zocalo stroll at the rooftop restaurant of Gran Hotel Ciudad de Mexico with a mango mezcal margarita rimmed with worm salt and a magnificent Zocalo view as the sun sets.
Then, it’s off to Calle Isabel la Catolica #30 for a grand finale dinner at Azul Historico.
Be sure to catch the indigenous clothing gallery, Remigio, on the second floor of Isabel la Catolica #30 featuring hand-woven garments with natural dyes. Right next door, avant clothing designer Carla Fernandez offers hand-carved wood bracelets from molinillo parts. Both shops close at 6 p.m. on Sunday, 8 p.m. other nights.
In the same building, behind the central stairway, is a mural by artist Manuel Rodriguez Lozano called the Holocaust — not to be missed!
Lots to do in just a few square blocks.
Some of the highlights of our Looking for Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Art History Tour of Mexico City. Contact me if you want to join in winter/spring 2015-2016.
Wide Angle View: Antoni Gaudi’s Basilica Sagrada Familia, Barcelona
Awesome. Inspiring. Surreal. Transformational. Meditative. Astonishing. Captivating. Beyond imagination. Crazy. No words can adequately describe the Basilica Sagrada Familia in Eixample, Barcelona, Spain.
You can learn more about this architectural wonder by reading works of art historians, cultural pundits and architects than you can from me. So, I won’t say much more than this is Gaudi’s interpretation of God’s majesty and homage to the sacred family of living beings who inhabit his kingdom.
Smack dab in the middle of this astonishing sculptural masterpiece is the Christ figure, arms outstretched, body on the cross, suspended under a canopy of lights. Is the architect asking us to suspend all disbelief? He floats above us, naked, exposed, soaring and protected under an umbrella or cloud of gold. Color dazzles the interior through stained glass windows.
The supporting columns are like tree trucks with limbs holding up the cavernous ceiling. It is a phantasmagorical dreamscape that can only conjure up what the imagination beholds.
I arch backward, look up, see the bones of dinosaurs, the hull of a ship, the backbone of man, the spines of sea coral, cut glass, anemones, the eye of god.
Gaudi lived and worked during the Art Nouveau-Modernism, Impressionism and Cubism eras. Once a strong supporter of the Anticleric movement in Spain, he embraced his renewed Catholicism with a fervor. The Basilica, unfinished, is his testimony to unwavering belief.
Sidebar: At about the same time that 19th Century anticlericalism gained a more solid footing in Europe, in Mexico, anticlericalism became the rallying cry of Mexican reformists with the confiscation of church property in 1824.
Before we left the USA, I put out a call for advice about which lens (or lenses) to take. I was inclined to take only the lighter weight 50mm prime for my Nikon D7000 camera. I am trying to learn how to travel lighter. Thanks to advice from Lynn Nichols and Steve Zavodny (who is a pro pho), I relented and brought along the Tamron 11-16mm and the 17-55mm. Thankfully!
Most of the photos on this post were taken with the wide angle Tamron lens so I could capture the magnitude of the space.
We bought tickets in advance from the USA in order to avoid lengthy waits in line and chose to visit the Passion Tower, one of two that is open to visitors. After spending about 45 minutes in the sanctuary we rode an elevator to the top of the tower (at our appointed time), then returned to spend another two hours inside for reflection and photographs.
By the time we left it was after 2 p.m. and time for tapas at La Catalana, just two blocks away.
Two Photo Workshops Coming Up in Southern Mexico!
There is a lot of construction going on now. Huge cranes towering above are moving man and machinery as another tower is under construction. Many of the facade mosaic ornaments are covered in protective gauze. Heights are dizzying. Views from the tower top are magnificent. It’s like being in the turret of a medieval castle.
Compare and contrast with Mexico? The art nouveau movement spawned the European romanticism of Mexico City’s renaissance during the Porfiriata. Catalan architects designed and built here. Examples include stained glass ceilings and construction techniques in the Palacio de Hierro and the Gran Hotel Ciudad de Mexico. Rivera brought his classical European training back to Mexico and adapted it to begin the Mexican muralism movement along with Siqueiros and Orozco.
Contact me if you are interested in a Mexico City art history tour:
Looking for Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo
Critics Sidebar: Our taxi driver had an opinion. He said the Sagrada Familia is a commercial tourism venture and not authentic to the original ideals of Gaudi. Since the building was unfinished when Gaudi died at age 74, it’s completion has been left to architectural interpretation of Gaudi’s original drawings which were destroyed during the Spanish Civil War. He recommended we go to Montjuic to see the real Barcelona.
Posted in Cultural Commentary, Mexico City, Photography, Travel & Tourism
Tagged Antoni Gaudi, architecture, art, art nouveau, Barcelona, Basilica, cubism, history, impressionism, Mexico, modernism, photography, religion, Sagrada Familia, sculpture, Spain, Spanish Civil War, surrealism