Mexico

Life, Travel

Mexican Dreaming at the Casa Azul, Coyaocan, Mexico City.


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Inspired by a visit one morning to the Frida Kahlo Museum in the colossal metropolis of Mexico City.

Palpable magic permeates the air moment you enter La Casa Azul, the house built in 1904 by Frida Kahlo’s German born father, Karl Wilhelm Kahlo. Now home to El Museo Frida Kahlo, the museum is dedicated to the life and legacy of the legendary Mexican artist.

Painted a luminous shade of cobalt blue, the Casa Azul stands proudly on a corner block between Calle de Londres and Allende in the suburb of Coyoacan, Mexico City. Built to overlook an internal courtyard and garden, this is the house where Frida Kahlo lived much of her life. The immaculately preserved rooms feel like giant still life installations. The day I visited dappled sunlight bounced around inside and out adding to the magical feeling.

In the kitchen, dining room and large artist’s studio, Kahlo’s objects, furniture and personal items have been left untouched allowing an intimate glimpse into the private world of the remarkable much loved daughter of Mexico. Of the two bedrooms on display, one is upstairs directly off the large studio where she painted. Incredibly the other bedroom was the room used at different times by Leon Trotsky during his two year exile in Mexico, and later by the great Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, Frida’s tempestuous husband. Throughout the house countless original Frida Kahlo paintings, and a few by Diego Rivera hang on the walls.

As I wandered around Casa Azul taking in the decorative aesthetic symmetry of the rooms, from the lovely kitchen with its traditional yellow and blue tiled Mexican hearth, to the large fastidiously organised art studio where Kahlo’s 1940’s wheelchair rests in front of her easel, I wondered about the woman behind the carefully constructed image she presented to the world. (more…)

Travel

The Artisan Market of San Cristobel de las Casas, Chiapas State, Mexico


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In the picturesque mountain city of San Cristobel de las Casas, Chiapas State, Mexico, a visit to the Mercado Artesanal, the Artisans Market, is a must.

Mexico is famous for beautiful textiles. From intricate embroidery adorning decorative clothing, to colourful woven cotton blankets, this is one of the best markets in the country to see examples of fine hand-made craftsmanship; it’s like walking through a breathing Mexican museum.

Also on display are stalls crammed with hand-made leather goods, delicate beadwork, exquisite amber and turquoise jewellery, paperbark artwork and of course the painted ceramic skulls one sees for sale all over Mexico.

Many stall holders come from indigenous Tzotzil and Tzeltal villages surrounding San Cristobel. Some sit quietly, deep in concentration going about their work, embroidering, sewing or making jewellery. Others pass the day alongside family; parents manning stalls with sons and daughters. In a memorable encounter, an old woman, her long black hair plaited down her back, looked me in the eye and told me, “Mucho trabajo, mucho trabajo”, (much work, much work), while she showed me table runners covered entirely with embroidery.

Artisans pass traditional knowledge and skills down the generations, so when the time comes grown children inherit the family’s market stall and as such secure their livelihood. For those souls not lucky to be born into a family of craftspeople life is very different. In the streets outside, women tailed by numerous children approach every few minutes trying to sell wares others have made. It’s common to see boys as young as seven or eight working to shine shoes or sell candies for a few pesos. In the historic cobblestoned centre of San Cristobel de las Casas, where preserved colonial facades now house hotels and hip shops, the contrast between the city’s riches and immense poverty is impossible to ignore.

 

Travel

Butterflies of Mexico and the Day of the Dead


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“If we fly by your side, avoid chasing us away, we are fragile and you may harm us.”

“Si pasamos a un lado tuyo, evita espantarnos, somos fragiles y nos puedes lastimar.”

This beautiful sentence touched my heart while walking through the butterfly enclosure at Xcaret, an enormous ‘eco fun park’ on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, close to the famous beaches of Playa Del Carmen and Cancun.

Butterflies hold a special place in the hearts of the Mexican people. In one of the great migrations of the animal kingdom, at the end of October every year, up to a billion orange and black Monarch Butterflies undertake a four thousand kilometre journey from Eastern Canada to the forests of western central Mexico. They arrive at the Reserva de las Biosfera Mariposa Monarca, (the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve) to begin their five month winter hibernation in the tree tops, some thirty metres above the forest floor in the oak and evergreen trees.

Their arrival in late October coincides with Mexico’s most important national holiday, Dia de los Muertas; the Day of the Dead, on the 2nd of November. According to Mexican folklore, many people believe the butterflies are the souls of their departed relatives who return to be with their families around this special national holiday.

As the name suggests, Day of the Dead celebrations remember and honour the lives of the dead. Mexican families often spend the day picnicking in the cemetery by the gravesites of their loved ones. Sometimes their dead family members’ favourite foods are placed alongside the grave. In the city of Campeche, the government has even granted permission for some families to exhume the bones to allow them to be cleaned before being returned to their burial site.

I love the idea that the cycle of life and death plays an important role in the rich Mexican culture. If you think back to the beautiful butterflies, one of nature’s most evolved insects, their four-stage life cycle; from egg to larvae to cocoon and finally the metamorphosis into a butterfly is an incredible example of nature’s infinite intelligence. Both male and female butterflies die soon after mating, the female once she has laid her eggs, having done what she was placed on this earth to do.