Being as I am a self-appointed explicator of things Latin to Americans curious about what lies to the south, and has come north, I occasionally and in a scattershot and prejudiced manner try to offer a picture of life below the border. There is more to the place than narcos and MS-13. If I lived in Thailand instead of Mexico, I wouldn’t. But Latin America matters to America today as Thailand does not. So here goes.
Trigger Warning: Republicans and Nordic populations may find this column unsettling. It contains disturbing color and some of the images show signs of having escaped from an acid trip. Proceed at your own risk.
Recently Vi and I were in Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas in southern Mexico and, wandering about in a sort of Brownian motion, found ourselves walking along a canal. We discovered a region frequented by grafiteros, street artists.These view unwatched walls as canvases, legal, semi-legal or just not policed. Using spray paint, they, well, paint. I suspect that the authorities fail to get into an uproar because the results leave the precincts more attractive than would bare walls. Vandalism it isn’t.
Anyway, I decided to shoot a few of them–that is, photograph the walls, not assassinate the grafiteros–and then, ideas exploding on me, to post some of them, along with links to such things Mexican and Latin-American as struck my fancy. It will not be well organized. It will, I hope, make the point that the southlands are not, musically, artistically, or culturally, as they are thought to be by many in the United States.
Spray-painted on someone’s back wall in Chiapas. Obviously the owner of the wall is not greatly upset since (a) the painting is still there and (b) it is difficult, though not impossible, to do something so elaborate without being noticed.
In Ajijic, where I live, on a wall along the malecón, a sort of cement boardwalk by the lake.
If you want to nuke Iran, this probably won’t appeal to you. Well, unless maybe you thought of it as Iran after being nuked. I liked it. But then, I don’t want to nuke Iran.
Chiapas again. This would appear to be a kid with a rabbit, next to a purple river. Or something purple anyway. Many of these are painted by youngsters, sometimes teenagers.
Yours truly with, perhaps, the artist’s girlfriend. Slightly out of focus, but we will have to live with it. Others may disagree, but I think doing this freehand with spray paint is pretty cool.
Proof positive that Mexicans are crazy. They are also not too afraid of color, perhaps because they were never exposed to the leaden skies of Northern Europe that seem to have draped everything in earth tones.
Musically Mexico and Latin America are richly varied. Genres run from classical to Spanish rap, not as foul as American ghetto gunch but with the same rhythms. Not all Mexican music is awful banda blaring from tit bars full of drunken Marines in Tijuana. Here are a couple of things I like. They deserve better speakers than a laptop is likely to have.
Huapango, by José Pablo Moncayo. Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional, Mexico City, conducted by Alondra de la Parra.
Dnzón No. 2, by Arturo Marquez, with the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas also under the baton of de la Parra, who gets around. She is the only conductor I have seen who actually seems happy while at it.
I’m not sure exactly what this is, but apparently it lives in trees.
Also in Ajijic, behind Farmácia Guadalajara. Paralleling Munch’s The Scream, it might well be entitled The Hangover.
This appears to be a woman contemplating the suckers on the arm of a very large octopus. It probably isn’t, though. Octopodes are rare in the mountains hereabouts.
The Camaleón, a bar in Ajijic, attracting a mixed crowd of Mexicans and gringos, running to oddballs. Are you surprised?
Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, El Matador. Actually Argentine, but I liked it so here it is anyway. Definitely not for the average banker: See trigger warning above. “Matador” north of the Rio Bravo means, reasonably enough, “bullfighter,” but the word literally means “killer,” and the song is a protest against the murder of a journalist. It is characterized by the soughing and low energy usual in Latin music.
That wraps up today’s dose of Penetrating Cultural Insight. I hope that at least will enjoy it, and feel Insighted.