Wednesday, May 25, 2016

El Nicho alternative music fest

A couple of weekends ago we went to the Centro Cultural de España en México (Spain's Cultural Centre in Mexico), in the historic centre, for the sixth edition of El Nicho, an alternative and experimental music festival.

The festival lasted a couple of days, and took place at a number of different venues. What we saw - or, more accurately, what we heard - at the cultural centre was really interesting, especially for the habibi. 

We were ushered into this big room, with loudspeakers all around, and explained that there was no "front" or "stage" - we were free to sit, lie down, or whatever, wherever, in the understanding that the compositions we were about to hear could use any of the loudspeakers, in any combination, depending on the artists' compositions. Describing the kind of music we heard is, obviously, rather difficult, due to its experimental nature. 

All I guess I can say is that one of the composers' was Kassel Jaeger, an important figure in French electronic and experimental music, and that we were subjected for an hour or more (it was hard to tell) to a very interesting mix of sounds and rhythms, which also had a directional nature (thanks to the play with the loudspeakers). With experiments like these, there's not much to be understood - you must simply be there, open up, and feel. Pretty much like watching Butoh (hence why my habibi found it even more interesting).

I've already marked my calendar to check out this event last year. It's nice to expose yourself to things you haven't before!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Puerca nightclub

Well, the area we live in (the centre of the city) keeps changing. Now there's this new underground (literally, it's at basement level) nightclub. Now, the centre of the city has plenty of bars and clubs, but the vast majority tend to play the same music - and, it would seem, the same CD, as you'd rarely applaud the originality of the DJs, if there are any!

But then, there's Puerca (Pig). 

It's, like I had mentioned, underground. The people at the door are friendly. And bestestest of all? They have good DJs! The first night we went there was this amazing female DJ, and on subsequent nights they've always had someone doing the good job many other places in the area can't or won't. So refreshing!

Add to that that - again, unlike some other LGBTQ clubs in the centre of the city - it doesn't get dangerously packed and that it has a couple of very friendly drag-hostesses, and you get one very attractive place to go dance at.

Thumbs up.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Guanajuato – the views from above

Finally! My last entry on Guanajuato. As I had mentioned, it's a very hilly city which, for views, is simply fantastic. Though there's more than one vantage point, probably the most famous is El Pípila, a terrace with a huge statue of el Pípila (one of the main characters at the Alhóndiga de Granaditas massacre I mentioned in a previous post).

We came up here twice, once just in time for sunset. You can walk up here ether through the city's alleys, or you can take a funicular. The best option, we found, was to ride the funicular up, and have a stroll back down into the heart of the city.

The one sunset we saw from El Pípila:

But it also happens that the place we were staying at, though a short 5-10 minute walk from the centre of the city, was also atop a hill, and so we could enjoy views from our building's rooftop. A perfect place for a nice beer and to relax after a day walking around town! 

So there. Really glad to have finally got to know this part of Mexico!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Guanajuato – the city

We stayed in Guanajuato from a Sunday to a Friday. Like I mentioned before, some people would find that excessive. But the city was named a World Heritage Site in 1988, and that should be a clear sign that this a place worth spending some time in, like we did. 

We spent countless hours just walking. By the more important buildings like Teatro Juárez, the Universidad de Guadalajara (actually, we had to walk by it and through it every day on our way to the centre), the cathedral...

And the Alhóndiga de Granaditas, the Templo de la Compañía, the Iglesia de San Roque (by Guanajuato's oldest plaza, the Plaza de Baratillo)...

Not to forget the fantastic Mercado Hidalgo, from 1910...

As well as countless squares, quaint streets...

And Guanajuato's famous alleys, including the ultra-narrow Callejón del beso (Alley of the kiss)...

Really, could anybody in their right mind consider this is a city you could fully appreciate in less than 4-5 days? Crazy!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Guanajuato – art

I frankly didn't expect Guanajuato to offer much art-wise. I mean, everybody talks about Guanajuato as a place to go see performances during their Festival Cervantino, or as a place to have walks around the alleys with a group of university troubadours ("callejoneadas"). But nobody ever talks about museums or art, right? Well, you would probably not travel all the way to this city just to see art, but it had some pretty unique things in store for me!

Let's start with some of the bloodiest Christ images I had ever seen! Wow! No wonder people from other religions are sometimes repulsed by Catholic churches and imagery! At the Templo de la Compañía, for example, there was this Christ leaning on a pillar, and part of his back, his side, part of his chest and part of his arm had no flesh and were showing muscle, and tendons, and blood... I mean, what? I think I had seen images with blood, or with sort of gashes, but flailed skin showing what's underneath? I couldn't believe my eyes. 

Now, Catholic temples in Guanajuato get an A+ for grim images, but also for creative ones! Will you please look at the monster by the Virgin Mary? Where did this Balinese monster come from? And where in the cosmology of Catholicism is a monster part of the Virgin Mary ensemble? Stepping on cherub heads, yeah, pretty standard, but Jaga the Hutt's ugly brother? Priceless.

Then there's the Alhóndiga de Granaditas, the place of a terrible massacre in the first days of Mexico's Independence movement. It's said that the insurgents' leader, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, was so shocked by the massacre of Spaniards defending the warehouse and the pillaging of Guanajuato that followed, that he decided not to move on to Mexico City at the time.

Anyhow, at this former warehouse there are quite a few things of interest, like murals by Guanajuato artist José Chávez Morado. Not really my cup of tea, but still.

Then there are several rooms with different exhibitions. There's one with items from the colonial era, which included this reliquary with, of course, bone fragments!

There's another one with ex-votos, which are little paintings made by people who believed were saved by God, the Virgin Mary, Jesus, a Saint, etc., during some dire situation. The paintings usually tell the story of what happened, both as thanks for being granted help and as testimony for others. They are usually colourful, detailed, and it's fascinating reading them. Guanajuato being the mining place it was, there were many ex-votos that talked about mine accidents and miners not getting killed. 

My favourite collection there was a pre-Hispanic exhibition on seals, though. It's very rare to see these things! There were seals for everything - for certifying documents, for adorning the skin, for creating patterns... I loved the variety of shapes and designs!

We also visited quite a number of smaller museums, like the Casa de Diego Rivera. The house he actually lived in as a child. Or maybe mansion would be more appropriate, with numerous floors and rooms, terraces... The exhibitions inside are fine, but just seeing what sort of childhood Diego Rivera had was very interesting.

Another museum worth visiting just to see the building is the Museo del Pueblo de Guanajuato, in a beautiful house that use to belong to a marquis. And what would such a wealthy family have at home, on the second floor? Their own chapel, of course, in baroque style and built with pink stone. Really special. There were also 17th and 18th century exhibits, where I found a strange image of a Jesus on the cross, except this one had no long hair, but more like a crew cut? There was no way to tell if it had had a wig that had fallen off, or whether that was the intended design, as there was no explanation (an annoying situation in most of the museums we visited, I have to say).

Then there was the Teatro Juárez, a beautiful 19th century theatre with very rich interiors! If you saw the film Eisenstein in Guanajuato (and if you haven't, you should), this theatre is what they filmed as the lodgings of Eisenstein. We even listened to a conference on cinema by Agnieszka Holland in the same room that made for Eisenstein's bedroom in the film!

Now, since I'm mentioning the conference, I have to say it was very interesting, with Agnieszka calling attention to the fact, for example, of how some film-makers that had survived World Wars had a broader view of the world that was reflected in their film-making, whereas some young film-makers that have known no destruction on that scale have only personal dramatic experiences to rely on. She wasn't judging or criticizing, of course, but just mentioning that such radically different experiences had an effect on what film-makers made. Unfortunately, only English speakers could follow what she was saying, because the translator was the most inept person I had ever hear translate, atrociously summarizing, changing facts and places, and forgetting about half of what Agnieszka said. 

I saved the best for last - public sculptures! With so many squares and corners created by the winding streets and the hilly nature of the city, there were plenty of opportunities for placing public art, and the city's government did just that. There was, for example, a Giganta (giantess) by José Luis Cuevas, right by Teatro Juárez.

And Leonora Carrington's sculptures were just about everywhere! Later we learned this was an itinerant exhibition that was ending a few days after we left, so lucky! Her surrealist sculptures sat so well with Guanajuato's atmosphere...

A very nice surprise, Guanajuato! Just two more posts, I think, ahead. Because I haven't shown how the city looked like in general yet, right?