January 2005

January 31st, 2005

Catching a good ride

Surfer vaquero - Sayulita

Ed Fladung captures another surfer – Sayulita style…

Filed in Puerto Vallarta

January 28th, 2005

Life in the High Lane

A dearth of road signs on Mexico City’s ring road directing drivers to the new second deck has itself resulted in traffic build-ups.

The confusion appears to confirm the view of critics that the segundo piso project (link in Spanish) had been completed with undue haste to help the presidential ambitions of the city’s mayor, Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

Welders worked through Friday night to finish the guardrails on the new section of the periferico in time for last Saturday’s inauguration.

El Universal reported that a motorist ignoring road closures hit construction workers, killing one man.

Whether the double-decker highway will alleviate congestion or pollution is questionable.

One sceptic columnist in the FT was keen to stress that the view for stationary motorists is much better from the second level.

Bus Rapid Transit

Thankfully, the city has now moved on to a more promising pilot project for a “metro-bus”, which will operate in its own bus lanes in the main avenues.

Furthermore, while the car flyovers will only serve the 20 per cent of Mexico City residents who use private cars, the BRT system will reduce over-crowding on three metro lines and improve public transport in areas underserved by the existing metro system.

Filed in Getting about, Mexico City

January 26th, 2005

Fiesta and fireworks in Bucerias

Castillo - BuceriasCrowds fill the civic basketball court. The dancing stops. Then a hushed silence. Families wait for the elaborate structure of wood and bamboo – the castillo – to burst into life. Suddenly, a crack! A hissing sound, followed by a popping and whizzing. Embers cartwheel onto excited onlookers below.

Ed Fladung has posted a great series of photos taken during the Fiesta De La Virgen De La Paz in Bucerias last week.

Filed in Events & Festivals, Puerto Vallarta

January 25th, 2005

Frida Kahlo: Portraits of an Icon

Frida paints self-portrait while Diego watchesAn exhibition of 50 photographic portraits of Frida Kahlo opens on 3 February at the National Portrait Gallery in London. Admission is free.

The portraits, all taken from the collection of gallerist Spencer Throckmorton, span the life of the artist. They begin with a photograph of a 4 year-old Frida and end with the image of the artist on her deathbed in the Casa Azul a mere 47 years later.

This ‘must see’ exhibition follows Frida’s transition from precocious child to famous artist, documented by photographers including Kahlo’s relatives, lovers and friends, many of whom were also accomplished photographers – Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham and Manuel Alvarez Bravo among them. Also included are portraits by those who knew Kahlo well, among them her father Guillermo and Nickolas Muray.

The selection of black and white images, and some previously unexhibited works in colour, bring into focus the painter, the paintings, the patient, the wife, the daughter, the lover and the friend. They permit us to peer into Kahlo’s bedroom, sit at her table, visit her hospital room, wander into her garden, view her collections and play with her pets.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated hardback book, Frida Kahlo: Portraits of an Icon, with text by Margaret Hook. It definitely falls within the fine art price bracket – published by Bloomsbury, £40. Alternatively, buy it from Amazon.co.uk who are selling it for £28.

Frida Kahlo: Portraits of an Icon; NPG, 3 February – 26 June 2005 [Editor: extended until 24 July]

Photo: ©Bernard Silberstein, 1940. Reproduction authorized by the estate of the artist

Filed in Exhibitions in the UK, Frida Kahlo

January 24th, 2005

Making pictures of Guanajuato

On Saturday, Kelly Hart ventured onto the busy Guanajuato streets with his digital camera. After a while he sat down on a bench near the mercado. Balancing the camera on his lap, he tilted the mirror from a small vanity case at a 45-degree angle to reflect the LCD screen image. Although upside down, he could at least check that the image was more or less framed properly. Some 75 clicks later, Kelly went back home to play with the results. Fifteen of the pictures ended up in this time-lapse Guanajuato street animation. Select the slideshow view (you can control the transition speed).

Individually, they are unremarkable. Just a continuous silent procession of passers-by ‘caught’ going about their business. But the best ‘street’ photographs tell some kind of story, and through their fleeting ‘ordinariness’, I think these do. Many of the vital components of street life are present: the main characters are a pair of dreamy-looking ‘Toy Story’ [?] piñatas – but there’s plenty of street chatter, passing buses, a delivery of 5 gallon garrafon jugs of purified water, a fresh-fruit stand, a woman damping down dust from the sidewalk, an ever-present and seemingly abandoned huddle of gas cylinders…

Filed in Guanajuato, Mexican Life & Society

January 21st, 2005

Maya Tulum, Mexican Caribbean

Just 5km south of the Tulum archaeological site is Maya Tulum, one of the longest established cabaña beach resorts on the Riviera Maya.

Elisabeth has captured a wonderful set of photos on her current stay.

Filed in Yucatán & Mayan Mexico

January 17th, 2005

Gael gets a nod from BAFTA

Gael Garcia Bernal

Originally uploaded by pequeña

Gael Garcí­a Bernal receives a deserved British Academy Award nomination for his role in The Motorcycle Diaries.

Filed in Gael García Bernal

January 14th, 2005

Mexican ‘Simpsons’ fight for their D’oh

The union actors who dub “The Simpsons” into Spanish for Mexican TV are involved in a dispute over the use of non-union labour. Humberto Velez, who is the voice of the cartoon legend Homer Simpson in Mexico, says he only earns about 600 pesos (£28) per episode. Nevertheless, the actors who have been voicing the mustard-coloured citizens of Springfield for the past 15 years fear losing their jobs because the dubbing company is seeking cheaper actors. By comparison, Dan Castellaneta, the ‘original’ voice of Homer, picked up an EMMY-award in August for his work on the hugely successful animated series. He receives well in excess of US$100,000 dollars per episode.

Filed in Uncategorized

January 12th, 2005

Mexican wave

Following on from yesterday’s piece, Talli Nauman raises similar questions in an article published in the Mexico edition of the Miami Herald: Tsunami teaches critical lessons to Mexico, global community.

Talli relates to the damaging waves generated on the Mexican Pacific Coast by the devastating September 1985 earthquake, which flooded up to 180 feet (some 50m) inland at Lázaro Cárdenas, the town closest to the epicentre. Like millions of others I suspect, the Asian tsunami tragedy has touched me profoundly.

Whenever I get the opportunity, a favourite past-time of mine is to sit on a deserted Pacific beach where I can ponder the vastness of the ocean, gather my thoughts, contemplate the past… and all that is still to come. I wonder whether I will squint at that horizon-line in quite the same way ever again. The spell has been broken.

Filed in Resort Mexico

January 10th, 2005

Asian disaster a “wake-up call” for Mexico

Across another ocean thousands of kilometres to the east and 11 hours after the first giant wave overwhelmed Aceh on 26 December, the tsunami registered on the Pacific beaches of Mexico. With an amplitude of a few centimetres to one metre at Manzanillo, it was small, but measurable none the less.

In the terrible aftermath of the Asian quake and lethal tsunami, other earthquake-prone countries are urgently looking at their own civil protection procedures. Experts in Mexico have cautioned that the current systems to detect an approaching tsunami minutes or hours before it hits the shore are inadequate.

In recent days, Mexican news sources have quoted Osvaldo Sánchez, of the Oceanographic Service and Cuauhtémoc Nava, from the Centre for Scientific Research and Higher Education in Ensenada (CICESE), and backed their calls for Mexico to upgrade the infrastructure to warn the local population of any possible tsunami danger along the unprotected central Pacific coastline. Researchers have emphasised the urgency of installing monitor buoys at 100km intervals along the length of the Mexican Pacific.

The region is not without major tsunami events. Over the past three centuries at least 18 destructive tsunami have struck the shores of present-day Colima, Jalisco, Michoacán and Guerrero states.

On 3 June 1932, a huge earthquake occurred off the coast of Colima and Jalisco, killing 400 people in the immediate area. Three weeks later, on 22 June, a strong aftershock generated a deadly 10 metre-high wall of water that swept away the fishing community of Cuyutlán, killing 75 and injuring another 100. Not a single building was said to be left standing along a stretch of coast 20km long by 1km wide.

The most recent hit on 9 October 1995. After a strong tremor measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale, waves up to 5m high pummelled Barra Navidad and Melaque, 200km (120 miles) south of Puerto Vallarta in Jalisco.

For those who return to a favourite Pacific beach after an absence of perhaps a year or two, the change in beach topography can be marked. The ravages of a hurricane or damaging waves associated with tropical storms continuously alter the shape and profile of the coast. Significant sections of beach can be lost making you believe you’ve mistaken ‘your’ beach for another. From my own experience, many of those living on the coast are tuned into the tell tale signs of ‘suck-back’ and the fickleness of the ocean currents. Day-trippers and those new to an area are often blissfully unaware of anything that may get in the way of their holiday.

As many as 85 per cent of quakes in Mexico have their epicentre less than 80km offshore, giving only a matter of minutes’ warning before tsunamis hit land. Up against a super-tsunami, those odds would make even Japan’s cutting-edge system effectively useless, without further advances.

Nevertheless, Mexican authorities have historically been slow to respond to natural disasters, so it will be interesting to see whether there is any fresh acknowledgment or re-assessment of Mexican vulnerability (however small) and a new awareness of the need for an adequate tsunami early-warning system. While earthquake drills are well-practiced, a programme for educating those who live in low-lying coastal areas of the latent risk on their doorstep may one day save scores of lives in the event of similar destructive waves hitting the Pacific coast of Mexico.

Those with vested interests in doing nothing need to heed the lessons of the Indian Ocean disaster and not sweep the issue under the carpet – perhaps for fear of unsettling tourism – rather like the issue of beach cleanliness I have raised in the past.

In November 2004, Mexican oceanographers from CICESE installed the first ‘real time’ observation post in Baja California to detect tsunami. Politicians now need to show foresight and release the resources to extend this facility down the Pacific litoral, as well as setting up the communications infrastructure to issue timely warnings to the general populace living near the ocean. The Asian quake not only set off a series of devastating waves, it set off a number of alarm bells elsewhere.

Filed in Uncategorized