I take a lot of photos on the streets of Mexico City and elsewhere, many of which just end up on my computer without ever really finding much of an audience. So I thought I would start publishing some of them here in batches of 5. Here is the first instalment.
This first photo I have called “The Tostada Trumpeter”. On Calle Bolivar in the historic centre of Mexico City there is a tiny, hole in the wall tostada joint. In case you didn’t know, a tostada is kind of similar to a taco but uses a dried and hardened tortilla and can be topped with pretty much anything. Tinga de Pollo, pata and camarones are all popular options. Read more about tostadas here. The Tostada Trumpeter himself hails from the state of Oaxaca but has called Mexico City home for many years. I would often stop to chew the fat and munch a tostada. By his own admission and immediately apparent to passersby the Tostada Trumpeter is still a beginner but I must say that he seemed to be making very good progress. If he wasn’t preparing tostadas he would always faithfully be practicing his scales and repeatedly told me that it was his dream to enter a music school to further his learnings and improve his technique. I was recently shocked walking down Bolivar to see that his little joint had been taken over by a young lady. I enquired as to the whereabouts of the Tostada Trumpeter, thinking that perhaps he had given tostadas away to pursue his musical dreams full time, but was told that he was now preparing tostadas in the nearby Merced neighbourhood.
The mural seen in the image below is of the famous Mexican Muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros, one of Mexico’s big three muralists along with Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco. The accompanying speech or thought bubble reads “I am out of Lecumberri and off to the Two Nations.” Lecumberri refers to a former Mexico City prison, nicknamed the Black Palace, which was inaugurated during the rule of Porfirio Diaz. The building is now the Mexican National Archive. Siqueiros was imprisoned in Lecumberri on a few occasions for his involvement in left wing political protest and activism. An ardent Stalinist he was later involved in an attempt on Trotsky’s life while he was exiled in Mexico City. The Two Nations refers to a well known cantina ‘Las Dos Naciones’ also situated on Calle Bolivar. So what he is basically saying is ‘I’m out of gaol and off to get drunk.’ Out of the frying pan and into the fire?
I have called this next photo ‘Bubu 501 at interesection’ which I have learnt is the name of this kind of microcar. Beyond that I cannot give much context to this photo but it certainly caught my eye. One afternoon I was walking in Colonia Juarez and encountered the scene you see below.
This photo I have titled ‘Jesus, Mary and DEATH!’. The Jesus and Mary part, obviously, comes from the street sign for the Calle Jesús María which is situated in the historic centre of the city behind the National Palace in a zone full of the mad hustle and bustle of commerce. I love the juxtaposition of religious salvation with in your face imagery of death.
I am going to call this photo ‘past lives, present lives,future lives’. The mural featuring Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Leon Trotsky, David Alfaro Siqueiros and either Pancho Villa or Emiliano Zapata (I’m not quite sure which) is found at Insurgentes Metro Station next to the platform going in the direction of Pantitlan. A picture of independence hero Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla and an image of La Virgen de Guadelupe (Our Lady of Guadelupe) adorn the background wall. A xoloitzcuintle dog, a prehispanic Mexican breed, sits patiently, perhaps waiting for some scraps to be thrown to him. Siqueiros having his back to Trotsky could be considered to be a reference to his staunch support for Stalin and thus rejection of Trotsky which later led him to be involved in an assassination attempt. Both Villa and Zapata were long dead when Trostsky was exiled in Mexico in the late 1930s up to his death in 1940 so the mural is clearly a fictitious representation of like minds meeting rather than a manifestation of a historical happening. This mural of course constitutes the past lives part of the photo’s title.
The present and future lives aspect refers to the three teenagers seated in front of the mural, chatting, laughing, wound up in their current realities but perhaps with one eye looking to the future.
Below is the last photo in this first instalment of Mexico City Miscellaneous Five, ‘Thiago the Wanderer.’ Thiago, in his seventies, is an itinerant Brazilian who wanders the world selling knickknacks including the little colourful bows which he clearly likes to accessorise with. I actually bought something from him after I had sat down to chat a little (he in portunol) but can’t remember exactly what it was now. Thiago actually was selling a book (in Portuguese) of his adventures around the world including a story of time that he had apparently spent in a Thai prison for offending the Thai king. He was up there on par with the Tostada Trumpeter for friendliness. Good people.