Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Mexico Day 5: Franz Mayer Museum and Ballet Folklorico

On our last full day in Mexico, we walked to the Franz Mayer Museum.

Located in a former monastery and hospital, the museum houses a collection of decorative and utilitarian arts that Mayer, a German-Mexican financier, amassed over his life--furniture, silver, ceramics, etc. Many of the pieces come from Europe, although the majority originated in Mexico, with a European flair that suggests they were for wealthy colonials.

Jars, 18th c.

Adan Diaz, 1514-1519
The oddest item I saw was a delicate miniature ivory anatomical model of the female body from 18th-c. Nuremberg, Germany:

As an added bonus, the museum was hosting its seventh biennial exhibit of utilitarian ceramics. Some of my favorites are below.

"Noche de estrellas," Erika Rocio Martinez Iraundegui
"Medusa," Carlos Vizcaino Guitierrez 
"No somos iguales," Adrian Cruz Ramirez
"Tamul" and "Tulum," Ana Carolina Colin Garcia Guijosa
"Edoné Corset," EDM Fashion (Oscar Vazquez Alanis)
"Bules," La Chicharra and Justina Ricardez
"Ocho parades," Jose Luis Torres Flores
"Plato puzzole," Daniel Alejandro Cruz Vazquez
Works by the jurors were on display inside, including...

"Cactus," Javier Villegas. I'm wishing I had made note of the fish and shell shapes hanging on the wall; they look like they could be ocarinas.
"Las firmas del agua," Gloria Carrasco
"Experimentaciones a través del microscopio," Adriana Dias de Cossio 
(Glaze detail)
That evening, we went up the hill to Chapultepec Castle for an outdoor performance by Ballet Folklorico de Mexico. We hadn't realized it was going to be a Christmas show until we arrived to hear patience-straining syrupy pre-show Christmas music coming from the loudspeakers; but the show itself was beautifully and tastefully done, combining picture-perfect tableaux vivants with live music (choir and band), live animals, and energetic dancing. The show depicted the Annunciation through the Nativity to Epiphany; once the three kings arrived on horseback, bringing gifts of gold, frankincense, myrrh, the Christmas theme gave way to abundant gifts of folk dance from across Mexico.

La Virgin, straight out of a picture book. Notice the donkey and cow, followed by the choir and instrumentalists.

King #2
Viva Mexico!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Mexico Day 4: Templo Mayor and a billboard

More scenes from Mexico...

On our fourth day, we made our way over to the Templo Mayor archaeological site and museum. The Aztec temple, built in the 14th century and dedicated to Tlaloc (the god of water and agriculture) and Huiztilopochtli (the god of war), was destroyed by the Spanish in 1521. It was "rediscovered" in fits and starts in the 19th century, with major excavations beginning in 1978. Below is a mishmash of photos that fails to do justice to the immensity of what's there.

A view of the Cathedral behind a temple wall
This incense pot has quite the claw
Tlaloc pot
Representations of faces with flesh still on 'em...

...and without...

An intimidating [larger-than-life-sized-human]-sized bat god.
An Aztec chacmool, happy to receive the hearts of the freshly sacrificed
Need to update your temple? Just build a new layer on top of it. Layer upon layer...

Mexico Day 3: Teotihuacan

Still catching up with Mexico photos...

On our third day visiting P in Mexico, we went to Teotihuacan.

We began just outside the perimeter of the site. Only about 10% of Teotihuacan has been excavated, so saying "just outside the perimeter" still means in the middle of the ancient city.
(source: http://www.frommers.com/images/destinations/maps/jpg-2006/41_teotihuacan.jpg)
Our first stop was at the palace of Tepantitla, where we admired the frescoes known as the "Paradise of Tlaloc"; P called them "Tlaloc's Water Park." Tlaloc was the Aztec god of water and agriculture.

Tlaloc, with his characteristic circular eyes. He's holding Tlaloc pots in his hands.
Tlaloc's paradise? Or a mountain being fed with human sacrifices?
The signage at Tepantitla says "as a whole, the scene represents an idyllic place of joy and happiness." This website offers a bleaker interpretation: "But far from being a portrayal of paradise, the scene actually depicts the mountain being fed with humans. From the top of the mountain you can see a train of people falling inside, with their blood flowing down and transforming into the life giving waters." Indeed, some of the humans inside the mountain appear to be headless.

The paisley things coming out of people's mouths are thought to be speech bubbles, but no one knows what anyone was saying. Perhaps "whee!," "look Mom, no hands!," "get off that thing before someone gets hurt," and "prepare to feed Tlaloc's water-slide with your blood."

These folks had much to say, maybe about the fish, crabs, and butterflies
The priests one wall over had more elaborate things to say.

Because I was not paying attention, or because the butterflies, crabs, and gamboling humans were so engrossing, I completely neglected to photograph the fresco of the Great Goddess of Teotihuacan just above Tlaloc's water park. Here's an image of a reconstruction located at the National Museum of Anthropology:

By Thomas Aleto from Riverside, PA - Tepantitla Mural, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2781356
Our next stop was the museum, just inside the east entrance. Too many things to take photos of, so here are some things to do with clay:

Press molds!

From the museum, we walked to the Temple of the Sun. Although the pyramid is not as steep as those in Egypt, the steps are tall and shallow. It's relatively easy climbing up, but difficult climbing down--especially for the acrophobe, who prefers to see what's below before stepping off each narrow ledge.

Temple of the Sun
E looking for P down below
Looking north toward the Temple of the Moon
E and P, waiting. E virtually flew down the stairs. S held my hand and coaxed me down without ever making fun of me.
From the Temple of the Sun, we headed south toward excavated residences. Rather than building up, the Aztec's filled in and built over. A few layers have been excavated and can be seen from the present-day ground; P says they go down as many as seven layers.

From there, it was on to the Temple of the Feathered Serpent, also called the Temple of Quetzalcoatl.

The Temple of Quetzalcoatl, viewed from the Temple of the Sun

Feathered serpent. These look like lions to me...

After a few hours, we had only covered about half of the site. With places to go and things to do, we finished off by visiting two compounds outside the main archaeological site: Tetitla and Atetelco. At Tetitla, P enthusiastically showed us the frescoes of "priests with painted fingernails." Surfing the interwebs, one finds numerous photos of these priests--but shown just one at a time rather than in a pair. They're generally described as representations of the Great Goddess of Teotihuacan--but comparing these to the photo of the National Museum of Anthropology reconstruction of the Goddess fresco from Tepantitla, one sees that that goddess just has the eagle head, without the big-eared human heads underneath. Plus P knows who's who and what's what at Teotihuacan. With that said, here are the priests with painted fingernails:

Here's the reconstructed goddess again, for comparison's sake. The guys to the right and left are priests.
We drove in to San Martin Teotihuacan for lunch at the market: freshly squeezed juices and freshly made quesadillas, some stuffed with squash blossoms and some with mushrooms. Afterward, grocery shopping and back to Mexico City.