Tuesday, January 31, 2012


The first time I saw a painting of Dr. Atl was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York when they mounted their massive show of Mexican art in 1990. The large canvas depicted an erupting volcano in brilliant, almost lurid, colors.

Over the years I've seen a few of his paintings in museums here and they all exhibit his flair for iconic images of nature (mostly volcanoes), his use of intense colors (he invented his own paints, a mix of pastel and oil, which he called 'Atl color'), lively brush technique, and an almost surreal use of perspective.

A show of more than 200 of his works (paintings and drawings) is currently on display at the Centro Cultural Universitario Tlatelolco here in Mexico City. It's one of the best painting shows I've seen here in years--don't miss it.

José Gerardo Murillo was born in Mexico to Spanish immigrants in 1875. He travelled to Europe and was influenced by Impressionist painters and others there. One early portrait in the show could be by Degas, and he surely saw the pointillist works of Suerat and his followers. At age 36, after a traumatic sea voyage, he changed his name to Dr. Atl (Atl is the Nahuatl word for water). He continued to paint, travel the world, write literature, became involved in leftist politics--at one point plotting to assasinate Mexican president Huerta. He conducted a famously scandalous love affair with artist/muse Carmen Mondragón (to whom he gave the Nahuatl name 'Nahui Olin' which she kept for the rest of her life).

Most of the paintings in the current show display his passion for volcanos. He concentrated on those in the Valley of Mexico and Paracutín, the volcano which suddenly erupted in a cornfield in Michoacán in 1943. He spent much time out of doors where he made elaborate studies, in both visual and literary forms. Spending so much time in the fumes and gases eventually led to health problems that resulted in his leg being amputated. He died in 1964 at age 89.

The museum complex at Tlatelolco also includes an exhibition on the 1968 student masacre on the site as well as two new collections of pre-Hispanic art.
Click HERE to see Lynda Martinez del Campo's excellent blog about the museum.

Portrait of Nahui Ollin

Centro Cultural Universitario Tlatelolco
Ave. Ricardo Flores Magón N. 1
across from the Plaza de las Tres Culturas – “Square of the Three Cultures”
Col. Nonoalco-Tlatelolco
Cost is only $20.00 pesos
How to get there

Ver mapa más grande

Thanks to Jesus Chairez for some of this information.

Saturday, January 28, 2012


Mexico City's Metrobus service, which began in 2005, has carried millions of chilangos around the city--and it keeps growing. If you live here you probably already have your metrocard and use the metrobus reguarly. But tourists may be a bit confused by it all.

The first metrobus line (there are now 4, with more in the works) runs north-south along Insurgentes, and this is the line mostly likely to be used by tourists. It's often the fastest way to reach Coyoacán and San Angel in the southern part of the city. It has it's own lane and keeps moving even when other traffic is at a standstill.

A few tips: It can get pretty crowded during rush hours--I usually watch to see how full the buses going by are before I enter the station. Be careful of the badly designed doors! They close inside the bus so stand clear.
Station signs can be hard to read from inside a crowded bus, so I suggest you check the map first, and count the number of stations until your stop.

How to buy a Metrobus card:

1. Look for the machine at the station entrance that looks like the photo above.

2. Press the button marked COMPRA (BUY)

3. Deposit money. The card costs 15 pesos--10 for the card and five for your first ride. You need exact change to buy a cardd---NO DA CAMBIO means no change.

4. Take your card from the slot at the bottom.

After getting your card you may want to add more money to it right away--it only comes with enough for one ride.

How to recharge your metrobus card:

1. Put your card where it says INSERTAR TARJETA

2. Press the button RECARGAR

3. Put in the amount you want. The machine accepts all coins, and bills up to 200 pesos--but remember if gives NO change.

4. When you see the amount verified on the screen, take out your card.

How to use your metrobus card:

Just swipe your card at the turnstile and enter. One card can serve for any number of people, but be aware that it's often cheaper for a group to take a taxi.

If you are under 5 years old, over 70 (with proper ID: INAPAN, INSEN, GDF, or IFE), or are disabled you can ride for free.

Click HERE to see a bigger map of the metrobus system.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

January 19-Happy Birthday José Alfredo

The great Mexican singer/songwriter José Alfredo Jiménez would be 86 years old today. If his name isn't familiar to you, his music likely is. If you live in Mexico you encounter it everywhere--cantinas, taxis, the metro. His music is the standard fare of mariachis. The whole country can sing along with many of his songs. It goes well with tequila.

Listen to THIS CLIP from Youtube where you can hear the man himself singing his great paean to Mexican machismo. His music adds just a touch of mocking irony to the swagger of the lyrics:


El Rey

Yo sé bien que estoy afuera
pero el dia en que yo me muera
sé que tendras que llorar

Llorar y llorar
llorar y llorar

Diras que no me quisiste
pero vas a estar muy triste
y asi te vas a quedar

Con dinero y sin dinero
hago siempre lo que quiero
y mi palabra es la ley
no tengo trono ni reina
ni nadie que me comprenda
pero sigo siendo el rey

Una piedra del camino
me enseñó que mi destino
era rodar y rodar

Rodar y rodar
rodar y rodar

Después me dijo un arriero
que no hay que llegar primero
pero hay que saber llegar

Con dinero y sin dinero
hago siempre lo que quiero
y mi palabra es la ley
no tengo trono ni reina
ni nadie que me comprenda
pero sigo siendo el rey.


The king

I know very well that I'm out (of your life)
but the day I die
I know you'll have to cry

to cry and cry
to cry and cry

You may say you never loved me
but you're going to be really sad
and that's how you're going to stay

With or without money
I always do what I want
and my words are the law
I don't have neither a throne nor a queen
nor anyone that understand me
but I keep being the king

A stone in the journey
taught me that my destiny
was to roll and roll

to roll and roll
to roll and roll

Then an arriero told me
that you don't have to arrive first
but you have to know how to arrive

With or without money
I always do what I want
and my words are the law
I don't have neither a throne nor a queen
nor anyone that understand me
but I keep being the king.

(from http://lyricstranslate.com)

Friday, January 6, 2012

Happy New Year

I'm having trouble accepting the fact that it's 2012 and I'm in Mexico.

I returned from six weeks of travel, mostly in India, on December 15, and part of
my brain, and a piece of my heart, are still stuck somewhere between Varanasi and Calcutta. (Click HERE to see photos of our trip).

So before looking forward I'll look back a bit at the five most popular blog posts of 2011.
Here's the list:

It all makes sense to me, except number 3, which I wrote in 2008. For some reason this post gets a lot of hits every year (many of them spam from escort services in places like Romania), but I've yet to get a report back from anyone who has actually cooked an armadillo.

I'll be writing soon about what's happening in Mexico City--art exhibits, concerts, etc. Stayed tuned.

Best wishes for 2012. JPJ