Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Tunick in the Zocalo

photo by El Universal
Mexico City broke records last May when New York artist Spencer Tunick gathered more than 18,000 nude Mexicans to pose for a photo shoot. People have a love/hate relationship with Tunick's work, but regardless of anyone's opinion, Tunick stirred political and social issues in a conservative country with a not-so-conservative capital.

I got to check out Tunick's work, which included photos, photo slide shows, videos and a documentary, on the last day of its exhibit in the D.F. It was awesome to finally see the results of months worth of hype. During the exhibit some of the participants who posed nude came with their famillies to check out the photos. It was extremely obvious who had bared it all for the photo because they were grinning from ear to ear during the exhibit like celebrities on the red carpet.

It was beautiful to see that not everyone was a model. In fact, there were overweight, slender, dark-skinned, light-skinned, young, old, regular people which truly represented the diverse panorama that is Mexico.

We overheard one women who had posed naked laughing and reminiscing about how she got stuck behind a guy with hairy butt cheeks. Another man had his family take photos of him in front of Tunick's naked photos.

Whether Tunick's photo did anything to change the political, cultural or social scene in the megalopolis can be debated. But one thing was for sure-- it definitely changed the lives of each of those 18,000 participants in some way.

Monday, January 28, 2008

'Round the World Air Pollution

It is not unusual to be walking down the streets of Mexico City and see people wearing paper masks, covering their mouths and noses (like surgical masks). The first time I saw someone here wearing one I thought maybe they had a severe case of asthma or something. Soon I learned that it is not only people with serious respiratory problems who wear these, but people who are being cautious and want to prevent health problems like bronchitis or sinus infections. One day as I was jogging in our neighborhood park, I even saw a fellow jogger wearing one. I think it's sad that a person trying to exercise and keep healthy could develop worse health problems because of regular outdoor jogging. In fact, a New York Times News Service article said that, "an athlete working out at a moderate pace for 30 minutes in poor air is subject to the same exposure as a sedentary person breathing that air for eight hours," according to Randy Wilber, the lead exercise physiologist for the U.S. Olypmic Committee.

I've lived in the megalopolis for a year and eight months now so the particulate matter has become just part of daily life--Jeremy's childhood asthma returned, and I may have some form of sinusitis (boo!) But all of this poor air quality stuff and its effects have resurfaced for me lately since I've been reading a lot about the upcoming Beijing Olympics. Beijing's air quality is very poor as well, so athletes from around the world are freaking out. According to the article, U.S. athletes will most likely wear some special masks when they arrive to the other megolopolis. These masks filter 85 to 100 percent of pollutants, the article said.

Paper masks filter about 25 to 45 percent of main pollutants, according to Wilber. Hmm...maybe I should start wearing a mask.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Mexican Bureaucracy--Round 2

Just when I thought my days of battling with Mexico City bureaucrat-types were over-- I may have to prepare myself for another round. I'm about to enter the scary world of the Mexican tax system. I'm shuddering just thinking about the process. Getting anything official done in Chilangolandia is a nightmare.

I'm still not over the days when I came home in tears after dealing with never-ending red tape and horrible bureaucrats who did nothing to help me get my Mexican citizenship. It was possibly the most stressful three months ever. I had a meltdown at the Federal Electoral Commission office, and even had to pay my first bribe for what was supposed to be a free government document. Ah, those were the days.

I can foresee the drama ahead, so that makes things worse. OK, deep breath--I'm going in.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Lion King comes to Mexico

I've always been a big fan of The Lion King, from the movie to the soundtrack. I became an even bigger fan when I went on an African safari in Kenya and saw firsthand the amazing landscapes and wildlife that inspired animators. In fact, these animators spent months of research in Africa in order to translate African animal life as well as its culture into an accurate animation. So when the The Lion King broadway musical came to Mexico City on it's World Tour, I had to see it. One of the most interesting parts was watching how these productions try to adapt to their non-English speaking audience when on an international tour.

Two big screens are set up on the sides of the stage where they project a close-up of the stage along with Spanish subtitles. These subtitles included all the lyrics to each song that was performed. The cast adapted by sprinkling some easy Spanish words into the script, which always brought the audience to a roar. Now I've never been to a Broadway show in New York, but I'm guessing they don't have a wide selection of Mexico's top tequila available during intermission.

The show, of course, was incredible with its mixture of Mexican, African and American cultures. The only bad thing was that no cameras were allowed : (

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Kenyans struggle for peace

I began this blog at about this time last year in Nairobi, Kenya. What a difference a year makes. Since mid-December East Africa's most economically stable nation has been the center of post-election turmoil and bloody violence. News reports have estimated more than 500 deaths.

Just a year ago I joined representatives from around the world and gathered in Nairobi for the World Social Forum, where we talked about social change and solidarity. That's why it is heartbreaking that so many people have lost their lives fighting for their livelihoods. Kenya and its people made a powerful impact in my life, and it is painful to watch the death toll climb while the good friends I made there are struggling to make it through the day.

I've been communicating with a good Kenyan friend I made while I was there. Thankfully, he and his family are still alive. He has not been able to leave his home to go to work and says that most of the downtown area has been shut down for days. People have been looting, and there is definitely tension and uncertainty all around.

I also can't help and think that what is happening in Kenya could have easily happened in Mexico during last year's post-presidential upset. Millions of PRD (or leftists) supporters took to the streets in protests and took over the Zocalo, or main city square, and the city's major street of Reforma. PRD presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador called for nonviolent protests, and thankfully lives were not lost.

Kenyan president has called for negotion dialogues this week. I pray for the best. I leave you with some photos from my trip there when the situation was inspiring, beautiful and full of hope.


Tuesday, January 8, 2008

I'm back

After a long holiday hiatus, I'm finally back in the megalopolis and ready to blog in 2008. Here are some of the highlights of our hectic, but fun Texas vacation.

My niece Micaela wears her Christmas monkey headphones at my parent's house in Eagle Pass, Texas.

I had to compare the size of my hands with those of everyone's favorite Spur Manu--before a game in San Antonio.

This was the first year that my mother-in-law Cathy joined the Flores family for our production of a "Very Border Christmas," filled with lots of eating, quick trips to Piedras Negras, dominoes, brain teasers and karaoke.

My first taste of tamales during the holiday season was at my friend Brandon parent's house in San Antonio. His family gathers in the wee hours of the morning and cooks all day. The results? Delicious!!