Dazzling churches! Frida & Diego! Great cuisine! Pyramids! Sublime sculpture! Hieroglyphs! Mysteries! Howler Monkeys! Dawn chorus of a million birds! Dark, vaulted chambers, stone walls sweating, ceilings hung with bats! Leafcutter ants! Army ants! Biting ants! Stinging ants! Malarial mosquitoes! Montezuma’s Revenge! Corrupt cops! I love this place!
So, arriving into Mexico City with friends, one is obliged to put away the pith helmet and don the tourist’s baseball cap a bit. It turns out that we chose a bad time to visit the joined houses/studios of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in San Angel, as her half was closed completely and in his half only the top floor was open. (A landmark of modernist architecture by their friend Juan O’Gorman, built just after their return from the USA. Fenced with organ-pipe cacti.)
This contained his airy studio, reconstructed to look like he just left it: A sexy portrait of Dolores del Rio on the easel, her eyes enormous, Keen-like; his palette and brushes ready, his jacket and other clothes hung on the chair. Around three walls hang colossal papier-mache skeletons and other parade figures; shelves along the walls hold the tools of the traditional artist:brushes galore, palettes, scales with brass weights, muller and grinding-glass, jars of brightly-colored minerals, some finely powdered, others in crumbly crystals of sienna,
malachite, and orpiment…. And then four huge vitrines of artifacts: some folk-art, but mostly Pre-Columbian . Mainly pottery and figurines, broken heads of prettyladies, and the like. Someone once pointed out to Diego that he had a large number of :”fakes” in his collection. His reply: “It’s all made by the same hands.”
A taxi ride across town to Frida’s Blue House in Coyoacan was much more rewarding. No photos allowed in the galleries, full of her and others’ paintings, photos, drawings, letters, furniture, books, and other relics… Hmph. Apparently this is the spacious home-around-a-courtyard she had grown up in, and in the courtyard she displayed dozens of precolumbian sculptures, mostly Teotihuacan and Aztec. Tenoned skulls protrude from a little pyramid decked with Chicomecoatls (Aztec Maize goddesses), serpents, etc…. and so on. Lovely, tranquil place.
Lunched at the famed and gracious San Angel Inn (built in a grand 17th-century estate). Great environment. Good –not great– food.