Viva Cuauhtemoc

There aren’t really that many statues around Mexico City. Not from a Londoners perspective. For the same reason there aren’t that many war memorials around Mexico City, from a Londoners perspective. The UK, formerly Great Britain, and before that just plain old England, has had a bit of a war addiction for the last thousand years or so, which is why every corner has a bronze cast of some hero or another. Or villain. Depends on your ‘human’ perspective.

But there are statues here in the Distrito Federal. One of my favourites is the one below of Cuauhtemoc, an Aztec ruler. One of the last. Second to last in fact. There are several more, including a full figure statue along Reforma. I like this one because the Independence Day decorations contrast nicely with his bust every September. And because he has a somewhat quizzical look on his face as he looks over to the huge Metropolitan Cathedral. Which he would not have seen with his own eyes during life.

How times have changed since his unfortunate confrontation with Hernan Cortes and the Conquistadores in the early 1520’s. He really needed some more effective help from other native tribes in fighting off the dastardly Spaniards.  He wouldn’t recognise the land he called home today. It would seem all a bit weird. But things have been weird lately even by modern Mexican standards. The continuing saga of the Chinese man found in a house with a couple of hundred million dollars cash on him for starters.  And Mexico’s lastest great robbers. Not quite living up to the style I’m used to back in Blighty where mail trains are hijacked for large sums of cash. Nope, that’s peanuts to these guys. Literally. As for the narco ganags….really! Cutting off heads? Surely they should be ripping out hearts?

Were the Aztecs environmentalists? I don’t know. Although the famous, but mysterious, pre Aztec civilisation that inhabited the famous city now known as Teotihuacan probably weren’t. One of the more plausible reasons offered for the sudden and total collapse of the city was that it had grown so large, they had stripped bare the surrounding areas of essential resources, till there was not enough left to make the city a viable proposition. Natural droughts and famine probably didn’t help.

Mexico City was/is going the same way. But some efforts are being made to improve things. Plastic bags, for example, are now forbidden fruit. Any shopkeeper handing one out free of charge faces fines amounting to $90,000. Whether that’s pesos or dollars I’m not sure. It probably doesn’t matter as far as my local tiendas are concerned. A measly 9,000 pesos would push some of them into bankruptcy. Such is life. Viva Cuauhtemoc!

A Concerned Patron

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5 thoughts on “Viva Cuauhtemoc

    • I was given free plastic bags in a mercado yesterday….so not everyone is joining in the spirit of things! I guess that includes me….

      In my defence, we stopped at the mercado without any planning. No reusable bags on us. None on sale either.

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  1. Hey Gary –
    Earlier this year I did a little Q&A with some of my photos and one of them was of the Cuauhtémoc statue on Reforma. I’m copy&pasting the reference here:

    “AD: What book have you read that really helped you with your photography?
    JRL: The book is Aztec by Gary Jennings. It’s almost 700 pages. All text, no photos, but it’s the most photographic book I’ve read, and it has helped me see the world in a different light. The photograph “Cuauhtémoc on Guard” would not have happened if I haven’t read and been inspired by the book. I’ve walked by that statue so many times before; no one is ever there, it’s a forlorn area of the Avenida Reforma in Mexico City. But last January, I was walking from Chapultepec to the Zócalo, and I sat down on a bench to rest. It was long past sunset. It was dark and a bit rainy, and I had all my camera gear packed. Then as I stood to continue walking, a patch in the dark sky opened up, making the silhouette of the statue stand in high contrast against the sky. In that fleeting light, I scrambled to get out my camera, stick a telephoto lens to it, leaned against a light post to steady myself, and shot an extended exposure. Jennings, in his book, wrote about Aztec spirits that linger on this earth and play on the senses of the living. At that moment when I became aware that I was in the presence of this seldom visited statue, I think Cuauhtémoc just gave me enough light to photograph his likeness, to remind me and the rest of México that he is still on guard. “

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    • And a good photo it was too. I’ve read a few of Gary Jennigs books. They still keep coming, even though he’s been dead a while now! Aztec wasn’t my favourite to be honest. Aztec Rage on the other hand was fantastic!

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