Fifteen years ago today, I published my first post on my blog. How time flies. Oh, if I could only go back to being that 30 year old, just about to head off on a backpacking trip to Mexico, and do it all over again. But time is a funny thing, a one off deal. We are stuck in the moment, moving forever forward and never backward. Perhaps this is just as well. Had time moved backwards from my birth, the year would be 1927. I’d have lived through World War 2, the Great Depression and I’d currently be looking forward to (or backward to) the General Strike. I guess I would have lived to see the Moon Landing, but I’d have been too young to appreciate it. So it’s probably just as well that time does indeed move forward – I got the better part of the 20th century.
Parts made in the United Kingdom and Mexico. Assembled in the United States of America. Hecho en 2008, in Bush’s presidency. In what transpired to be the good old days. A one of a kind product, many borders crossed and still going strong nine years later. The seven year itch was met and passed without incident. Only one more year till we reach double figures. Continue reading
Almost a full decade ago, December 19th 2007 to be precise, Steve Cotton wrote ‘starting the journey’. It was the opening post of his blog, detailing his long search for a home on the Pacific coast of Mexico. And other tales. Many, many other -excellent – tales. He finally planted Continue reading
In August 2006 I paid up for a Flickr Pro account. I’ve had a decade of use on the platform now, and still love it. Since 2006 I’ve swapped cameras multiple times, changed blogging platforms a half dozen times but I’ve never found anything that is an improvement on Flickr. It’s cheap, it’s reliable, it’s versatile and it looks great on any device.
A very happy Mexican Independence Day to all my amigos and amigas. Is it really five years since the Bicentenario? My, how time flies. I wish I were there to celebrate, but alas it is not to be. Still, I send greetings from the UK, which was, of course, the first European country to recognise Mexican independence from the Spanish. Admittedly, this probably had more to do with us wanting to antagonise the Spanish that any anti-colonial sentiment, but ce la vie.
I don’t dance. I can’t dance. I’m not really entirely sure that I understand dancing, by and large. Sure, Shakira can bust some moves, but I’m not sure that she’s really dancing. She’s teasing, the old flirt that she is. Besides, she’s not British, and that is an important point. I do know that we Brits can’t dance. There are many things we are good at, but dancing isn’t one of them. How can I really ram this point home? Well, allow me to introduce you to the world of Morris dancing. Or Victorian Ball Room dancing. Two atrocious forms of human movement that hardy groups of people try very hard to keep going into the 21st century.
There are just some things that we should let go. These should have been abolished at the same time as death by hanging, blood letting by leeches, punitive castration and other forms of unnecessary and painful activity. And then there is this, the most modern example of Brits being unable to dance. Which makes me wonder if we abolished hanging and castration too soon. Perhaps blood letting could be brought back too? By axe, rather than leeches. Where’s James Holmes when you need him? Lastly, I produce as evidence to finish the debate off, Peter Crouch. The Colombians can do this. And we get Peter Crouch. Enough said. I rest my case.
So, in a nut shell, I don’t agree with dancing. In much the same way many other people don’t agree with President Obama, or Israeli settlements. I have no idea what it’s all about but I just don’t like it. But, as with every issue of global importance, there are occasional meetings of the mind. Seeing eye to eye. An understanding. With dance, I have found some common ground.
The Mexican Folklore Ballet. Or more properly know as the Ballet Folklorico de Mexico, de Amalia Hernandez. They have just performed a run of five days at the London Coliseum, which Mrs P and I were lucky enough to be able to go and see. It was their first trip to the UK for more than twenty years, although we have both seen the performance before, at their home in the Palacio de Belles Artes in Mexico City. It’s a story as much of a dance. The story of Mexico through the ages, from the Aztecs, through Revolutionaries and Conquistadors, all accompanied with a fabulous mariachi band.
And as far as dancing goes, this is much more Riverdance than Swan Lake. It’s a two hour riot of colour, cacophony of noise and whir of movement that seems to pass in half the time. You become quite involved in the epic telling of Mexico’s history, quite literally if you’re one of the lucky souls who gets a dance with one of the pretty ladies when they take their act to the theatre aisles.
Photography was forbidden in the theatre. Although towards the end, a fair few people starting getting a few shots for posterity with their phones. I joined in and have a set of fairly poor quality snaps on Flickr. Which you can see if you click here. But for a taste of this particularly exquisite flavour of Mexico, it would be best if I left you with something a little better. A promotional video.
This post was not sponsored by Fox News. Although, having included capital punishment, terrorism, torture, sexism, anti Obama rant and the middle east in a single post about dancing, I expect an interview soon. Crap, I forgot immigration….
This year will be different things to different people. And different organisations, nations and other entities. According to the UN, 2015 is the Year of Light. The Chinese are convinced that this is the year of the sheep. Or goats. One or the other. What sort of offspring do you get from a papa sheep and a mama goat? The Chinese should have picked that, whatever it is. The Russians and the North Koreans have decided that it is the year of friendship between Russia and North Korea. Hey, don’t mock. Everyone needs at least one friend.
So what about the UK? We have the best ‘Year Of’ of them all. Here in Blighty, 2015 is the Year of Mexico. Which makes me happy. In Mexico, they are having the Year of the United Kingdom. Which also makes me happy. There are events galore, and I’m pleased to say that Mrs P and I will be participating. We have our tickets booked for the Lucha Libre at the Royal Albert Hall and for the Ballet Folklorico de Mexico de Amalia Hernandez. Both events are in July, and we’re looking forward to both. Myself, more the former than the latter. If you’re there, give us a shout. I will be Mistico and she will be Blue Demon.
I have, for many years, publicised the many links between the UK and Mexico. Some of them are best left alone. Ok, so we may have syphoned off a bit of oil in the early parts of the last century. Possibly quite a lot of oil. We may also have enforced borders between Belize and Mexico that was more in our favour than Mexico’s. But still. We gave you football and pastes. And that counts for a lot, right? Although the best common bond between these great nations? Well that would be myself and Mrs P, of course. and this blog. Alas, the video below gives none of us a mention. Pft.
I don’t sell many photos these days. In fact, I don’t sell any photos these days. It’s been a year at least since the last one. Maybe two. I used to sell a handful each year, almost entirely through Flickr. It was never my biggest source of online income, but the half dozen or so shots that I flogged in a good year added some useful pennies to my bank account.
But I may have sold the one below. I say may, because I haven’t received the cash yet. Never count one’s chickens till they hatch. But I live in hope. Does anyone care to play a guessing game? A point for the person who can name the artist. Two points if you can name the location you’d find this mural. No clicking on the image through to Flickr though. That’s cheating.
And simultaneously, it will be the Year of the UK in Mexico. It’s a plan, and everyone’s invited. It’s one of those wishy washy government level type cultural exchanges that are all jolly well and good, but fairly limited in scope beyond getting a few big wigs together for a bit of a pow-wow over a drop of tequila or pint of beer. To be fair, this is bigger and grander than most of these sorts of affairs.
Mexico is even going to be graced by a flying visit from Prince Charles. This will be his fourth trip, believe it or not. Dear old Carlos, he’s a misunderstood soul. He’s inherited so much and will continue to do so, right up to the point when he inherits the whole of the UK. But there’s a flip side to this. He’s also got his mother’s nasal drawl and his father’s sense of humour. Worse still, he’s got the family crown. Not the shiny jewelled gold one you wear. The balding one that you don’t.
One does hope that he manages to keep some of his thoughts to himself though. His last visit was included in a documentary. One probably shouldn’t refer to a family prepared dish as ‘a plate of decomposed sheep‘. And suggesting to the little girl if the Mexican postal service is ‘not very good, is it‘ probably wasn’t tactful either. Maybe she had the last laugh. Mexicans are entrepreneurs, and those envelopes were probably stuffed full of cocaine. She had discovered the world’s most secure drug distribution model. Maybe.
This did have me thinking though. Has the Queen herself ever visited Mexico. Indeed she has, it turns out. In 1975, exactly thirty years before I began my own Mexico-UK cultural exchange programme. It seems it was quite a big event over in Mexico, and it still exists on video. Good ole YouTube, eh? It was the first ever visit to Mexico by a British monarch, and it was repeated in 1981. Given the Queen’s age, I suspect there will be no more trips. But why do they insist on calling her Isabel? I mean seriously, I know plenty of ladies in Mexico called Elizabeth. It’s not an unknown name there.
Mexican relations with the UK have mostly been good. Sure, there was a little testiness when Mexico nationalised their oil industry. There was the time that a few British warships turned up in Veracruz to collect some unpaid debts. There was also a small argument over who got to govern British Honduras, aka Belize. Top Gear appears to have caused some friction too, in more recent years.
But we were the first of Europe’s powers to recognise Mexico’s Independence. We also supported them in the Pastry War. To be fair, this was probably done more out of spite to Spain and France rather than any real goodwill toward Mexico. But still, you take what you can get. In return, Mexico supported the UK, albeit secretly, during the Falklands War. Again, probably out of spite towards Argentina. All is fair in love and war. Enjoy the video.
How is Mexico better than the UK, asked no one ever. Well, there’s the weather. And the food. And the chicas. And the friendly faces. And especially the weather. And the fresh fruits. And the racists, too. Let’s big it up for the Mexican racists. They don’t, quite frankly, get the credit that they deserve. How so are Mexican racists better than UK racists, you might wonder. Well, I have no scientific proof, empirical evidence or hearsay to offer. Just personal experience.
I have been the ‘victim’ of racial abuse twice. The most recent episode happened just a couple of hundred metres from home, a week or so ago. I had seen the chap loitering about Westbourne, earlier. White, shaven headed, casual attire, chunky set of headphones stuck on his head. He looked a bit spaced out. Looks can be deceiving. Our conversation was more than simply ‘spaced out’.
Are you English?
Errr…(wondering where this is going)..yes.
No, you’re not.
I’m pretty sure I am.
No you’re f*****g not, are you!
Ok. But actually I am.
There was a strange pause. Where does the conversation go from here? I shrugged and decided to let him finish it with himself, and carried on walking. A moment later I heard him launch into a tirade of colourful language, with the gist being that I should go home to my own country. It was utterly surreal. For those who might be passing this way for the first time, I should qualify, or rather disqualify, his ham fisted attempt at racial profiling. I am white, 6 foot tall, blue/grey eyes, fair haired and when my skin does have any colour to it, after a little too much sun, you would most definitely associate the tone with English Lobster Red. I was born in London to parents born in London to grandparent born in London and so on. I have an unmistakeably English accent.
How did my racist friend get it so wrong? One can only assume that he’d made up his mind that I was a Polish or other European immigrant and felt it unnecessary to remove those bulky headphones in order to confirm his initial prejudice by actually listening to my responses. In the industry of racial ignorance and hatred, the bar for membership is already set pretty low. This guy dropped it on the floor. Dang, he buried it.
Once upon a time in Mexico, I was asked by a homeless chap for some pesos. I had none. After I had walked a safe distance past he started yelling. ‘Pinch ingles!!’ Over and over. Well, at least three times. Was I offended? No, I was thoroughly impressed. He had managed to identify my nationality correctly, and had not gone for the more likely and obvious Yankee critique. See, Mexican racists are better than British racists. They’re smarter, more thoughtful and more considerate. One nil to Mexico.
Racial prejudice is alive and well, everywhere. Sometimes it’s overt. Often it’s disguised by those who attempt to disguise their prejudice as ‘refreshing candor’. You know the sort. The sentence starts with, ‘I’m not racist, but…‘. And then there are those who are simply unthinkingly ignorant. The latter bunch are not necessarily a bad sort. Just poorly informed, or maybe inclined to speak then think, or perhaps just expressing negative experiences of their own.
The ethnic demographic did change noticeably during my time in Mexico. There are now tons of Polish people in the UK. I like them. They are easy to spot. They are the guys who are usually working that bit harder than the others. My racist friend should take note of that when next choosing a recipient for his ignorance. And amend his spiel – go back and work hard and be productive in your own country while I despoil the local environment and waste perfectly good air by my continuing refusal to cease breathing. Personally, I think we could do with a few more Poles and a few less Brits.
There is a downside to all this immigration though. I thought upon returning to England that I’d be safe to use my real name again when out and about. Hugh Juan could be retired. Alas, it was not to pass. This was a better attempt that some, but it’s not the right spelling. And I do hope Mrs P didn’t notice her new name…
Isn’t YouTube one of the most wonderful inventions ever? It’s an archive that seems to know no bounds. Whatever you want to watch, no matter how old it is, you can find it on YouTube. It’s not even all illegal. Though a fair share of it does have pretty dubious looking copyright issues. What I like is how legitimate companies have embraced YouTube as an archiver though. One of the latest examples being British Pathe, who have dumped everything they’ve got on Google’s servers.
But perhaps history viewed through British eyes isn’t your thing. There’s a Mexican contigent who visit me in my corner of the web. And I have something for you, if you haven’t found it already. The excellent Canal Once has a series, La Ciudad de Mexico en el tiempo. Look back at one of the greatest city’s on the planet as it evolved, revolted, devolved and turned into the wonderfully ghastly mess it is today.
This series is not viewed through British eyes. Although one can’t help but feel that it would have been nice if it had been filmed through a British lens with a British camera crew. The Pathe guys, perhaps…
Let’s jump to the present. There are a few television presenters I watch out for, not wanting to miss a show they make. Simon Reeve is one. Anthony Bourdain is another. The later is an American chef, who like to tour the world. His most recent show took him to Mexico City and on to Oaxaca. It was a good show. But I couldn’t help but feel that there was an odd balance in the story between decapitated bodies and fabulous Mexico cooking.
It would have been nice to see some of the more positive non culinary aspects of Mexico make the final cut. Life in DF is more than ‘shoot a policeman, have a taco. Behead a narco, have a taco. Hang an informer from a bridge, have a taco’. But the over riding theme of corruption that runs through the show, encompassing every part of Mexican life, is a true and sad fact that holds the city and nation back. Badly. Many believe the War on Drugs to be a failure. It’s clearly been a raging success. You just, perhaps, didn’t fully understand what the desired outcome was. Bourdain will also introduce you to the poor chef/restaurateur that fell victim to the daughter of a government official recently.
It comes up now and again in conversation when talking about my former life south of the Rio Bravo. Mexicans are Catholics, right? Yeah. They are. Sort of. Well. Yes, they are I guess, but…you see, they’re kinda like Catholics. Actually no, they aren’t. Some of them. Shucks, who knows.
Mexicans are Catholics like marsupials are mammals. Almost the same. But not quite the same. They do have very distinct differences. Many Mexicans identify themselves as Guadalupeans, after the rather famous virginal patron* saint of the country. The story of the good lady is here. Then there’s Santa Muerte, the Saint of Death. He’s a favourite of the criminal fraternity of Mexico, who will go to offer prayers in the hope of a successful heist. The Vatican doesn’t approve. What do they think about the increasing number of exorcisms? There is Day of the Dead, another quasi-Catholic festival.
Then there’s San Judas Tadeo. If you’re in Mexico City on the 28th of the month, you’ll see a constant stream of young guys and gals carrying their statues on the way to a church not far from Belles Artes, on Avenida Reforma. When the Catholic faith travelled to foreign waters from its European heartland, there was bound to be a bit of assimilation of local beliefs and customs. I couldn’t honestly say whether the rest of Latin America has as distinct a variant of Catholicism as Mexico. Perhaps other expats can clue me in. But for sure, Mexican Catholicism is a unique, separate, even cultish offspring of the original.
The point of this story? Today is Guadalupe’s big day. Millions upon millions of people will go to the Basilica de Guadalupe on an annual pilgrimage. It’s quite the spectacle. Parades of banner waving groups walk miles upon miles to get there. Many will crawl on their knees. Some will do so just for the last stretch. Others for far longer distances. You can visit the Basilica any day of the year and you’ll see some scraping skin off their legs.
You should visit the Basilica by the way, if you happen to be in the vicinity. The churches and the gardens are both worth the trip to this northern part of the city. I went several times. Here’s a short video I shot the last time I went, which was too long ago. It’s one part of Mexico’s Catholic-ish faith. There are lots of other facets. Some surprising, others bizarre. Some are charming or even enchanting. Other parts are plain nuts. But none of it is ever boring.
*I’m not Catholic, not much of a believer in religious virgins, and I do know the cure for those who are afflicted with that particular condition. Normally I can’t resist cracking a gag, and be damned with any offence I cause. But hey. It is her big day. So I’ll pass this opportunity up, just this once…
One of my favourite Mexican festivals, Day of the Dead. I have no new photos to share this year, sadly. Maybe next year. Here’s a brief gallery of Dia De Los Muertos photos from years gone by. A photographic memorial of a life gone by.
Happy Independence Day to all you Mexicans and Mexican affiliated persons. I wish I could be there to join in all the merriment. Alas, I cannot. Not in person. But if you are browsing the pages of CNN this weekend, you might see me drift by, in a manner of speaking, CNN wrote recently and asked to use one of my photos. To be quite honest, I wouldn’t regard the one they chose as being my finest Independence Day photo by a long shot. But I was happy to oblige. Here’s the page. The screenshot is below.
You might know this if your read my Mexile Photoblog. This post is the one in question. It was nice of CNN to ask. Many publishers don’t bother. There’s another post regards that on my photoblog. That’s this one here. I have been writing on that blog perhaps more than I have here. I’m still working on the pros/cons, benefits/losses of operating two blogs. And the concepts that define the two. It’s work in progress. Is it necessary? If I want to monetize my digital scribbling, then yes it is. And I do want to monetize it!
Back in the early 1990’s I used to watch, amongst other numerous examples of televisual tripe, a programme called, Through the Keyhole. The recently departed Sir David Frost presented, with the annoyingly nasal drone of Lloyd Grossman guiding viewers through the homes of the rich and famous. One can but assume that the kudos Frost earned from interviewing Nixon had by now been lost. And that the owners of their homes were fading stars or otherwise desperate for a little more attention before dropping from the public spotlight entirely.
I’m neither famous nor wealthy, and there’s no star presenter I can call on to guest write this post. You’ll have to make do with just me, multitasking as presenter, guide and personality all in one. It’s a brief tour. Unlike the show, there are no prizes for guessing which personality is hiding behind that keyhole. It’s not a secret.
There’s obviously a Mexican connection here, and perhaps an interest in photography? And a contrast in movement too, thrown in for good measure. Are those medals we see, possibly with a Mexico City Marathon medallion amongst them? It’s fair to say that these probably weren’t won by a turtle. Although turtles are clearer considered winners in this household. There’a also a book, which one could only assume is for learning Spanish to be used in taxis and at Lucha Libre events. Finally, a mass of cables under a table. Perhaps we are getting the point of the post.
That table is an heirloom. Once upon a time it was the dinner table in a household of five in North West London. It’s a fold-away sort of a table that grew wings even below Red Bull was invented. It was my grandfathers. Then my mothers. It is decades old, older than myself. It’s currently in my possession, but is no longer used for meal times. Today it is my workstation. Can you imagine what the chaps and chapesses who made/packed/sold this table would have made of this photo if they’d seen it back in the 50s/60s? There is no photo of Mrs P on the desk, I’m sorry to say. Just a little clock that I’ve had since forever. Which has its time set by an atomic clock to tell Mrs P how late she is for work to the absolute nano second.
Once upon a time I spent a good deal more on my tech. I had a huge purpose built workstation with the latest 19″ CRT flat screen monitor, the latest PC money could buy (which I built myself) a 5 speaker sound system, a secondary PC and a very comfy executive chair. That was ten years ago. I was single back then, and earned substantially more than I do today. Alas. Times change.
Today, I prefer to keep things simple. I like wireless, although the mess of cables underneath my chair suggest otherwise. Had I the money, I’d own an iMac, with a wireless printer, mouse, keyboard and single Bose (or similar) speaker. I’m a bit of a way off from the promised land though. But the important thing is that the laptop is a half decent unit. It serves me well. Those of you who follow along have seen all the photos of where I’ve been. Now you’ve seen where the adventures are put together, ready for the digital world.
Kudos to señor Calypso, and his idea to open the keyholes of the Mexican blogging community. Of which I like to consider myself an honorary member, rather than former member. You can regard me as a future member, if you wish. Although, looking at Mr Calypso’s set up, maybe he just wanted to show off. I’m not sure how a man can have so much tech in his life, and be married! He’s a very lucky guy!