When I left Mexico in 2011, the city was making some effort to spruce up a few of its landmarks, historic streets and monuments, The Revolution monument perhaps being the best example. I rather hope they got around, or will get around, to fixing up the La Raza monument. It was looking very much the worse for wear the last time I ventured past. It had certainly seen better days, as shown in the photo below…
While walking around a park next to the Monument to Mothers, just off Reforma/Insurgentes, I came across a guy selling old photos. Well, new photos of old photos, if you get my meaning. Fifteen pesos each. He wanted to sell me four for forty five pesos. I offered 40 pesos for the quartet, but I have pale skin and he had a ‘you’re a tourist, so pay up’ attitude.
He seemed sure I’d crack. I didn’t, and just bought the one I really liked. It sits below. The vendor sits on the street still, a little poorer for not being willing to do a fair deal. There’s a great mercado there selling some pretty tasty food, so I gave my saved pesos to them instead.
I’ve done a fair bit on the blog with old photos and videos, and this is just one more for the collection. I’ve seen it before, in various prints, but now I have my own copy. I felt obliged to do some research, and have learned a few bits and bobs that I really should have learned already, especially given the number of visits I’ve paid to the Monument to the Revolution recently.
In the photo below you can see Reforma running from east to west (or west to east – take your pick) with a giant statue in the middle. That’ll be the Carlos IV statue, by Tolsa. It was moved around a bit after independence, but was sited here on Reforma until 1979 before being moved to its current location outside the National Art Museum, next to Bellas Artes. I knew this much, not least because I found a fabulous old postcard of the scene last summer. The statue is apparently the second largest bronze cast in the world and weighs 26 tonnes – must have taken quite some shifting.
Behind the statue is the clearly visible skeleton of the Monument to the Revolution. This helps us date the photo, although I can’t come up with an exact year to be honest. I’ve done a bit of research. The building was not originally going to be a monument at all, with Porfirio Diaz laying the foundation stone in 1910, the year the revolution broke out. It was going to become the Legislative Palace.
This explains a model of a fabulous building that I photographed in the museum under the monument recently. I had wondered what it was. Now I know. This was what the monument was meant to become. But the revolution came instead, and construction stopped. Building work resumed again in 1933, with more modest plans and the project was completed in 1938 and is what you can see today – the Monument to the Revolution.
So the date of the photo? Well after 1910, that’s for sure. And before 1938, of course. Probably sometime in the very late 20’s or early 30’s I would imagine. The scene looks busy and peaceful. Post revolution-esque, one might say. If anyone has a definitive date, then do please share.
I’ve visited the Monument of the Revolution a few times over the last few months. I cast my eyes over the area during the renovations, dubious as to whether it would be finished in time for the revolution’s centenary. I stared in wonder as it neared completion, within the time frame required. And I had a good look around it, in it and up it once it had reopened to the public.
Yesterday I passed by and noticed it all lit up in many changing colours, with a fair sized number of people wandering about. The fountain puts on quite a light show, even if it isn’t quite a rival for the Bellagio in Las Vegas. It was still open to the public for trips up the elevator to the exterior viewing areas too. And it was just begging me to get my camera out to let my lens soak up some of those bright hues. I’ve added the photos to my monument set – click here.
Not everyone likes the new glass elevator that ploughs a course right up the centre of the monument, but I think it looks fine. Not everyone appreciates the expense of some of the bicentenary/centenary projects, but this one, in my opinion, was money well spent.
Following on from last Friday’s post, when I went to the renovated but still closed off Monument to the Revolution, I today managed to get inside the place. And what a fantastic job they’ve done. It’s clean, looking like new and a pleasant place to be. By handing over 40 pesos, you get a ride up the new glass elevator to the interior of the dome, where you can then make your way up and down narrow staircases to the exterior viewing area.
The entry fee also gets you into the spruced up museum underneath the monument, which has plenty to keep you interested for an hour or so. With a cafeteria tucked off to one side – I still think they should have an outside coffee plaza though. If the place attracts lots of visitors, and it should, then they’ll want a drink and snack. Either the monument’s management provide it, or the ambulantes will move in. Click here to see my photos on Flickr.
I had my doubts, I really did. Just a month ago the Monument to the Revolution and specifically the area around it, was looking far from ready for the big day. Which is tomorrow. I stopped past again today, and…..well blow me down with a feather! Finished. Or very almost. There’s no reason to think they can’t get the last few cracks between the paving slabs filled in before home-time.
The area immediately surrounding the monument is still closed off though. I did try and discreetly join a bunch of people who were being shown around, but an eagle eyed security guard noticed the extra person shuffling in….there’s no missing a 6 foot plus white chap I’m afraid. I was quickly ejected from the group and left to circle the monument from the wrong side of the barriers. Still, the whole place opens up to the public on Monday.
A lot of people have been grumbling for a long time about the amount of money being spent on the bicentenary/centenary celebrations, and although I don’t always agree with them, I do well understand their point. But the money spent on this project in my opinion is well worth while. Although as ever I justify the decision to spend money doing something, not the process of spending it – often involving excess, nepotism, corruption and waste. The monument is a massive and significant landmark of the city and a permanent fixture, which differentiates it from the parades, pyrotechnics and shows that have been put on, all of which are temporary.
From what I can see, they have done a fabulous job. It’s made the whole plaza and structure clean, bright, attractive and a hundred times more impressive to the eye. There’s a glass elevator which I assume is going to take visitors up to the inner staircase and onto a balcony or platform. Hopefully the museum below the monument will have been given an equally spectacular make-over. It contains the remains, I think, of Pancho Villa. I could be wrong, though.
But that’s the problem the monument has had in recent years. It was better viewed from a distance, where the dirt, decay, graffiti and shady characters that loitered around it were at a safe distance. It hasn’t been a ‘must see’ place for a long time, and there wasn’t much in the tourist books to tell you about it and the museum.
It should now be one of the top visitor sites in the city, up there with the Angel, the Anthropoligical museum, the Casa Azul in Coyoacan, the National Palace and Bellas Artes. A lot of the surrounding buildings are government owned and in good nick. A few others have been given a new coat of paint. But there are still a lot of buildings which need some attention. Hopefully the extra visitors that are coming in this direction will mean a little extra money for the neighborhood. The regeneration of Mexico City continues. Click here to see the photos I took of the monument and area today.
To say they are working feverishly is an understatement. Having finished most of the Independence Day works late (those that actually are now finished!) the government seems intent on making sure that at least the icon of the Revolution, the grand monument in the image below, will have its renovations completed in time for Revolution Day in mid November. I am, genuinely and not sarcastically, hopeful.
I also sincerely hope that they open to the public the staircase and viewing platform at the top of the structure. I’m sure there will be some interesting views. I also noticed that they seem to be pedestrianising a lot of the surrounding area too. Good job! Behind the monument, as per the photo, there’s quite a bit of open space. Just enough, if you ask me, for a replica of the Camera Obscura that turned up in Bournemouth back in 1999.
Perhaps a more discreet single decker building, in Revolution colours, would do better. But with all the chairs and tables outside for the sipping of tea and gulping of coffee. I wouldn’t even be upset if they got Starbucks to do it. For photos of the work in progress, and those of Torre Insignia from yesterdays post, click here.
There are many things that you need to take a good photo. Too many people worry about mega pixels, high ISO numbers, large apertures, costly lenses and years of experience. They’re all good, but most of all you need the good light. If you’re outdoors then lots of nice natural sunlight. I can prove it.
Look at these photos of the Monumento a la Raza (map – no.33) by Luis Lo taken of a beautiful, blue sky, fluffy white clouds sort of a day. And then check out mine on Flickr. Grey stone and grey car fumes against a grey sky is a dreary combination indeed. So dreary I felt compelled to add some fake blue sky into a couple of them, and run a couple more through some creative filters to bring a little life to them.
I ran across an old photo of the monument the other day when looking through videos for the Mexican Vintage Video post. For the life of me I can no longer find it, which is a shame. The monument hasn’t changed much – stone is like that sometimes. What surrounds it, Insuregentes Norte has metamorphosed from pleasant looking avenue into monstrous multi lane concrete and steel road, with underpasses, footbridges et al.
Which is a shame, because it’s positioned in a nice little bit of park and should/could be a little haven of tranquillity. As it is, it’s slowly crumbling away here and there. The statues particularly. Most are still in reasonable condition, but several have crumbled feet or missing foreheads.
There’s no other reason for posting this photo other than because I love the way the white marble (or fake marble – an artistic ignoramous like me would never be able to tell) of the Benito Juarez monument, the pollution free blue sky and the lavender blooms of the Jacaranda come together. It looks so peaceful and traquil. Of course, I cropped out the base of the monument to preserve that illusion and remove the protesters, yelling into megaphones and chanting socilaist slogans!
Just when you think you’ve seen everything there is too see, you stumble across something new. Not that I really think I have seen absolutely everything, although it’s fair to say that after four and half years in Mexico City I do an awful lot more revisiting than I do discovering.
But I was surprised to find this huge monument to Obregon hidden behind a load of trees in a park that I have gone past in cars and microbuses so many times. Today I was wandering on foot, looking for a good shot for my 365 project, when I glimpsed what looked like a largish bit of concrete through the autumn leaves of the trees. One should always investigate mysterious concrete when it looks a little out of place.
What I found was one huge monument. Assuming monument is the right word. You can go inside, and down a narrow staircase to a mysteriously empty underground chamber. More fun is the journey up a steep and narrow spiral staircase to the roof for a fairly unique view of the city. It’s surprisingly high up. I have this strange relationship with heights. I don’t like them. But neither can I resist the opportunity to look down on the world.
There’s a guy at the bottom who sells candles for 10 pesos so you can light your way up the staircase. At least that’s what he claims. He’s a big fat liar. He’s only renting you the candle for 10 pesos, and demands it back when you reappear through the small doorway having had your roof top fun. I didn’t complain though. Not too much anyway. The view was worth 10 pesos at least. There are more photos, and better ones, on my Flickr account. Click here to be magically transported across the interweb to see them.