Monday, July 30, 2012

Mexico City - July 16, 2012

 Plaza de Las Tres Culturas

I walk from the Hotel Monaco, where I'm staying, to the corner of Reforma and Hidalgo. From there I figure out how to catch a bus that will take me to Plaza de Las Tres Culturas. The three cultures represented are pre-Columbian, Spanish and Mestizo.

Santiago Church on The Plaza of the Three Cultures
To reach the plaza, I need to walk through a massive apartment complex, built in 1964. It was an interesting walk, people out and about, perhaps rushing off to work, small stores, restaurants and coffee bars. Since the plaza was built in 1968, and in general Mexican people build beautiful things but do not maintain them, it is in need of many repairs.

There is a museum on the plaza, which opened in October 2007 in memory of the Mexican Students killed in the Tlateloco Massacre, but since it is Monday, it was closed.

For the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, PRI President Diaz Ordaz spent $150 Million, which in today's dollars would be $7.5 Billion. Ordaz also suppressed labor unions and farmers. The country was, and remains to this day, a place with a few rich, many poor and a sparse middle-class.

Students organized protests against what they believed to be excessive spending on the Olympics.

July 23, 1968  - the police attack Vocational School #5.

September 3, 1968 - At National Autonomous University of Mexico, 50,000 march. Police invade campus determined to stop protests.

September 23, 1968 - Students hold off police for several hours. Anywhere from 3 to 15 students are killed.

October 2, 1968 - 10,000 university and high school students assemble in the Plaza of Three Cultures, many residents living in nearby apartments gather to hear the speeches, but are not protesting.

Protesters chant, "We don't want the Olympics. We want revolution." Two helicopters, 5,000 soldiers and 200 small tanks and many military trucks move in on the students. Snipers fire shots. All hell breaks loose. In the aftermath hundreds are dead and many wounded.

By the turn of the 21st Century some truths are revealed. Government snipers from an apartment, giving the government seeming justification for the killing, fired the shots that got the whole thing started. It was a set-up.

Also, by the turn of this century it became known that the United States supplied the Mexican government with military radios, weapons, ammunition and riot control training.

Forty years after the Sad Night, as the massacre is called, 40,000 marched to commemorate the event. The government did not shoot anyone.

Parque Nacional El Tepeyac

El Tepeyac - Where Guadalupe supposedly appeared to Diego
This is where, so it is rumored, the Virgin of Guadalupe and Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, the poor indigenous peasant, met. I've never been sure who the Virgin is suppose to be, I think she is the Mary, mother of Jesus come to earth to tell Juan to build a church on the hill.

The deal here is that the indigenous peoples of Mexico weren't buying all this Christian crap and wanted to keep their beliefs. So, Mary came to earth - and pronto - the people of Mexico became Catholic. Why they bought into the Virgin of Guadalupe, I'll never figure out.

The gardens are beautiful, the plaza immense, and I believe there were four places of worship, the basilica, a large modern church, and a church at the top of the hill, and other on site.

Again, it was Monday so the museum was closed.

Palacio de Bellas Artes

The Art Deco interior gives this building a modern feel
In 1987 UNESCO declared the palace an artistic monument. The front is constructed of Carrera marble. The interior is Art Deco, pre-historic motifs and crystal lamps. Many famous Mexican artists, including Diego Rivera and Rufino Tamayo, painted murals.

The stage curtain, which I did not see, is a stained glass panel created out of nearly 1 million pieces of incandescent colored glass by Tiffany’s of New York and weighs 24 tons.

Although Mexican's allow many beautiful things to fall apart, the palace, which hosts a enormous variety of artistic endeavors, opened in 1934 and looks as good today, as I'm sure it looked on opening night.

If really is a beautiful building, one that deserved more time and attention than I gave it.

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