As part of our Mexican cultural exchange project, founder and artistic director Jonathan Miller is traveling to Mexico to conduct musical research, visit archives, and meet and confer with choral directors and composers. Enjoy his travelogue!
May 18 – Day 2
Not much time to write, as we have been so busy today! I will let the pictures tell the story, mostly. We hit the cathedral, and while walking past I got my first sighting of an organ grinder, who kindly let me hold the crank while Jorge took a picture.
(1) We visited the Templo Mayor, an archaeological museum that excavated the site of the former Aztec temple, literally a block away from the Cathedral. This was amazing.
(2) We went to the zocalo,the huge public square, and watched hundreds of Mayan/Aztec-inspired dancers and drummers who literally did their thing for hours.
Here’s Jorge with a big drum that someone was using.
(3) We had lunch at a rooftop restaurant that had a great view of the zocalo and the cathedral.
(4) We took the cathedral tower and bell tour, the highlight of which was the ringing of the two huge bells, one in each tower. After three initial slow bell rings, the tour guide flew through fifty “gongs” of the huge bell. Turns out that the number 50 is important in Eastertide. Then he did the same thing in Tower #2. The cathedral is awesome.
(5) We walked to the Museum de Bellas Artes and saw a cool exhibit about the history of male nudes. The exhibit was quite popular and very well done. (6) Jorge took me to the Palacio de las Bellas Artes, the big performing-arts venue that includes the home of the Ballet Folklórico de México, one of the crown jewels of the arts scene here. I bought some CDs of traditional Mexican melodies in the gift shop, as well as some whimsical postcards of dressed-up skeletons, riffing on the ever-popular motif of the Day of Dead. There’s one that looks like a spoof of American Gothic!
My Spanish is getting better, just being here. Late in the day, I told Jorge that I need a break… my brain was just hitting the wall of not being able to absorb more in this relatively new language (for me). So we switched to mostly English, and when I felt like I could handle it, I switched back to Spanish again. I am able to express about 60% of what I want to say in Spanish, which feels pretty good. The part that is harder is keeping up with people, though if I ask them to slow down I can catch a lot more of it. Mexicans talk more quickly than Cubans, for example.