Wise guy in Oaxaca

July 21st, 2014

One of my favorite Mexican expressions is often used to describe someone who thinks extremely highly of himself: él se cree la última Coca-Cola en el desierto (“he thinks he’s the last Coca-Cola in the desert”). Not long ago I was in Oaxaca, and on a very hot afternoon, this enterpising horchata salesman had appropriated the phrase to move some of his wares, a creamy rice-milk drink.

Labels: Mexico City

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July 7th, 2014

It’s a clever come-on but I don’t know how anyone can not be disappointed when it turns out to be an ad looking for people who want jobs as security guards.

Labels: Mexico City

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Big changes

June 23rd, 2014

When Guillermo Osorno realized that he was gay — in the late 1970s, when he was still an adolescent — as far as he could tell, in his world of middle-class Mexico City, homosexuality didn’t exist. He didn’t know anyone else who was gay, and the idea of a gay community was unfathomable. In 1981, when he was 18, he went to Los Angeles and, along Santa Monica Boulevard, found a pre-AIDS openly queer universe which he describes as “effervescent.” When he returned home, determined to find some vestiges of a sympathetic brotherhood, by (as he describes it), walking around the city and “wearing out some shoe leather,” he began to discover a more or less clandestine infraworld of like-minded people.

One of the first stops along the journey was a bar called El Nueve, which was on calle Londres in the Zona Rosa between 1978 and 1989. The publishing house Debate has just brought out Osorno’s history of El Nueve, called Tengo que morir todas las noches: una crónica de los ochenta, el underground y la cultura gay (I Have to Die Every Night: A Chronicle of the Eighties, the Underground and Gay Culture). In those days El Nueve was not only a gay bar but a cultural center that featured everything from rock concerts to art shows to performances and a film society. Osorno says he saw movies by Fassbinder, Gus Van Sant and Almodóvar there. In those much more repressive days, such films did not get commercial releases.

Osorno only writes about himself in the prologue and epilogue of the book, but in a sense, in writing about gay culture in Mexico in the last 30 years, he is writing his autobiography. It is almost unfathomable to consider that, a brief 25 years ago, most gays and lesbians in Mexico City lived in the closet. Gay bars were commonly raided by the police and their patrons were shaken down for extortion money by the very same cops. In the early 90s, gays and AIDS activists were often victims of violence. Today, thanks to legislation fomented by former Mexico City mayor Marcelo Ebrard, same-sex marriage is legal in the city and, at least in certain neighborhoods, seeing same-sex couples holding hands or kissing in the street is completely ordinary.

“The last sentence of the book,” says Osorno (who was my boss when I wrote and edited for Revista DF between 2003 and 2006), “is ‘we’ve gained something and we’ve lost something.’” The gains — acceptance and legislation — are perhaps obvious. The author thinks that gay people have lost a sense of living in a covert and unique culture in the city, a sense of being special and glamorous. He is not trying to take a stance on which is better and which is worse. He just thinks it’s remarkable that, in what in historical terms is just the blink of an eye, things have changed so remarkably.

Labels: Mexico City



Incredible eye

June 9th, 2014

Maybe I am partial, because he is a good friend, but I believe that Federico Gama is the best photojournalist working in Mexico City today. He has an incredible eye for Mexico City street life (and an admirable trigger finger, to catch the appropriate moment that goes by in a second when he is shooting on the sidewalk). Moreover, we have worked together frequently enough that I know he has an engaging and sympathetic manner. Only the most hard-hearted or mistrustful person would say no to him when he approaches and asks if he can take a portrait.

Check out his website, or better yet, go to the Casa Rafael Galván Gallery, on calle Zacatecas 94 in the Colonia Roma, where his exhibition Identidades en el espejo (Identities in the Mirror) opens this Thursday, June 12, at 7 pm. The gallery is open from Monday through Friday from 10 am to 6 pm, and on Saturdays from 10 am to 3 pm. Federico’s show will be up until the 20th of September, although the gallery is closed from July 28 to August 25.

Labels: Mexico City



For those of you who cannot get enough of me

May 26th, 2014

From cosmeticsandskin.com

Now I know that there are millions out there who find me completely and utterly resistible. But if you are among the brave and happy few that do not, on Tuesday the 27th at 7:30 pm I will be speaking with my friend J.M. Servín about writing from street level in Mexico City at the Rosario Castellanos Bookstore, on the corner of Tamaulipas and Benjamin Hill, Colonia Condesa, as part of the Independent Book Fair.

On Saturday, May 31, at 12 noon, I will be speaking with several others about the late artist Phil Kelly, at the Museo de Arte Moderno, Paseo de la Reforma y Gandhi, s/n, Chapultepec Park. The occasion is the publication of a book called La pintura es … las manos, el corazón, los ojos, la vida (Painting is … the hands, the heart, the eyes, life), which is a marvelous retrospective of his work.

Both events are in Spanish.


Labels: Mexico City