On the cusp of the Day of the Dead, it’s a propitious moment to plug a store called Miniaturas Felguérez, located at Hamburgo 85 in the Zona Rosa. For decades they have sold miniature toys — dolls, soldiers, and the like — but their specialty has been these tiny boxes, a few inches wide, tall and deep, that depict calaveras (skeletons) in comic situations.
They may be, as in this diorama, engaged in playing the Hallelujah Chorus.
Or there may be an explicit political message, as in this one, which says, “Mexicans, welcome to California.”
Or in this, which depicts Mexican politicians as rats (rata is synonymous with thief in Mexican slang).
My favorite calavera here is a rendering of Marilyn Monroe. Actually I picked her up in Cuernavaca, but there is a whole host of celebrity skeletons at Felguérez.
Some notable boxers, mostly hard-luck flyweights from El Barrio de Tepito, have come out of Mexico City. Among them were the legendary Kid Azteca Villanueva, El Púas (Barbed Wire) Olivares, and El Ratón (The Mouse) Macías. If you go to Tepito today, there is still a boxing gym, where young men – and even women – who possess little more than hope spar with each other. Yet in the past few years there has been no regularly scheduled venue for what A.J. Liebling called “the sweet science.” You could only get tickets for the occasional amateur Golden Gloves bouts.
Photo by John Stark
Until recently. For the past few months, at the Foro Scotiabank on Avenida Moliere in Polanco, every other Wednesday night there have been professional boxing matches. Ringside seats cost only 300 pesos, and there is waiter service with both food and drink. The other night, the most exciting fights were the four-rounders on the undercard. Perhaps because they had so little time to demonstrate their mettle, most of the fighters gave it their all.
The main event was supposed to be a ten-rounder with Osvaldo “Chucky” Razón pitted against Samuel “Torito” García. “El Chucky” was the favorite and, indeed, García — who looked like one of the guys who collects garbage from the back of the truck that passes by my street each morning — entered the ring with the expression of a man who has just swallowed a bad oyster. For the first three or four rounds, the fight appeared to be choreographed for a maximum of footwork and a minimum of damage, but then “El Chucky” seemed to remember why he was there and put a little pressure on García.
After seven rounds, “Torito” called it quits without even haven been knocked down. (They don’t make them like they used to. At least Roberto Durán was willing to take a lot of punishment before saying, “No más.”) Pictured above are “El Chucky” and the most important members of his entourage.
Pictured in the mug shots above, Michael Parker moved to Mexico City a little over a year ago, by way of Virginia, Texas and New York. He lives in the centro histórico in an apartment that he shares with a cat and what is probably the world’s largest collection of muzak – some 1,500 albums, of which he has downloaded 28,700 songs onto his computer. Parker, who works principally as a translator, also writes the gossip column for the English-language monthly Inside Mexico, and has an encyclopedic knowledge of the centro’s cantinas (no mean feat for someone who arrived so recently). A little while ago he shared his observations about something he observed on the metro, and allowed me to reproduce them here:
So I was returning home on the subway this afternoon, minding my own business.
Then I see this spectre (filthy) get on the train with his six-year-old son (also filthy). Dad is shirtless, which I didn’t really care for on the subway. Then he walks by and I see his back is rent with bleeding wounds and open sores, not unlike a Holy Week self-flagellate. I winced.
“Pardon my intrusion…,” he began and then he unfurled a bundle of broken soft-drink bottle shards, like a cache of blood-besmirched jewels, which he spread across the subway car floor. Yes, we were in for a floor show.
I caught the eye of a teenage girl on the bench across the way and she looked at me imploringly, helplessly. We girt our loins for what we knew was coming.
The train all the while hurtling beneath the city, Mr. Dad stood on his hands during two or three seconds; then somersaulted down onto the glass with a lucha-libre-worthy thud. He lay there for a few seconds, then stood and allowed the boy to pull the glass out of his back. Junior gingerly returned the shards to their original quarry. I presume his delicacy was to avoid cutting himself.
Apparently there’s a market for this sort of gruesome entertainment–he collected from two patrons.
Photo courtesy of El Museo de la Ciudad de México
Even if you are not a huge aficionado of wrestling, you will probably enjoy the exhibition which is in El Museo de la Ciudad de México on Calle Pino Suárez in the Centro Histórico until the 11th of January next year. It tells the 75-year history of the World Wrestling Council in Mexico, through photographs, movie clips, masks, magazine pages, interviews, signs, programs and so forth. There are also current artist’s renderings that highlight lucha libre iconography. My favorite part of the exhibition was finding out some of the names of Mexico’s most prominent wrestlers, such as The Communist from Pachuca, the Nazi Destroyer, Hurricane Ramírez and Cyclone Mackey.
Meanwhile, I was walking down Calle Salvador the other day and spotted this fellow, apparently dressed for work (although what sort of employment he may have remains a mystery). I asked if he would let me take his picture, and he obliged, but preferred not to answer any questions.
Photo by Everett McCourt
The other day a friend named Nuria Quella sent me an email pointing out that in Mexico City, 75 percent of women, 69 percent of men, and 35 percent of school-age children are overweight. Because of that, INMEGEN, the National Institute of Genome Medicine, is beginning a study among chilangos this November, trying to break down the obesity genome to see if it is possible to prevent obesity-related diseases, such as asthma, hypertension and diabetes.
Here’s my shocking confession, amigos. I don’t even know what a genome is. Believe me, I’ve tried to figure it out. I’ve read, I’ve done research. But the information goes in one ear and out the other.
However: Can we get real for a minute? I know some people will excoriate me for saying this. Chilangos are fat because they eat truckloads of junk food (both sweet and salty), are in a photo finish with the gringos for the highest per capita consumption of soda pop in the world, gorge on greasy tacos (however delicious they may be) and are loath to do any exercise. Wouldn’t a little behavior modification go a lot longer than genome research? I’m an ignoramus about science; I’m just asking.