Could it be that Mexico City is hard-up for travelers? The other day the Minister of Tourism announced that, as of August 1, any visitor to the D.F. will automatically receive a free medical insurance policy, which includes coverage in case of swine flu. But that’s not all: the policy also covers any kind of illness, accident, dental emergencies, shipping of dead bodies to funeral parlors, and legal assistance for stolen or lost documents. At the same press conference, the president of the Mexico City Hotel Owners’ Association said that members reported occupancy at 60 per cent, more or less the level before the swine flu scare. The insurer is the Spanish underwriter Mapfre.
Readers of my book First Stop in the New World may remember the chapter about the Savoy, the last cabaret in Mexico City, with its live orchestra, plump dancing girls, a mariachi who sang to piped-in music, and the Euterpean talents of Claudia Tate, who had been the star of soft porn comedies in the 1970s. The Savoy is still here. But sadly, the floor show is gone (except for the warbling mariachi). It has become a table-dance and fichera joint, where you can cut the rug to live salsa with one of the women on the premises for a modest fee, and perhaps negotiate other services for proportionately higher honorariums.
Photo by Caroline Kim
Recently, I went to a lackluster Sunday afternoon of lucha libre at the Arena Coliseo. The wrestlers, however acrobatic, only seemed to be going through the motions. Indeed, more energy was expended between fights by these two guys, who claimed to be students from the Autonomous National University, and who certainly knew the “Goya” cheer chanted by fans of the Pumas, the UNAM football team. After the luchas, I ran into them on the street. They claimed to have been at a baseball game before the wrestling matches, and were on their way to look for a cantina from which to see a football game on TV. Here, the three of us practice cheering.
I tend to have words for every occasion, but the other night, when my friend Richard Verdoni, who comes from the family that runs the Hermanos Atayde Circus, invited me to see the show, it left me speechless.
It had been literally decades since I’d last seen a circus. Writers are not supposed to use clichés, so forgive me for the following: I felt like a child again. My mouth gaped through many of the acts, particulary the tightrope walker.
As a boy my favorite story was Toby Tyler, about a child who runs away to join the circus. Does the fact that to be Toby’s story was my dream say too much about the kind of family in which I grew up? Or do all kids dream about running away and joining the circus?
Click here for more information about the Hermanos Atayde Circus, which is playing throughout the summer. If you go, you can see this tiger doing the moonwalk to the tune of “Billie Jean.”