Monday, March 10, 2008

They do things differently here - News from Mexico 2

Now in a stunning town (Zacatacas), UNCESCO heritage site, old Spanish silver mining place - It is all rose-red stone, beautifully restored, clear desert light, fantastic baroque cathedral - a uniquely Mexican take on Baroque. Were in Cruz's home town of Fresnillo y'day. Like the wild west, about 1/4 the men wearing cowboy hats, women in spangled/sequined denim, shops full of amazing cowboy boots - alligator skin with incredible pointed toes, elaborately embroidered and tooled, loads of big old dusty pick-ups, music blaring out of shop fronts, one group of ?Mennonites/?Amish looking around - huge aryan and pink compared to everyone else who is so dark and well just how you imagine Mexicans to look like. Clear bright light, dust. Warm in sun - just, but you can imagine this place to be roasting later on.

Met Cruz's family. His mum and 2 of his (6) bros and 1 (of 2) sisters, glad I was introduced, as bros,. had faint  air of menace about them - big men in black leather biker jackets. Drove out into the desert to see his childhood home, dusty little villages and then miles down a dirt track which gets worse and worse and eventually seems to disappear (I'm doing all the driving and worried  about trashing the hire car), to a collection of little one-storey adobe houses - his is now abandoned. Humble beginnings all right. But the landscape - a vast panorama of distant hills, one of those landscapes of truly epic proportions which is so American West and so utterly un-European, mile upon mile of dry scrubby trees and cactus. Breathtaking.

The lectures - well this is Lateeen America. If el jefe of the Architects Association wants to answer his mobile phone in the middle of your lecture he goes right ahead. And things never start on time. A general air of make-do, and lots of people who have to be made to feel important.

Y'dy in Fresnillo we started 1 1/2 hours late as nothing could begin until the mayor arrives. Whole occasion a bit surreal - vast old stone theatre, freezing cold. Audience mostly students, local dignitaries, some young architects, green campaigners and (groan) some drafted-in schoolkids. Cruz was not interpreting for 'political' reasons - an awful lot of my being here is in fact to do with the politics of what he is doing rather than what I am actually saying. Which is fine, because I am so happy and honoured to be able to participate. All part of 'Green Day' so various other speakers, inc. Cruz. Anyway - interpreter - Sexy Senorita with Big Hair, and thick coating make-up (and spangled denim). Learnt her English in West Virginia (!!!!) so found my accent very difficult, and to begin with my heart sank when she could not translate 'landscape'. But she was really inspired, and we got on really well, and given how late the mayor was, we went through the whole thing twice beforehand. She made a really good go of a difficult job and it was all just about ok. But I've insisted Cruz interprets from now on.

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