Friday, October 31, 2008

Only in Mexico - more funny photos

Mmmm...animal heads. I like the futuristic branding - "Entrails 2000"

OSHA - jigga jigga que? What's so wrong with riding on top of loose gas tanks anyway? We'll hope they're empty.

No point. Just love it.

Dinner with the WHOLE revolutionary family.

The ultimate stumper - What IS the most worthless government procedure?

Today, the polls closed on the Secretaria de la Funcion Publica's latest experiment in participatory democracy - a contest to identify "El tramite mas inutil" - the most completely worthless paper-pushing procedure in government. As of 10 days ago, 4,000 people had already put in their two cents. The Secretaria said, interestingly enough, that the most roundly denounced procedures were indeed the most used - paying taxes, getting passports and getting medical appointments with ISSSTE and IMSS. Whether or not anything is improved through this exercise, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. The winner at the federal level pockets some $30,000 and the state and municipal winners take home $10,000.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Day of the Dead meets Halloween in Mercado Jamaica

Mercado Jamaica in Mexico City is painted orange this time of year, its narrow aisles bursting with chrysanthemums for Day of the Dead and a fair amount of Halloween tzotchkes. From traditional papel picado, sugar skulls and copal for offerings to glow-in-the-dark skeleton key chains and Bart Simpson masks, the market is a visual banquet of the morbid.


Tis the season...for grasshoppers! This Oaxacan specialty is widely available throughout Mexico, served up with lime, salt and chile. I actually like chapulines, as well as two other dubious Mexican snack foods pictured here - dried crawdads from the rivers near Puebla and charales, a small lake fish which is dried and fried. What can I say? When in Rome...

Separation of church and state - what?

A banner advertising the federal government's upcoming Family Expo at the Palacio de los Deportes. What better family to use to illustrate family life than Mary, Joseph and little baby Jesus?

Into the depths of the metro

The Mexico City metro system is unlike anything else in the city - it is logical, orderly, user-friendly and largely reliable. There are the occasional breakdowns causing people to be trapped in the tunnels for minutes to hours or preventing your train from leaving, but I've only personally been delayed once.

This is Mexico City however, I doubt there is anywhere you could go that you could overlook that fact. A hallmark of the metro are young guys and girls with stereo-equipped backpacks blasting music to promote whatever pirate CD they're hawking - anything from cumbia to musica romantica to the Doors or the Beatles.

One of the odd things about the metro - to my eye - are the stores in the stations. Without fail, in every station, there is a Domino's Pizza and an alternative nutrition store. I particularly enjoy reading the advertisements on the nutrition stores, such as this one above. Offering include: Nopalinaza (Cactus/Linseed) to combat obesity, gastritis and colon problems, "Hepanat", effective in solving liver problems or bad breath, some sort of soy product that helps with embarassment, bad moods and sadness (not to mention ovary pain), creatine for muscle development, vitamins for kids and, the staple of every nutrition store and, I suspect, their bread and butter - "X-tra Virile" (100% natural) which helps with, well you can imagine.

I shouldn't laugh. I know that having the polis stand on boxes makes perfect sense surveillance-wise. But it does make me laugh, just like the polis on segways up and down Reforma.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

L.A. or Mexico? You be the judge!

As all Americans (except for Miss America contestants and maybe another 45% of the population) know, California used to be part of Mexico. Yeah, it's true. I'm a history major, you can trust me on this. The legacy of that close cultural bond? Taco trucks, a lot of streets ending in "Vista", mission-style architecture and such cultural high-points as "Yo quiero Taco Bell." This little gallery is a selection of photos that German and I took in Mexico and L.A. - guess where each was taken!

LA or Mexico? You be the judge!!

Would you eat green sausage?

Forget green eggs, try green chorizo. The tasty (AKA super-fatty) Mexican sausage, chorizo, usually comes in the color of bright red. However, you can also get it in bright green. It tastes about the same but has that extra kick as you wonder if with every bite you risk food poisoning and possible death. Mmmmm...the taste of danger.

Guess things didn't work out with la Virgen

This family in San Miguel de Allende no longer looks to the Virgin, nor any other saint to protect their home - but rather a combination of good humor and karma if we read the pinwheel correctly.

A full-service country

Mexico is all about service (primarily because labor costs so little - people put in 12 hour days for $30 or less and many people work just for tips). Wealthy Mexicans and American retirees live like kings with full-time nannies, drivers, cooks, maids and gardeners. But there are also a lot of little things throughout the day that remind you you're not in Kansas. For instance, there are shoe-shine stands on every corner, but you don't even have to inconvenience yourself - the shoeshine guy will come to your office and polish them up while you continue to sit and work at your desk. Or stand guard as seen in the above photo.

You do not pump your own gas in Mexico. If you park at the grocery store or the mall or even on the street, a man will almost always appear out of nowhere to offer to wash your car. Not only do pizza places deliver - so do all the major pharmacies. You don't even have to get out of your car to shop, because there are vendors at nearly every stoplight selling everything from peanuts to chips to soft drinks, toys, maps, traditional candy, the day's newspaper, and flowers.

But the ultimate luxury experience in Mexico would definitely have to be going VIP to the movies. Both of the major chains, Cinemex and Cinepolis, have several VIP cinemas which cost twice the usual admission price of $5. For your $10, you get: a leather recliner, a full restaurant menu with everything from sushi to lasagna to chocolate cake, and, of course, access to a full bar. A major newspaper recently did an article about how Mexico is so far ahead of the world in terms of VIP cinema, which doesn't even exist in most countries (naturally, the example for America was some po-dunk theater in Texas that happened to serve BBQ). As the PR girl from Cinepolis put it, "We Mexicans just like to spoil ourselves."

Living the good life...waiter, could I get another mojito please?

Even the bathrooms are swanky when you go VIP.

LAS MOMIAS: the dark side of Guanajuato

From Guanajuato and San Miguel

Guanajuato is a charming colonial town nestled in the mountains of central Mexico. But don't be fooled by the brightly painted houses and tree-lined plazas. The place certainly has its dark side - most notably its major tourist attraction - "LAS MOMIAS." The mummies of Guanajuato are basically a bunch of bodies that were naturally mummified due to the soil conditions. People were sneaking into the basement of one of the churches to see them, so the city government decided they wanted to get in on the action and created a museum to house the dozens of bodies. How is it that one's body ends up getting dug up? All were buried in the city cemetery and didn't have relatives around to keep up on the payments. That would be the city's way of legitimizing digging up bodies and putting them on display sideshow-style. You may be a corpse, but there are no freeloaders here - gotta pay your way in Guanajuato!

Needless to say, the mummies are a huge hit, with tourists traveling from all over the country to check them out. Does the display say something about the Mexican attitude toward death? Maybe, but basically it's just all kind of creepy. For instance, the corpses of victims of scabbing, drowning and...being buried alive. Whoops, thought the cholera had done her in. Below are some shots of a few of the mummies. Scroll at your own risk.

From Guanajuato and San Miguel

From Guanajuato and San Miguel

From Guanajuato and San Miguel

From Guanajuato and San Miguel

And the topper? Infant mummies. The museum also boasts having the smallest mummy in the world - a mummified fetus removed from the mother. No way was I going to take a picture of that, so you'll just have to go and see for yourself.

From Guanajuato and San Miguel

Marvelously Macabre Mexicans

The last post detailed my visit to see LAS MOMIAS DE GUANAJUATO, definitely the darkest tourist attraction visited to date. Another trip to the dark side - the city museum which focuses on the town's revolutionary history. A star of their collection is a metal cage used to hold the heads of revolutionary leaders after they got caught. These were hung at the corners of major buildings to dissuade any revolutionary tendencies, as was pointed out by the tour guide in the above photo who showed off the cages to a group of young school children. So much for the age of innocence - I mean, they'll see heads swinging from street posts sooner or later.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Must see - "The Tortilla has Turned"

This video was presented at the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies, documenting the illegal immigration of Americans to Mexico in search of the "Mexican Dream," and attempts to profile and reach the new market. Hilarious!!

Se dio vuelta la tortilla (The tortilla has turned)

First-quality humor - El Titanic Mexicano

I can watch this again and again and I'm still dying of laughter. Xochimilco is an area in south Mexico City with over 90 miles of canals. It's the closest thing to how the city was when the Aztecs built it in the middle of a lake. Lots of people rent out boats to cruise along the canals and party while buying food from vendors in passing boats or tethering a mariachi boat on to listen to music. These are some kids from the ITAM (one of the major universities) who apparently do not understand the laws of physics.


Lotta Party right this way!

Just a few funny signs for you guys. Spotted this one up in Naucalpan, unfortunately, due to traffic, wasn't able to go check out the party.

From La vida chilanga

In San Miguel de Allende, if you need to clean your car, just swing by the "Car Huash."

From La vida chilanga

Little known fact - revolutionary Emiliano Zapata was apparently cross-eyed. He had a fantastic publicist. Harder to take those revolutionaries seriously when they have a lazy eye.

From La vida chilanga

You want pastel? Go to the pasteleria. Tacos? Taqueria. Cerveza? Cervezeria. And, apparently, they've even now got a "Burreria" fulfilling all your burrito needs in Morelia, Michoacan.

From La vida chilanga

We all suffer occasionally from delusions of grandeur. This would be the Titanic of Lake Patzcuaro in Michoacan.

From La vida chilanga

National Geographic: "Framing Life"

From La vida chilanga

Some months ago, National Geographic rolled out a campaign all around town, placing this yellow frames in front of many of the major sites of the city. This one in front of the David statue in La Roma always put a smile on my face.

Yes, I am la Guerita: about those derogatory pet names

"The good flavor/taste of my little black girl" - I think it's safe to say this name for a restaurant would never fly in the United States.

When I studied abroad in Cuba, we had various work shops in preparation and were provided a handbook on "culture shock." One of the first pieces of advice? Don't get mad if people call you "Gordita" (little fatty). Indeed, it is somewhat common throughout Latin America for people to mine your appearance for pet names - chaparrita (Shorty), flaca/flaquita (Skinny), chinita (Curly-haired) and, in my case, guerita, which translates loosely to Whitey or Blondie. One of the girls on our trip to Cuba was from Guam and, on account of her Asian features, was universally called "Chinita" (little China girl). In three months, she made little progress pointing out she was not from China.
I probably get called guerita at least one or two times a day, usually by vendors trying to get my attention (Que le damos, guerita?), sometimes by taxi drivers making kissing noises as they pass me on the street.
Is it offensive? Maybe a bit. Can I deny that I am indeed a Whitey? No. So basically I will take this Mexican custom and get used to it because I'm sure not going to succeed in changing it. And why would I complain when the building caretaker calls me "mi guerita, la mas bonita" (my little blondie, the prettiest one)? I'll take it.

*And a final note - La Guera is also a popular name for restaurants and businesses, as evidenced by this banner in Mercado Jamaica. There is nowhere I get called "guerita" more that in the market - check out the sound clip to experience the market as I do.

"Futbol Soccer" - you could say it's a passion here

From La vida chilanga

"I believe in a single, all-powerful team, called the machine of Cruz Azul, creator of the goal on their home field and any field they visit. I believe in a single team, the only team of the Azul Stadium, over and above any other team. Amen."
- prayer sticker on the window of a small bus in Ciudad Nezahualcoyotl

Since I got here, people have been pressuring me to pick my soccer team team. America is the team for Mexico City, however they win a lot so in a way they're kind of hated for that. As far as I can tell, loyalties are split between America, Cruz Azul and the Pumas, the team of the UNAM, Mexico's major public university. And there are those rogues who root for Chivas, the Guadalajara team. I'm not much of a spectator, so I've remained fiercely independent so far. I think it will probably all come down to which team has the colors I like best...

Guess this sound

For months, I would hear this bizarre sound echoing through the streets perhaps one or two times a week. I never managed to walk to it fast enough and after many sleepless nights, I finally asked a friend what in the world it was. Just so you can have the fun of guessing (you will NEVER get it), I'll toss the answer down near the bottom on the right.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Desfile Navideño / the big, bad Christmas Parade on Reforma

Angels and devils and zebras and alebrijes and the Virgin Mary in a bicitaxi - what more could you want?

(Okay, I admit I'm slightly behind on uploading given it's almost Christmas...again).