Thursday, December 19, 2013

Biblioteca Benjamín; MUNAL; Suenos de la paz

Oh, the day's have been varied and interesting.  I caught up with a PD colleague named Tim, who is working for the US Embassy in Mexico in exchange programs.  We hadn't met before, so it was nice to catch up with a new pd friend.  We met up at the Biblioteca de Benjamin Franklin, which is just around the corner from me.  I had been planning on stopping in, so this offered a double chance for PD interests.  The Benjamin Franklin Library is one of the last of its kind, a grand space to study and study about US history and culture. There used to be more of these libraries in Paris and other places, but only two remain- in DF and Delhi.

The Benjamin Franklin Library was bigger than the other American Corners I had visited.  There was a Viva Kennedy picture as I walked in, with a display talking about the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination.  Also a little display of the MLK "I have a dream" speech."

I met Tim, and we got to chatting with the exchange librarians about the study abroad exchanges between the U.S. and Mexico, as well as other countries studying in Mexico.  There is a plan to get 100k in academic exchange between the Americas.  I hope so, as I find it a travesty of how little real exchange exists between the U.S. and our neighbors.  Personally, I want a ton more cultural and academic exchange, because I don't think we really know our neighbors at all.

We were joined by Jen, the regional English Language Officer, and headed on to Zona Rosa to a place called Fiebre de Malta, which had artisanal beers.  After striking down a beer monopoly that had Mexico drinking mostly just two brands, more and more craft Mexican beers are being imbibed.  We spent the night chatting about English instruction in the Americas, Europe and elsewhere.  Tim did some good PD and picked up a surprisingly expensive tab; I paid it on forward, and gave a chicle chica a 50 spot for a handful of gum.  I told her to buy something sweet with it, but she protested and the 8-year old professed how she would buy bread and milk and soap.

Tuesday I ventured out to see some art before getting to work.  I stopped in the palatial Palacio de Bellas Artes, but the murals I cared to see were out of commission.  I wandered a bit further down to the Museo Nacional de Arte (MUNAL) in the gorgeous old Palacio de Communicaciones, which I had never visited. The museum was fascinating for its romp through modern Mexican art.  I wandered through galleries of European schools of Romantic imagery dedicated to scenes of pre-Colombian Aztec history, and encounters between the Aztec and Cortes.  It was fascinating to see the Romantic lens placed on Mexican history.

There were also beautiful Romantic sweeping vistas of Mexican landscape and pueblos, as well as beautiful statues in the salons.  The exhibit traced the various schools of Mexican art that were done much in the European styles but with a Mexican touch (see under: Porfirio Diaz' progress projects).  It was fascinating to see the artistic style progression unfold with its own Mexican perspective, from Impressionism to the more Modernist styles envisioning the Mexican reality.  There were some beautiful paintings by Diego Rivera and Siquieros experimentation with the styles of the age.  I also wandered through the art of Nueva Espana, but it was a little too goyish for me.

After the museum, I wandered my way down to the center to grab a torta amid the bustle, and quickly waded my way out and back.

Today, after working a bit at my local coffee shop, I headed back to the Benjamin Franklin Library to do a lil PD pinch hitting.  It was a post-graduation Holiday celebration for Access students from Puebla. Access is the very-successful English-language program for economically-disadvantaged students from all over the globe.  Access is probably one of the best, and least-known, PD programs that the US does; I am a big fan of it.  Anyway, I got a last-minute invite to come participate on the panels of English chatter with the post-two year English grads.  Always down to help PD, I joined in the fun.

I arrived to the Benjy Library to join on at the various tables to help the kids practice their English.  Since I was wearing my Filhos de Gandhi t-shirt (Sons of Gandhi), I decided to make that the focus of our chat. After I introduced myself, I asked the teens if they knew who was on my shirt.  Gandhi! as some knew.

Who was Gandhi?  We talked about how he used peace (and nonviolence) to chance the system he faced. Then I asked who had recently died.  Mandela! And who was Mandela?  Also one who used peace to change the system he faced.  And who was like Gandhi and Mandela from the United States? Martin Luther King!  And why was MLK famous? He used peace to fight racism in the United States.  And the students all said that he had a dream.  A dream for peace; "what is your dream for peace," I asked each student.  I got some great answers.  Dreams of peace in their communities; dreams of peace in their schools (fighting bullying); dreams of peace in their country; dreams of peace in the world.

Truly the universality of suenos de la paz.

As for me, just another nite in Mexico City, eating cow face tacos. Tonight's fare included cow's eye and socket meat. Yum. Also a cow's stomach (tripa) taco. Gandhi would disapprove, but I think he will forgive me.

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