On our free day before the conference, we explored Mexico City with Walker’s girl friend’s mother Paulina. We began by exploring the homes of two very different personalities of 1930s Mexico – Frieda Kahlo and Leon Trotsky. Her parents were Oaxacan-Hungarian and Kahlo was raised here. She later became a celebrity artist and feminist icon. Her husband Diego Rivera was one of the most celebrated artists of his day and in this Casa Azul, they shared a tempestuous relationship in the heady revolutionary, intellectual, artistic world of their time. A few blocks away is the home of Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky who fled here in 1937 after he lost the leadership of the Soviet Union to Josef Stalin. Stalin had him murdered in this house in 1940 and the ghosts of that tempestuous time were seen throughout this compound. Of particular interest to me was Trotsky’s library.

South of here is Anahuacalli which was designed by Diego Rivera to house his collection of pre-Hispanic art. This museum is a temple-like structure made of volcanic stones which also contains one of Rivera’s studios and lots of artistically inspired details.

The ARLIS conference of Art Librarians from throughout North America was a good event made up of mostly fascinating people which we enjoyed meeting. We knew a few people that we had met before but mostly we made new friends and connected with archivists. We may have even sold a few of our American and Global Library albums that we had on display at the conference. We attended several excellent talks and went to some receptions including one in an old 16th century former convent and later the home of Franz Meyer with an amazing private library.  

We walked the historic streets of the Colonia Centro as much as possible where I had the best mole I’ve ever tasted, rested our weary feet at a cathedral built by the conquistadors on top of the main Aztec temple, and marveled at the depth of history and culture in this amazing city. One highlight of our wanderings was visiting the building where the first printing press in the Western Hemisphere was set up in 1539.

One of the highlights for anyone visiting Mexico City is going to the National Museum of Anthropology. This is a world-class museum of Mesoamerica, and we were overwhelmed and blown away by the best display of Native America that we have ever seen. It contained far more than our tired minds could absorb, but fortunately we will return next week to photograph the Museum’s National Library.  As we were leaving, we witnessed an amazing performance by indigenous Totonac people performing their spectacular voladores rite – “flying” from a 20m-high pole.

Dinner with new and old Mexican friends was another highlight from this week in Mexico City. But strolling the streets are really the best way to begin to understand this very walkable and remarkable place.

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