It was Easter Sunday in Mexico City. I got back to the historic centre where I wandered on the very first day. The streets were quiet since most people got out of town. It became a good opportunity to examine its city street textures.
There were so much more than just Passion Play performance in Iztapalapa. They could not run such the extravaganza without supports from other teams. To name the least, there were police, Red Cross, volunteers, etc. Their contributions multiplied my fascination for the event.
Before getting there, I was told to be cautious in the crowd. But nothing really happened to me. Until I decided to take a shortcut across the town and got lost in a local neighbourhood without any sight of other visitors or a police line up. (That was when you relied on Google Map too much.) The looks of the residents weren’t so welcoming. Then I realised it was a dead end. I turned back, scooted out, and found my way back in the crowd.
That was a just small alarm compared to what happened next in my head. I was lost again. But this time was inside the route barricades, where the performances flowed along. Obviously, I wasn’t authorised.
I had gatecrashed a parade once in Sydney Chinese New Year event, stayed in the barrier for a while and got some good shots. Until a staff had caught me and politely escorted me out. But this one could have been a very different story for many reasons.
My legs were heavy, my bladder was full, my skin was toasted, and most of all, my stress went up to the clear blue sky. I needed a break but had to keep moving on, taking photos (it was an exceptional photo opp after all), and hoping no one noticed that I wasn’t supposed to be in there. Until there was an exit.
What kept me going in there was the experience in photographing big events like Sydney Mardi Gras. And I acted professionally. Actually, I missed the thrill and the excitement since I hadn’t done anything like that for a decade. It could have been less stressful if I got prepared for it.
It took around eight hours in the borough when I decided to stop taking photos. By that time, my energy was drained out by the heat, the crowd, and especially, the adrenaline in my brain. Being a solo traveller and not speaking Spanish didn’t help. However, in the end, it was such an experience that I hadn’t had for a long time.
It was Semana Santa (Holy Week) celebration in Mexico. I was aware of it but didn’t realise how significant it was until got my feet there. Since it was at the right time, I had to be in the right place. That was Iztapalapa to see the largest and the most elaborate Passion Play in Mexico. I had no idea what to expect and it turned to be my most intense photography shoot in recent years.
With a little time for background research and not many online resources in English, I took a plunge and caught the Metro to the borough in the morning of Good Friday. The day was the peak of the reenactment for the crucifixion of Jesus.
Although my knowledge of Catholicism was very limited, the vibe made me immersed in it. It was apparent how much dedication put into their faith. My eyes were even wet at some point. It was the first time I experienced Christianity like this.
The performance spread along the designated route around the borough. It was hard to keep track of what was going on. The best approach for me was just to go along with the flow. It caused some anxiety during the photo shoot. I might talk about it later.
But the event wasn’t just about the performance. I also enjoyed seeing its ecosystem–how others related to it. That will be in the next post.
After the overwhelming first day in Mexico City, I took a trip out of town to Teotihuacán with a group tour on the following day. It was a quick introduction to an ancient Mesoamerican civilisation. Even though the UNESCO World Heritage Site was the highlight of the tour, the program included other interesting places. That actually gave me a good grasp of the city.
Before an-hour drive Teotihuacán, the tour took us to Square of the Three Cultures. There, I learned how multilayer the city was: pre-Columbus, the Spanish Colonial and modern Mexico.
At the site, I decided to climb up on both Pyramids. The first one, the Pyramid of the Moon, was not too bad–not too high or too crowded. Unfortunate, there was a long queue at the Pyramid of the Sun from the base to the top. And it did not so fast. It took more patience than strength to get up to the peak by waiting in the line under shadeless sunlight. But it was worth it.
I was drained from the heat after the two Pyramids. They took us for lunch before getting back to the city for the final spot of the day tour, Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. That was an excellent way to wrap up the day that we could see some significant architectures from both colonial and modern phases of the city.
It was another exhausting day with loads of informations to process. But by the end of it, I got much more understanding of Mexico City.
The first day in Mexico City concluded at Mexican wrestling or lucha libre. After the havoc and confusion at the box office, I located my seat in the arena. It was on the second row from the ring—perfect for the night. From then on, with some Tecate, I let myself to be open-minded and went with the flow.
To be honest, I had had doubts about this branch of entertainment until I watched Sense8. It was a scene at lucha libre. Hernando, one of the main character’s boyfriend, dissected it:
This is the Manichaean drama. It’s life and death, good and evil. La parca negra (a grim reaper—evil side of the wrestling match) is a symbol. He is the devil in our lives. For some, he can represent the government, the class system or any form of oppression. But for most of us, he is that fear we are afraid to face.
This is a dance that is also a fight. The struggle that takes place in the ring is a reflection of the struggle that takes place in our minds and in our hearts. At some point, we all encounter our own parca negra. He is that thing we are afraid of, that thing that stops us from becoming what we know we can become. Until we defeat him, we will never know peace.
That scene cracked my curiosity about lucha libre and made me want to experience a real one. And I was glad I did so.
The lineup consisted of four or five matches. Each fight was between black and white of some sort: heroes and villains, patriots and foreigners, etc. Some won and some lost. That was life. Unlike a sporting event, there was a narrative like a stage show. And unlike a stage performance, there was an engagement with the spectators like a sport.
The audience had total liberty to pick their sides. Interactions between the wrestlers and the crowds were also intense, either cheering or booing. As the night went by toward the final match, the energy in the arena erupted to the roof.
My seat allowed me to see the fights up-close and record some actions on my phone—I still couldn’t believe that luck. Some punches were stunts. But their acrobatic moves were also real. That seemed to be another layer of duality hidden in it. But I didn’t want to read it too much and let go of myself.
By the end of the night, I was both educated and entertained. My doubts were demystified. It was undeniably a fun night. And I appreciated and admired the performance more . There couldn’t be a better way to wrap up the first day in Mexico City like a night at lucha libre.