By Aaron Smith, Contributing Reporter
MEXICO – One of Oscar Wilde’s oft-quoted lines, “Life imitates art far more than art imitates life,” makes me wonder if he’d ever been to a Mexican wrestling match. With names like ‘Ultimo’, ‘The Blue Panther’ and ‘Heavy Metal’, the wrestlers somersaulted off the sides of the ring, grabbing, slapping and embracing each other in a brutal, choreographed almost Capoeira-like dance – all to the whooping cacophony of spectators who couldn’t get enough of this art form.
Vivi, arms crossed, wasn’t impressed by the alcohol-fueled, macho atmosphere – where men screamed like gorillas when busty bikini-clad girls swaggered around the ring between rounds, or when a fighter was thrown into the crowd.
After Vivi took me to the ballet in Cuba, I insisted that we go to the wrestling to expand her cultural horizons. However, she wasn’t buying it, covering my eyes from the girls in bikinis and tutting, “This isn’t art, it’s a circus. Men haven’t changed since the Stone Age.”
Mexico City, the world’s reputedly largest urban area, sprawled to the horizon in every direction. It is not only the country’s capital but also the cultural epicenter of Central America. It boasts some of the most impressive architecture in Central America, from the ultra-modern forty-story skyscrapers and Latin America’s biggest cathedral, city park and plaza – to the art-nouveau edifices of El Palacio de Bella Arts (Palace of Fine Arts), post office and other breathtaking buildings. Built on the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan, and the home of a quarter of the country’s population, it is referred to by locals as simply ‘Mexico’ and there is always something happening here.
After days spent in a daze exploring the city by the world’s cheapest metro, we escaped from the hustle and bustle to a leafy, cobblestoned suburb of Coyoácan, which translates from the Aztec as ‘the place of coyotes.’ It had a pleasant colonial charm and an interesting history, having been once the home of the Russian revolutionary, Leon Trotsky, until his murder in 1940. It was also the home of communist sympathizer and Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo, and her former house has been converted to a museum dedicated to her life and art. Frida and her husband, fellow artist Diego Rivera, also helped Trotsky by hiding him in this very building.
Even the cuisine of Mexico is an art form, as is getting used to its spicy kick. With a comparatively mild Carioca palate, Vivi was unusually quiet as she bit into her first burrito. “It can’t be possible, even the guacamole has chili!”
We soon discovered that everything was laced with jalapeño peppers, right down to our eggs in the morning or a seemingly innocent ham and cheese sandwich. They even add a dash of Tabasco sauce to their beer!
But with mounting confidence in a swank restaurant in San Angel, we ordered Chili en Nogada, a six-inch chili stuffed with meat and dressed in sweet cheese sauce and pomegranate seeds at US$15 a plate.
The best tacos we’ve ever eaten however were bought from a frenetically active street vendor, cost a couple of pesos each and this time, even Vivi reached for extra hot sauce.
Senhor and Senhora Smith are from different worlds; he, Aaron Smith, an Australian travel writer, still idolizes his childhood idol, Indiana Jones, and she, Viviane Silva, is a sassy Carioca ‘Sex in the City’ girl. They have decided to embark upon a trans-continental four-month honeymoon BEFORE they get married, from Bogota to New York, the Far East and Australia by bus, boat and donkey. Follow them along the Gringo Trail – it’s an epic Clash of the Titans journey to (hopefully) marital bliss at the end of the road.
For more info on Aaron’s writing check out: www.jetsetvagabond.com
To read Viviane’s blog go to: www.varaujo.wordpress.com