This is the first in a series of posts I’ll be writing about Mexico City, my favorite place to visit in the world. My goal is to try and persuade you to take a trip there.
Why do I care about the place so much? Well, I was the drummer in a Mexican wrestling-themed garage rock band called the Tijuana Bibles for eight years. I put the band together to write soundtrack music for a series of Super8 wrestling films I made in the mid to late 90′s. By the end of our run we had released four cds, three 7″ records, and toured Europe four times. We even toured in Mexico City! What began as a fascination with lucha libre (Mexican wrestling) morphed into a deep love and respect for all things Spanish.
I have been selling Mexican wrestling masks as a side gig for over ten years now. I can’t count the amount of times I have travelled to Mexico City to buy them in bulk. I have friends there that run art galleries. I know where to go to see bands play. I know where the good markets are to buy bootleg dvds. I know where to buy Mexican pop culture artefacts. I have travelled in a van with legendary Mexican wrestler Super Astro to an out-of-town wrestling show. I have seen Lizmark in training, unmasked. I have met Hijo del Santo, Blue Demon Jr, La Parka and Vampiro Canadiense. I have been tattooed twice in Mexico City, and both pieces are of Mexican wrestlers. I have played shows with the Tijuana Bibles in Mexico City with the masked bands Lost Acapulco and Sr. Bikini. I have been taken on a private guided tour of the Mexican Pop Culture Museum, run by two Japanese Mexicans. I even have my own tailor-made mariachi suit!
Jorge Alderete is actually from Argentina, but has been living in Mexico City for years. He is a graphic designer, an illustrator, an animator, he runs a record label with one of the fellas in Lost Acapulco, and he runs an art gallery called Vertigo Galeria with his partner Clarisa Maura. He is also my friend.
I first met Jorge via email – he had contacted the Bibles in 1999 to ask if we would like to submit an instrumental song to an international compilation cd he was going to release, called Locos Instrumentales. How he found out about us, I have no idea. We submitted a track called Mexican Courage (a euphemism for tequila) that has surprisingly gained traction with Mexican fans – there are still bands covering it there!
Clarisa and Jorge have the most beautiful apartment I have seen in Mexico City. Tiled floors, smooth rounded walls, the place is enormous. I have stayed overnight there, and watched classic Mexican b-horror films like La Loba with them, while drinking cans of beer purchased at the store downstairs. They live on Alvaro Obregon in the Colonia Roma neighbourhood, very close to their gallery on Colima 23. On weekends, street vendors sell their wares – antique books and magazines, vintage art and more – right across from their apartment, along a tree-lined lane that divides their street in half. It’s no wonder Jorge has such cool stuff – he just has to go outside to buy it!
Jorge’s studio in the apartment is crammed with Mexican pop culture that I am very envious of. A drawing desk is littered with overflowing work. His portfolio for shows he has designed posters for is incredible. He is respected around the world for his art. If there was a way I could bring him here to Toronto for an art show, I would do it in a heartbeat. Now that I think of it, there may be a way…
If you are in Mexico City and want to get a taste of independent, original Spanish pop culture, I can make no higher recommendation than to simply go to Vertigo. You’ll find cool stuff to buy, and you’ll have a chance to chat with whoever is working there. I’ve found that most everyone involved in the independent scene has a basic grasp of the English language, so don’t be afraid if your Spanish skills aren’t that good. Like-minded people have all kinds of ways to bridge the language barrier! And if you happen to meet Jorge or Clarisa, tell them that Stacey Case says “Hola!”
In my next update I’ll write about my favorite hotel, and all the great places that are around it. Until then, Viva Mexico!