For me, living in Mexico is a never-ending reminder of my ignorance. Each visit to a museum reveals glimpses of a long, complex history and an alternate cultural universe about which I know bugger all. When I talk about music (a subject I think I’m informed about), I’m in conversation with people who know about the same things as me plus a whole world of Spanish-language music, ranging from Norteño to Madrid-based pop groups, which is unfamiliar to say the least. It’s nice to learn things, but it can be frustrating to realize quite how many things you have to learn.
Luckily, I’ve got a couple of new books that will plug some of the gaps in my knowledge. (Full disclosure: They were written by friends of mine, but they’ve been reviewed very favorably by impartial members of the media.) The first, Art and Architecture in Mexico by James Oles, is, I’ve been told by a couple of academics, the first comprehensive historical survey of the subject to be published, which seems insane, really. The book covers art and architecture from the Spanish conquest to the present day, and so far it’s fascinating and very readable, which is a lovely surprise, given that it’s a scholarly text.
The second book, Yo Soy Constantinopla by Julio Martínez Ríos (pictured above during a reading), is a novel, but it records Mexican history in its own way. It’s somewhat fantastical (in the story there are songs that radically, perhaps dangerously, alter human behavior when played on the radio—which is a nice way to think about art), but the book is set in a very real Mexico City of the late nineties. The many and detailed references to music and the scene of that time seem to ring true for my friends who were there. Perhaps next time we talk about music I’ll have some idea what they’re referring to.
Photo: Courtesy of Hamishh Anderson