Colombian pride  was shouted-out loud this Sunday (July 18), when hundreds (more likely, thousands) gathered for the yearly Colombian independence celebration, or fiesta patria, in Mexico City. It´s a Bicentennial for us, too.

I had gone once before when a reporter friend invited me. A bullfighting ring or something (manure smell in tact) plays host to the festivities, which includes a huge food bazaar (slammin cheese-filled arepas with chorizo), and all the salsa, cumbia and vallenato performances you can fit into one day (Colombians get their dance on). Apologies for the cell phone images. Documentation is documentation.


World Cup player hating

Let´s go Ghana!!!

GHANA Vs USA (The Evil Empire)

Just a reminder to all the adventurous gringos who come to D.F., thinking it´s all love.

It´s difficult to be a U.S. National Team fan during the World Cup. They just never seem as good as the rest of the world. If Pelé came from Pittsburgh, then it would be a different story. I don´t even know any of the players on the U.S. team, well….except for one guy, and that´s because I used to kick it with his sister in college. Still, I feel like it´s my obligation to root for them, because 1) It´s my home team, and 2) My Newark high school produced 3 Cup players, a couple of those guys I knew. They played during the days when the U.S. team was just beginning to surprise the world with their level of improved competition.

From the looks of the sign outside the Insurgentes pulqueria, where I watched the recent U.S. defeat to Ghana, above, most people still can´t stand us.  And you may know why.


I can´t hold it against the pulqueria  Los Insurgentes, which is a new Roma drinking spot that opened in March. Note the upside-down flag. The place has a good sound system and quality jukebox ($5 pesos gives you 3 picks) . It serves a nice selection of pulque, beer, liquor and mezcal. Visit on a weekend night, because it´s becoming quite the venue for live shows.

Los Insurgentes, Insurgentes Sur 226, Colonia Roma, D.F. Map.

Post-race in the Americas III

This is the first time the World Cup has been staged in Africa.  Historically, there´ve been so many raw and degrading images of Africa and people of African-descent.  What are some images of Africa that have been popping up in media during the mundial?

I know, not as many people trip off skin color as we in the United States, or so I´m told. But I´m always happy we´re uptight enough to mostly dismiss these kinds of images. I think that if those types of graphics didn´t signify such dislike for dark skin color, that I would be cool with it.  Laugh along with the joke. But normally, I can´t. Too much going on underneath.

I flipped on the program halfway through and didn´t catch this guy´s name, but I heard the cast members refer to him as ¨Negro¨. Of course.  This is normal programming for the Televisa Saturday morning gab fest,  Hoy Sábado.  It´s the type of morning show that´s so bad, it makes Jillian Barberie´s work look excellent and useful.

I figured the character, who handed out yellow cards to certain announcers during the telecast, was making fun of World Cup referee Koman Coulibaly from Mali.  He made a series of iffy calls during the recent U.S. game. Here´s the Telegraph´s story on calls I think cost the squad a goal.





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FIFA Fan Fest in Zocalo

Walking to the angel after a big soccer match is a tradition in D.F.

I was a terrible  soccer player in junior high. Our team sucked, despite the Italians, Eastern Europeans and Haitians on our squad. Bad coaching I blame. Never scored a goal, maybe had one assist.  With that disgraceful past, I´ll tell you straight up: I´m not a huge  soccer fan.

But you can´t run around saying that kind of stuff during the World Cup. Kill joy.  And besides, I live in Latin America, so as they say, when in Rome…

I went to the Zocalo to participate in the FIFA Fan Fest, an international program put on by the governing body of the World Cup and supported by a bevy of big-ticket sponsors.  That´s Cuauhtémoc Blanco on the screen.  He´s the elder statesman on the Mexican national team, and one of the heroes of the 2-0 win against France this day.  He´s from one of the roughest hoods in D.F. Maybe he´ll retire after this year.

Police presence was welcome. Not too much, not too little.

The disbanded electrical worker´s union used the gathering to continue getting their voices heard.

There were plenty of people taking a day off work or school to witness their national team play. With all the soccer fanaticism running around a place like Mexico, these sorts of mass displays really make a gringo wonder about nationalism and sports.

Of course every Mexican soccer fan has his own team hero. Maybe it´s  Giovani dos Santos?

Every country, I assume, has its own sporting rituals. The finger wave is a popular one here.

There´s a generational soccer fandom here that I don´t think exists in the United States. Maybe in the next few decades we´ll get there. The Zocalo was sectioned off into different viewing spaces, one for each jumbo screen.

Of course once Mexico started scoring in the second half, the celebrating began, and didn´t stop until sometime early this morning (around 3 a.m.?)

Now you know the nickname of the player who scored that important second-half  first goal against France in the 2010 World Cup.

Once that second goal was scored, sealing the fate of the French, the day turned into a national celebration for Mexico. Dudes were risking their lives waving a flag at soccer fans down on Paseo de la Reforma. Thousands were making their way to the Glorieta del Ángel, the city´s official symbol, which I´m pretty sure was a gift from France. You hear mostly five syllables in a crowd like this (and all day long): Vi-va Me-hi-co

Along San Pablo, the oldest profession


I went to San Pablo Avenue near Centro to buy a bike. I didn´t know it was one of four zones in Mexico City where an open air sex market is allowed to thrive. Just so happens it´s also a street lined with dozens of bike repair/sales shops.

Families walk the street looking straight ahead most of the time, ignoring the girls propped up against the walls, or mingling near bus stops—always in site of a bike shop. Many of these women are brought (or forced) from pueblos throughout Mexico to come work the streets of D.F. Cops drive by, maintaining a presence, but doing very little. This isn´t lawlessness, it´s how it works out here.  Nothing on Sunset Boulevard can compare.

On Sundays, it´s an odd site, since the nearby La Merced market gets heavy post-church traffic. I can just imagine how some of the parents explain to curious little ones why those women are dressed like that.  They´re hustlin, man.

My bike, with annoying decals reading ¨Samurai¨along the frame, was only $900 pesos. Best bike I ever bought.  Just the bike.

Cyclo Partes (bicicletas), San Pablo No. 24-B, Col. Merced Balbuena, 55-22-17-47

Tepito Owl

Around this time last year on a Sunday, late summer, I made a trip to Tepito with the homie Mazaki from Japon. Strolling through this legendary, chaotic, historical, and powerful black market, one thing ( in the mountains of sneakers, clothes, DVDs and .99 Store  musthaves) grabbed my eye . The Tepito owl.

There was a young street kid, hustler, with a bird cage strapped around his neck. I disregarded the other exotic birds sitting in the cage as regular parrots, which they probably weren’t. The thing that seemed unreal to me for the first minute, was the miniaturized owl perched on the edge of the cage. No way. I snapped a quick flick with my BlackBerry , slick as can be.

Or so I thought. Photos are prohibited in this (black) market area. About an hour later the same kid walks up to me. Was he tracking me down? I thought he might try to get his Education of Sonny Carson (1974) on, really step on my line. But he basically told me off for taking his picture while he was illegally pushing exotic animals. It was cool to see the baby owl again, though.

I just told him that was a dope owl and it needed its picture taken. He understood, I think. And no one was cut.

Makes me marvel at the market savvy of these Tepito hustlers. I’m thinking they were building off the popularity of Harry Potter. How serious would that be for a kid if her dad brings her home a pet owl, just like the characters in the book?

Well, now you know where to go America.

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Ad sequence: Benicio, the Ice Cream Man

benicio del toro advertising


Benicio Del Toro´s Magnum campaign kicked off earlier this year. It´s been Mexican bus stop signage since at least April. I kept seeing this ad, and wondering to myself what this means when an actor does these kinds of moves. I can´t imagine an Oscar winner doing this for the U.S. market (Eva Longoria was the Magnum spokesperson just before).

Reminds me that huge stars do ads in Japan for the types of products you´ll never see them shill for in their home market.  What´s the public reaction in Mexico to this ad? I guess the goal is to get people to eat more overly sweet dairy bars. I just hope Benicio knows that Mexico is already one of the countries (along with the U.S.)  where diabetes and obesity are increasing.

basketball ads in mexico

Basketball and football have a lot of fans in Mexico City. Doesn´t compare with soccer or wrestling, however, that´s slowly changing.

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Norebangin in Mexico

The sizable Korean community in Mexico City’s Zona Rosa (among other places) wouldn’t be complete without norebangs. These are rooms you rent with a squad of karaoke revelers. The rooms come with mood lighting, multiple microphones, tambourines, rotating disco light, a large karaoke hard drive and a flat screen TV with a mega karaoke remote.

Speakers are studio sized and beer is available for about $40 pesos a pop, with a huge plate of fruit running around $250. Other side dishes at some norebangs in the area offer chicharron de pulpo, which is some kind of fried octapus treat, if you’re into that.

It’s easy to go norebang hopping, if you find yourself spending a weekend in Zona Rosa. I landed in one for a short spell (couldn’t get to my rendition of  “Livin on a Prayer”), London Karaoke, which was run by  a middle aged Korean man with a casual hunting-cap and bubble vest kind of style, named Park Hyo Yong. The price per hour for a norebang runs around $200 pesos, less than 20 bucks in U.S. cash.

For me, my karaoke thrills are best had at a venue with lots of strangers. I’m not into the tiny room thing, although it’s a great place to practice your stuff. Because  if you’ve had the odd experience of being caught up with a group of trilingual karaoke experts who bogard the mic and the karaoke controller, I feel your pain.

London Karaoke, Londres No. 167, 3 Piso, Esquina Florencia, Mexico, D.F., Telephone: 52-07-01-84

A Night With El Pinche Brujo

When I first heard El Pincho Brujo in his video for ¨Guadalajobru¨, an ode to his state´s top ranked soccer team and hip-hop lifestyle in Guadalajara, I thought I was hearing something special.

I didn´t realize regional Mexican rap had such a strong representative outside D.F. This guy, who came out of the Jalisco graffiti scene, hustles. ¨Brujo¨by the way, is the masculine for ¨witch,¨ and ¨pinche¨ as it´s used in most parts of Mexico, means either ¨damn¨, or  the adjectival ¨fucking¨.

On a Saturday night late last month Brujo showcased his skills. No DJ. Just him, a beer, and roomful of teenagers and curious hip-hop fans. He even took shout outs for rugged spots like Chalco and Iztapalapa.

He prowled the stage in mock drunkenness.  Hitting his rapped punch lines with a nasally flow ala B-Real, but with more bass in his voice. A few times he mentioned the drug cartel devastated Ciudad Juarez. But only got as deep as saying, ¨Man….Juarez.¨ Of course what more could he say?

On a sidenote: El Universal, earlier this year, did a good video report on hip-hop in Juarez. (via Red Barrio)

I´ve been told by one Monterrey performer that drug gangs are known to ¨tax¨ performers sometimes for their show money. It´s rare to hear the type of drug trade braggadocio here that litters U.S. rap.

Nedman Guerrero performed about an hour before Brujo´s midnite set.  One of Mexico City´s more practiced MCs, his style is strictly based in the old school New York-flavored street rap. Learn more about him in this interview (in Spanish) with the Grita Rap blog.

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Wrestling the Maguey

A couple of wrestling matches, pulque and a gentle Sunday sun can make for a special cap-off to a weekend. Always down for an escape from the smog of the city,  we tripped up to the mountain in the south called Ajusco.

What led me on that journey was Niña Rap. I saw her the night before along with El Abogado and his Mano Armada Crew, and wanted to check them out again.  They were scheduled to perform at a mini music festival on the grounds of a pulqueria called La Frontera. It´s right across the Picacho-Ajusto freeway from the Gotcha compound.

Here´s  a slideshow of photos from the day I uploaded to Youtube.

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