Saturday, March 14, 2009

A Night at the Symphony, A Night at the Mall

From the sublime to the ridiculous. Last night, I attended the weekly concert of the Queretaro State Philharmonic Orchestra, where they performed works by Debussy, Ravel, and Ives. Their home is the Theater of the Republic, which just happens to be a 2 block walk from my hotel. Sweet. It's an 1845 building in the ornate French style. Inside the auditorium is horseshoe-shaped with 3 balconies. I sat in the first balcony, and the musicians on stage were so close I felt I could almost reach down and grab a violinist (don't know why I'd want to!). It was in this theater that Mexican Emperor Maximilian (an Austrian import) and his two generals were condemned to death at the end of the French Intervention (1867). So, you get two-for-one: wonderful classical music and plenty of history at the same time.

Behind the orchestra on stage, the shell behind them is handsome wood paneling on which are recorded the names of the members of the 1916 Constitutional Convention, that was held in the theater. Representatives from every state. I couldn't help noticing what appeared to me to be non-Mexican names: O'Farril, Von Versen, Ross, Rouaix, Norman, Giffard, Palavicini, Praslow, Abreu. These were Mexican legislators.

What that tells me is that my own ethnocentrism led me to believe that all Mexican names should be Spanish. Not true! What the diversity of these names proves is that there was extensive immigration into Mexico from all parts of Europe (and the U.S....note the grandfather of Mexican President Vicente Fox...immigrated from the U.S. to Mexico) in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. German immigrants started some of the largest breweries. Lebanese immigrants became merchants...including the ancestors of Carlos Slim, the richest man in Mexico.

At the Mall
Tonight, I was hankering for a taste of the U.S.of A. So, like any good American on a Saturday night, I went to the mall and ate Chinese food. I also stopped in at Costco (just like the ones back home). They had the same pizza slices and hot dogs in the food court. The same huge packs of food. The same great bakery. And then I went to the Super store and department store all in one. Next door was Sam's Club. And across the parking lot--of course--McDonalds. American high culture all in one parking lot.