Weekend 3: Las Bellas Artes & La Casona

El Palacio de las Bellas Artes

We were all in for a real treat to see national folk dancing in the beautiful building. This is the link to the government website! Everything was beautiful and “on point”, even through it wasn’t a ballet. The best performance was a modern dance version of a deer dying. It took forever, but the performer had to be an amazing gymnast to be able to perform those athletic jumps to avoid the hunter, then suffer for a good while before dying in several intermittent spasmodic fits.

It would have been better if I had “studied” the program before watching so that I could associate the dancing with the state in Mexico where they originate. The performances were similar to the Peruvian folk dancing that I saw in Lima with the Fulbright-Hays group.

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La Casona (restaurante)

One of the best foods in Mexico has to be molé! They make several types, but they are all good. I hear that it takes a special chile from Oaxaca to make the recipe authentic to the discerning diner. And there could be up to 30 ingredients!

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It was Shalanda Baker’s idea to eat at La Casona. She’s a Fulbrighter this year, too. Her project is related to the recent energy reforms in Mexico and its effects on indigenous populations. I would be interested to know what she discovers… On another gastronomic adventure, Shalanda and I ate at La Bajio, a restaurant in a shopping mall. Pretty good.

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Week 1: UNAM-CEPE Intensive History

Today I began my intensive history class, taught by my Fulbright advisor, Maestro Juan Pablo Vivaldo (top left,p ictured in the middle). The class focuses on the Porfiriato Era leading up to the Mexican Revolution (1884-1920). This is the period in Mexican history that defines what Mexico’s culture, society, and economy are like now. The two close-ups from the famous murals of David Siquieros (top right) depicting Porfiro Días and the Mexican Revolutionaries. Of course, all this historical backdrop is helpful for my project!

I’ll be adding more about his topic in the weeks ahead. It should be a pleasant journey!

Week 1: Pre-columbian, Mesoamerican history in Mexico

Week 2: Porfiriato, part 1 Rise to Power

Week 3: Porfiriato, part 2 Society & Culture

Week 4: Porfiriato, part 3 Fall from Grace; Revolution, part 1 Rumblings

Week 5: Revolution, part 2 Momentum from North and South

Week 6: Revolution, part 3 Pancho Villa & Emiliano Zapata

Week 7: Final comments; class presentations

Week 1: Pre-columbian History

Who was in Mesoamerica before Christopher Columbus ran into it?

Today’s post seeks to dispel the common misconception that the Mayan, Aztecs and Incas were the only empires that existed in the Americas before European settlers arrived.

Today’s lecture was about who was already populating the territory called Mesoamerica, which today is in the country of Mexico. Pause: Click on a link to maps of Mesoamerica: en español and in English. What do notice about the territory of Mesoamerica compared to what is Mexico now?

Pre-Classic Period (2000-400 B.C.)

The Cultures Before the Olmecas

Before the Aztecs founded Tenochtitlan (today’s Mexico City) in the year 1325 A.D., there were four important civilizations tooling around the area, even before the first one (Olmecas) came to the scene around the 1200’s B.C. First there were the Hohokams (Southeast U.S.) from 2000 B.C. and the Adenas (midwest U.S.), then the Mogollons (Arizona-New Mexico), and the Anazai (Colorado-New Mexico).

The reason these were important was their abilities to organize their communities as social heirachy in settled areas with agriculture, build dwellings, and develop trade routes. (I’m not an archeologist; I’m merely condensing what I’m learning in class, museums, and books!)

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Olmeca Culture (1000-600 B.C.)

The Olmecas were in present-day Veracruz. They reached their splendor between 1000-600 B.C. mainly because they luckily settled in an area made fertile by favorable rain patterns. They created great commercial centers based in La Venta (find a map on the Internet) and organized their society into castes of priests (who administered) and warriors (who kept the order).  This made them the most important in Mesoamerica during the Pre-Classic period. Also, this is the culture that is famous for creating the huge heads of stone.

World perspective: During the long reign of the Olmecas, these were events also happened: Carthage founded (814); First Olympic Games (776); Height of Assyria (750’s); Rome founded (752); Boo-duh born (563); and Confusions born (551).

More about the fascinating Olmecas (en español), please click link.

Classic Period (400-900 B.C.)

Teotihuacan civilization

Together with the Mayans (in present-day Guatemala-Yucatán) [along with Romans (in present-day Italy) and Hans (in present-day China)], the Teotihuacan civilization flourished after the Olmecas, their height of splendor from 100-600A.D.

Notice that the demarcation of time for "Periods" are Maya-centered, so there are overlaps with other civilizations.

The Teotihuancans was based just northeast of present-day Mexico City, an area that the Aztecs eventually sacked because of its agricultural potential, strategic trade routes from the valley basin to the gulf, many caves considered sacred, and obsidian mines (a highly-valued mineral). Two other rising civilizations coexisted: Monte Albán in present-day Oaxaca and El Tajín in present-day Veracruz.

Did you know? Despite their majestic civilization, the Teotihuacans did not have a system of writing!

Growth Phases I: 150-200 B.C. Teotihuacan Pyramid of the Sun (and Cholula Pyramid both) started to be built. II: 200-400 Moon Pyramid. III: 400-600 Height of population at 125,000.

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The Mayan civilization (400-900 A.D.)

Mention Roman Empire (26BC-476AD)

Post-Classic Period (900-1521 A.D.)

The Toltecs, then the Aztecs, Incas, and Mongols (Wha-what?!)

Toltec Empire

Dominates much of Central Mexico (900-1100)

Fulbright Orientation in Washington DC

We all had a great time meeting the other Distinguished Awards in Teaching grantees. There are about 75(?) teachers going to around 20 countries this year. I’m going to Mexico, so it was especially nice to meet the delegates from Mexico arriving to do their research in Indiana. Special thanks to Karina who gave me a list of great contacts and some “do’s and don’ts” in Mexico!

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Orientation kit and tags. Very handy!

Did we only have 4 days? It seemed like a week because of the amount of meetings we were scheduled to attend. The food was great at the hotel. We also had a Culture Night where country representatives dressed in their traditional clothing and entertained us all. There was dancing and slideshows and games in different languages. Fun… A definite highlight for me was seeing my sister, Christina, during the orientation and spending some quality time to catch up on family news! Thanks, sis!

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Fulbrighters from everywhere!

There was so much to know, too, especially about how our projects were supposed to be developed. I felt that we are given the latitude we need as professional teachers to search for the pedagogical resources we need in our countries, yet we have to adhere to deadlines and time markers.

I’m feeling the excitement of  experiencing Mexico for the first time, but also some pressure to complete my project in 4 months. I am suddenly reminded that, during my second year in college, I studied for 4 months in France… And what about the project due for the Fulbright-Hays Seminar Abroad to Peru? Yikes.