06 March 2009

El Sombrero

Where is the ‘sombrero’? ... the frikin "Q." is driving me crazy !! ... well, this was the case until not long ago. I was so sick of
such a stupid question - that most people ask when I say I am from Mexico! And always would hope that people get to know Mexico for more than a silly stereotype, for its arts, its culture, its rich folklore, its beauty... Mexico the land of the Aztec and the Mayas empires, the land that had over 40 different languages and cultures by the time Hernan Cortez and the Spanish 'conquistadores' arrived ravaging and pillaging during the early 1500s. The land of the Puma and Jaguar warriors, the land of the most amazing ancient temples, pyramids and perfectly well planned cities .... well, that is what I expectd people to know as a minimum of a country called Mexico [maheko].

Back to “el sombrero” – yes, 'the hat' - why is there such a strong association between Mexico and the big-hat! That remains a mistery to me, but is perhaps to do with those hats used at the time of the ‘Mexican Revolucion’ during the 1910’s – with Emiliano Zapata wearing his ‘big sombrero’ ... not to forget his big ‘mostacho’ and those bullet-belts across his shouldes. The question is, why do stereotypes exist? and why are they so hard to break? ... above all, why do people insist that 'ALL' Mexicans, yes, every single mexican has to have/wear a sombrero?!
I started noticing such human subtleties since I started travelling overseas, initially spending my summer breaks in Canada and the US – I initially spent time in Billings, Montana (summer 1990), then Vancouver, British Columbia (summer 1991) and Milwaukee, Wisconsin (summer 1992) … before then I could only travel with parents as I was underage… still, I remember doing a great road-trip with Dad along the Rocky Mountains crossing from Mexico to Texas via Ciudad Juarez/El Paso and driving across New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana all the way up to the border with Alberta, Canada (1989). The trip was pretty awesome … even when we left our sombreros at home!
Few years later, after graduating from colleague, I adventured into Europe and lived there for a number of years (1995-2003). I firstly lived in Spain spending time in Seville, Madrid and Barcelona … and even while at the hart of “Andalucia”, “Castilla” and “Catalunya” the "Q." popped-up, again and again! After Spain I moved to Esbjerg, Denmark - but to my surprise while in Scandinavia things did not get any better. For some bizar reason the 2 meter tall “Vikings” only tangible reference to Mexico is a silly little mouse with a big sombrero known as "Speedy Gonzales"... "arriva-arriva andale-andale"!! that was as far as their awareness of Mexico stretched! ... “why is this happening to me?” I asked to myself. "This is absolutely ridiculous!" I just could not believe that such a futile creature could be the ambassador of my culture to the land of the 'Vikings' and beyond!!...
Since then, some years have passed on, since then few 'residential addresses' have changed – from Rua Boavista while living in Porto, Portugal, to Via Apia while in Bari, Itali to Leicester Rd. while in Loughborough, UK ... and more recently Bridges 'Hell'... sorry Hall at Early Gate, Foxhill, Addington Road and Wykeham Road while my years at Reading (1997-2003). That was before moving to Newcastle, Australia (2003-2004) - Woodward Rd, Merewether. I now live in Melbourne, Australia and have finally come into terms with the fact that the sombrero is here to stay... I have now stoped regurgitating my good old joke: "the sombrero did not fit on the plane"!!

Indeed, I used to say that my 'sombrero' was so big that I had to leave it at my parents place in Guadalajara [who live near Tequila town].... since I moved to Melbourne things got a little simpler as I learned - sort of - on how to deal with the "Q." and got to accept that I do have and I do wear a big sombrero!
Shortly after moving to Melbourne a good friend of mine, Peter Polacek, (aka Pedrinho, Bixo, Muchacho, P... ) called on a Saturday asking if I was up for a drink at the Spanish/Latin-american festival on Johnston St, Fitzroy. After heavy arm twisting, I said yes - but thinking that the festival was more of a beer-garden with CDs of 'Carlos Santana with Mana' ... perhaps serving 'Sol, Coronas and Margaritas' but no more than that. To my surprise the Spanish/Latin-american festival is a very large and lively event . Johnston street colses to cars tranforming itself into a public space with 100s of food stalls, parades and stages with plenty of dancing, performing and singing!

While walking along Johnston street with Peter we spoted a couple of good old “mariachis” (name given to the musicians form mid-west Mexico) soon we realised that NON of them was actually Mexican! ... Alfonso Salguero is from El Salvador and Jorge Rios is from Chile but they both are very talented and passionate about mexican music, culture and folklore. They invited me to join their group called “Fiesta Mexico” at that point I felt I was already one of the "TRES AMIGOS"... so I did join for the following season.

The myth of the sombrero then became a thing of the past. I finally got a real one, the real thing! Which was shipped all the way from Mexico ... including the black 'mariachi' suit. The sombrero then became part of my life as I started performing in public and community events around Melbourne. I quickly was known as "El Dorado" - my sombrero was the only one with 'golden' bits! We even performed at the masive Moomba festival - can you imagine!? ... of course, I had to wear my big sombrero, the single most important garment for any Mexican to wear!! :)