Street Sculpture: Art Available To All

One of the great joys of roaming Mexico City by foot (or even from a bus window) is stumbling on the stunning street sculpture, nowhere more prevalent than on the main street Reforma in the neighborhood of Cuauhtémoc. Mondays can be a difficult day to be a tourist as 99% of museums, including Chapultepec Park and the zoo there, are closed. Theaters are “dark” too. Not to despair. Use this day to do one of two things (or both!).

Take the Turibus tour through the city or stroll through the elegant parks and streets. Or spend a lazy day walking the main street Paseo de Reforma. There are literally dozens of sculptures and monuments to discover on Reforma in addition the delightful walk down the busy avenue chock-full of businesses, stores, hotels, and restaurants.

As you walk north, the scenery changes from the sounds of the street to the quiet of the walking island that hugs Chapultepec Park from the Diana sculpture to the Auditorio Nacional.

In front of the Auditorio Nacional the eye naturally strays to the six-meter bronze sculpture at the top of the steps. Called La Luna (The Moon), it was created by Juan Soriano (born in Guadalajara in 1920) especially for the Auditorio. It was his first monumental sculpture for Mexico City. After its installation in 1992, critics said the sculpture did not reflect the spirit of the Auditorio, but Soriano responded by saying “The moon is associated with everything. It is the image most celebrated by poets, musicians, dancers, religion and mythology.”

Continuing east on Reforma, fences on the south side of the street in front of the zoo and park always display oversized photographs, which makes viewing easy from the cars and buses that whiz by. These photos and their themes change every few months, but they always reflect the spirit of the country and its people.

When you arrive at the Museum of Anthropology on the north side of the street and the zoo entrance on the south, look for the huge bronze wings on the island, possibly the most popular sculpture in the city. It seems that everyone has his or her photo taken between the vast expanse of the two wings, which span an area of 450 x 300 x 259 cm. Called The Alas de la Cuidad (the wings of the city), the genius of Jorge Marin brings beauty and joy to all.

Farther down Reforma a tall tower filled with lights commands attention. Called the Estrela de Luz (Pillar of Lights), the structure of 1700 quartz plates was built to celebrate the bicentennial celebration of the Independence of Mexico. It missed the actual bicentennial celebrations, taking more than a year longer to construct than planned. Its phenomenal cost has aggravated the city’s population to this day. See it at night and judge for yourself whether you think it merits the time and money (estimated at more than $100 million dollars).

Everyone’s favorite fountain appears next at the corner of Reforma and Florencia: Diana, the Huntress. But this Diana is searching for the light of the stars, not prey. Started in 1942 when then President Camacho decided to beautify the city with art, a 16-year-old secretary at PEMEX was chosen to be the model for the bronze. She posed nude, but received no payment–just the satisfaction and pleasure of knowing she was the inspiration for this beloved statue. A controversy during politically conservative years forced the architect to mold a bronze skirt onto the statue. He attached it in a manner so that it could be removed when more liberal times prevailed. But when that time came, the removal did some damage to the statue. It was rapidly fixed, and she remains today as she was, the queen of Reforma.

From the Diana you can see the most famous statue in Mexico City, and probably all of Mexico, The Angel of Independence, the most representative symbol of Mexico City and Mexico itself. The Angel and the Zocalo are the two places in the city where crowds gather for protests and celebrations after soccer games and concerts, among other gatherings. Often on the weekend you’ll see bridal parties taking photos, along with young girls dressed in brightly colored formal dresses with their entourages posing for photos before their quinceañera (15th birthday) celebrations. Look for the pink Hummer limos parked around the Angel, the transportation for the party-goers, obviously an upper-class affair. Statues of the heroes of the Independence movement of 1810 that surround the monument (Allende, Hildago, Guerrero, etc.) look down from their posts at the four corners.

As you continue your walk, you’ll pass other statues, including another Jorge Marin in front of the Four Seasons Hotel. Stop and rest on the unusual benches scattered up and down the avenue. Although they’re pieces of art themselves, they’re provided by the city for pure relaxation.

Famous surrealist artist Leonora Carrington gifted our grand city with one of her final bronze sculptures, entitled Cocodrilo. The six crocodiles floating in the crocodile boat is a favorite of Carrington’s works. In 2006, the boat made its voyage from Chapultepec Park to its current location in front of the shopping center 222 Reforma (corner of Havre and Reforma). Carrington died recently at age 92 after spending most of her adult career in Mexico. She had quite an interesting life, first in Europe and then in Mexico. Elena Poniatowska’s novel Leonora tells the story of Carrington’s life. For those wanting to improve their Spanish, this is an enjoyable, easy-to-read novel about Leonora and Mexico.

Leading the way down Reforma to Juarez and centro historico are other famous figures, from native Aztecs to Christopher Columbus. But first, stop for a coffee at one of the many cafes that line the avenue. You never know what other street art or entertainment may find you!

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