I’m still intending to do a blog post regarding my time in England (that is, time spent in the country in general, rather than just glum posts about Lincoln), but that’ll have to wait because we have the more pressing matter of the El nacimiento más grande del mundo. That, as I’m sure even Spanish novices can work out, means something like “the world’s biggest nativity.” (Although, if you use Google Translate, it means “the world’s biggest birth,” but as far as I know from the paintings and stuff, Jesus wasn’t a particularly chubby baby.)
Since arriving back in Mexico ten days ago, I’ve not seen my friend Gina, so we arranged to meet up and go and see this thing. It’s quite a long journey from my apartment on the Metro and light rail. I don’t think I’ve really noticed before, but they play music through speakers in my local subway station. Maybe I’ve just not realised because when I hear music in the subway, it’s usually Mexican music, so my brain doesn’t really think of anything other than radios or buskers or people selling CDs, but yesterday, the speakers were playing “Life in a Northern Town” by the Dream Academy. I loved that song when I was a teenager. Still quite like it, although the lyrics make me cringe a little bit nowadays.
I had to take the Line 2 train all the way from the third most northerly station to the one at the very south. I don’t think I’m alone in never knowing the names of lines on subway systems. To me, it’s the dark blue one. Slight tangent: the Mexico City Metro has lovely pictograms for each station. They’re very pretty. Apparently, and I’m not sure if this is true or not, I was just told by a friend, the pictograms are there because of the illiteracy back when the subway was first built, so that people knew that to get home, they would have to go from, say, the grasshopper station to the cyclist station (which is kinda my journey from the apartment to the baseball stadium).
This line has different seats to the other lines I’ve used. Most subway cars have orange plastic seats arranged in a mostly facing forwards and facing backwards way. The seats on Line 2 are more like London Underground seats, all along the edges of the car, facing inward. They’re also made of shiny, silvery metal. Every minute or so, you kinda have to scooch yourself up, cos you’ve slipped down. And if the seat next to you is empty, you kinda slide sideways when the train pulls into a station. They’re the kind of seats that leave you feeling a bit clammy around the back and arse, too.
Gina and I met at Metro Tasqueña, at the end of the dark blue line to get on the Tren Ligero, the Xochimilco Light Rail that would take us to see the plastic birth of Jesus. Queueing up, (which, this being Mexico not the United Kingdom, isn’t actually queueing, more of a clump of people all jostling to get on first), was like waiting for a rollercoaster. There was a chain at the front of the queue. We waited until the small train arrived, and then we were unleashed. Gina and I sat down and caught up on each others’ news as a lady across the way breast-fed her baby.
Trundle, trundle, trundle, and after about 20 minutes of trying not to even catch a glimpse of the breast-feeding, we were at Estadio Azteca. Big-ass stadium. Home of Club América, and the place where Maradona scored those two goals against England in the 1986 World Cup. Sadly, though, the nativity wasn’t in the stadium. It was in the car park around the back. So we had a good long walk around the perimeter of the place. Another slight tangent: walking from one gate to another at sports stadiums always takes way longer than you imagine it’s going to, huh?
The perimeter wall of the stadium grounds is covered in murals of various things that have gone on there. Lots of football players, obviously, and a few musicians. The painter(s) of the murals have an interesting style. Here, for example, is the Iggy Pop painting. Body: not bad. Face: not Iggy Pop.
And here’s a slightly better, but kinda cartoon-y, drawing of Luis Hernández, the man who scored this goal against Germany in the 1998 World Cup. Sadly, and somewhat inevitably, Germany went on to win that game 2-1. Fuckers.
We bought tickets. Yesterday afternoon it was 2-for-1, so just 45 pesos for both of us (GBP 2.16/EUR 2.61/USD 3.30). El nacimiento más grande del mundo is a sort of recreation of what Bethlehem would’ve looked like had it been made of fibreglass and mannequins. And the sheep had been made of cotton balls. And the signage of things in that town been rendered in Comic Sans.
Being a Thursday afternoon, it wasn’t overly busy, but it was one of those places where you can’t really walk without having to scan everyone around you to make sure you’re not walking in front of someone else’s photograph. Of course, we were the same, taking photographs. Me, being an arty twat whose Flickr page contains virtually no photographs of people I know, mostly taking photographs of things. Gina, being a normal human, taking photographs of her or me next to things. You will not be seeing the photo she took, for example, of me shaking hands with a shepherd-y mannequin. Or holding the reins of a plastic donkey. You will, though, see photographs like this plastic fella, who seems to be one of the Captain Scarlet baddies, disguised as a Middle Eastern ceramicist.
Hello, sweet cheeks, how you doin’?
Hello, grizzled cheeks, how you doin’?
Hello, least intimidating Roman centurion I have ever seen, how you doin’?
Oooh, can you see what I’ve done here? It’s like, y’know, a comment about, like, something or other.
As you weave through the streets of “Bethlehem” (that is, the Aztec Stadium car park), there’s all this kind of old-time-village-trades stuff, and eventually, you get to grand stage where Jesus lies in a crib with his doting mother and stepfather looking on. One thing I didn’t know about Bethlehem was that Jesus was born on a raised stage, not in a stable, as I had previously thought.
Something you can’t see from the above photo is the animatronics. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph moving robotically. Just as they did on Christmas Day, 0 A.D.
It was moving. Very moving indeed. I almost converted to Christianity. But instead we just got a taxi, ate a burger, and drank a few Pacificos.