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Seven-decade fascination for Toys lives on in the Antique Toy Museum in Mexico

Shimizu Kinoshita, who is struggling after a congressional decision to stop allocating cultural funds for the collection

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Dolls of comics characters Archie and Jughead are displayed at the Mexico Antique Toy Museum in Mexico City, Jan. 6, 2017. VOA

Even as a child, Roberto Shimizu loved collecting things.

So when his Japanese immigrant father opened a stationery and toy store in Mexico City in 1940, Shimizu began a lifelong quest to save and collect toys.

More than seven decades later, that youthful fascination lives on in the Antique Toy Museum, a four-story building packed with objects that transport visitors back to a nostalgic past.

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Tucked in the middle of the capital’s historic but seedy Doctores neighborhood, it is stuffed with Legos, superhero action figures, robots, model airplanes, trains and Hello Kitty.

There are also “lucha libre” wrestling masks and old traditional Mexican toys and other playthings that are reminders of the country’s once-robust toy industry that has all but disappeared following the enactment of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Shimizu still helps out occasionally, but the museum is now run by his son, Roberto Y. Shimizu Kinoshita, who is struggling after a congressional decision to stop allocating cultural funds for the collection.

The museum has had to cut staff by half and most of its cultural events and workshops have been suspended, says the son, who hopes to raise money for the museum through a Kickstarter campaign.

“It is very sad that once again the budgets destined for culture are the ones most punished,” the younger Shimizu said at the opening of a recent Barbie doll exhibit.

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“Through our toy museum, our intention has always been to share our collection so that people enjoy and relive their childhood memories, to enter that tunnel of time to relive all those past Christmases and Three Kings’ Days when you got your new toys — and even the toys you never got.”(VOA)

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Over 200 Killed As 7.1 Magnitude Earthquake Hits Mexico City

The earthquake took place on the anniversary of a devastating earthquake that killed thousands in Mexico City in 1985

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People evacuated from office buildings gather in Reforma Avenue after an earthquake in Mexico City, Sept. 19, 2017. VOA

Mexico, September 20, 2017 :  A powerful earthquake of 7.1 magnitude struck Mexico city, leaving more than 200 people dead and many trapped under the collapsed buildings. At about 2.15 p.m. (local time) on Tuesday, the earthquake shook central Mexico, its epicenter was 4.5 km east-northeast of San Juan Raboso and 55 km south-southwest of the city of Puebla, in Puebla state.

“We are facing a new national emergency,” said Peña Nieto, President of Mexico, in his first televised address following the earthquake.

The earthquake was felt far and wide. In Mexico City, there were power outages and more than 40 buildings collapsed crushing cars and trapping people inside.

Dozens of buildings collapsed or were severely damaged in densely populated parts of nearby states also.

Thousands of soldiers, rescuers and civilians — including college students — in Mexico City clawed through the rubble with picks, shovels and their bare hands. Windows buckled and shattered, falling several stories to the ground while thousands of people streamed into the streets running away from buildings and potential gas leaks.

People struggled to get home when power poles that toppled in the quake blocked the streets and the public transportation system temporarily shut down operations. Nearly 5 million customers were still without power early Wednesday.

The earthquake came less than two weeks after a massive 8.1-magnitude quake hit the country on September 7 and killed nearly 100.

The earthquake took place on the anniversary of a devastating earthquake that killed thousands in Mexico City in 1985. Just hours before the quake hit, many people took part in drills and commemorative events.

All public and private schools in Mexico City and some of the states affected by the earthquake will remain closed until further notice, Education Minister Aurelio Nuño tweeted.

Foreign leaders sent messages of support to Mexico. US President Donald Trump, who has courted controversy with his plans for a border wall with Mexico, tweeted: “God bless the people of Mexico City. We are with you and will be there for you.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also tweeted his support following the “devastating news”.

 

(IANS)

 

 

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Mexico City’s Famed Floating Farms, Chefs Team Up to Save Fading Tradition

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A variety of lettuce grows on a floating farm known as a "chinampa" in Xochimilco, Mexico City, July 13, 2017.
  • Xochimilco in Mexico is known as ‘Mexican Venice’ and is home the popular floating gardens
  • The capital is conferred by the UNESCO as World Heritage Site
  • The floating gardens’ Chinampa farming and its cultivation techniques dates back to the pre-Columbian era hundreds of years ago

At dawn in Xochimilco, home to Mexico City’s famed floating gardens, farmers in muddied rain boots squat among rows of beets as a group of chefs arrive to sample sweet fennel and the pungent herb known as epazote.

By dinner time some of those greens will be on plates at an elegant bistro 12 miles (20 kilometers) to the north, stewed with black beans in a $60 prix-fixe menu for well-heeled diners.

Call it floating-farm-to-table: A growing number of the capital’s most in-demand restaurants are incorporating produce grown at the gardens, or chinampas, using ancient cultivation techniques pioneered hundreds of years ago in the pre-Columbian era.

While sourcing local ingredients has become fashionable for many top chefs around the globe, it takes on additional significance in Xochimilco, where a project linking chinampa farmers with high-end eateries aims to breathe life and a bit of modernity into a fading and threatened tradition.

“People sometimes think [farm-to-table] is a trend,” said Eduardo Garcia, owner and head chef of Maximo Bistrot in the stylish Roma Norte district. “It’s not a trend. It’s something that we humans have always done and we need to keep doing it, we need to return to it.”

A farmer moves his harvest of squash flowers through the channels of Xochimilco in Mexico City, July 13, 2017.

Xochimilco, on the far southern edge of Mexico City, is best-known as the “Mexican Venice” for its canals and brightly colored boats where locals and tourists can while away a weekend day listening to mariachi music and sipping cold beers.

It has also been a breadbasket for the Valley of Mexico since before the Aztec Empire, when farmers first created the “floating” islands bound to the shallow canal beds through layers of sediment and willow roots.

There’s nothing quite like it anywhere else in the world, and Xochimilco is designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage site.

But that World Heritage status and Xochimilco itself are threatened by the pollution and encroaching urbanization that plague the rest of the sprawling metropolis.

Enter Yolcan, a business that specializes in placing traditionally farmed Xochimilco produce in Mexico City’s most acclaimed restaurants Those include places like Gabriela Camara’s seafood joint Contramar and Enrique Olvera’s Pujol, which is perhaps the country’s most famous restaurant and regularly makes lists of the world’s best.

Yolcan has been around since 2011, but it’s only in the last year that business has really taken off with the number of restaurant partners increasing by a third during that period to 22. Last month five of them teamed up with Yolcan for dinner to benefit chinampa preservation.

Ichiro Kitazawa, a chef at the Japanese restaurant Rocoi, inspects herbs on a floating garden known as a “chinampa” in Xochimilco in Mexico City, July 13, 2017.

The company directly manages its own farmland and also partners with local families to help distribute their goods, lending a much-needed hand as an intermediary.

“The thing about the chinampa farmer is that he does not have the time to track down a market or a person to promote his product,” said David Jimenez, who works a plot in the San Gregorio area of Xochimilco. “Working the chinampas is very demanding.”

All told Yolcan’s operation covers about 15 acres (6 hectares) and churns out some 2.5 tons of produce per month. Due to the high salinity of the soil drawn from canal beds, the straw-covered chinampa plots are particularly fertile ground for root vegetables and hearty greens like kale and chard.

Diners reserve weeks in advance for a coveted table at Maximo Bistrot, one of three restaurants Garcia runs. Meticulously prepared plates of chinampa-grown roasted yellow carrots with asparagus puree arrive at the table, accompanied by sea bass with green mole sauce and wine pairings in tall glasses.

Chef Eduardo Garcia, founder of Maximo Bistrot and former migrant worker in the US, cuts mushrooms at his restaurant in Mexico City, July 13, 2017.

Garcia estimated he gets about two-thirds of his ingredients from Yolcan or other organic farms nearby. He was born in a rural part of Guanajuato state where his family raised corn and largely ate what they grew, so sourcing local is second-nature.

“I think all of the world’s restaurants should make it a goal to use these alternative ingredients,” Garcia said, stirring a pot of beans flavored with the aromatic epazote herb. “Even though it’s a little more expensive, a little more difficult to find.”

Chinampa produce generally sells for 15 to 100 percent more than comparable goods at the enormous Central de Abasto, the go-to wholesale market for nearly all of Mexico City’s chefs that is so monolithic its competition sets prices across the country.

But chefs who buy from Yolcan are happy to pay a premium knowing they’re getting vegetables free of chemical fertilizers or pesticides and also supporting a centuries-old tradition.

Diners at Maximo Bistrot also said they enjoyed their meal, especially the burrata with chinampa-grown heirloom tomatoes. One couple said they are willing to pay the prices of these high-end eateries in order to have the best produce.

“We’ve eaten in 26 countries around the world, and for the price and quality, this was awesome,” said Kristin Kearin, a 35-year-old masseuse from United States. “I honestly think that using small producers is going to come back.” (VOA)

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Archaeologists Discover Remains of Ancient Aztec Ball Court in Heart of Mexico City

The discoveries were made on a nondescript side street just behind the city's colonial-era Roman Catholic cathedral off the main Zocalo plaza on the grounds of a 1950s-era hotel

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Raul Barrera, an archaeologist from the National Institute of Anthropology and History, speaks to the media about new Aztec discoveries including the main temple of the wind god Ehecatl, a major deity, as well as an adjacent ritual ball court, located just off the Zocalo plaza in Mexico City, Mexico
Raul Barrera, an archaeologist from the National Institute of Anthropology and History, speaks to the media about new Aztec discoveries including the main temple of the wind god Ehecatl, a major deity, as well as an adjacent ritual ball court, located just off the Zocalo plaza in Mexico City, Mexico, June 7, 2017. VOA
  • The underground excavations reveal a section of what was the foundation of a massive, circular-shaped temple dedicated to the Aztec wind god Ehecatl
  • Archaeologists also detailed a grisly offering of 32 severed male neck vertebrae discovered in a pile just off the court
  • Aztec archaeologist Eduardo Matos said the top of the temple was likely built to resemble a coiled snake, with priests entering though a doorway made to look like a serpent’s nose

Mexico City, June 20, 2017: The remains of a major Aztec temple and a ceremonial ball court have been discovered in downtown Mexico City, shedding new light on the sacred spaces of the metropolis that Spanish conquerors overran five centuries ago, archaeologists said on Wednesday.

The discoveries were made on a nondescript side street just behind the city’s colonial-era Roman Catholic cathedral of the main Zocalo plaza on the grounds of a 1950s-era hotel.

The underground excavations reveal a section of what was the foundation of a massive, circular-shaped temple dedicated to the Aztec wind god Ehecatl and a smaller part of a ritual ball court, confirming accounts of the first Spanish chroniclers to visit the Aztec imperial capital, Tenochtitlan.

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“Due to finds like these, we can show actual locations, the positioning and dimensions of each one of the structures first described in the chronicles,” said Diego Prieto, head of Mexico’s main anthropology and history institute.

Archaeologists also detailed a grisly offering of 32 severed male neck vertebrae discovered in a pile just off the court.

“It was an offering associated with the ball game, just off the stairway,” said archaeologist Raul Barrera. “The vertebrae, or necks, surely came from victims who were sacrificed or decapitated.”

Some of the original white stucco remains visible on parts of the temple, built during the 1486-1502 reign of Aztec Emperor Ahuizotl, predecessor of Moctezuma, who conquistador Hernan Cortes toppled during the Spanish conquest of Mexico.

A model of the major structures of the ceremonial precinct of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, including the temple to the wind god and ball court
A model of the major structures of the ceremonial precinct of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, including the temple to the wind god and ball court, as seen outside the ruins of the Templo Mayor in downtown Mexico City, Mexico, June 7, 2017. VOA

Early Spanish accounts relate how a young Moctezuma played against an elderly allied king on the court and lost, which was taken as sign that the Aztec Empire’s days were numbered.

The building would have stood out because of its round shape among the several dozen other square temples that dominated the Aztecs’ most sacred ceremonial space before the 1521 conquest.

Aztec archaeologist Eduardo Matos said the top of the temple was likely built to resemble a coiled snake, with priests entering though a doorway made to look like a serpent’s nose.

Once excavations finish, a museum will be built on the site, rubbing shoulders with modern buildings in the capital.

Mexico City, including its many colonial-era structures with their own protections, was built above the razed ruins of the Aztec capital, and more discoveries are likely, Matos said.

“We’ve been working this area for nearly 40 years, and there’s always construction of some kind … and so we take advantage of that and get involved,” he said. (VOA)