The Warmth of Mexico - Part III - De Ojos Claros y DivinosTuesday, March 06, 2018
Possibly my eventual writing about the wonderful book, Nahui Olin by Adriana Malvido that I bought in our recent trip to Mérida will become a reality as I meander on the theme which I began here and here on the warmth of a Mexico I experienced after many years of living there.
But today there will be a hint on who Nahui Olin is and how the book about her has released in me a torrent of nostalgia.
When my mother, grandmother and I arrived in Mexico City from Buenos Aires, Mexico was experiencing a height of cultural expansion because of its films, its writers and its music.
|Nahui Olin by Dr. Atl|
My grandmother was a low diplomat working at the Philippine Embassy. She had a budget to entertain, particularly those of the artistic community. It seems she was the unofficial cultural attaché. This meant that she rented a big mansion in Lomas de Chapultepec, a lovely, upscale neighbourhood. She gave parties. We had to dress up in Filipino clothing. This 13-year-old had to wear a pineapple fibre barong-tagalog so similar to the guayaberas worn in Yucatán and other tropical cities of the area.
When the parties were not in our house I was dragged to a place (I believe it was in Coyoacán called el Rancho del Charro). Both there and at home on Sierra Madre I met (but did not consider these people important) Diego Rivera, Dr. Atl, Nicté-Ha (who called herself a Mayan princess and Alma Reed. Of all of them I only remember Reed who was a famous American journalist, a New York Times correspondent sent to Mérida who fell in love with Yucatan Governor Felipe Carrillo Puerto. He was executed in 1924 when Reed was in San Francisco getting ready to marry him. Luis Rosado Vega wrote the lyrics and Ricardo Palmerín to Peregrina one of the loveliest and saddest of all Mexican songs which was dedicated to Reed. Below, the first line reads: Peregrina of divine and bright eyes.
Peregrina de ojos claros y divinos
y mejillas encendidas de arrebol,
mujercita de los labios purpurinos
y radiante cabellera como el sol....
Luis Rosado Vega, 1922.
I never met Frida Kahlo because she had died. And by 1955 Nahui Olin was out of the picture and away from Dr. Atl’s interest. By then she was walking in the city square, La Alameda saving stray cats. But she did have almost blonde hair and the most beautiful green eyes.
Sometime around 1979 I traveled to Mexico (Oaxaca and Yucatán) for the then airline Mexicana de Aviación. They paid for my hotels and flights in exchange for my Kodachromes.
But in 1975 when Rosemary had suggested we move with our two daughters to Vancouver we had put our house for sale. We quit our jobs. This was premature as the house did not sell for long time. To make ends meet (armed with a Pentacon-F and a Pentax S-3, two 50mm lenses and an 85) I began to photograph wealthy Mexican families with Kodak Tri-X. Believe it or not my fame at this portrait work grew and I was doing just fine. My neighbours kept telling me to change my mind. We didn’t.
In that trip to Mexico in 1979 I contacted some of the families. One in particular insisted I take portraits of them but especially their beautiful blonde, green-eyed daughter. She was icy. For these pictures I used the only lens I had for my Mamiya RB-67. It was a 65mm wide angle. I could not get too close to the icy blonde (I have long forgotten her name). The fuzzy edges of one of them is due to my spreading on a clear filter (but not in the centre) Vaseline.
As I attempt to find the appropriate subjects to photograph in the spirit of Nahui Olin I will have the problem of finding a face, blonde hair and green eyes like the icy blonde’s. Was she my Nahui Olin?