Beth looked reproachfully at me and said that I was being way too conspicuous, but I guess my question is how do you take pictures here without being conspicuous? I am so huge, so white, and even just having a camera is unusual. Most people use their phones, and there are so fewer cameras in Mexico. It’s not like going to Iceland where every tourist has thousands of dollars of equipment around their necks.
We were getting into a Metrobus. I made a decision that perhaps the most interesting place to take pictures would be outside the Basilica where the Pope was celebrating Mass. But a small glitch happened – as we were getting on the Metrobus I was mobbed by a girl gang. It seemed odd that there was so much pushing and shoving to get into a not-so-crowded Metrobus but the point was stealing the phone out of my pocket, which they did quite skilfully (my pocket is tight!) I didn’t realize what had happened until a couple of stops, and by then it was too late. People here say “Welcome to Mexico City” but my sister writes that the same routine is used in Paris and that she’s fantasized about an i-Phone that would lecture to the thieves interminably.
Anyhow, that started the day.
Getting close to the Basilica was a no-go too. Getting there, other than having the phone stolen, was easy but as soon as we started approaching the Cathedral we ran into lines of security that forced us to turn south. There were three security levels we went through, and at the third level we were close to the street that the Pope would be coming on but penned – we could only move on that side of the street and on that block without going out again, and if you exited to the second level you were directed only to the pens that were further and further away.
I think really the most surreal part of this all was watching the screen that you can just see set up on the street to the right of the cellphone. It was broadcasting the image of the Pope’s motorcade – so you could see him coming towards you on the streets south of where we were, and then suddenly he pops up for a fraction of a second and just as quickly he’s gone again, and back in the screen.
The symbolism involved with Santa Maria de Guadalupe – the female saint that the shrine and complex of cathedrals commemorates – is controversial and a large part of the core Catholic/Spanish narrative in South America. In our earlier visit we had spent the day watching the devotion of people – especially indigenous women – to this shrine. As with many religious shrines, the church co-opted this site from the previous religion and created a story that served its purposes.
The next day (Sunday) was quite a different and surprising experience, and what I’ll post about next.