Archive for April, 2012

A gracious gift to Mexico – a world class museum

What if you had around $69 billion dollars and wanted to do something special for your country? What do you think would be suitable?

The world’s richest man, Carlos Slim,  is the son of Lebanese immigrants who went to Mexico in the early 1900s and made their life there.

At 12 Carlos made his first successful investment and hasn’t looked back since.  He has always been eager to give back to the country that has given him so much and is included on the ‘World’s Biggest Givers’ list. Although he generally is involved with helping in the health and education sectors,  last spring he wanted to do something very special, so he ‘stepped out of the box’.

Carlos decided that since many people would never have the opportunity to travel to Europe, he would bring the work of the masters to them. He built a museum, filled it with his enormous private art collection, and then opened it to the public, free of charge.

It is hard to say what is most impressive, the wrapping or the gift itself. Housed in an 80 million dollar architectural marvel, the Soumaya museum has an estimated 700 million dollars worth of 15th – 20th century European and Mexican artwork inside.

The museum hosts the largest private Rodin collection (many of them are bronzes cast many years after Rodin’s death), the largest Latin American collection of Salvador Dali sculptures, and the world’s largest collection of pre-Hispanic and colonial coins. And of course, there are many amazing original paintings by famous artists such as Vincent Van Gogh (my all-time favourite).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the entrance of the Soumaya Museum, there is a sign saying that everyone is welcome, no one will be denied entrance. To think that everyone, rich or poor, has the opportunity to see this wonderful collection moves me. I think that many lives will be made better for having this chance. There are free art classes offered on weekends and adults and children alike are learning about art first hand.

What an amazing gift to Mexico and to the rest of the world! Way to go Carlos! Thank you.

Advertisements

The *New* *Improved* Mexico City

The *New*  *Improved*  Mexico City

Mexico City is a dirty, overcrowded, polluted stinky city, right?    Not so fast….   Maybe it used to be all of those things, but times have changed. New regulations and new attitudes are helping turn this huge metropolis into a greener, calmer and healthier place to be.

When I first visited Mexico City in 1987, I immediately got a ‘cold’, had difficulties breathing, my eyes hurt and it smelled really bad outside.

Since then, the government has committed to finding sustainable solutions to the challenges posed by such a large population. They have made huge industrial technology improvements and imposed regular vehicle emission inspections. They implemented a strictly enforced program where people cannot use their car one day out of the week, hopefully motivating them to use public transport instead.

The subway has been expanded and you can move from one side of the city to the other quickly and easily. In central, you won’t see big diesel spewing buses, instead there are many smaller microbuses going all over the place. They are much more efficient and as long as you don’t suffer from claustrophobia, they are a good way to get around. Something else new are bicycle taxis. They are like rickshaws, but a little more modern. If you don’t have far to go, this is a handy and fun mode of transportation.

Environmental conditions are constantly monitored and reported, making people aware on a daily basis just how things really are. The education system is bringing change as well. Younger generations are now learning about littering, recycling, and the importance of caring for their surroundings. Thin non-biodegradable plastic bags are now banned in stores. There are garbage cans everywhere along with signs encouraging people to use them. Image

A new program that is having startlingly good success is ‘Ecobici’ bike-sharing.

You register online and you then have the option of using a bike from any of the many locations. You buy credit similar to ‘pay as you go’ options for cell phones. When you reach your destination, you just leave the bike at the nearest ‘bike stop’. Whoever thought you’d see dedicated bike lanes in the heart of busy Mexico City!

 

Instead of having the entire center of the historical district open to traffic, they have closed off one of the main streets, now allowing only pedestrians. This makes it so much more pleasant to walk around. Although it gets really crowded too!

 

Something that makes me especially happy is the amount of green space.

For example, along Reforma, which is one of the busiest, most important arteries in the city, there are many parks, with pine trees, park benches and lots of beautiful sculptures… and even a carousel for the kids to play on.

Instead of seeing concrete and skyscrapers everywhere, you notice the swaying palm trees and lavender colored jacarandas.  And you remember that you really are in Mexico!

 

The environment of the classic government buildings has changed as well. Instead of the usual restored heritage buildings, complete with murals and classic sculptures, we discovered a calming Zen garden full of pyramids with water swirling around in gentle spirals. It’s good psychology, the fountain relaxes you so much that you can bear the long waits that bureaucracy causes….

 

 

 

My visit to Mexico City this year opened my eyes to the changes that can be made, must be made and are being made to care for Mother Earth.

 

Viva Mexico!!!