lunes, 12 de marzo de 2012

Once a Lebanese, always a Lebanese...

This Mexican went to Mexico, that is why there were no blog posts.

So after a couple of days at the beach, visits to Mayan temples, a lot of tacos and everything you can put inside a tortilla, and some good tequilas with friends, I have many things to report.  Which in a way have given me even more motivation to write this blog. Because Mexico and Lebanon are so connected. They really are.

During this trip, and to my surprise, a lot of people approached me to tell me about their Lebanese roots. I had no idea. And these are people I have known for years. But I guess people with Lebanese roots are so integrated in Mexican society that the question just doesn't come up. What is funny is that I ran into my friend Ziad, my friend with last name Karime (I am guessing Karam at some point), or my friends whose mum's a Khoury (Kuri in Spanish)... I know now that these names are from Lebanon, but when I was in Mexico I just didn't consider this.

But what I wanted to write about is our very own Carlos Slim Helu. The richest man in the world. A Mexican of Lebanese origin. Not that I particularly care about the man, but you can't help "bumping into him" while in Mexico. Indeed, there is a saying in Mexico that "we all contribute daily to his pockets", and this is not far from the truth. The guy owes the telephone company for the whole country after all, just to name one of his businesses.

One of the things Mr. Slim did recently was opening a museum to display his art collection. He called it "Soumaya" in honor of his late wife. I visited the museum and was at first not impressed with the design of the building. I didn't think it really matched or harmonized with its surroundings.

Source: Fodor's
Once I was inside, I was happy to see that the museum has no entrance fee. The museum's interior design reminded me of the Guggenheim in New York, with its spiral corridor. But the museography was poor, unfortunately. There was not a very clear narrative; it felt just like someone with a lot of money had bought a lot of stuff and had displayed them matching them by... color (or some random logic like that). I am not an expert, but this was my experience.

What really called my attention was the upper room. This is were the Lebanese in Carlos came out (with all respect to my Lebanese colleagues and friends for this broad generalization).

Man, this room was a display of wealth.  This room was an in your face "I am ridiculously wealthy".
Source: Atlas Obscura

You see, Mexicans like to display their wealth, but we are a bit more discreet (or subtle) with it. Out of need (because of high crime rates) or just because overwhelming displays of wealth are considered of bad taste. Walking through this room felt like walking in Beirut, in front of LeGrey Hotel next to someone in his Ferrari and LV outfit.  This was like the botox lady with diamond rings in each finger. This was the Swarosky studded Tag Heuer mobile phone.

Indeed, all those black things on white pedestals you see in the photo are actually Auguste Rodin's originals. And Dali's. Yes, you read it right. This man OWNS not one but dozens of Rodins. Like you and I own socks.  And the way the art was displayed was such a slap in the face.

Don't get me wrong, the pieces are gorgeous. But the feeling you get in the room is "Wow, this man is loaded". It's almost overwhleming. It has almost nothing to do with the art itself. So I guess Mr. Slim has remained a bit Lebanese at heart. He likes to show he's got money. He likes to show who's boss.

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