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Post A Book Lover's Paradise: Calle Donceles, Mexico City
Created by John Eipper on 12/30/17 2:15 PM

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A Book Lover's Paradise: Calle Donceles, Mexico City (Patrick Mears, Germany, 12/30/17 2:15 pm)

As John E was returning from his holiday trip to Cuba, Connie and I were preparing for our trip to Mexico City-Guanajuato-Oaxaca to relax, learn and conduct the WAIS Summit with Edward Mears, who arrives here in Guanajuato tomorrow after successfully closing an asset sale transaction in Tokyo.

We touched down in Mexico City on Tuesday after a 12-hour Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt and spent Wednesday touring the capital. We began our journey on board a hop-on/hop-off bus tour of the Centro Histórico, during which Connie interviewed a bus driver for a German trade magazine that she writes for. We also could not forego another walking tour of Calle Donceles, beginning at the Palacio de Bellas Artes and terminating at the Templo Mayor. This street is, among other things, the center of the used book trade in the city and, perhaps, in the entire country.

The photos below contain a series of photographs that Connie snapped during that walking tour. The plethora of shops on the street--which experience is just like having 50+ clones of Detroit's King's Books at your disposal--are a book lover's paradise.  Here is also a link to a short television reportage, in Spanish, about Calle Donceles and its bookstores. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uJNJm-rD3Ck .

Yesterday, we boarded a Primera Plus "luxury bus" at the Terminal Central del Norte in Mexico City for a four-hour trip to the ancient colonial city of Guanajuato, which earned its fame in the early years of Spanish rule as a silver mining center. Even Alexander Humboldt visited the area during the first decade of the 19th Century and is commemorated in the city with a passage named after him. http://elsenordelhospital.blogspot.mx/2014/07/de-cuando-el-baron-de-von-humboldt-paso.html . We are staying for a few days in my brother-in-law's home in the Calle Positos, which is just up the street from the Museo Casa Diego Rivera, before we depart for Oaxaca. We have previously visited Guanajuato a number of times, but return trips here always contain at least one element of surprise and even magic. Connie authored a piece on her blog, "Atterrata" on the city (in German), which collects a number of photos of Guanajuato landmarks, which article is linked here: https://atterrata.com/2013/07/29/guanajuato-mit-geistern-auf-du-und-du/ .

JE comments:  The first two images show book lovers in their element.  Pat, it looks chilly in Mexico City.  Was there a cold wave?

I have spent many an hour browsing the dusty shelves of the Donceles shops.  Just recently I got around to reading a book I bought there years ago, Viajando con Vasconcelos (1938), about the Mexican intellectual's road trip through the eastern United States.  Our own Ronald Hilton interviewed Vasconcelos in the early 1950s.  Small world.  The pages of the book stayed uncut for nearly eighty years.  It pained me to cut them.

Pat, enjoy Guanajuato and Oaxaca, two of my absolute favorite cities.  And WAISers:  don't miss Connie's stunning photos at the final link above, even if you don't know German.

Patrick Mears at a Donceles bookshop, Mexico City

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  • Mears Summit in Guanajuato (Patrick Mears, Germany 01/02/18 2:15 PM)
    Just an FYI commemorating the commencement of the WAIS Mexico 2017-2018 "Summit" next to El Pípila overlooking Guanajuato City (final photo). Also are photos of (i) signs in the Pasaje dedicated to Alexander Humboldt in Guanajuato, and (ii) two shots of the building that formerly hosted the Prussian Consulate and is now a hotel on the Jardín.

    I noted Gary Moore's request for a report on the "Mears Expedition" and will prepare one later. Right now, we are in the León International Airport, waiting for our flight to Mexico City with a connection to Oaxaca.

    Best wishes and feliz año nuevo.

    JE comments:  These splendid photos are courtesy of Cornelia (Connie) Lohs.  Guanajuato strikes me as a very small city for its own Prussian consulate, but the 1864-'67 period corresponds with the short-lived Empire of Maximilian of Austria, who infused Mexico with much Germanic culture.  Mexico's first breweries date from that time, as well as the polka beat and instruments (tuba, accordion) of Mexican norteña music.

    Pat, when in Guanajuato we stay at the Casa Zúñiga B & B, which is at the top of the funicular on Pípila.  The owner, Rick Zúñiga, is a Californian who settled long ago in this charming colonial city.  Want a good workout?  Skip the funicular and take the stairs.

    Mears Men:  enjoy Oaxaca, and happy New Year!

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  • Trotsky House, Coyoacan (Boris Volodarsky, Austria 01/03/18 4:21 AM)
    This is an immediate response to Patrick Mears's interesting post of 30 December 2017.

    Patrick, have you been able to visit Trotsky's house (now Museo Casa de León Trotsky) at the end of Avenida Viena, at number 19, corner with Morelos, in Coyoacán? Trotsky received his deadly wound there on 20 August 1940 and soon died to be buried in the house garden. If you do visit, as many as possible photos will be much appreciated to be included in my upcoming book and a lecture at the LSE. Thank you.

    JE comments: Pat and Ed Mears are now in Oaxaca, and I don't know if they had the chance to visit Coyoacán, a gorgeous Mexico City suburb. Yours Truly first visited the Trotsky house in 1984, during my backpacking semester in Mexico. It was still a private residence at the time, although the occupant would give tours if you asked. Now the museum is expanded and quite impressive. I last visited with an Adrian College group in 2005.  My students preferred Frida Kahlo's house, not far away.

    Boris, I'll see if I can scare up some of my digital photos, including Trotsky's stark tomb with the hammer and sickle.

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    • Visiting Trotsky's House of Exile, Coyoacan (Salvatore Bizzarro, USA 01/03/18 5:10 PM)
      I have visited both Trotsky's house and Frida Kahlo's house in Coyoacán, and I, like John's students, preferred Frida's beautiful home.

      JE comments: Frida's house is undoubtedly more beautiful, but for historical interest, I'll go Chez Trotsky. For starters, the house was converted into a fortress with a medieval aura, the result of Stalin's first attempt on Trotsky.  Trotsky's room/study is extremely austere, almost monastic.  Frida Kahlo's house, in contrast, is happy and brightly colored, with a yellow-and-blue kitchen that makes every Michigander scream "Wolverine fan!"  (Please note that Trotsky visited Frida a lot, ahem.)

      A photo of Trotsky's tomb hangs on my office wall at the College (first photo), together with a sundry cast of historical figures:  Ambrose Burnside (center of photo 2), Winfield Scott (lower right) and the iconic Evita Perón, masterfully doodled in class by a student.  The artist kindly gifted me her work.  The small photo directly above Winfield is an anonymous Russian soldier from the Great War era, together with a nun--his sister, perhaps?

      How many know of Trotsky's extremely accomplished great-granddaughter, Nora Volkow?  Tamara Zúñiga-Brown will explain on the morrow.

      Finally, my warmest thanks to Salvatore Bizzarro for his contribution to WAIS, which I received today.  Salvatore mailed the check in 2017 but it arrived this year.  Either year, Salvatore, I'm grateful and honored to have you with us.

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    • Dr Nora Volkow, Trotsky's Great-Granddaughter (Tamara Zuniga-Brown, USA 01/04/18 3:39 AM)
      To add to the incredible Trotsky story: Here is his great-granddaughter, Dr. Nora Volkov, leaving an indelible mark on the world, and on medical history, through her intelligence, commitment, and compassion--as did her father, and her sisters. Diane Rhem also had a great interview with her. I'll let you discover the impacting story in the links below.

      As a side note, I developed a lesson plan around this clip for my advanced note-taking and vocabulary class. My Saudi and Chinese students were deeply intrigued! The truth is so much more interesting.

      Hooked: Why bad habits are hard to break (60 Minutes, 2012):


      The Diane Rehm interview:


      JE comments:  How many of you knew this?  Dr Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse since 2003, grew up in the same Coyoacán house where Trotsky was murdered in 1940.  This fact alone would really leave its mark on you.  I wonder if her mother opened the door for me when I visited in 1984.

      Dr V's work on addiction explores one of the fundamental mysteries of the human condition:  What makes us dependent on behaviors that we know are destructive?

      Thank you and all the best for 2018, Tamara.  ¡Feliz año nuevo!

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      • Padura's "The Man who Loved Dogs" (Paul Levine, Denmark 01/04/18 2:39 PM)

        Those who are interested in another fascinating view of Trotsky in Mexico should read Leonardo Padura's
        superb novel, The Man Who Loved Dogs.

        Padura, a Cuban novelist, writes an imaginative study of Leon
        Trotsky, his murderer Ramón Mercader, and the worlds of Russia, Spain, Mexico, and, of course, Cuba.

        JE comments:  Paul Levine reminds me of a book I promised to read three years ago, but still haven't.  For shame, JE! 

        WAISer Luciano Dondero, who was a Trotskyist in his youth, first brought Padura's novel to our attention in 2014.  One reviewer described the work as a Russian novel, due to its length, its Dostoevskian psychology, and its Tolstoyan historical scope.


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