Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Highlights of an Acapulco road trip

Road trips to Acapulco have long been a part of life for residents of Mexico City. In viceroyalty times it could take a week along the royal highway. In the 40s one might overnight in Taxco. In the 80s it was a whole day affair.

Since the 1994 inauguration of the modern autopista, the trip has been streamlined and now a door-to-door trip can be as fast by car as by plane. Nevertheless, most people still make the drive an event in itself. They look forward to their favorite landmark stopping places along the way — perhaps breakfast in Tres Marías and cecina for lunch at Cuatro Caminos? I used to look forward to hamburgers and ice cream cones at the dairy shop in Iguala before Iguala was bypassed by the new highway.

In addition to its many culinary attractions there are other worthy destinations along the Acapulco route. Cuernavaca, Xochicalco, Taxco, and the Grutas de Cacahuamilpa are some of the more notable. Now there’s a new place to add to the list — the Cuernavaca campus of the Tec de Monterrey (Monterrey Institute of Technology).

Though stunning from either direction, the Tec’s signature structure is most spectacular when approached from the south. Upon entering the Valley of Cuernavaca the campus rises on a rocky promontory encircled by a native deciduous forest and overlooking fields of rice, roses, and sugarcane. Its majestic, four-sided, four-story, green-glass building is framed and capped by sharp-edged concrete with an open courtyard the size of a city block at its center.

Inside the courtyard there is more of the native forest — irrigated throughout the year. It provides an interesting contrast to the same non-irrigated trees immediately outside.

The campus was inaugurated in January 2008. Soon after, it won a prestigious international award as the “Best University/Higher Education Facility” for its “spectacular scale, innovative use of technology and for its design taking into account the location and natural flora of the region.” I’m impressed by it’s proximity and similarity in scale to some of the ruins at the archeological site of Xochicalco. Just as ancient Mesoamericans used limestone in innovative ways, the Tec de Monterrey Cuernavaca campus takes concrete to a new level of scale and creativity.

The campus was primarily designed by architect Juan Carlos Pérez. Pérez is a graduate of the Tec and it is the intent of the campus design to reflect the cutting edge technology being taught to its students. The campus is an environmental model for water use and treatment and electrical conservation.
A new student-union building houses a wonderful, glass-enclosed, new art gallery. The inaugural exhibition opened last Friday and is titled “A Family of Artists.” The artists are all Cuernavaca based and all from one nuclear family!

Paintings, drawings, and sculptures, all in the magical realist style, are executed by parents Adriano Silva Castañeda and Yolanda Quijano and their two sons Alejandro Quijano and Adriano Silva Pantoja. Magical realism, where the supernatural blends with the natural, is a term frequently associated with a genre of Latin American contemporary literature and is increasingly being applied to art — especially Latin American art.

The artists are not only members of the same family they are also all members of the Salón de la Plástica Mexicana (Hall of Mexican Fine Art), established in 1949. Membership in the Salón is by invitation of their peers.

Its purpose is to expand the Mexican art market through exhibitions of fine art in two prestigious galleries in Mexico City. One of the founding ideas of the Salón was that it would be an art forum able to circumvent the large commissions charged by art gallery owners.

There are about 400 members of the Salón counting those no longer living. Membership, like the members’ art, is for life and beyond. If that figure is correct, the Silva-Quijanos represent 1 percent of the membership. I wonder is there is any other family so well represented?

Based on the prices I saw posted (everything is for sale), it seems that the Tec’s gallery, like the Salón, is not charging a commission on the pieces displayed in “A Family of Artists.” If so, it is commendable.

In these gorgeous days you might contemplate a road trip where you can combine food, marvelous sites, and fine art. Though there is a food court as well as a restaurant at the Tec de Monterrey, the courtyard of the Tec has tables just begging for a picnic basket.

“A family of Artists” will be open through March 15, Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturdays 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Closed Sundays. Free admission. Located at the Tec de Monterrey adjacent to the Mexico City-Acapulco Autopista del Sol at kilometer 104.

The campus gatekeeper will point you to the art gallery. Some highway signs refer to the campus as ITESM (Instituto Tecnólogico de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey). Easy off-and-on the toll road.

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