Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Meeting Dr. Elu

The only agenda item for today was to finally meet Dr. Elu and interview her on camera but we filled up the schedule. It worked out pretty well though we had one of those moments when we needed to leave to make our appointment with Dr. Elu but we risked offending several people. Luckily, our translator, Aldolfo, seems to have figured out how to guide us through these cultural misunderstandings (read: get us to do the right thing) without our realizing he’s doing it so it all worked out.

It’s a good thing we have Aldolfo because I keep speaking Spanish to people – really badly. We were surprise to find out that Aldolfo was the go to guy for reproductive rights translations.

The Mexfam clinic we visited is in a poor neighborhood near Xochimilco, far south but still part of Mexico City. They provide a wide array of services including dental care and, we noted, the board at reception specifically listed Diabetes care. The clinic is clean and well-equipped but there was no water in the bathroom. Yesterday Ofelia acknowledged that Mexico receives less international aid for women’s health because, on paper, it looks as if the country is lowering fertility rates and combating maternal mortality. She also noted the disparity between urban and rural health care and she made a special point of saying that domestic violence is a very big issue for Mexico right now.

At 72 and despite her accident, Dr. Elu seems to maintain a great deal of energy. She bounded down the stairs and greeted us at her offices as if we were her long lost children. Born in Spain, raised in Cuba, she married a Mexican man and has lived here for 50 years. She’s got that warm, encompassing Latina personality that can melt the stiffest of Anglo exterior. And she’s hilarious. She showed us the scar near her hairline from the accident last year and insisted that it is not from a facelift.

And she’s a talker. We didn’t mention that she will only give a two minute speech in New York. I think she might have a heart attack and I’m sure she will pretend not to understand.

After all the interviews were finished we went to the zocalo to get footage of Mexican women. The zocalo is the main plaza in Mexico City and the largest in the Americas. It’s bordered by the anthropological remains of the Aztec’s central temple (Templo Mayor) that Cortez leveled to build the Cathedral and the National Palace where the legislature meets and the President lives.

Because it was too late to go into the National Palace, and because you really shouldn’t be in Mexico City without seeing at least one Diego Rivera mural, we went to the Diego Rivera Museum, which was built to house his masterpiece, Dream of a Sunday in the Alameda. This mural was in a hotel across the street but was moved to this location when the hotel was irreparably damaged by the 1985 earthquake. Paco, our camera guy who is a cameraman for telenovellas in his regular life, had no idea there was a Diego Rivera Museum or where to find it. I’ve started accusing him of being Paco el Bolivián because how can you be Mexican and not know the Diego Rivera Museum, I ask you?

Rita invited us all for a drink at the Opera Bar (probably because I had been raving about it). Tanitra describes the place as opulent. Very old school Mexico. Their claim to fame is a bullet hole in the ceiling, reportedly made by Pancho Villa once when he rode his horse into the place and started shooting. With Aldolfo’s help we talked about Mexican politics, the tax structure (which is severely flawed) and life in Mexico and New York. I have been speaking as much Spanish as I can and people are letting me do it without telling me that it’s like piercing their eardrums with an ice pick.

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