​​Mexico City!  With 21.2 million inhabitants, it’s more than double the size of NYC.  The first day, we roamed the Centro Historico.  At 7,200 ft (2,250 m) above sea level, Andrés & I needed to adjust to the altitude and to the hustling, bustling chaos around us. Feeling light-headed and heavy-footed, we decided to put off our visit to the Palacio de Bellas Artes, grab a drink and watch the sun set over the massive metropolis from the 44th floor of the Torre Latinoamericana.  

The next day we got an early start.  We were curious to see if the Palacio de Bellas Artes would have any of my great-grandfather’s artwork.  Ettore (Hector) Serbaroli, born in Rome in 1881, moved to Mexico, D.F. at the turn of the 20th Century.  My father is writing Hector’s fascinating biography, which follows his lifepath from Rome, through Mexico City, Chihuahua, and up to California, including San Francisco and Hollywood.  Through family stories, letters and years of research, my father has pieced together most of Hector’s story, but his time in Mexico City is still a mystery. 

We signed up for the tour in the Teatro of the Palaciowhich explains the 30 years of the buildings’ construction, including anecdotes about how the head architect, Adamo Boari, eternalized the memory of his black cocker spaniel, Aída. 

Afterwards, the tour guide kindly pointed us across the street, to the Acervo (Archive) del Palacio de Bellas Artes, where Ms. Maupomé Corona tried to help us fill in some of the missing Serbaroli picture.  We know that Hector met Diego Rivera, and the story that has come down through the family is that, at the time, Diego was a young asistant, still learning muralism. We thought the two might’ve met during the Bellas Artes project, but the dates of construction don’t align with Hector’s time in D.F.  Hector was long gone when Diego, José Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siquiros were painting their murals in the Palacio de Bellas Artes

Though Hector didn’t work on the Palacio de Bellas Artes, Ms. Maupomé did point out that he could’ve worked at the Academia de Bellas Artes, today known as the Academia de San Carlos.  Turns out Diego Rivera was an assistant professor there during Hector’s Mexico City years, which could easily explain how the two had come to work together.

This morning, before catching our flight to Chihuahua, we went over to the archives of the Academy. 

The good news is that they have an extensive archive of artwork and documentation from the years we are interested in (roughly 1900-1909).  The bad news is that there are over 30,000 pieces of artwork and countless documents, only a percentage of which have been catalogued (and almost none of which are available digitally). Finding information on Hector, either as professor, assistant professor or student would be like finding a needle in a haystack.  We left our names with some of the researchers at the archive, but we’re not holding our breathe! 

We had a (delicious) bite to eat, picked up our packs at Hostel Mexico City, and grabbed a taxi to the airport.  Since it was only 4pm, traffic wasn’t too bad.  Our taxi driver did manage to get us to the airport on time for our 6:19 pm Volaris flight, despite getting into two shouting matches with other taxistas, flying down the “tram only” lanes, and just barely avoiding several accidents involving cars, trucks and bicycles in every direction.  The only problem now is, it’s 6:32pm, and the status of our flight on the departures screen is still blinking “On Time”.  Let’s see if we arrive in Chihuahua tonight…  

Updates:

@ 7:51 pm: they finally changed the status to “delayed”.

@ 8:20 pm: the information booth informed us that our flight will leave in 20 minutes from gate 19 (departure screen doesn’t reflect any change in status)

@ 9:00 pm: the info was wrong, and there’s no further update. The info booth has given us vouchers for a crappy airport “meal”

@ 9:40 pm: we made friends with a Chihuahuense that knows my Chihuahua family and is invited to the birthday party this weekend (more on that in the next post)!

@ 10:20 pm: the information booth informed us that our flight will leave in 20 minutes from gate 4 (departure screen doesn’t reflect any change in status)

@ 11:00 pm: after a lot of confusion, chaos, and Andres’ cell phone screen breaking, we have finally boarded the plane

@ Enrique Beltranena, CEO of Volaris, your company’s communication skills SUCK! 

@ 1:30 am: we arrived to the Chihuahua airport, grabbed a taxi and are going to sleep now!


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