paulfraser (paulfraser) wrote,

Beautiful garbage, beautiful dresses

The Lovely Naomi and I are in Jalapa, or Xalapa, origin of Jalapeño chillis. We have selected an interesting hotel, which has all the elements of appalling tackiness and has combined them to make something quite charming. It has floral furniture (pastel), bulk cornicing (pastel), Greco-roman-persian window-door tile set-up (pastel), random baroque trinkets in the hallways (red and fake gold-leaf wardrobes, cast iron stoves, cellos, a table of random bottles with rusted caps, including a genuine Japanese marble-sealed lemonade bottle that I failed to photograph in Japan, wooden statues from that cult, cart wheels, and a life-size wooden horse), and a fountain in its open-plan centrally-placed restaurant (pastel aqua blue on the inside; why the hell do people paint the insides of fountains aqua? It's not even vaguely convincing).

Greatest of all is the construction. This is a new building, that took the banal approach of looking old, rather than the banal approach of looking 'modern', in that over-rendered Italian fascist architecture way. Being made of a three dimensional grid of reinforced concrete beams (a few of you will be able to visualise this as the ruler-stopwatch SR concept) with the rooms built amongst the grid, and with the rooms being 1.5 x 1.5 of a beam-cell, there are 40cm wide beams across 2 walls where they meet the ceiling, beams making a cross across the ceiling, and a load-bearing pillar towards one corner of the room. This makes for some appealing decoration, as on the 2 walls with beams there are 2 levels of cornicing, one ceiling-to-beam, and one beam-to-wall. The load-bearing column is made up to imitate an oh-so-trendy cosmetic Doric pillar made up to imitate an actual load-bearing column, a kind of double-negative faux-fauxness; function imitating pretension imitating function. Fabulous.

Drawn-out architectural description put to bed, we can move on. Jalapa has a marvellous anthropology museum, detailing all the peoples of the state of Veracruz from the Olmecs, through to the Totonacs who were under the heal of the Aztecs for a century before the arrival of the Spanish. The curatorship is excellent, with sky-lit 'outdoor' areas with jungle plants around the stones. There are several Olmec heads here, clay statues of guys who have been skinned by Aztecs so someone else can wear the skin, many a statue of nudie Huaxtec women - the exotic fetishised foreigners of the day, and a deeply disturbing burial with the piled bones of folks who practised cranial deformation punctuated with elated little clay dolls. The bookshop also afforded me the chance to buy a CD of the music of preHispanic instruments, full of ocarinas and log drums and flutes and bird noises and flutes making bird noises and rain sounds and crying babies, perfect to drive folks mad.
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