Mexico City Stories: Insight into blindness, as the city stops for a shot at gold

Mexico City's art nouveau Palacio de Bellas Artes has two exhibitions running, and, surprisingly, it's not the show commemorating the 50th anniversary of the death of the ever-popular painter Frida Kahlo that you have to book five weeks in advance.

Art lovers in this city of 20 million know they can go across town to Coyoacan whenever they choose to see Frida's death mask and some of her bold self-portraits at the house she shared with radical muralist Diego Rivera. But few have experienced the insights into blindness offered by Dialogue in the Dark.

In the company of a marketing manager, two students and a designer from the city's Reforma newspaper, I am handed a cane and led into the first of a series of pitch-dark rooms on the second floor of the marble-decked theatre. It is the start of an hour-long experience that aims to show Mexico as it is experienced by the sightless.

Our guide, Sonia, lost her sight two years ago as the result of an allergic reaction, and her bright, clear voice immediately helps me to shed my fear. She led us into a room humming with cicadas that smells of damp mulch - a tropical forest - and then on into a burbling, traffic-snarled street much like the capital's colonial centre outside.

Running my hands over market stalls, I find a jar filled with pebble-hard frijole beans, and brush against a string of chillis. Stumbling up the street, we feel our way around parked cars and discover the shape of Mexico City's rubbish bins, which are large, plastic and shaped like outsized London parking meters.

As Sonia leads us back to the land of the sighted, she tells us that she makes the trip across the city to work here alone each day. For me, quite lost after two steps into a darkened room, it is the bravest, boldest thing I have heard.

¿ For Mexico City residents, the Olympics ended not with the traditional marathon event, but with the women's 400 metres: the country's best shot at gold. The whip-thin athlete Ana Guevara won the world championships in Paris last year, and as she slipped into the blocks for the finals in Athens on Tuesday, the capital shuddered to a halt.

Rapt office workers crowded round portable TVs plugged in at taco and flower stands across the city as they waited for the race to begin.

Among those taking a break were President Vicente Fox and his wife, Marta Sahaugun, who - press photos later revealed - crept ever closer to the edge of the sofa at the official Los Piños residence as she waited for the starting gun to sound.

Guevara came in just one-15th of a second behind her Bahamian rival, Tonique Williams-Darling, to sighs from across the city. But upbeat residents managed to find victory in second place by the following day.

"Ana may have got the silver," a cab driver told me on the run in to work, "but it felt like gold."

¿ Cinemas here fill up at the weekends, as residents pile in to see the latest subtitled americanadas churned out by Hollywood and a varied fare of European and Mexican releases. I opted to see a locally shot crime satire called Matando Cabos.

The frantic film's hidden joy was in its casting. Playing the wife of the feared gangland boss of the title was Jacqueline Voltaire, a British actress who has made Mexico City her home for the past three decades, and frequently appears in Spanish-language television soap operas.

I was recently introduced to Jacquie by a friend, and was delighted to see her play with such aplomb alongside a strong Mexican cast, including Ana Claudia Talancon, star of last year's The Crime of Padre Amaro. I can't wait to hear all about it.

Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
peopleThreats follows actress' speech on feminism and equality at the UN
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
Life and Style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
Life and Style
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Graduate Pricing Analyst - 6 months / 1 year analytical experience

£20000 - £25000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Senior Management Accountant

£40000 - £46000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: Global publishing and digital bu...

Year 2 Teachers needed for day to day supply

£110 - £130 per day + Competitve rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Yea...

Year 4 Teachers needed for day to day supply across the region

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Ye...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits