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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want for the fitness tech, or the style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own