Photo Credit: Kelly E. Carter
San Franciscans don’t have to travel far to soak up Mexican culture this week. That’s because the best of Mexico’s performing arts, fine art, culture and ideas are being showcased at the second edition of MEX I AM: LIVE IT TO BELIEVE IT, a weeklong multidisciplinary art and cultural festival that runs through July 26 at various venues across the San Francisco Bay Area. Haute Living was on the scene for the July 22 grand opening event at the Palace of Fine Arts of San Francisco which drew Mexican dignitaries, including José Antonio Meade Kuribreña, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, and Dr. Andres Roemer, Consul General of Mexico in San Francisco, along with Brenda Zarate, Willie Brown, Sonya Molodetskaya, Victor Makras, Farah Makras and Scott Wiener.
A VIP reception kicked off the evening. Upon arrival guests were given boxes of chocolates from Casa de Chocolates, a Berkeley chocolate shop infused with Latin American culture and sensibilities. Servers maneuvered the crowd carrying trays of Mexican libations, including margaritas, and bites of Mexican dishes. Wines from members of the Mexican-American Vintners Association, including Ceja Vineyards, whose owner Amelia Morán Ceja and daughter Dalia Ceja poured their delicious wines, and Mi Sueño Vineyards, were offered.
Inside the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, guests enjoyed phenomenal ballet and opera performances by Isaac Hernández, a member of the English National Ballet, the United Kingdom’s premier touring ballet company, and his brother Esteban Hernández, a member of the prestigious San Francisco Ballet, along with the young Mexican tenor Mario Rojas, who recently won first prize at the Licia Albanese Puccini Foundation International Vocal Competition, and soprano Rebeca de Rueda. Yuan Yuan Tan, Jurgita Dronina, Mai-Linh Pham also took part in the performances.
Earlier in the day at the same venue, the Ideas section of MEX I AM took place and was dedicated to presentations by a group of scientists, humanists and society game-changers. Among the speakers were acclaimed film director Natalia Almada, who won a Sundance Film Festival award for Best Documentary for her film El General; Arturo Álvarez, Ph.D., a highly-respected Mexican neurobiologist and professor of Anatomy and Neurosurgery at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine; Elena Reygadas, who was awarded the prized Veuve Clicquot Award for Best Female Chef in Latin America in 2014; and Jorge Soto, co-founder and chief technology officer of Miroculus, a California biotech firm dedicated to the research and development of molecular biology solutions for the detection and treatment of diseases.
Photo Credit: Kelly E. Carter
The week began with Mexican cinema. MEX I AM presented the adventures of a Mexican migrant in Germany through the film Guten Tag Ramón (Buen día Ramón), from acclaimed director Jorge Ramírez-Suárez at the Brava Theatre. On Monday, a free gastronomic route traveled through some of the finest and most popular Mexican restaurants in San Francisco and offered guests a complimentary drink and appetizer representing a State of Mexico. The restaurants—Colibri, South, La Urbana, Nopalito, Loló, LV Mar and Casa de Chocolates—are offering promotions and discounts throughout the week of the Festival. For oenophiles, the Festival is offering a grand wine-tasting route in Napa Valley with tours of local Mexican-American vineyards and free wine and discounts.
SFJAZZ is hosting the Festival’s music program, which began on July 23 with special guest Natalia Lafourcade, whose new album is entitled “Hasta la raíz.” Tonight, July 24, the Festival will feature the Grammy Award-winning band, La Santa Cecilia. On Saturday, July 25th, Tania Libertad will pay vocal tribute to one of the icons of Mexican music, Chavela Vargas, with performances at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. To close the Festival, Flaco Jiménez y Max Baca will perform “norteña” music on Sunday, July 26th at 7:30 p.m. Prices vary per concert. Tickets are available at http://mexiam.net/sfjazz.php.
Art is also being featured. The Embarcadero hosts the monumental sculptures of renowned Mexican artist Rivelino with the exhibition, Our Silences (Nuestros Silencios), which opened on July 23 and will be on-view for three months. Earlier in the week, the Mexican Museum showcased Mexican fine art sculptures and Gallery Wendi Norris hosted an exhibit and art talk. Two additional art exhibits housed inside the Consulate General of Mexico of San Francisco at 532 Folsom St., opened on Monday.
Dr. Roemer says, “Mexico and the Bay Area are dynamic examples of mobility and innovation. Through MEX I AM: LIVE IT TO BELIEVE IT, we are affirming this exciting reality. Let’s move together.”
Zarate, who was named an advisor to MEX I AM by Roemer, says, “Dr. Andres Roemer is not only the General Consul for Mexico, but an ambassador of culture and risky ideas. His mission is to spread he word about how elevated our performing arts are. We want San Francisco to be exposed to our culture in a more elevated manner.”
Thanks to the efforts of the Mexican Government and contributions from Festival sponsors, most of the week’s activities are free. For more information and ticket purchases (for musical performances), visit www.mexiam.net.