Hay Festival, Zacatecas: Day Three

I began the day with an accidentally decadent breakfast of truffle cappuccino (with Swiss chocolate, no less) and a huge slice of carrot cake. I had been looking for some typical Mexican breakfast – eggs, beans, tortillas – but I stumbled into a wonderful little coffee bar which was like a time-warp. Slightly marshal classical music was being piped through the speakers, and very smart Mexican gentlemen read their newspapers while necking ristrettos. I felt obliged to carefully cut my cake and to eat it without spilling a crumb, daintily dabbing at the corners of my mouth with a napkin.

Football Conversation

After that, I was ready to hear Eduardo Sacheri, Antonio Skármeta and Juan Villoro talk about what football means to writers. Villoro began by saying that a rejection of one’s team is akin to a rejection of childhood. He noted that in Mexico the connection with the club is a little less powerful than in Argentina, which is reflected in the fact that in Mexico you say that you ‘go with’ a team whereas in Argentina you ‘are of’ the team. Sacheri spoke passionately about the importance of football in childhood – without it, he said, it was impossible to make friends – and he suggested that football “is absolutely intrinsic to our formation.” It comes before absolutely everything else – politics, work, sexuality – and remains the most important thing in life.

Norma Percy

I then moved next door to the Cineteca for the showing of Norma Percy’s documentary “Iran and the West: The man who changed the world”. This, the first of a series of three documentaries on Iran’s modern relations with (particularly) the U.S., was an excellent account of the hostage crisis and how it destroyed Jimmy Carter’s presidency. It was fascinating to see the way in which the U.S. manipulated the internal dynamics of Iranian politics but failed to understand the role of Khomeni until it was too late.

Ruins at the Museo Rafael Coronel

I tramped up the hill to the Teleferico (cable car) station, but the queues were enormous so I gave up on that idea and went to look at the Museo Rafael Coronel instead. This is housed in a former convent where the partly-ruined buildings and gardens are absolutely beautiful. The museum houses a huge collection of masks from various regions of Mexico, ranging from hundreds of years old to some very strange contemporary efforts. I was quite overwhelmed by the time I got to the end and needed to recharge with a giant plate of enchiladas con mole.

Mask at the Museo Rafael Coronel

Steve Jones, the biologist, had cancelled, so instead we were shown a recording of economist Nick Stern in conversation with Rosie Boycott at the Hay Festival in Wales (I assume). This was actually incredibly interesting and stimulating, and I won’t say much about it here because I am probably going to talk about it in a more substantial piece on climate change sometime. Suffice to say, I thought he identified the problems very well but was overly optimistic on solutions. This also applied to Rosie Boycott, who spoke next, though to a lesser degree. Her role as food advisor to the Mayor of London informed her talk on ‘Feeding the 21st Century City’, in which she identified ways in which individuals can reconnect with their food sources. The difficulty, again, was that the suggested solutions – a combination of improving information, increasing regulation, and encouraging individual action – seem dwarfed by the drastic and urgent nature of the problems.

Rosie Boycott and Jeanette Winterson - flowers weren't from me!

The last event of the day was a discussion between Hay Festival founder Peter Florence and documentary-maker Norma Percy, whose film had been shown earlier in the day. This was a really interesting insight into her methods for eking confessions and revelations out of global leaders. We saw clips featuring Blair, Clinton, Milosevic, Carter and the rather frightening Zbigniew Brzezinski, among others, and Percy spoke about how the interviews had come about. In the question and answer session she said that she “has no opinions”, and I realise this is meant in the professional sense (as she says that with demonstrable opinions she would not be able to secure the access she does), but she also seems largely unmoved by the sheer awfulness on display – in fact she claims to find it amusing. She seemed to think that it was okay that politics worked in such grubby ways because that is the way politics works – a circular argument which negates the need for morality or integrity.

I ended the day by getting blind drunk with some friendly Zacatecanos at the Quince Letras cantina – it was eleven, then, after a ton of mezcal (and chants of OTRO! OTRO!), it was suddenly three a.m. and we were being thrown out. We ate some deliciously disgusting hot dogs with monster chiles, and I retired to bed.

Published in: on July 18, 2010 at 9:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

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