Hummingbirds, little rays of sunshine that wander fleetingly through suburban gardens are the smallest bird species on Earth and perhaps the most symbolic in the history of Mexico City.
The Aztecs were master observers of their surroundings, specifically when it came to the small details that led to transcendental changes in their lands. Such was the case of the tiny hummingbirds that made trees and weeds blossom with their mere presence. Their being, as ephemeral as air, made the Mexicas believe that they brought good luck and that is probably why the Sun God Huitzilopochtli adorned his headdress with symbols regarding this tiny bird. Huitzilin or Huitzil as named in Nahuatl, are mentioned in the most popular and ancient Aztec legend which narrates the quest for their promised land, Mexico’s Valley:
Continue your search after the rainy days have passed, follow the small rays of sunshine clad with tiny flower suckle lances… they are the Huitzilin, sons of Huitzilopochtli, they’ll lead you to the eagle standing on the cactus devouring the snake.
Their beautiful figure is present on many ancient objects, murals and Aztec codices. The Mexicas believed that their fallen warriors, after having traveled to the world of the dead, would reincarnate as these small birds; their spirits accompanied the Sun God as fiery multicolored rays. Another ancient belief concerning hummingbirds belongs to the Mayan culture, which considered hummingbirds the last animals created by the gods. They were in charge of taking their wishes and thoughts from one place to another. They were also related to the motions of wind, rain and other unpredictable and chaotic forces, which they believed were magical in nature.
The ancient legends of pre-Columbian Mexico hold a beautiful metaphysical nature. The capacity of imagining a sacred origin and mission to the worlds existing creatures result in a complex poetry with profound meanings and lessons.
Scientific classification and surprising facts
Their scientific classification is slightly complicated. Foremostly, they belong to the Apodiformes order (from Greek, meaning without “podos”, or feet, which alludes to the size of their legs), which is in itself grouped in the small bird family: Trochilidae. Solely in America, we’re fortunate enough to have this type of bird discretely invade our skies with over 100 genuses of Trochilidae, distributed throughout 340 species, all with singular peaks and colors. Some surprising facts about this beautiful bird are:
Hummingbirds are reclusive and aggressive. They travel alone and are capable of casting away any other hummingbirds–whether they’re male or female–, from their territory when they feel threatened. Depending on their species, some of them can be hermits (like the golirayado); they tend to be more vocal and are distinguishable for their acute harmonies that echoe in forests.
Predators of a species threatened by future extinction
Hummingbirds are not an endangered species; however, they might be in the future. Most of their predators lurk in the skies: falcons, owls and crows; although there are also some land animals such as coyotes, cats, tarantulas and mantises. Considering climate change and the menaces that result from the deterioration and destruction of their natural habitats, we’ve become their biggest threat. These destructive practices date all the way to the Victorian era, when thousands of these birds were exported and killed with the purpose of embellishing the royal’s hats and over-the-top clothes with their feathers.
Hummingbirds in Mexico City
Mexico is home to around 60 hummingbird species that migrate from Canada and the United States during the Autumn. Approximately 15 of these species are native to the city, which is why, we can get a fleeting look at one of these birds almost every season of the year. The most common species in town is the Chlorostilbon auriceps, “emerald with a golden crown.”
A few years ago, UNAM’s Higher Studies Faculty in Iztacala built the first artificial mating garden for hummingbirds, with an average of 150 red flowers native to Mexico City.
The first store in Mexico devoted to make handmade hummingbird feeders
Camino Silvestre is the first shop in Mexico City devoted to in the contemplation of hummingbirds and other wild bird species. They specialize in handmade feeders made with recycled materials from San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato. When they first opened, they only exported their products to the United States; however, their demand was so big that they now have a store in colonia Roma. In addition to marvelous feeders of all sizes made with second-hand materials, the store offers interior and exterior decorations, including some instruments for bird watchers: binoculars, bird observation guides, books and a countless number of bird-themed toys and jewelry. They’re also behind the International Hummingbirds Festival, where several Mexican and foreign experts, such as ornithologists, biologists and sociologists gather.
Address: Tabasco 195, Roma Norte, Mexico City.
Tuesday-Saturday: from 11:00 to 19:00 hrs. Sunday from 12:00 to 17:00 hrs.
Prepare your own hummingbird nectar
You need four cups of boiling water and 1 cup of sugar. Pour the sugar in the water, mix and let it cool. The liquid must be changed every 2 hours; every 6 during cold weather seasons.
Attract more hummingbirds
You must be highly observant in order to figure out which flowers hummingbirds like, but you could start by, for example, increasing the amount of food in the feeders to try to gain their attention.
You can also hang red tape near the feeders, since that’s their favorite color, and try placing fruit peels outside to attract mosquitoes, and thus, hummingbirds. Don’t forget to place small posts near the feeders so they can stop and rest.
Art and technology are two faces of human creativity, two that are also closely related, despite the differences they apparently have with each other. What art does on many occasions has been achieved thanks to a specific technical development, a technology whose existence allows the artists to enhance or limit their creative work. Yes, it conditions it, but possibly also encourages it to transcend those limitations.
In this sense, the relationship between one and another human activities could be found in virtually any era, but it is certainly in recent times when technology has a presence, so persistent, somehow so inescapable, that art has been benefited for incorporating it. Both as a resource, an instrument, as part of the examination of contemporary reality, when many of our practices and interactions almost necessarily pass through a technological device.
Thus, somehow the ideal professed by Nietzsche on the need to transform life in a work of art, but this time through art and technology. Somehow the aesthetic sensibility, the discovery of the admirable or the frankly beautiful that any of us can perceive, finds a vehicle, a means of transmission and expression in how art can be magnified through technology.
Nowadays, it is becoming more and more complex to achieve high levels of consciousness, and to create a community without being outside of technology, but ww can use it as a tool to improve our sensitive abilities. To the same extent that we depend on technology to survive, it has become part of our lives, even in its most spiritual and even transcendental recesses. Art, now more than ever, demands to be a vehicle to explore different states that bring us closer to the dimensions of the infinite
Ilumina is an installation created by the artist Pablo Gonzalez Vargas, who through a deep exploration with the power of interconnectivity, proposes a method to improve the energy field of the planet. Pablo Gonzalez created a majestic interactive sculpture of light and sound that is activated by the emotional states of people, generating a beautiful light show and a sound landscape where the participants enter a state of coherence and deep harmony with themselves and with each other.
Ilumina is a metallic art monument, completed with aluminum and LED lights that together form an architectural piece full of harmony. The piece of art combines technology with a design of ancient wisdom. Ilumina has a program that responds to external stimuli, being able to shine more while more “coherent” is the group that hosts, generating a unique shared experience.
Ilumina is a chilling visual experience, and the volunteers who participate in the exercise of meditative immersion that lasts three minutes, are transported to a state of coherence and deep harmony with themselves, with their fellow participants and with the cosmos through a patented fusion of modern technology and transpersonal art.
The biometric sensors are connected to the ear lobes of each participant, which measures their unique state of coherence and averages them together. This is how lighting design and moving soundscapes respond to a unique algorithm, a product of HeartMath that uses biometric sensors for personal self-training in the regulation of emotional states where the sculpture becomes brighter to the extent that the users experiment with their emotions.
The team that created Ilumina included about 20 people from different disciplines and contributions. There was a large industrial design team that shaped the exact model that was taken to manufacturing. Marco Kalach worked with an expert manufacturing workshop, because as it is a public use facility in particular events, it had to comply with all the rules, structural regulations and with protection codes. The executive producer of the project was Gaby Vargas, who was responsible for the expertise at HeartMath, and joined by mexican musicians and audio engineers to make the experience of 360 degrees of immersive sound, led by Billy Mendez. The lighting team, directed by Paolo Montiel, coordinated all the programming and lighting design that makes symbiosis with the audio.
It was at Burning Man 2012, where Pablo Gonzalez Vargas created an art car called Mayan Warrior: a luminescence project and a spectacular audio show featuring pieces by the artist Alex Gray and musical performances by elite artists from Mexico and around the world.
In the penultimate edition of Burning Man, Pablo Gonzalez and his team decided to go a step beyond the great proposal that is Mayan Warrior, by presenting Ilumina, this piece of sacred geometry that radiates not only light but an algorithmic sacrality, it’s as mystical and hypnotic as an art piece can get. The tower of almost 12 meters high illuminated the Nevada desert at the Burning Man Festival 2017, and users managed to enter a mental state full of concentration characterized by a complete absorption, a wonderful moment of loss of the notion of spacetime.
It is expected that later there will be replicas of these sculptures, so that they can reach new locations around the world, and we can experience this amazing spectacle of light and the soundscape that connects us with the profound mysticism that exists in ourselves and that highlights the interconnectivity of our planet with the global energy fields.
Here are some photos of this beautiful project, in which lies the probability of a coherent and luminous future that would be worth living.
If you want to know more about this beautiful project or about the creative artist and allies that integrate it, visit their social media channels:
Though the internet makes lots more information available to lots more people, Mexico City libraries have simply not been supplanted. Charged with continually re-inventing themselves, and their places in the public imagination, one can still encounter eras gone by and great historical minds in a library as in few other places.
Knowledge, after all, belongs to everyone. Opening a book, reading it at a study, or just meeting in the silence of one these Mexico City libraries enhances concentration, and provides a welcome respite from everything going on out there in the world.
Of all Mexico City libraries, the oldest were part of the church and one or another of its offshoot organizations. Among these was the Colegio de Santa Cruz de Tlatelolco, founded in the 1530s and surviving today as the Biblioteca José María Lafragua. Most of these ecclesiastical libraries were not truly open to the public, and Mexico had to wait for the National Library of Mexico, inaugurated by Benito Juárez in 1867 to enjoy the benefits of a truly public library system.
The list below is intended to let you enjoy some of that system, too.
Opened just ten years ago, in 2006, the Vasconcelos is visited by thousands for the sheer spectacle of its innovative design. Graced by the iconic whale from artist, Gabriel Orozco, it’s always a good library for art and visual spectacle. The facade retains something of a colonial appearance, but for sheer scale, and jaw-dropping space, the interior must be experienced.
We’ve written a lot about it in these pages, but the UNAM library with the Juan O’Gorman murals remains one of the most outstanding of all Mexico City libraries. As a UNESCO site with some 428,000 volumes in the collection, it’s the biggest in Mexico, but lots of folks visit just to see the facade and the surrounding grounds.
Opened by Benito Juárez in 1867, there’s still a good one million books inside, today administered by the folks from UNAM. Originally located in the San Agustín church in the city center, the current building was opened in 1979. Geometric, and massive, it’s an extraordinary place to visit.
Specializing in economic materials, this collection of some 86,350 books and 114,852 journals is administered by the Secretary of Finance and Public Credit. Founded in 1928, it’s one of the cities true public art spectacles. Inside the main nave of the old Oratory of San Felipe Neri “El Nuevo,” the baroque façade outside is just the beginning. Inside, the murals are futuristic, and not to be missed.
One of Centro’s truly outstanding historical buildings, for centuries it was the convent of the Clarisas from the 16th century. Today it’s something like a “Library of Congress” with a stunning collection of publications and artifacts, but also with a lush, deep, dark intellectual interior, that beckons from centuries past.
Address: Tacuba 29, Centro Histórico
Photographs this page: Flickr – Creative Commons