Arts & Culture
UNAM in the Movies: Discovering CU through the Films Shot There
Mariana Gaxiola
UNAM's University City is always striking to look at. So much so that it's been featured in lots of movies. Here are some of the most memorable.

Movies have always been part and parcel of the making of modern Mexico. But then, so was UNAM’s University City. Ciudad Universitaria (CU) has been front and center almost since the first stones were set into place. The central role of the university continues even to this day – in the whole country – and in lots of the country’s movies too.

Architect, Carlos Lazo, said at the time: “We’re not laying a foundation stone of the first building of University City, we’re putting a stone in the fervent construction of our Mexico.” And though construction of the university site continued through the 1950’s already films were being shot. It was just too good of a location. 


Luis Buñuel’s El Rio Y La Muerte (1955) Released in the USA as “The River and Death.”

Already in Luis Buñuel’s El Rio Y La Muerte (1955), CU is standing in for “modernity” – and in high contrast to the lead character’s family, left behind in their country village.

UNAM in the Movies

La locura del Rock and Roll, “The Madness of Rock and Roll”, dir. Fernando Mendez (1957)

But better known Buñuel and Mendez (above) were playing catch up. Emilio Gómez Muriel’s Padre Nuestro (“Our Father”) had already hit screens in 1953 and probably did as much to publicize the fantastic architectural work being done at CU as any thing else at the time. 



Emilio Gómez Muriel’s Padre Nuestro (1953)


Emilio Gómez Muriel’s Padre Nuestro (1953)

And though Muriel’s name is not widely circulated, his long stretch as one of Mexico’s leading melo-dramatistes meant that all of his nearly 40 years of films were well received in their time. His last film was released in 1972.



Teresa, directed by Alfredo B. Crevenna (1961)

Alfredo B. Crevenna, whose film-making career spanned an even longer period (1945 till 1995), covered the university city in 1961 right as the 1960s were starting to eat away at all that social and economic goodwill. Although it’s hardly remembered today, Teresa already starts to squeak with social unrest as a girl from a less than well-to-do family struggles to make it at University.

Dile que la quiero (Tell Her I Love Her) 1963

Fernando Cortés’s Dile que la quiero, “Tell Her I Love Her”, 1963

Not to be outdone, Fernando Cortés’s Dile que la quiero (1963) brings musical and melodramatic social unrest fully ahead a few years. The film include some striking shots of the main UNAM campus and odd depictions of futbol americano being played in the precursor to the Olympic Stadium, built just a few years later.


So many things happened at the end of the 1960s that it seems we needed almost 40 years more just to start making movies about CU again.  Though Leobardo Lopez Aretche documented the 1968 student movement in El Grito, Mexico 1968, Mexico film making went into a long slump along with the rest of the country.

Having picked up considerably since all of the many rapid changes of the 1990s, real political and social commentary would have to wait until a few bright filmakers could again venture into the turmoil of the 1960s and really learn from them.


Tlatelolco 1968, (2012)

Tlatelolco – Verano del 1968, “Tlatelolco, Spring of ’68” (2012) © Corazon Films

Filmmakers never really stopped making films about Tlatelolco. Although the theme continues even today, it was Corazon Films work with director Carlos Bolado that really used the actual university for a backdrop. And though the film revolves around a love story, it was largely hailed as a successful, somewhat more Hollywood-esque telling of the tale. As few people know the story outside of Mexico, it’s unfolding on the big screen was long overdue.



La dictadura perfecta “The Perfect Dictatorship,” dir. Luis Estrada (2014)

With a little better grip on history and politics, directors like Luis Estrada could convert the university into the evil television studios of TV Mexicana. Estrada’s continuing work in Mexican politics may be here its most fully realized. In what is often the difficult and convoluted job of translating corruption, Estrada has simultaneously educated and even entertained increasingly attentive audiences. 



gueros 2014

Güeros, directed by Alonso Ruizpalacios (2014)

And growing up was never going to be easy. Ruizpalacios Güeros is only the latest film to take a trip back into activism, student life and despondency – and the struggle to rise in the world. Attached to the little brother’s perspective, the film has been widely hailed and shows about as accurate a picture of the city – or one side of the city – as you’re going to get at the movies.

The university looks great – and playing the perfect role for itself, it’s still, after all these years, the center of everything.

Thanks to CU Habitar 60 años

ILUMINA, an alien-like sculpture of light and sound that shines with emotions
ILUMINA is an art piece where technology, design, light and sound invites us to experience the ways in which we are all connected to the cosmos.

ILUMINA is an interactive sculpture of light and sound fed by the collective energy of people’s hearts.


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.




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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.


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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.


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Burning Man 2017


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:


Ilumina Art Installation

Sitio web //  Facebook //  Instagram


The Five Most Beautiful Mexico City Libraries
For budget travelers, Mexico City libraries were always among the most attractive, free attractions to visit. Today, they're simply too inviting to pass up.
Mexico City Libraries

Chilangos may cherish their reputation for never reading, but Mexico City libraries present a very contrary picture. 

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. 

José Vasconcelos Library

Mexico City Libraries

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.

Address: Eje 1 Norte Mosqueta S / N, Buenavista


UNAM Central Library 

Mexico City Libraries

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. 

Address: Circuito Interior S / N, Coyoacán, Ciudad Universitaria


National Library of Mexico


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.

Address: Av. Universidad 3000, Coyocacan


Miguel Lerdo de Tejada Library


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.

Address: Av. República de el Salvador 49, Centro Histórico, col. Centro Histórico


Library of Congress of the Union


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