Arts & Culture
Toloache: Mexico’s Flower of Love and Death
María González de León
Amongst the flowers and the leaves, in the parks of Mexico City, Toloache grows, like a dangerous temptation, a love that yet calls from the valley's deepest past.
Toloache

Above, Toloache from Plantcurator.com

 

Mexico City is full of millions of people. Then there are cars and bikes and acres of concrete. But it’s also home to plenty of wildlife, and even a few plants with histories as long and mysterious as the city they grow up in. The legendary Toloache is one such plant.

 

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Toloache is native to Mexico and grows in the wild all over the country. It was used as a ritual and medicinal plant for centuries, and going back all the way to the valley’s most ancient inhabitants.

Toloache, sometimes called Indian Apple, or Moonflower in English, are part of a group of plants of the genus of Daturas (others include Inoxia, Metel, Stram and Ferox). They’re characterized by elongated, trumpet-shaped white flowers, which emit an unpleasant odor, and they’re mildly hallucinogenic.

The plant has, in fact, been carefully studied by scientists to establish its exact medicinal properties. These studies have made it clear that the plant is quite capable of causing major states of poisoning and intoxication, and so it is widely considered a dangerous plant. It will damage short-term memory, affect the motor neuron system and capacity and in large doses it’ll poison enough to cause death.

 

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In pre-Columbian Mexico, Toloache had multiple uses. As a medicinal plant, it is said to have been used (in very small quantities) by shaman to relieve severe pain. Ointments and lotions are known to have been used to heal skin wounds. And one of the main chemical components of Toloache, scopolamine, is even today used in medicines for asthma, anxiety and Parkinson’s disease.

But of course, Toloache was also used by the ancient shamans as a ritual plant. Its documented hallucinatory properties, used in ceremonies, allowed mental states that resulted in visions of the future and Even divining abilities. Toloache has also been used by indigenous groups of Mexico as a magical plant to influence the climate and as part of rites of passage from adolescence to adulthood. It’s likely to have been used for more than this.

 

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Even today, some indigenous peoples put small amounts of Toloache into food or mezcal during festivities or special celebrations. This is done in the belief that the plant is capable of improving personal relationships and sexual health. Perhaps for this reason, Toloache is popularly known as the main component of spells and witchcraft said to cause infatuation.

Thus the legendary Toloache is also known as the plant of love and death. Making someone fall into crazy love may or may not be possible. But popularly, it’s believed that an infusion made from the plant will make any man susceptible to the flirtations of a woman.

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Irrespective of their possible uses, and the clear dangers their use entails, Toloache are beautiful, mystical and powerful plants and participants in the grand spectacle that is still Mexico. They are also a good example of why it’s important to look around and notice the many wonders that greet us in natural and wonderful Mexico City.

 

Author’s Twitter: @imissmaria

ILUMINA, an alien-like sculpture of light and sound that shines with emotions
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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-art

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.

 

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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.

 

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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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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
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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
Website 

 

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
Website

 

National Library of Mexico

biblioteca-nacional-de-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
Website

 

Miguel Lerdo de Tejada Library

Biblioteca_Miguel_Lerdo_de_Tejada

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

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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