Text & Photos by Kimberly Cecchini
El Zócalo was almost deserted the first time we walked through it; densely populated Mexico City was strangely empty at it’s core despite the square’s fame as a meeting place since the time of the Aztecs. With the Baroque-styled National Palace and green Volkswagen Beetles circling around, Constitution Plaza had the feel of an European city. The dance of the square’s large national flag seemed to be the only activity, so we went off to zig zag through the surrounding neighborhoods and explored the nearby museum of caricatures.
A few hours later, we walked back to the Zócalo. It was now a hive of activity. The activities were as lively and as varied as the city’s storied past. People were milling around, organ grinders played and Native Americans performed traditional dances. Other folks were in a full swing protest in front of the building. And, in the center of the square, young adults were drawing graffiti over the concrete tiles. Temporary graffiti with colored sand.
Some of the artists were simply crouched over the ground; balanced on one blue sand covered hand. In their other hand, they grasped a simple paper curled into a funnel while they carefully sifted sand over their piece of the momentary canvas. Yet some of the youth were wheeling around transparent sand drawing contraptions that looked like vacuums and like a fad we had missed out on in the States.
Whether the participants looked like they were pausing to take part in a novel activity or they were artists engrossed in their creations, impermanence had taken root. It would at least last until the valley’s afternoon showers. The art was a bit more impermanent than a city sinking into its ancient lake bed.
Honestly, I cannot tell you much more than what is shown in the photos. I did not record many of the designs at the time, but I suspect that many of them went beyond outlines of stars and “I love D.F. (Distrito Federal-a.k.a. Mexico City)”. As I have yet to find any references to the fleeting art of El Zócalo, I would love to hear from anyone with some insight.
Is it a tradition or was it a fleeting pre-cursor to the flash mob?