Posted by on December 6, 2018 5:21 am
Categories: Newsjones

Agencia el Universal via AP

The meandering five-hundred mile road trip in spring of 1943 from New York to the border with Mexico was merely the first lap in a journey that immersed Leonora Carrington in this land and its customs for decades. For many in her New York circle, Mexico was a chaotic mix of colorful revelry and soul grinding poverty; simultaneously brutal, beautiful, and belligerent. To comprehend the magnitude of Leonora’s move to Mexico it is necessary to understand the life she had left behind in France; a chaotic Europe in the throes of war, months of internment in a Spanish asylum, an arduous flight into exile in New York and a heart-rending rupture with the painter Max Ernst; the love of her life. This period of Leonora’s life is chronicled in my latest book, Surreal Lovers: Eight Women Integral to the Life of Max Ernst.

When she eventually arrived to Mexico City, it felt as if she was on a different planet. Everything was unfamiliar, “even the trees,” she recalled, it was suddenly a totally new world, “exciting and utterly strange” and she fell in love with it right away. First stop was the abandoned ex-Soviet embassy where European exiles were given temporary shelter. This lumbering landmark building at 204 Vasconcelos in the now ultra-hip, restaurant-loaded Colonia Condesa was once the elegant residence of feminist revolutionary, Alexandra Kollontai, the world’s first female ambassador. The reinstated embassy became a haven for Soviet spooks whose blatant spying activities went viral in Mexico during the Cold War period. Their antics, and the embassy, feature in the 1980s thriller The Falcon and the Snowman.

Within weeks Leonora and her Mexican husband, Renato Leduc had moved to Giordano street in the barrio of Mixcoac with its cobbled plazas and ancient churches. But, it was the colorful public markets that initiated Leonora’s passion for bizarre Mexico; “To discover chipotle chiles and maguey worms! It seemed such an exotic country to me—from the character of the people, their contact with the dead, the variety of food, plants, animals and the landscape.” The tram that took her from Mixcoac to La Merced, the enormous central market, stopped near the Zocalo, a vast plaza at the heart of Mexico city. Nearby on Guatemala street today is Leonora’s bench sculpture called ‘There’s no room‘.

Read more at The Daily Beast.