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The XVII International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2008)
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Mexico City's Beautiful Heart

August 7, 2008

Day 6: Thursday

I've been to plenty of meetings for which the routine is this: get on a plane, arrive in place X, get in a waiting car that arrives at hotel Y, go to the meeting, get back in the car when the meeting is done, get back on the plane, arrive home.

Usually there's at least one sleepless night in the hotel in there somewhere.

The way this conference is set up, people are in hotels all over the city and there is no way to come and go from the sessions without seeing bits and pieces of the place, even if it's through the window of a taxi in standstill traffic.

The public art I've seen, alone, makes me want to see more.

Tariq (my husband) and I both feel a city's commitment to public art says a lot about the heart of the place. Mexico City has a beautiful heart.

Statue of Xoloitzcuintle, an ancient hairless breed, with the real thing; Museo Dolores Olmedo, Mexico City

PHOTO (above): Statue of Xoloitzcuintle, an ancient hairless breed, with the real thing; Museo Dolores Olmedo, Mexico City

Plus, I decided it would be profoundly rude to come to Mexico City, the site of the first international AIDS conference ever held in Latin America, and not look around a little. I've got some guilt going on about missing a piece of the conference (though Webcasts of various sessions have lessened that), but it also seems absurd to leave here without really being here.

With limited time, Tariq and I choose the thing we each would feel most remorseful about missing and agree: the art of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, two of Mexico's (and the world's) greats. For me, this choice is about:

  1. An admiration I share with many of Rivera's definitively inventive, populist and activist murals, and
  2. An appreciation for the way Frida Kahlo produced imaginative, wildly expressive art while living in constant, debilitating pain and in the shadow of Rivera, her husband. She was brave - she said boldly to the world through her art 'this is my truth.'

Tariq and I had dinner with some of the staff and the editor, Bonnie Goldman, of The Body, a great Web-based resource on all things HIV/AIDS. Two people at dinner were Mexico City residents, neither of whom had ever been at an AIDS meeting, who were helping The Body staff conduct and record interviews with Spanish-speaking participants during the conference.

It was great to hear about some of the people they interviewed and the stories people shared with them about their lives. It reminded me that the important stuff of this week has not necessarily been happening on the main stage. The things that have impact on any one person could be happening in the hallways, or gathered around a booth in the Global Village, or even while appreciating daring, activist art.

To contact Heidi, click here.

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This article was provided by Heidi Nass.
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