Tablet Magazine

Trying to Save Ladino: Sephardic Culture Conference Lands in Mexico City

I expected, over the course of a three-day conference in Mexico City about global Sephardic culture, to hear more Ladino. But I was surprised, if not a little disappointed, to hear mostly Spanish being spoken at Erensya, an annual meeting run by the Madrid-based Sepharad-Israel Center. Founded in 2006, the SIC’s flagship program, the Erensya (“Heritage,” in Ladino) summit, is an annual meeting of Sephardic dignitaries that has previously been hosted in Bulgaria, Turkey, and Spain.
Tablet Magazine

10,000 Hardboiled Eggs and the Art of Pedro Friedeberg

Most Sundays, Pedro Friedeberg spends $50 to $100 buying junk in La Lagunilla, Mexico City’s massive flea market. Whatever he happens to find there—let’s say, a midget-sized Superman figure or a Simpsons-themed chess-set—will either be dismembered or placed into whatever nook is left among the doll heads, cabalistic drawings, I-Ching books, hand-shaped chairs, and other objects populating his house. At 82, he realizes he will never be able to organize his “collection,” though perhaps his son wil
Tablet Magazine

Stories of Emancipation: Aztecs and Israelites

Every Monday morning, in elementary school in Mexico City, I would line up next to my classmates in the main yard. As we looked up the red, white, and green flag we would sing a hymn to the Mexican flag, with our hands to our chests. The ritual was, and still is, repeated across Mexico. Atop the flag is a ubiquitous Mexican emblem: an image of an eagle, standing on top of a cactus, devouring a snake. The story behind this image is known to everyone in Mexico but to me, as a Mexican Jew, the
Tablet Magazine

The Non-Jewish Family That Serves 'Kosher' Quesadillas to Mexico City's Jews

Every day, at around 5:30 in the evening, a white van loaded with kitchen utensils, cooking ingredients, chairs, tables, and a tent departs on an hour-and-a-half ride across Mexico City towards Bosques de la Reforma, a wealthy enclave on the outskirts of the megalopolis. As soon as it parks on Prolongación, a busy commercial street with heavy traffic, eight people get off the van and work with military efficiency to set up the tent, laying the tables and organizing the chairs in the sidewalk. Th

City Trash “Archaeologists” Head to the Beach in Australia

​In San Diego, 325,000 tons of household trash will be collected this year. According to New York City, its residents generate 12,000 tons of waste each day. In 2012, the World Bank reported that “world cities generate about 1.3 billion tons of solid waste per year,” and estimated that figure would be 2.2 billion tons by 2025. While cities around the world set goals regarding recycling and improving collection services, one group of artists in Mexico City looks at trash as an important agent in
The Forward

The Jew Who Gave Castro a Boat (and Helped Launch a Revolution)

Encased in a glass box on one of the main plazas in old Havana is a small and ordinary fishing boat called “El Granma.” Sixty years ago a young group of socialist militants led by Fidel Castro crossed the Gulf of Mexico on it, igniting a revolution that would affect the region for decades to come. Today, “the Grandma,” as it translates into English, is part of the revolutionary mythology of Latin America. Among other things, the main daily newspaper of Cuba’s communist party is named after it.
Medium

Living Dada in the age of Trump

I met Dada by chance — which is, come to think of it, the most Dada way of meeting it, if at all. It was during a trip to New Orleans: I was strolling through the Modern Art Museum’s gift shop when I ran into a a small pocket-book called The Post-Human Dada Guide. A strange piece of work, this text, organized as a dictionary but structured as a roadmap for living what it called a “Dada life” . An impractical guide, the back-cover stated, for “it is not advisable, nor was it ever, to lead a Dada
The Forward

Mexico’s Celeb Jewish Envoy Gets Smacked by His Own Community and Fired By His Government

October was a tough month for Andres Roemer — Mexico’s now former ambassador to UNESCO and a highly public, if controversial, member of Mexico’s Jewish community. Suddenly, last month, a rapid and complicated tangle of Middle East-related developments conspired to recast the 53-year-old star diplomat as a piñata, subject to severe whackings by both his government and his community. The trouble began on October 13, when Mexico supported a resolution on Jerusalem at UNESCO’s executive board that
TheEuropean

Donald Trump and Mexico

Thursday, protestors will gather in Mexico City’s main square to demand the resignation of president Enrique Peña Nieto. The selected date is charged. The 15th of September is Mexican Independence Day, the most important in the national calendar. Which means the president will be there, too. Actually he will have to face the crowd: tradition requires him to stand in the presidential balcony and shout “Viva Mexico” to the jubilant masses who, under normal conditions, are expected to shout back.
Tablet Magazine

In Mexico, a Flailing President and a Bully Put on a Subdued Show

For Enrique Peña Nieto, Trump’s visit came at a precarious time in the Mexican president’s tenure. Initially portrayed as Mexico’s savior, Peña Nieto’s rule has been marked by a series of scandals. Most recently: The alleged cronyism regarding the first lady’s use of a luxurious apartment owned by a government contractor; and a new investigation suggesting that 28 percent of Peña Nieto’s undergraduate thesis was plagiarized. (Famously, he was asked to name his three favorite books during his ru
The Forward

Viennese Jewish Women Are Uniting to Aide Muslim Refugees

Elias Canetti was walking along the banks of the Danube when he spotted a large rectangular object in the middle of the road. As he got closer to inspect it he realized it was a train wagon, eerily parked on the train tracks, full of people. He asked his companion about it. “Refugees” he said – consciously avoiding the term “Jews”. The scene is narrated in The Discovery of Evil, a chapter in Canetti’s autobiography. As a Sephardic Jew who resided in Vienna before the Second World War, Canetti e
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