After Hours

National icons usually celebrate milestones in their home countries, but classic Italian diva Sopfia Loren chose to mark the beginning of her ninth decade in Mexico, opening an exhibit at the Soumaya Museum in Mexico City with Hollywood colleagues and most especially tycoon Carlos Slim. La Loren gave an occasionally teary tribute to those celebrating with her and although not at home celebrated her good fortune in being able to work her entire life “under one roof”. Slim reciprocated, and he and La Loren jointly cut the opening ribbon. Meanwhile, Roman fans were left to console themselves with a photographic retrospective of Sofia’s career which may have given many the opportunity to consider whether contemporary Italy has aged as gracefully as her leading diva. You can read accounts of the birthday gathering (and of Rome’s photo homage) here and here.

Take a look at how emotional La Loren was over the proceedings on this video:

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After Hours

Mexicans took to the streets this week to celebrate 203 years of independence from Spain. Fiestas for El Grito de Independencia kicked off on Tuesday and spilled over the next two days. Never let it be said that Mexicans don’t know how to throw a party. The official celebration begins the night of September 15th when Mexico’s president delivers the grito from the National Palace, first ringing of a church bell in front of a sea of onlookers.

Here’s a quick history lesson to bring you up to speed: It began on September 16, 1810 at about 6:00 am in the small town of Dolores near Guanajuato. A priest and pro-independence rebel by the name of Miguel Hidalgo y Costillo, accompanied by a few friends, forced the town sheriff to release 80 co-conspirators from jail. Hidalgo quickly headed to his church and rang the church bell to call his congregation – the same bell still used at the National on Palace celebrations. There’s no record of exactly what he said, but it must have been one helluva sermon – imploring his countrymen to revolt against the tyranny of Spain. It took another decade for Mexico to win its freedom, but that cry for independence is still celebrated by Mexicans around the world. See the official ceremony for yourself:

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After Hours

It’s Fashion Week in New York and for most of us mere mortals it’s like peeking into the Twilight Zone. This year, designers seem particularly bent on outfitting aliens or as the New York Times more graciously put it “Even collections nominally inspired by real places had an other-worldly feel.” For Mexican American designer César Galindo, “other-worldly” was exactly what he was aiming for in his spring line. Inspired by sci-fi, including the small-screen classic The Jetsons, Gallindo’s new women’s wear collection evokes both urban chic and space travel. “I’m fascinated by technology – both by what it looks like and what it does,” the 47-year-old designer said in a backstage interview with NBC Latino. “There’s a lot layering, because I think technology enables us to live in a layered world. It adds layers to us and it also allows us to layer on top of each other. So you see that in the design element too. Layers are a prominent part in this collection, as is a constant juxtaposition in silhouettes.”

Galindo, a self-taught designer and the youngest of eleven children, began his career in fashion designing corsets and period costumes for The Miami City Ballet. He moved to New York in the mid 1980’s, working for labels including Dolce & Gabbana and Calvin Klein developing while his own line. Galindo stepped into the limelight when his washed silk kimono dress made the cover of Elle magazine in July 1993, on supermodel Karen Mulder. In 2011, the designer founded his new label CZAR. Get a taste of Galindo’s designs here:

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After Hours

Bawdy, scandalous and wickedly entertaining, Cassandro, the star of Mexican lucha libre wrestling, found himself under a different spotlight last week when highbrow US magazine The New Yorker profiled the flamboyant wrestler in its September 1 issue. The magazine’s renowned for its in-depth, often offbeat profiles, and William Finnegan’s piece doesn’t disappoint.

The story describes Cassandro, aka Saúl Armendáriz’s, struggles as a gay kid battling his machista truck driver dad; quitting school at 15 to apprentice himself to a lucha trainer in Juarez; debuting two years later as Mister Romano and later becoming an Exotico – a wrestler fighting drag. In the ring, 44-year-old Cassandro has had hot chilli peppers thrown at him and knife stab between his ribs (and that’s just the audience!). But the bad boy of Mexican wrestling now gives lectures at US Embassy and National University in Mexico City and fights in rings all over the US. The problem with gringo wrestlers, he says, is that they don’t know how to catch).

At close to 9,000 words, this isn’t an article you can whip through while waiting for the bus. After Hours suggests you kick back and enjoy some longform writing: you might even learn something. Start reading here and check out the video of Cassandro in motion below.

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After Hours

Thalia, Mexico’s Queen of Pop, was in the news this week, both thrilling and bewildering her fans. First the good news: the legendary singer, who has sold some 40 million records worldwide and rates as one of the best-selling Latin America pop artists ever, will appear next week in an HBO Latino special belting out her greatest hits. The special premiers on 5 September and highlights her homecoming show, recorded last spring in the National Auditorium in Mexico City.

And now the weird news: the 42 year-old star, whose real name is Ariada Thalia Sodi Miranda, showed her somewhat macabre sense of humour last week by posting an Instagram video of herself gazing at a sundrenched jar with a pickled set of ribs floating inside, presumably her own. Yuck. The video quickly reignited rumours that the singer has had two ribs removed to make her waistline thinner. She later claimed later the whole thing was a prank and that the bones were pork ribs. The Queen’s had the last laugh. Or Halloween-inspired cackle.

Here The Queen is singing at the White House and bustin’ a move with President Obama (spoiler – their “dance” lasts 10 seconds):

Here she is with her “ribs”:

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After Hours

One of the longest-running Mexican acts of today received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame this week. Mexican regional superstars Los Tigres del Norte have taken their family passion for song – they’re the three Hernandez brothers and their cousin Óscar Lara – to venues as diverse as Disney Hall and Soledad Prison. They’ve sung about all aspect of Mexican life: love, life, immigration, and the life of legal and illegal Mexican workers in “el Norte.” Their songs have led to dozens of albums and millions of records. Some have called them Mexico’s Rolling Stones. For a full account of their background and a taste of their music, check out the link here.

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After Hours

Fans of Mexican crooner Juan Gabriel, the Divo de Juarez, have been holding their breath as he’s spent much of this spring and summer in hospital. But 64-year-old Gabriel has just announced that he’s ready to take the road again. In an interview with Alberto Aguilera (Gabriel’s civvy self), Gabriel said he’s well and prepared to spend the autumn touring the US. Dispensing with publicists and journalists, Gabriel/Aguilera showed how his life divides between entertainer flair, with shades and a fan, and quiet, dress-down dedication to his instruments and production. You can see his dialogue of self and soul here

and a sample of his singing here!

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