Palace of the Blue Butterfly | Episode 12
Remember when I said that I loved crumbling old villas? Must have been early imprinting. On drives around the south, my mother would always find these abandoned, old plantations in places like Georgetown, South Carolina and the like, would stop the car, and I’d find myself stomping through the kudzu, peering through broken windows into destroyed relics of the past. Anyway, take a look at this incredible building, smack dab in the middle of Mexico City.
Don’t you wonder who lived there and what their lives were like? Well if you do, I have a treat in store for you!
Meet Antonieta Rivas Mercado. This falling down mansion was her childhood home.
A few weeks ago, my friend Frances in Mexico wrote me about her friend Kathryn Blair who has just published an English version of her very popular novel In the Shadow of the Angel. It sold 200,000 copies in Mexico and is being made into a telenovela with Televisa—kind of a Mexican mini-series. The novel is a fictional account of Antonieta’s life, really beautifully written. I want to hand a copy to any and everyone and say, “You’ve got to read this!” (Get it on Amazon now!)
Antonieta Rivas Mercardo, the daughter of the architect who designed and built the iconic Angel of Independence, was a fascinating woman, a rebel and patron of the arts during the late 1920s and early 1930s. Really, she shaped modern Mexican culture. Here are a few of her accomplishments: She founded Mexico’s first contemporary theater—the Teatro de Ulises— as well as the Orquestra Sinfonica Nacional. She supported the publication of literary reviews and books by the rising stars of the Modernist movement. And, she accomplished all this when women had few rights and could not even vote!
How she did all this during the tumultuous period of the revolution makes In the Shadow of the Angel compelling reading. Add to that a disastrous marriage and a passionate love affair with presidential candidate Jose Vasconcelos, and you can see why Televisa wants to make a telenovela out of this book!
After Vasconcelos lost the election, Antonieta fled Mexico for Paris. There she found herself up against the cruel realities that women who flaunted society’s conventions faced at that time. Here’s a link to a little Youtube interview with the author Kathryn Blair who just happens to be married to Antonieta’s son Donald Blair.The interview takes place in the house you see in the beginning of this post.
And now when you imagine Lili walking down the Avenida Reforma, think about the winged sculpture, the winged spirit (perhaps) of Antonieta hovering over her.
Episode 12 - click and listen