In 1971, a group of artists organized a show with dancers, musicians and beggars in one of the most prestigious cultural venues in Mexico. Days later, the INBA director resigned and the event disappeared from the official archives.
Those who were there say that the Palace of Fine Arts was surrounded by “fumaroles with the smell of a mixture of herbs and incense” on the afternoon of December 4, 19711. That day, according to newspaper reports, it was one of the most official cultural venues de México opened their doors to a “pop show” that lasted more than two hours and filled the seats. The show featured dancers, poets, wrestlers, intellect and rock music. It was Saturday, five in the afternoon, at Bellas Artes. But the following Monday, the director of the National Institute of Fine Arts submitted his resignation and the event disappeared from the official archives, according to the writer Federico Roble in his new book Promise 71 (Senderos, 2023). The journalist has been asking himself a question for several years: How did this happen in the first place?
Roble, 68 years old and would have turned 17 in December 1971, was not at Bellas Artes the afternoon of the presentation of Prometeo Espectáculo Pop. Although he has dedicated his life to writing about rock music, and at that time he was a correspondent for the Mexican weekly Cana, He did not know about the event until 2017, when the musician and manager Armando Molina sent him an email with a newspaper clipping. Roble was skeptical and responded: “The truth does not sit well with the repression and censorship of rock music that was unleashed after Avándaro.” In September, a few kilometers from Mexico City, the Avándaro rock festival takes place, a Mexican-style Woodstock that has seen the rise and fall of rock in the country. The event scandalized the government and the press and the genre disappeared from radio and concerts for a decade.
Robley wondered how, then, the authorities could have allowed an event “so advanced, pioneering and disputed”. How, above all, the government of PRI member Luis Echevarría would allow this if the bill included two groups that played in Avándaro, Peace & Love and Dug Dug’s. The journalist began a four-year investigation to “save a minor who was being buried,” he said this week at the book presentation in a cafeteria in Mexico City’s Roma neighborhood. Robley interviewed nearly two dozen people whose recollections sometimes become inaccurate. One of the first calls was to the painter Arnaldo Quin, who organized the event with his brothers Amilcar and Aristides and with the producer Roberto Mesgesera.
The permission to put on the show was “a random, unexpected, random fluke,” Quinn told Robley: “We met the Fine Arts director at a party. We started talking to him about the show and he said, ‘Why don’t you Do we? Put it in Fine Arts? He gave us the box office and he couldn’t give us anything else”. jacket. He has been bald for years, but still had a patchy beard when he was young. During the show he sat with his cane in one hand and recounted that it was an “incredible” afternoon: “The excitement to enter the fine arts was great “.
In fact, the Prometeo Pop Show was presented for the first time months ago at the Israeli Sports Center, on the outskirts of Mexico City. To display it in fine art, only a few adjustments were necessary because the space was bigger. The show was the result of the many experiments that different artists tried and that were found during those years in the Zona Rosa of the capital. Quinn recalled the atmosphere this way in an interview for the book: “We met a lot of people we met. After all, it was every day. If you wanted to meet someone, you’d go to the Zona Rosa.” to a cafeteria, you went to galleries and there you found yourself. “Artists of all kinds of disciplines”.
On the day of the presentation at Bellas Artes, Quinn recalled, those who did not have tickets in the box offices and boxes or could not afford them “were like flies.” Outside the venue, some 2,000 people were left without a ticket. The show began with a character reciting the beginning of Prometheus Bound, the Greek tragedy based on the myth of a Titan who defied the gods and suffered permanent punishment. The story is interrupted by another character who jumps out of the audience and shoots the man he was reciting. A big noise started. That powerful music was giving way to zen music and dancers camouflaged by the landscape began to appear,” says Quinn.
During the show, poor people, fire eaters, snake charmers, wrestlers and poets reciting verses, and more dancers to the rhythm of the blues and three of the hottest rock bands of the moment: Peace and Love, Digger and Javier Patiz, the musician also appeared. concert star. Robley believes one of the reasons he was able to do it was because “the rock was hidden in the sign” and “went unnoticed” by authorities. Felipe Maldonado, who played keyboards at Peace & Love, told Robley, “I don’t think rock music has ever been played there again in the history of the Palace.” The only precedent is from the 60s, when Los locos del ritmo performed. In the end, the playwright Juan José Gurula appeared to deliver the closing monologue and then the curtain fell.
Robley’s book is full of images that give an idea of what it was like. pages from Arnaldo Coen’s notebook with the first sketches; newspaper clippings announcing “vanguard activities”; Photos of a nude dancer with her body painted in pink, green and red circles, or a shot of Armando Nava, the leader of Dug Dug’s, in a tails onstage. “It was our way of breaking with this paradigm of formal culture in the plastic arts. We did not do it with that intention, that’s how it happened,” said Roberto Muscera, producer of the program, who turns 74 today. the importance of the future and less importance of the present. We were there, we wanted to do something, we did it and that was enough.”
The following day, Sunday, the newspaper Excelsior published a chronicle of the show, and on Monday Miguel Bueno, who had been director of the National Institute of Fine Arts for a year, submitted his resignation. Robley offers some hypotheses in the book as to why Bueno authorized the program. His thoughts arose from the interviews that Bueno gave before his death in 2000: “At that time, his relationship with the authorities was very bad and he was aware that his release from the institute was close. Perhaps he thought that he could not care so much anymore take a chance”. doing something innovative and revolutionary, with that he could give a sign”. Independencia (…) on the other hand, was a way of showing the Minister of Public Education, Víctor Bravo Ahuja, that, even without a budget, he could put on a show Awesome”.
Robley tried, through requests through the Transparency Law, to investigate the records that remained from that day at the INBA. But he did not get the information he was looking for. In the book, the author writes: “There is no formal and official mention in the archives of the Institute (…) that Prometheus did not exist.” He only finds references in some publications, but these documents are not “official and official”. And the author asserts that “after the authorities described the show as an embarrassing, immoral and unworthy act of what should have arrived at the Fine Arts Forum, it was expected that they would want to erase all traces of what happened.”
The organizers of Prometeo Espectáculo Pop ran out of money at the box office and lost all the production they had prepared for the show. “Well, we owe it to him, but we have him to thank,” Quinn said Tuesday. Then he explained: “It was an act of spontaneity that was born from the heart and courage, from the effort we put into it, but at the same time it was playful. I remember buying Charo shirts with shields [from Mexico], and I’m going to buy virgins from Guadalupe with sequins… I think that spontaneity is very important.” For creativity and above all for freedom Freedom is the shield with which one can reach those who want to dedicate themselves to art.