Pop Culture Fest 2013 at Hacienda Tres Rios Resort
Mexican culture...the ancient Maya pyramids, traditional regional dances, Aztec mythology. The past comes alive for tourists when they think of Mexico, but what many people miss is the rich culture of modern day. Fusion cuisine, contemporary art, film and music, artesanal beers, wines and spirits and of course, pop culture entertainment like lucha libre. Hacienda Tres Rios in the Riviera Maya held a festival to celebrate today's vital Mexican culture, the Pop Culture Fest 2013, introducing tourists to a "new" side of Mexico.
Somebody says "fiesta", and I am totally on board. I was excited when my friend Kristin (the community manager for Tres Rios) invited me to play with her and a gaggle of girls who work in social media. We boarded the bus in Cancun and headed south.
The first event of the day (after seeking out the desperately needed coffee) was a cooking demonstration by the Tres Rios chef. He put together a dish of beef filet with "huitlacoche" sauce ("corn smut" in English, but it just sounds so dirty that way, no? We'll stick with the Spanish). I admit to never having enjoyed huitlacoche in the past, but this little treat was rich and delish and left me wanting more. And well, the small taste whet our appetites and we made our way to the cafe and devoured sweet pastry treats (I had at least two of each, diet be damned, it's a party).
Beef filet with huitlacoche sauce
With our bellies sated and caffeine coursing through our veins, we had a few minutes before the next event so we checked out the lobby art exhibit of dresses inspired by Mexico but made completely of paper products. This one was piñata-fabulous.
Afraid if I wore this I would get hit by children with sticks
We made our way to the sports bar to express our competitive sides with some traditional "balero", an addictive game with a stick and a wooden top and string, desperately trying to get the top to sit on the stick. We each had ten chances to try to make it, if we got it, we could keep the "balero". Errr, I didn't do so great but they were kind enough to let me keep the toy after I put on a pouty face.
The "balero" and the flag. Doesn't get any more Mexican than this
I'm totally doing it wrong
Now, on to the good stuff, drinking and learning, can't beat that with a stick. The sommelier from Imperial Mezcal was on hand to give us a lesson in this fine Mexican spirit. It's a lot like tequila, but has its own unique characteristics and history. I developed a fondness for mezcal in Oaxaca and with this tasting and lesson, was able to further develop my appreciation for the art. In addition to a proper tasting class, the mixologist served up some cocktails made with mezcal, the mojito was divino!
We had a delicious lunch (I had beef in blue cheese sauce, ooooh so good), accompanied by the cool chicas of social media and a few "alebrijes" (tamarind margaritas). We then prepared ourselves for the main event, getting all gussied up for a Mexican dinner and the big show.
I had only been to a lucha libre event once and well, I hated it to be honest. But I was ready with an open mind and climbed the bleachers to settle in for a night of knock downs. What I discovered was a grand tradition of choreography and humour! The luchadores were hilarious, I haven't laughed so hard in a good long time. I got to screaming along with everyone "rudos, rudos, rudos!" and belly laughing with the girls. After the show I ran down to meet "Zumbi" (Brazilian themed character who incorporated capoeira in his act, the ladies loved the sexy hips and gymnastic ability of this dude). The adrenaline must have been flowing through me too as I climbed into the ring and onto the ropes, letting out a grand lucha scream from the top.
Luchas! "El Alebrije" was my fave
Crazy luchador eyes? Ok, I'll play along with Zumbi
Ruda!!!! (I need a skimpier costume)
We were totally exhausted at the end of the day, but it was a "good" kind of tired. We learned, we laughed, we ate, we drank, we got a little crazy with the lucha libre. This was a very cool event and I think we need more of its kind. As much as I love the ancient culture of this country, I do live in the modern Mexico and celebrate the richness of the society, the silliness, the art, the constant drive forward and the importance of sharing good times with family and friends. Thanks to Tres Rios for putting together this affair, hopefully it will be an annual event and more folks will be able to raise a glass to the Mexican culture of today. Salud my friends!