A magical rainbow arched over the Bay of Zihuatanejo as the exhibition of images by Gene “Cri Cri” Lysaker got underway around 7 p.m. at the Museo Arqueológico de la Costa Grande last Friday evening. The exhibition consisted mostly of photographs as well as watercolor scenes and 8mm movies. Hundreds of images were displayed on easels set around the courtyard of the museum, but the highlight of the evening was a video showing more photos, watercolor scenes and the 8mm movies. The images covered the history of Zihuatanejo during the decades of the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s. The great majority of portraits were of the children of Zihuatanejo, thus the title of the exhibition was “Los Niños de Zihuatanejo de Antaño” (Zihuatanejo’s Children of Yesteryear).
The turnout was excellent! Members of many of Zihuatanejo’s oldest families were present, representing several generations, including the now-grown subjects of many of the portraits. They wandered through the galleries of photos set up on easels around the courtyard of the museum. Many of the photos had the names of the children written under them, making identification easier.
A very slight drizzle made for a perfect evening providing relief from the heat of the day while not actually getting anyone wet.
As I already mentioned, the highlight of the exhibition was a video made by Cri Cri of still photos accompanied by music of the era. At the end of the video was some 8mm movie footage, also made by Cri Cri, showing scenes of Zihuatanejo and the Catalina Hotel from the early 1950’s.
The entire video was narrated by Doro Tellechéa, who knew the names of most of the people and children as well as the locations of the photos. He did an excellent job, and whenever he needed help with a name there were plenty of members in the audience who shouted them out.
My wife, Lupita Bravo, had been planning and working on this exhibition for months. She had intended to hold the event a few weeks ago at the Zócalo, but rain caused her to postpone the event. She used the time to prepare even more photos and to organize the event even better: having a carpenter friend build dozens of easels to display the photos, as well as having water, wine and snack foods available for the attendees.
Lupita also received invaluable assistance from Irma López Ibarra, the Coordinadora de Eventos Culturales y Especiales for the Casa de Cultura.
The exhibition not only served to remember bygone friends and family members, but also to remember the lifestyle of Zihuatanejo based on the closeness its inhabitants had with the gifts of nature. Residents from those times enjoyed a healthy ecosystem, a pristine bay, clean beaches, an abundance of fresh water, and clean lagoons, especially the beautiful lagoon next to the school, now a problematic canal and source of pollution.
Folks also remembered the healthy lifestyle they enjoyed just a few decades ago. There was no television, and most families and friends met and walked and played on the beaches daily. One thing that several folks commented upon was that there were almost NO overweight people in Zihuatanejo back then.
Everyone who attended the exhibition expressed their gratitude to Cri Cri for the effort he put into his photos and especially for sharing them with us.
For those who have never heard of Gene Lysaker, Gene is native of Twin Valley, Minnesota who visited Zihuatanejo frequently during the decades of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. He befriended many local families during his visits, and the children gave him his nickname of Cri Cri from the click-click sound of his camera. Many of the photos he took of locals and their children still hang in local family homes.
I was fortunate to meet Gene through my website. He last visited Zihuatanejo in 1998, but he still keeps up with local goings on through my Zihuatanejo Message Board.
A big thanks goes to my wife Lupita who worked harder than anyone will ever know to bring about this event in honor of her beloved Zihuatanejo and especially in honor of Cri Cri. Also to Irma López and the folks in charge of the museum for providing the venue and all the little details that helped make the event a success. And also to Doro who spent time with us trying to get all the names right and who provided the audio-visual equipment to allow everyone to view Cri Cri’s two-and-a-half hour video. Also to my ahijado Jaime and the two Julian’s from Tlamacazapa as well as to Ricardo for helping prepare all the photos as well as to our young ahijada Ana Karen for her assistance in labeling them.
But most of all thanks go to Cri Cri without whose photos, watercolors, home movies and videos none of this would have been possible.
We hope to have another exhibition in the near future in order to show the second video of photos that Cri Cri put together.