On July 16th, 17th, and 18th, 2004 Mexico City played host to Encuentros, the Mexican Fan Clubís annual Star Wars convention. Over 15,000 Star Wars fans from Mexico, the United States and Canada descended upon the World Trade Center for a weekend of fun, merriment, and all the Star Wars action you could shake a stick at.
Although the convention didnít get underway until the 16th, my adventure actually got started a few days earlier. After a long day of travel and sitting around in airports, my girlfriend Karlee and I arrived in Mexico City late in the afternoon on Tuesday the 13th and we met up with several collector friends who also came down in advance to check out some of the local attractions. We were greeted in the lobby by my good friends Luis Galvez, James Gallo, Chris Georgoulias, Steve York, Joe Yglesias, John Alvarez and Todd Chamberlain and preceded to head out for a late lunch/dinner. Gus Lopez and Isaac Lew were waiting for us in the hotel when we returned and we all took it easy before turning in for the night.
Wednesday started with a rather early breakfast followed by a rush trip to the huge Mexican TV studio where several members of our group were to be interviewed on the morning variety styled ďHoyĒ show. Unfortunately, because of the crazy traffic conditions found in Mexico City, we arrived too late, missing the scheduled time slot. Luckily Ray Park and Daniel Logan made it in time and they were able to promote the convention. And, although we missed the interview, you can distinctly hear several of us clapping in the background of one of the scenes that followed and this seemed to make up for not getting our mugs and collectibles on air. After our time at the studio we arrived back at the hotel and picked up fellow collectors Duncan Jenkins and David Gaule who had arrived in our absence. Our good friend and acting tour guide Luis Galvez then took us on a terrific bus tour of the city with another late lunch to follow.
After lunch we all piled into our van (which often felt more like a clown car than a van as we had so many people packed in there!) and hurried to the Sala Nezahualcoyotl for Star Wars En Concierto; a live performance of the most memorable scores from all 5 of the Star Wars films conducted by Erich Kunzel. Truth be told, I had never seen the music from Star Wars performed live before and I was utterly taken by the experience. Erich Kunzel truly captured the essence of these musical pieces and his orchestra executed their performance with perfection. This performance really was a treat to see and definitely was one of the high points of the week. The set, in Spanish, was as follows:
Suite Una Neuava Esperanza
As an encore the crowd was treated to the music from the Cantina Band and an encore performance of Duel of the Fates (Duelo de los Destinos) and after the concert we met Erich Kunzel who was kind enough to sign all our beautiful souvenir programs. Finally, it was time to go and after taking a rather roundabout trip (which included driving backwards for a considerable length of time) we managed to find an exit from the Sala Nezahualcoyotl and went for another late dinner with the President of the Mexican Fan Club, Oscar Fernandez who explained to us exactly what we could expect for the coming weekend. We finally retired to bed around 2am, knowing that another early morning and a long, fun-filled day awaited us.
Itís hard to believe that with all the great events we attended on Wednesday that Thursday would be better but in my humble opinion, it was. Of course, we started with an early breakfast and then two vanloads of us all went out to Teotihuacan, an ancient pyramid city where we spent the morning and a good part of the afternoon touring this unbelievable historical site. Teotihuacan is by far the most astounding and awe-inspiring place Iíve ever visited and if youíre ever in the area, I highly recommend checking it out and if possible, getting Jesus Rios Castillo for a guide, as he was incredibly insightful and knowledgeable.
As luck would have it, there was another comic book and anime convention called La Mole (pronounced mo-lay) happening simultaneously and once we had exhausted Teotihuacan (several hours after our arrival) we headed over to check it out and to do a little toy hunting. While many of my collector brethren found some Star Wars deals at La Mole none were to be found for me although I did find some cool Mexican GI Joe stuff so it was not a total loss.
After La Mole and a little freshening up at the hotel (where we added our friends Oscar Didier and Mauricio Antunez to our group), we went out for a great dinner with the Mexican Fan Club and several of the other attending guests including Steve Sansweet, Ray Park, Daniel Logan, Michonne Bourriague, Femi Taylor and Shannon Baska McRandle.
Once fully stuffed from our meal, we then went over to the World Trade Center to help Oscar Fernandez and his crew with the set-up for the convention, as the opening was just a few short hours away. It was easy to see that even in the set-up process, that Encuentros was going to be one helluva good time.