After an easy, quick flight from Los Angeles to Mexico City on a much-improved United Airlines (www.united.com) I’m finally here! Mexico is a real paradox and a bag of mixed emotions; It’s chaotic and extremely disorganized, everything seems to be an afterthought. Buildings and freeways seem to raise as they go with no specific engineering or planning of any sort; a real opposite from the many gorgeous 17-18th century Spanish and Colonial towns that pepper the entire country. And yet, this urban jungle is on of the most vibrant cities in the world, not to mention the biggest. If you can look beyond the chaos and the brutal traffic, you will find a true metropolis filled with amazing energy, stunning neighborhoods, top notch museums, incredible history, restaurants of every kind, amazing artisan markets, more history and shopping galore. It’s not for everyone…but I love it!!!!
I’m staying at my dear friend’s Eugenio’s spectacular penthouse in Polanco, overlooking the Woods of Chapultepek (which is Mexico City’s version of NYC’s central park). I’ll be staying here for a few weeks, including a visit at my mom’s house in Cuernavaca, which is just 1 hour outside the city. There are several museums I want to see on this trip, most of all, Eugenio’s Jumex Museo that I followed through all of it’s stages: it’s inception and design, construction and the spectacular opening weekend just about one years ago, which I will report on as a “Throwback” post at some point.
But today I’m doing something totally different from my usual comfort zone, something I’ve never done before and I’m soooooo exited!!!!!! A dear friend of mine: Eduardo Serio, started a foundation some time ago in Mexico that dedicates itself to saving, healing and providing shelter to felines of all types that are left behind by private people, circuses and zoo’s. The operation is divided in two parts: the baby felines, from birth to a few months old, are hosted at his own home in Pedregal de San Angel; once grown, they are moved to the larger sanctuary for more space, protection and supervision.
I’ve been salivating over Eduardo’s Instagram page for a while (@blackjaguarwhitetiger), watching all his posts of the cutes panthers, lions and tigers I’ve ever seen and videos of the amazing relation he has with these animals. I promised myself that on my next trip to Mexico I would beg him to give me the grand tour; So here I am and after a few texts later, Eduardo has agreed to show me his fascinating new world. Our super cool driver: Jose Luis, picks us up in the morning for the 30 minute drive to Pedregal de San Angel, a wealthy suburb of Mexico City, to go to Eduardo’s own home to visit the baby felines. There is really nothing I can say to describe the amazement you experience once I am taken in a room with three baby tigers; I guess the photos will do more justice than anything I can say.
I am so happy with these little fluff balls that they have to drag me out by force. We move to the gardens where they keep the adolescent cats, one month to 6 months old, depending on the breed. Here that cats are definitely larger and very playful, I’m shocked at the strength they have at such a young age. It’s rough and painful some times, specially when one of the lions though my ankles was a lamp chop and pounced on it…teeth and all!!! It’s extraordinary how these cats have such different personalities from one another.
Driving to Eduardo’s “Black Jaguar White Tiger Foundation” sanctuary with Raphael Tessier, our driver Jose Luis and Coronas
Being viciously attacked by two white lions and a tiger
Trying to hang with the Puma but the jealous Panther won’t have it!
The time has come to drive to the actual sanctuary hosting all the big cats, just 45 minutes away. Eduardo has purchased over a 100 acres of land in an area just off the highway to Acapulco and has built a state of the art sanctuary for his growing number of adult cats. There are no cages just fenced areas to separate the different animals; each one has plenty of space to roam around, they have pools to swim and cool down and they are fed individually according to their health needs. Here I see fully-grown panthers, white tigers, tiger, lions, jaguars and more. They all arrived at the sanctuary sick, diseased and bone-thin, but you would never know, because they have all been treated and brought back to a healthy life.
We are all mesmerized by the beauty of these animals and the incredible efforts made to built this oasis and give these felines a second chance; suddenly Eduardo asks me if I want to play with two adult lions…before I could even think it through, he opens a gate to one of the enclosures and two fully grown lions come charging in our area and plop themselves just next to my feet. The combination of sheer terror and adrenaline was paralyzing, but I after a few moments I am compelled to pet the 500 Lbs. beasts and finally relax enough to start taking photos with my mates…equally terrified. That, of course, is until one of the lions decided that, yet again, my leg looks like a delicious snack and in a split-second movement, the lion turns around and locks his jaws on my ankle (in a playful way of course, if the cat was serious he could snap my leg apart with no effort at all). Eduardo, who consistently keeps a watchful eye on all of us and the animals, doesn’t miss a beat and quickly grabs the lions jaws and pry them open releasing my skinny and now dented ankle. I’ll take that as a sign that it’s time to leave before I turn into a meal; but not before watching Eduardo lying on the ground playing with 1-2-3 lions on top of him as if they were house cats!! It’s definitely not for the light hearted and things can easily go south in a split-moment; I am so impressed by Eduardo’s work, his courage and dedication to these animals.
After spending 5 hours with the kitties, it’s time to go back to the city. Thank you Eduardo for such an amazing experience…I’ll never look at a cat the same way from now on. Now it’s time to get ready for tonight’s opening of Becco restaurant at the newly redone Four Season Hotel in Mexico City.
In the cage with two full grown lioness
Stunning white tigers
White tiger sucking Eduardo’s finger
Lion sticking his tongue out at us
Cielo the Panther
Robert Kass, Raphael Tessier and Raul Olivo in the cage with two lions
Having a screaming match with the white tiger
Eduardo playing with two full grown lions…insanity!
Robert Kass and Eduardo Serio at his sanctuary in Mexico City