Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Mexico City

From the Copper Canyon I took two long bus rides that got me from Creel to Chihuahua, then all the way down to Mexico City. I would have taken my time going south through Mexico but my friend Kendra would be leaving in a few days so this gave me the chance to see her. Later I would travel back north to see some of the places I passed by. Although I spent about 24 hours on a bus it was a very comfortable and beautiful ride. The buses here are amazing – very clean, comfortable, and usually with great movies.

Traveling by bus from Creel to Chihuahua

The bus terminal in Mexico City

Mexico City was terrific. I was expecting it be more overwhelming and a bit more dangerous, but it wasn't. It was a big city, more than 25 million people and counting, but it was very manageable and easy to walk around. We spent most of our time walking and taking the metro around the city, taking in the city life at markets and in the parks. We made it to the natural history museum and to the fine arts museum, but otherwise we took in the finer cultural events such as the live mariachis bands and “Lucha Libre” (professional wrestling), which was a riot.

Street life in front of the hotel

Kendra trying on boxing gloves being sold in Alameda Park.

Really great market stalls. I particularly loved the fresh fruit and incredible smoothies

Market food stalls, a great place to eat and watch the world go by

Hustle and bustle of life in the city

Moneda Street

Mexico City has a great metro system. Easy to use, clean, fast, frequent, and about 20 cents will get you from one side of the megalopolis to the other. The only down side is the massive crowd at rush hour.

Metro making a stop

Crowded metro at rush hour

Walking through the neighborhoods

Basket of tortillas

Old books

Natural history museum

Fine arts museum

Passing through a park


Since my camera was temporarily confiscated at the entrance to the “Lucha Libre” (professional wrestling) event the photo below is the only graphic representation of the experience of this wild experience. Let me tell you that the arena was full and people were on their feet cheering. Basically several teams of wrestlers entered the ring with great fanfare and always decked out in outrageous outfits and masks. It was an acrobatic event to say the least as they flung themselves around the ring and even out of it. I know that we have professional wrestling in the states, but it is something of an enthusiastic obsession here. It was a blast.

“Lucha Libre” masks

The last night Kendra was in the city we went to Plaza Garibaldi which is a great open plaza with roaming Mariachi bands. Along the edges of the square they sold Tequila and Beers, if you couldn't already tell by the picture.

Pseudo Mariachis!

After Kendra left I was on my own to explore the city and get to know Mexico city better. I learned that at one point it was actually an island in the middle of a shallow lake that that was connected by roads that were built up above the level of the lake. The city was connected by a series of canals and islands that were built up around the edge of the island. Once the Spanish arrived they drained most of lake by cutting into one of the hills in the north. Now the only part of the city that still has the islands and canals lies to the south. I will be visiting that area later.

Model of Mexico City as it is believed to have looked during the 1400's before the arrival of the Spanish.

Mexico has a long history of conquest, independence, and revolution. The architecture here is impressive and shows the time line of history. Next to the Cathedral, which is the largest in Latin America, you can see an excavated Aztec temple that was covered over until only 25 years ago. What is left of the temple is now exposed and you can see that the same stones that were used to build the Cathedral came from the ancient temple it was trying to replace.

At the heart of Mexico City is a large open plaza, called the Zocolo, that is bounded by several significant buildings. The most impressive is the cathedral, and the next is the Presidential Palace. In the Presidential Palace are several murals by Diego Rivera, the most revered artist of Mexico. On these mural he painted his understanding of the history of Mexico, and where he hoped it would go. He was a revered, but controversial painter that had ideas that not all of his patrons agreed with. He was paid to paint the murals in the Presidential Palace, but then he was also paid to stop painting due to his leftist subject matter.

Ornate and immense cathedral

Presidential Palace

Murals in the presidential palace painted by Diego Rivera

One thing that I have come to learn is that there is a strong spirit in the people here and they like to stand up for themselves. Protests and political debate are common place, especially near the Zocolo.

Protest near the Zocolo

Police calmly watching on

Che and Castro posters sold near the demonstration

Overwhelming patriotism is another trait I have found to be a large part of life in Mexico. The Mexican flag raised in the middle of the Zocolo is a good symbol of that. It is huge and it stands alone at the heart of Mexico City. More than that it is raised and lowered each day by the Mexican Army.

Mexican Flag on the Zocolo with the Cathedral in the background

Mexican flag

Army marching to lower the flag at 6:00

Flag being taken down

Mexico City is huge and there is plenty more to see. On the way out of town on a day trip to the ancient Pyramids of Teotithuacan you could see Mexico growing out of its old lake bed and climbing into the hills.

Neighborhood on the edge of Mexico City

Balloons for sale in the park

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