Mexico: The cherry on top – El D.F.
My last stop before heading back to the states is Mexico City – El D.F. as the Capitaleños lovingly refer to it. It is the second largest city in the world, and therefore a bit intimidating to me, but it was 6 days of whirlwind fun!! I was met at the bus terminal last Thursday by a friend whom I`d met earlier on the trip and exploring the city began. There is a lot to see and do in this city of 18 or so million people and I was staying right in the heart, a few blocks from the zocalo, and a prime location for setting off on foot. The interesting thing about this zocalo is that it is HUGE and that it is really bare. There is nothing but a flagpole in the center, which makes it very different from all the other city centers I have seen, because normally they are full of benches and trees. This is the site for various concerts, fairs, demonstrations and protests. It is surrounded by a busy and wide avenue and flanked by the Metropolitan Cathedral on one side and the National Palace on another. There are also some partially excavated Aztec ruins on the square that were only discovered 30 years ago and are an important reminder of the clashing of cultures that gives this city so much history.
The Palacio de Bellas Artes is a beautiful building that is currently housing an impressive Frida Kahlo exhibit, commemorating the 100 years that have passed since her birth. It was worth the two hour wait in the blazing sun to get in, as it joins pieces that are now scattered all over the country and world. There were several of her most famous pieces, as well as memorabilia from her life, such as several of her painted casts and letters written by her and to her.
One afternoon we spent with some acquaintances in Xochimilco, which is a popular weekend hangout for DFeños. It is a series of canals known to be the “place where flowers grow” and you gather in groups and rent little boats that are steered and maneuvered by pole-wielding men, like in Venice. It was such a fun time…there were families and groups of friends celebrating and the canals were packed so that it was a constant traffic jam. The highlight are all the smaller boats that sell food and snacks and the Mariachis that can be hired to pull up alongside your boat to accompany with some music. Naturally, as the canal is so packed, you can enjoy all of the music others have hired resulting in a very festive environment.
Another highlight was going the Teotihuacan ruins, the biggest and most popular in Mexico. The Temple of the Sun is one of the largest in the world and with a little huffin` and puffin` can be climbed for a spectacular view of the other pyramid (of the moon) and the 2 mile long Avenue of the Dead that is lined with the ruins that were once the residential quarters for this ancient city that was the first in the central Mexico valley. Naturally it rained on me, but did not ruin the parade because it was such a peaceful and tranquil spot, even with the hoardes of other visitors.
There are obviously hundreds of markets scattered around the city but I was mostly interested in the Sonora Market, known for its witchcraft items sold. We found frogs and skinned rabbits, books on black magic and santeria and herbs for absolutely everything. There were also aisles and aisles of “lotions” one could use to get rid of greed, envy, induce love, and even quiet gossiping neighbors. More interesting than the products themselves were the number of people of actually buying them.
Another highlight for me was discovered many of the impressive murals painted by the famous Mexican Muralists during the last century and scattered throughout the city. My favorite are those by Diego Rivera and the best were found inside the National Palace and on the campus of the main University in the country. It is pretty fascinating the level of detail and the size of some of these murals and I can just picture them up on platforms painting the day away, inspiried by the political and social events of the time.
My last night I went with some friends to Garibaldi Plaza to enjoy some Mariachi music. We went to a bar that is known to be the most typical in Mexico for Mariachi`s and later went out to the plaza where there are quite a number of bands of every type of music that you can hire to serenade someone or your group. I was treated to 4 beautiful songs sung by an 8-piece Mariachi band that made the perfect ending to a perfect visit to Mexico.
This is only a fraction of what I did in Mexico City….there were museums, parks, the zoo, tons of great eating, dancing, etc…but too much to ramble on and on about. All I can say is that I leave with such an newfound appreciation for Mexico and the Mexican people. They are some of the most hospitable people I have encountered on this journey and there is SO much more to Mexico than meets the eye and than what I thought I would find. And there is so much left to see, as I really only uncovered a wee little bit of our friendly neighbors to the south. Mexico was really the icing on the top of this trip!!
Viva la Vida!!!