Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mexico City-- Part 1

We are wrapping up our visit to Mexico City today, returning to Guadalajara tonight.  It’s been an eventful trip, but a good one.  My impressions were somewhat different than I had imagined.  I thought the city would be overwhelming because there, are after all, over 20 million people who make this their home.  Of course it is a monstrous city, but there are  so many lovely neighborhoods within the city, that when you are in San Angel, Roma, Condesa, Coyoacán, Capultepec Park, for example, it does not feel like a huge city.  Bob and Kathy Koches, who did a splendid job of planning the trip, made it possible for us to see the major attractions in one week. The photo at the top shows the city sprawl taken from the top of the Latin American Tower, but I felt safe walking around, and always met very interesting people. 

Our vegan diet was, of course, a challenge.  Bob Koches made it a point, however, to find and let us know about vegan fare available.  The fact is, however, if you go into a restaurant in Mexico and ask for vegetarian fare, it almost always contains cheese.  So, we’ve been getting creative asking for bean tacos, salads, and veggie enchiladas.  Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.  One funny problem I had was with oatmeal, a good vegan breakfast.  Here in Mexico City, they make oatmeal by putting a very small amount of oatmeal in a bowl swimming with milk or hot water.  No matter how hard I tried to ask for solo avena, they could not seem to grasp it.  In one nice restaurant, they strained their oatmeal through a colander to try to please me, but it was still mostly a bowl of hot water.  Oh well.

We saw many of the big attractions while we‘ve been here: the National Anthropology Museum, Maximillion’s Castillo in Chapultepec Park, Frida Kahlo’s house and museum in Coyoacán, The National Palace with Diego Rivera’s fmous murals, the main Cathedral in the Zocalo , Temple Mejor (the newly discovered excavation next to the Zocala), Teotihuacan’s pyramids outside Mexico City, the Basillica of Guadalupe, and, yesterday, the Convent of St. Jerome where Sor
Juana Inez de la Cruz (the 17th century nun, early feminist, and one of the most important Hispanic poets) lived, died, and is buried. 

Our first visit was to the National Museum of Anthropology, a beautiful modern museum that contains the greatest collection of pre-Hispanic artifacts anywhere in the world.  Most of us are familiar with the Aztecs and Mayans, but this museum traces the evolution of the Mexican people from the early migrants from Asia, the many different people who lived in Mesoamerica, to the people who were here to greet Cortez.  The art and artifacts of these people, over the last 2000 years or so, is remarkable.  Here are some wonderful images from the museum. I could not use a flash, but the artifacts were so well lit, it was relatively easy to take beautiful photos.

Chaupultepec Park is a huge intra-city park where we find the Castillo, which housed the short-lived Emperor Maximillian and several federal presidents.  Most of the exhibits in the Castillo focus on the life of Maximillion and Carlota during their brief three year reign, before he was executed.  It’s a beautiful building with interesting exhibits.  Here are some photos:

Many of us were looking forward to visiting Frido Kahlo’s house and museum in Coyoacán.  The house, called Casa Azul, is quite lovely and had many artificats, including the bed with a mirror above so she could paint here self-portraits while lying in bed recovering.  The body cast which she painted, highlighted int eh film, Frida, is also on display.  It’s a beautiful example of a lovely family home, which contains many artifacts of Diego and Frida’s life there.  Here are some photos:


On Sunday, we visited several sites on or near the huge public square.  TheNational Palace, which houses the President and the principal national government officials, is a huge, beautiful building which houses some of
Diego Rivera’s most important murals.  The gothic cathedral is absolutely huge and took over 250 years to build.  Since the Spanish built Mexico City on a lake bed, the Cathedral and many other large colonial buildings, are slowly sinking.  We also saw the recent excavation of an Aztec temple that workers discovered by accident a number of years ago, called Temple Mejor.  We could actually see the excavation as it is being conducted and looked at some artifacts displayed in the nearby museum.  Here are some photos of the sights around the Zocalo:

Many thanks to Bob and Kathy who have worked hard to make this a special trip for us all!


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