/ Mexico City

Distrito Federal

Well, Happy Christmas. Happy New Year. How's everyone doing? Had a nice break. What pleasantries.

We've been fine, thanks for asking. We've been having a lovely time in Mexico City. It seems it would be hard not to love this heaving mess of a city. It's massive in size and number with around 20 million people. It's also sits in a valley about 2250m above sea level. How can that be a valley? Crazy. It's also a swamp so the city is sinking into said valley. But someone saw an Eagle eating a Snake on a cactus on this very spot many years ago. That can only mean one thing: build the the capital of an ancient empire there.

The history of the place is pretty amazing. Tenochtitlan was founded by the Mexica people in 1325. It eventually became the capital of the Aztec Empire until Cortez arrived in 1519 and eventually got jack of the locals and raised the city in 1521 with the help of small pox and a lengthy siege. They even used the ruins of ancient temples to build their cathedrals in the sort of territorial piss that conquerors are so masterful at.

But enough of that, you've all got access to Wikipedia too.

We're staying in an 'artist studio' in Roma Norte. Roma Norte is super trendy. Loads of really nice bars and restaurants which we've been getting to know. The sorts of places that have three pages of boutique Mescal on the menu.

The apartment is essentially a shed on the roof of a four story 1930's apartment building and it shakes when trucks go past. It's crammed with antique furniture so I haven't been comfortable for two weeks now, and when we first arrived water-rationing was in place. To ration the water in Mexico city, they just turn the water off in the afternoon so showers were scarce for the first few days. Also, the bed collapsed (get your mind out of the gutter, it required little coercing). We managed to put it back together but I hold my breath every time I roll over now.

But what have we been up to? We arrived a few days before Christmas and spent the first few days in Markets pulling together the bits and pieces we needed for Christmas lunch. This is one area where the Spanish influence is appreciated with any number of cured meats, cheeses and other deli delights.

Christmas day was a day of lazily grazing through all the produce we'd bought with a ham and a bit of duck thrown in for good measure.

Then it was time to get cracking on the touristing. The first stop was Templo Mayor, a major Aztec temple right in the heart of Mexico city. It's jumbled mess of temples built on temples as new rulers came to power and the temple sunk into the swamp more and more. The attached museum has got a lot of the ruins that have been excavated in it and if I could read Spanish,i'm sure would have provided the deeper understanding I desire.

Fun fact though: gods are often depicted wearing leather coats of sorts which is thought to be related to flaying of sacrificial humans.

A few days later, as if to emphasise the fact that Mexico City was once part of the Aztec empire we happened across a ceremony of some sort in one of the large squares.

We've had a string of luck with there being once off exhibitions on at the moment that are custom built for me. The first was a Lucha Libre Exhibition at Museo del Objeto del Objeto which had a bunch of old masks and so on.

The second was an exhibition of Soviet Art from the early revolutionary period (before we all became so disillusioned) covering art, architecture, household goods and of course loads of propaganda posters. The exhibition was housed at the Palacio de Bellas Artes with is an enormous and really beautiful Art Deco meets Rocco building on the edge of the old city. Oh, and it has a couple of massive Diego Rivera murals.

Speaking of which, we also went to Museo Mural Diego Rivera which houses his famous Sueño de una tarde dominical en la Alameda Central (Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda Central) which was rescued from a hotel destroyed in a 1985 earthquake.

And speaking of earthquakes (I'm a segue master today), we also went past the Museo del Estanquillo which houses a large collection of photos and documents and included an exhibition on the 1985 earthquake that hit Mexico City. The exhibition also had photos from throughout Mexico's turbulent history and included photos of the meeting of Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata (his southern counterpart) as well as photos of both of them having been recently assassinated. There were even candid photos of Subcomandante Marcos and his Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN).

We also happened upon an exhibition of photographs from Lee Miller at the Museo de Arte Moderno. She was a surrealist photographer that was hanging out with the likes of Man Ray, Max Ernst, Picasso, Miro and others. She was a fashion photographer for Vogue and became a war correspondent towards the end of the second world war, capturing photos of the German retreat and the liberation of concentration camps. As well as the stomach churning photos of both dead and liberated prisoners were photos of prison guards that had been caught and beaten by their captors and SS guards that had committed suicide when the allies finally caught up with them. There was also a photograph of the execution of Miklós Kállay, the fascist Hungarian Prime Minister who was found guilty of war crimes in 1946 and faced the firing squad in Budapest.

Museo de Arte Moderno also houses Frida Kahlo's Las dos Fridas. Kahlo only ever had one exhibition in Mexico during her lifetime so there is actually very little of her work in the country as we have discovered. What did we come all this way for?

The Museo de Arte Moderno is in the enormous and bustling Chapultepec Park which houses several other museums and a castle. So we checked out the Museum of Anthropology while we were there as we knew it was open a bit later. It was much bigger than anticipated so we barley saw half of it before being ushered out for closing time. It had been recommended to us by a friend and we probably otherwise wouldn't have gone there, but the history of Mexico's complex ethnographic landscape it provided was fascinating.

The final thing I'll mention is the Tequila and Mescal museum that we went to on Plaza Garibaldi. The museum itself wasn't all that interesting although now that we're out of the Tequila region the focus widens to include Mescal, Tequila's parent spirit which I enjoyed. There's a restaurant on the top that we ate at and were treated to a range of performances from Mexico's various ethnic groups including a Mariachi band.

Plaza Garibaldi is know for it's Mariachi bands so we waded our way through it on our way home which was a lot of fun.

I think that will do us for now. Probably our longest post yet, but that's Mexico City for you - just so much to do. We've got a bit over two more weeks here and we're already having to write lists and prioritise.

We also may have bought a flight home...

Christmas
Templo Mayor
Templo Mayor
Templo Mayor
Templo Mayor
Mexico City
Mexico City
Mexico City
Mexico City
Mexico City
Mexico City
Mexico City
Mexico City
Mexico City
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Mexico City
Mexico City
Mexico City
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Mexico City
Plaza Garibaldi
Plaza Garibaldi
Plaza Garibaldi
Plaza Garibaldi
Plaza Garibaldi
Plaza Garibaldi
Plaza Garibaldi
Plaza Garibaldi

Distrito Federal
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