Day #2 Ciudad de Mexico
Have I mentioned yet how much I love the Casa Comtesse? Very very. Much. I mean just one very. Very much. My breakfast was a feast for the senses. All of them, my senses, were jumping and bouncing around for joy. They were like happy amoebas. Fabulous seasonal fruit, some yummy zucchini concoction with very tasty corn and fresh carrots. Perfectly cooked hashbrowns. Y (capital Y) um. Yum.
It was fun to meet a few of the other guests during breakfast and to learn of their travel adventures. I forget how much I love communal meals with total strangers.
This morning after catching up on some journaling, I set out for Bosque Chapultapec on foot. I carved out a circuitous path that serpentined around and through La Condesa. Meandering, I explored the various nooks and crannies of the neighborhood. I stopped for an early lunch at an uber chido cafe, Origenes Organicos, mentioned in my digital Lonely Planet guide. It was everything I expected and more. I had a delushes (I just made up that word) tofu/yellow curry dish with tortillas. Tasty. Add to it, I was sitting outdoors and watching all the Condesa folks go by. But at 106 pesos (about $8.50), it was fairly reasonable.
Plaza Popocatepetl # 41 A, Mexico City, Mexico
This is clearly a well-heeled neighborhood. Case in point: I saw a couple, the woman with Kelly Green wedge heels to match her Kelly Green shirt, he all in white. The well-heeled woman was DRIVING a toddler (no more than a year old) around in a remote control car (the model, a convertible Rolls-Royce), pink. I suspect the child was a girl. Just to be clear, the adults were walking, the mother was operating the remote control, the child was in the tiny pink car. Folks with dogs – throwing balls in the fountain. A very hip couple, she in skinny jeans, he in a casual but well-placed European shirt, pushing a high-end baby stroller. Nose rings. That’s the defining sign of a hip town. Well, that and gay couples. I saw both, but I didn’t see any gay couples with nose rings. I think the two must remain separate in order for a town to qualify as hip. The plaza Popblah catblah petal (my best pronunciation of Popocatepetl) was lined with trees and there was a roundabout around it as most roundabouts go. I may just turn that into a song.
There was a roundabout around it as most roundabouts go,
but this very round roundabout was not quite as slow.
To contrast the affluent-socioeconomic status of the locals here, a woman with her two children came up to the tables at the cafe in an attempt to sell candy. How difficult the rejection must be – person after person, day after day. I still give dinero away to folks who are looking very poor. I suppose that makes me a profiler of sorts. These three were fairly well dressed with a focus, I presume based on their apparent self-care, on hygiene. Granted, they may dress up for the occasion as not to look unclean when selling their goods. Word out to beggars and panhandlers, I am more likely to give you money if you look dirty or have some deformity that could prevent you from working. But children, I can hardly resist you – clean or dirty.
I found my way to Bosque de Chapultepec or Chapultepec Park, which is like the Central Park of Mexico City but with a LOT more vendors. Two stately lion statues guarding the entrance. Before passing the lions, my eye caught two adorable dogs hanging outside of the digital cultural center. I have no idea what that is. I was too interested in the dogs to learn more about the digital cultural center. I hung out with the pooches for a few moments enjoying the company of unconditional love.
Did you know that Chapultapec means Grasshopper?
On the plaza above the Digital Cultural Center (it was a level below the plaza and entrance to the park), I saw a woman who appeared to be taking down an exhibit. In actuality, the exhibit had been vandalized. This was sad, because it was an exhibit for fathers, sons, and brothers who have been taken by the Narco –either killed or missing. Working for a nonproft, Movimientopor la Paz con Justica y Dignidad, an organization that strives for peace and justice for the families of Narco, Myrian Orva, was muy sweet.
While chatting with her, a guy came up, and he also participates with an organization that sometimes collaborates with Movimiento por La Paz. Victor Armenta works with Yo Soy 132, which is an organization that challenges the policies of the elite class. They are known for protests throughout Mexico. They were both incredibly interesting young people, and I enjoyed hanging with them and chatting. We all kissed on the cheeks good-bye. I’m digging the Euro kissing action here.
There is a LOT of stuff to do at Bosque de Chapultepec. Check out this site, the Virtual Tourist, to discover all the spots one can recreate there. Seriously, one would need several days to experience all the wonders of this park.
I was fatigued but walked all day nonetheless. I went to the Museo de Arte Moderne and somehow missed the friggin’ Frida painting, Las Dos Fridas/The Two Fridas. One of her best known and largest paintings, she created this while sinking into the deep pain of her divorce to Diego. To my credit (I’m digging deep here), it’s a huge museum covering two buildings with an entire campus of outdoor modern art. While I’m not getting to all the places I’d like to see, the actual getting there takes time, and I’m inclined to interact with people. This time-consuming activity is much more valuable to me than any museum.
ALTAR TO THE COUNTRY OR THE MONUMENT TO THE NIÑOS HEROES (HEROIC CHILDREN). This monument was created by Architect Enrique Aragón and Sculptor Ernesto Tamariz. Its center has an open semicircle with six big marbol columns at the back decorated with bronze eaglets sculptures that represent the young people who died during the war of independence, also known as Niños Héroes (Heroic Children). It center is a pedestal/mausoleum where the mortal remains of the six brave kids and of Colonel Santiago Xicoténcatl lie burried. On the top of this pedestal there is sculpture of a woman that represents the nation. This monument was inaugurated in 1952.
And so the legend goes…The Niños Héroes were six Mexican teen cadets who died defending Mexico at Chapultepec Castle, which at the time was the Mexican Army’s military academy. These brave, young men protected Mexico from US invading forces during the Mexican American War on September 13, 1847. One of them, Juan Escutia, wrapped his body with the Mexican flag and flung himself over the castle’s edge so that it would not fall into enemy hands.
Museo de Arte Moderno
Fee: 25 pesos/$2.00 US
No charge to take photographs
While at the Museo de Arte Moderno, I did find great fascination and near-enjoyment with the current and highly morbid exhibit by Mexican artist, Martha Pacheco, showing dozens of dead people (cadavers during autopsies, I think) in an exhibit called Excluded and Silenced. Pacheco is devoted to the extensive study of death and madness. I also had the pleasure of seeing exhibits showing the works of Marianna Dellekamp and Enrique Bostelmann.
Pacheco had a number of images showing dead animals (some looked like they had been autopsied, like this pig above) with seemingly unstable or otherwise incapable humans. In one of her images she shows an old, naked, woman, slouched in a rocker, her skin loosely hanging on her bones, gravity taking its toll on her body, and her arms folded on the chair arms. To the right of the woman are three dead, skinned chickens hanging by their feet moving on a conveyor-type mechanism. The women’s arms resemble the hairless wings of the birds. I’ve been unable to find more information on this, yet clearly she is making some type of statement and seemingly one about the similarities between human and nonhuman animals – in life and in death.
Arcadio’s work (pottery, ceramics) is part of the group of artists that break down the border between art and craft, which maintain their use and generate a new way of understanding ceramics from the encounter with the craft and creative work.
I found the Botanical Garden, but it was 4:30 by this point, and much to my dismay, the Botanical Garden closes at 4:00. Then it POURED. Buckets. I purchased a 5 pesos piece of plastic to protect my backpack/camera. People were scurrying everywhere, babies were getting wrapped in plastico, old folks were trying not to fall, umbrellas were tipping vendor carts. Families of ducks were swimming by. I may have seen dolphins. It was a monumental natural born affair, excluding the ducks and dolphins. I was taking creative liberties there. I did, in actuality, see a violet butterfly and girls with pink hair. I did not see dolphins.
I had every intention of walking back to La Condesa, but once again, my intentions and my actions were not aligned. I found the local bus waiting area. Lines of small buses (they’re almost like trucks, really) were being boarded. I found what seemed like a good bus to get on. One is never really sure. The bus ride was longer than anticipated, and I didn’t recognize any of the buildings. I got off and tried to find my location via the map. My current locale didn’t show. I walked in what seemed like a good direction and eventually found my way back to La Condesa. I was now in search of some good chow, but that inspiration got squleched with the next series of thunderstorms. Rains so hard that one had the visibility of…one being in a really bad rainstorm. I ducked into the closest eating establishment to find myself at WHF – Wings, Hamburgers, and Fries. Uh. yah. no. I indulged in a cold Modelo and a delectable basket of fries – Cocinado Bien (cooked well) or Dorado (golden). I took a cab back to Casa Comtesse. Being half soaked was more soaked than I wanted to be. The cabbie was adorable. He annunciated very well and helped me annunciate my Spanish words. He also told me Colonia Escandon was a good and reasonably priced neighborhood to stay in next time I visit Mexico City.
I also intended to work on a blog post at night but instead found myself in the kitchen hanging with Thomas and two of his buddies – sampling Mezcal Cuish. Cuish is from a small pueblo in Oaxaca. Cuish is both the brand name of the mezcal and the name of the maguey cactus species. There’s an interesting blog post on Cuish and Oaxaca here. Never ever did I think I would say this, but I actually liked it. True Oaxacan mezcal doesn’t taste like the tequila most of us grew up on, and by grew up on, I mean threw up on. I tried four different flavors, and each was uniquely different from the other. Each was also smooth, more like a liqueur than a liquor. One, whose name escapes me, was remarkably good with an alluring smoky flavor. I’ll try to find the name and post an update. BTW: If tequila has a worm in the bottle, then that tequila is very very bad for you, and it’s not so good for the worm either.
Even better, Cuish comes with culture and history. The story goes that an agave farmer had a very bad year with his crop. In desperation, he processed the agave that lined the perimeter of his farm, this particular plant considered low-end and used solely for the purpose of a natural fence line. This daring move produced the finest mezcal. No one before him even tried processing that particular agave, because it grew in the wild. They figured something that grows in the wild is uncultured and not worthy of processing. They were wrong. Very wrong. Here is some more information on Cuish in Oaxaca.
Day #3 Ciudad de Mexico
Centro Historico – Hangin’ with my man, Diego
I truly don’t get how butterflies survive in the city, but I’ve seen them everyday. Yesterday, I saw a Chihuahua back up to a wall and walk his hind legs up that wall coming to a full handstand. He peed.
Metro to the El Centro Historico today. I headed out wondering if I was making a mistake going to city center, but I wanted to see some Diego murals before Scott arrived later in the day. We were topping off our weekend together in the city.
METRO To Centro Historico from La Condesa
Line 9 – Pantitlan
3 stops to Chabancano (after Lazaro Cardanas)
Line 2 – Cuatro Caminos
5 stops to Bellas Artes
Return – Line 2 to Tasqueña
Off at Chabacana<
Line 1 toward Terminal Central
The trains – Mexicans sure are a resourceful lot. On any metro car at any given time of day, there is at least one, if not multiple vendors of necessary items like pens, candies, bags of junk food, and even a book of Mexican poets. All for 10 pesos – it doesn’t matter what it is. It’s 10 pesos.
Today was my day dedicated to the famous Mexican artist Diego Rivera. Several months ago in Guanajuato we visited the house he was born in and lived until about age five. Diego began drawing at age 3, one year after his twin brother died. He drew anywhere he could, including the walls of his house. But instead of punishing him, his parents covered the walls with chalkboards. Those were some cool and innovative rents. Both Frida and Diego had parents that supported their artistic endeavors. One (I) wonder what would have happened had Diego’s parents stuck him in a closet for drawing on the walls instead of encouraging his behavior.Diego is a curious character. He lead a wild life and would be by today’s standards considered a sex addict. I suspect he would say that he appreciates the female body more than the average person. He wasn’t a handsome man in a physical sense, but I presume he exuded great power especially with his art. He had a talent that was admired worldwide.
With great power, comes great responsibility.
I disembarked at Bellas Artes metro station and walked across the highway toward the plaza. Standing there and soaking it all in, mouth agape, awestruck by the monumental beauty of this city, I was approached by an older man. My skeptical self thought that he was going to try to swindle me. His gentle voice and well spoken manner articulating very clear English peaked my curiosity. He pointed me in the direction of Palacio de Bellas Artes and almost as if he was waiting for me, began discussing the Diego murals. He told me he has been researching Diego since he retired from the Finance Ministry, and that he has letters and pictures and newspaper clippings of Frida and Diego.
Palacio de Bellas Artes
Fee: 43 pesos/app. $3.40 US
El Palacio de Bellas Artes is a vision of stunning architecture. This is the only photo I took because I had myself an officially unofficial guide, Arturo, who was eager to take me straight to see Diego. And while Arturo detailed some of the history of the Palacio as we were walking up the sparkling, Italian marble stairway, I took no photos. I’ll have to return, because putting myself on a timeline to get back to La Condesa by 3:00 so that I could check out of Casa Comtesse and check into Maria Condesa cramped my mural exploration style.
To learn more about some of the phenomenal eye-melting sites of Mexico City, check out Lonely Planet.
Arturo, telling enthralling stories was the highlight of my day. He detailed Diego Rivera’s mural Man at a Crossroads (this was the name of the first mural painted and destroyed in NYC) or Man, Controller of the Universe (the new name given in Mexico City at Palacio de Bellas Artes). He also showed me the mural The Mexican Carnival (four paintings), and then we high-tailed it across Alameda Park to Museo Mural Diego Rivera.
Man, Controller of the Universe. Originally this painting was commisioned by Rockefeller for Rockefeller Center in 1933, but when Rivera painted a portrait of Lenin and then refused to remove it at Rockefeller’s request, the commision was abruptly cancelled. The wall was eventually destroyed. Rivera repainted it (smaller scale) at the Palacio. More from PBS here and Wikipedia here.
Below are links to some videos I took – there are instances with poor sound quality. If you can bear with it, Arturo was like a walking history book and had some interesting things to say in a highly animated fashion.
Carnival of Mexican Life
By this point in my tour with Arturo, or should I say ArTOURo (cracking. myself. up), a German family joined us. We saw just one other piece of Rivera’s, which was a 4-piece series called Carnaval de la Vida Mexicana/ Carnival of Mexican Life. Originally created in 1936 for the Hotel Reforma, it was never displayed due to the charge it had politically. It remained in storage for three decades. This is starting to sound like a familiar story with Rivera, eh? He earned himself some arrogance regarding his work and used that power to voice his message through images. The mural was moved in 1963 to the Palacio.
This mural consists of four panels:
La Dictadura (The Dictatorship), La Danza de los Huichilobos, México Folklórico y Turístico (Mexican folklore and tourism), and La Leyenda de Agustín Lorenzo (Legend of Lawrence Augustine).
- The first section, La Dictadura, Rivera created a sort-of caricature of former Mexican President Platarco Elias Calles but with features of Hitler, Mussolini, Roosevelt, and Hirohito.
- La Danza de los Huichilobos speaks to the Spanish conquest showing some violence with the prehispanic war god, Huitzilopochtli, who is depicted with mix-raced features and is wearing military uniform.
- La Leyenda de Agustín Lorenzo shows a confrontational scene between Lorenzo (who was known as a bandito and a hero) and the French troops.
Check out this video to learn more about the first three panels.
Check out this video to learn more about the last panel.
Sueño de una Tarde Dominical en la Alameda Central at Museo Mural Diego Rivera
I was, at the time, completely blissfully oblivious to the fact that we just spent the better part of 2 hours looking at two murals. Arturo then offered to explain Rivera’s most famous mural Sueño de una Tarde Dominical en la Alameda Central/Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park, featuring Rivera and Frida Kahlo standing by La Calavera Catrina. He walked me-briskly- across the Alameda Park to the Museo Mural Diego Rivera, the mural’s permanent location.
Museo Mural Diego Rivera
Entrance Fee: 19 pesos/$1.52 US
Fotografia Fee: 5 pesos/40 cents US – remember all photography is sin flash.
Located: At the corner of Balderas and Colón in the Historical Center near Alameda Park. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm.
Museo Mural Diego Rivera is a smallish building located on the edge of the beautiful Alameda park. It was built for the sole purpose of housing this most famous mural of Rivera’s. The museum was built around this gargantuan piece of art and has been in its current locale since 1988. Originally the mural was located at the restaurant of Hotel del Prado, built in 1948. Later the mural was relocated to the Hotel’s lobby, where it miraculously survived the great Mexico City earthquake of 1985. The Hotel del Prado was gravely damaged by that earthquake, and it was eventually demolished – a Hilton, Hotel Reforma, is in its place. The structure currently supporting the mural is earthquake proof.
While there is a slight bit of confusion, it seems as if Rivera had been commissioned to do a number of pieces for Hotel del Prado including the one mentioned previously, Carnival of Mexican Life.
- Video Part I: (1 minute) Arturo introducing the mural and its historical relevance.
- Video Part 2: (3 minutes) Arturo detailing the center of the mural containing images of Frida, Diego as a child, La Catrina, and Posada.
- Video Part 3: This 8-minute video goes into greater detail of the mural.Some additional information about Sueño de una Tarde Dominical en la Alameda Central from brownpride.com.
To learn more, check out the following sites:
- This site shows a Rivera aficionado’s top 60 picks of Diego’s art.
- Check out PBS’s History Detectives to learn more about Diego’s fascinating life.
- And another useful site showing some of Rivera’s work at Palacio Nacional.
Frida Kahlo in a traditional Mexican dress holding in her left hand the Yin-Yang symbol of duality taken from Chinese philosophy, which also represents the duality from pre-Columbian mythology. ~from brownpride.com
La Catrina, symbol of urban bourgeoisie at the turn of the nineteenth century must be taken here as an allusion to the Aztec Earth Mother Coatlicue, who is frequently represented with a skull.
Coatlicue wears the plumed serpent, symbolic of her son Quertzalcoatl, around her neck as a boa. Her belt-buckle displays the Aztec astrological sign of Ollin, symbolizing perpetual motion.
Read more at Frommer’s.
I planned to be back at Colonia La Condessa by 3:30 but didn’t leave Centro Historico until about that time. It’s 30 minutes door to door from La Condesa to El Centro. I quickly found my way back to the Bellas Artes metro stop and then became stuck on the train with what seemed like 230,000 other people. A problem with the train. Una problema. The trains here get so packed that just when you think not ONE more person can get on, three more people arrive and squeeze in. One need not hold onto any of the hand railings, because the people create a natural wall that doesn’t permit any movement, not even slight swaying.
Scott arrived Friday late afternoon just after I returned from downtown and moved my bag from Casa Comtesse (they didn’t have availbility over the weekend or we would’ve stayed there) to the the Maria Condesa. A weekend with my lovah in Mexico City. Let the good times roll.
Another great ending to an absolutely and positively fantabulous day.
Disclaimer: to the best of my knowledge this information is true and correct, but then again, I’m coming from a place of limited knowledge. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
~Diego Rivera“I’ve never believed in God, but I believe in Picasso.”
“You have to trust a TRUE compliment as much as a critique.”
“July 13, 1954 was the most tragic day of my life. I had lost my beloved Frida forever. To late now I realized that the most wonderful part of my life had been my love for Frida.”
“The painter can and must abstract from many details in creating his painting. Every good composition is above all a work of abstraction. All good painters know this. But the painter cannot dispense with subjects altogether without his work suffering impoverishment.”
*Photos and stuff* Please contact me for permission to use images and text for commercial or private use.
To see Mexico Post #19, Ciudad de Mexico/Mexico City: Colonia Condesa, Colonia Coyoacán, y La Casa Azul, click here.
To see Mexico Post #20, Ciudad de Mexico/Mexico City: Chapultapec y Centro Historico, click here.
To see Mexico Post #21, Ciudad de Mexico/Mexico City: Museo Nacional de Antropologia y Templo Mayor, click here.
To see Mexico Post #22, Living the Dream in San Miguel de Allende, click here.
To see Mexico Post #23, Viva la Independencia! click here.
To see Mexico Post #24, Adios San Miguel, click here.
To see Mexico Post #25, Valle de Bravo y Teploztlán, click here.
To see Mexico Post #26, Ciudad de Oaxaca, click here.
To see Mexico Post #27, 50 Shades of Green: On the road from Oaxaca to Chiapas, click here.
To see Mexico Post #28, San Cristóbal de las Casas, click here.
To see Mexico Post #29, The Almost Halloween Edition: Dark Mountains, Foggy Cliffs, Witches, Jungles and Shamans, click here.