Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Viajamos a La Ciudad de México

Here I am again, back in Mexico, and my fourth time to be exact. This time we went to the mother of all Mexican cities instead of the coasts. I realized it is the most times I've visited a country other than the States and the Islands so when Mexicans in la ciudad ask for my ethnicity (probably because of the way I speak Spanish and with a thick foreign drawl), I jokingly tell them Soy un Filipino Mexicanizado. I get a smile back 99% of the time.

Going to la ciudad is so much different than going to Mexico's coastal towns. We ran into tourists mostly from Europe and South and Central America. I think folks from the States usually stay in the resorts on the Pacific and Atlantic side. The locals look different too, in the way they dress and walk, their manners. It is more chic, more mod. The city pulsates with energy and is surprisingly clean considering it is one of the biggest cities on the planet. Parts of it look like Manila or any other former colonies of Spain. Parts of it look very European. El Zócalo is reminiscent of the smaller Plaza Mayores dotting Spain.

It has excellent transport system where the marble floors in the major stations sparkle in cleanliness. We never waited longer than 3 minutes for a train which is nice because we depended on it to get around the city. As always, there is a huge Mexican flag in every plaza which is common among Mexican cities and which kind of shows how proud they are of their identity. The nightlife's landscape totally changes on Friday evenings where kids 17 and younger enundate the city streets. They practically take over the scene! Museums are plenty in the city. You have to carefully manage your time if you want to see most of them.

My top three.

1. Strolling along the steets of Zona Rosa. This seems like the center of Mexico's business and commerce. Most of the skyscrapers are concentrated in this area. The main avenue, Paseo De La Reforma, are dotted with trees, fountains, torres, sculptures from local artists and flamboyant lovers not shy in showing public display of affection after dark. Paseo De La Reforma leads you to the city's green patch called the Bosque de Chapultepec which houses the massive Museo Nacional de Antropología showcasing the country's rich history. Our visit there made the Salvadoran wide eyed like a little kid in a candy store. All the pre-columbian archeological artifacts for him to see!

2. Diego Rivera's sweeping murals at the Palacio Nacional. It is located in a district called El Zócalo, it is on your right when you are facing la catedral. When you enter the Palacio, you'll notice a huge ornate bell. The courtyard has an intricate fountain and it looks like a scene from the movie Frida was shot here. Diego Rivera's politically charged murals are all on the second floor of the building and depict the Mexican life from before the Spaniards came till its independence from Spain. The best part is that the displays are free of charge. Just show a picture id at the main gate and youll be let in with no qualms.

3. A day trip to Teotihuacán to see pre-columbian ruins. A friend of ours suggested that if we have time to go to Teotihuacán, we should avoid going there during the weekend. Which is exactly what we did! Teotihuacán contains a large collection of Aztec ancient ruins and is located northeast of Mexico City. I haven't seen anything, constructed during the ancient times, that is as enormous as that. This shows just how advanced the cultures of Central America before the arrival of the Spaniards. Oh how I wish I could come back in time to see how these pyramids came to be, among other things. I think I lost five pounds just hiking up and down the pyramids and walking from one end of the site to the other.

An honorable mention goes to the tranquil boat rides in Xochimilco. Our day at Xochimilco started rather slow, very slow. In fact, I had initially thought of it as one of the worst tourist traps. The two and a half hour canal tour got better as soon as we reached the main route where we were joined by others on similarly colored barges - Mariachi bands, marimba players, people selling all kinds of local food stuff, lovers, families and groups of young fellows having fiestas, and tourists like us. Todos estaban pasarlo bien!


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