Mexico City is HUGE!

Trip Start Jan 01, 2014
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Trip End Dec 31, 2014


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What I did
A lot in three days

Flag of Mexico  , Central Mexico and Gulf Coast,
Thursday, June 6, 2013

Mexico City is the capital of Mexico with a metro population around 23 million people.  It covers a land area of 573 square miles, and looking at any city map is very deceiving.  What looks like blocks can be many miles from one district to the next.   The city sits on a plateau at 7,350 feet, and consists of 16 boroughs.  I was told they have 4 million cars in the city.  It's the largest Spanish-speaking city in the world.

Cervesa por favor.  (Beer please!)


 DAY 11
 
 
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June 6: I arrived at my hotel, Galaria Plaza, at 7:50PM after a very long day of travel from Santiago to Havana to Mexico City.   After unpacking and going out for dinner, I returned to the hotel, took a shower, watched a little bit of t.v., then hit the sack.

DAY 12
June 7: After some coffee in the hotel restaurant, I asked the concierge about the best museums and sites around this district.  He recommended that I take the full day tour that was ready for pickup in just a few minutes, so I said "yes."  It was an excellent suggestion, and you'll understand why.
 
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The van first took us to the Melia Hotel, the collection point, by the Revolution Monument (I've visited there before) to pay for the tour, so we spent about a half hour waiting for others to join us on this particular tour.  
 
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Our first visit was to Tlatelolco, the archaeological site that was the pre-Columbian city-state of Mexico.  It is surrounded on three sides by an excavated Aztec17th century church called Templo de Santiago.  The main temple of Tlatelolco which is more than 700 years old is a pyramid.  A mass grave was discovered in 2009 that contained 49 human skeletons laid down on their backs with their arms crossed and wrapped in leaves.  The grave contained evidence of Aztec rituals as well as Christian customs of the time.

 
 
 
 
 
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Our next visit was to the shrine of Our Lady of Guadelupe.   It is said that the Virgin Mary appeared to St Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, an Aztec who converted to Catholocism in 1531.  On December 12, 1531, Our Lady of Guadelupe appeared and spoke to Juan Diego in his native language.  She told him to build a church on the site.  When Juan Diego spoke to the bishop, the bishop did not believe him, and asked him to prove his vision.  The Virgin appeared, and although it was winter, he was told to gather flowers that miraculously bloomed at his feet.

Juan Diego presented these to the bishop, and the flower fell from his apron, and an icon of the Virgin was imprinted on the cloth.  The bishop ordered a church be built at once dedicated to Our Lady of Guadelupe.  In 2002, the Pope declared Juan Diego a saint.  

The original Basilica dates from 1536 and still stands, but the structure has weakened and the massive congregation outgrew the modest-sized church.  A new Basilica was built in 1976 designed in a circular shape to accommodate a larger congregation.  There are actually six churches built on the site; three on the hill, and three at ground level.  The miraculous apron that contains the image of the Virgin hangs behind a bullet proof glass above the altar of the new basilica.  

Our third and last stop was the most interesting to me, because when my wife and I honeymooned in Mexico City in 1963, we had engaged a taxi driver to take us there for a visit, but we both came down with montezuma's revenge.   
  

  
 
 
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We stopped at this bazaar for some shopping and rest.
The docent at the bazaar showed us the "most important plant in Mexico."  It produces fiber, paper, and even a needle with fiber.  Amazing stuff.   
 
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We visited the famous archaeological site, Teotihuacan, a pre-Columbian Mesoamerican city located 30 miles northeast of Mexico City.  Teotihuacan is significant for its multi-family residential compounds, the Avenue of the Dead, and their well-preserved murals.

It was established around 100 BC and continued to be built for 350 years.  It is believed it lasted between the 7th and 8th centuries AD, and it was the largest city during that period.

The ethnicity of the inhabitants are a subject of debate, but possible candidates are Nahua, Otomi or Totonac ethnic groups.  It is also suggested that Teotihuacan was a multiethnic state.

Their influence was wide, and evidence can be seen in Veracruz and the Maya region.

What I found personally interesting was the fact that the architectural style are found in a number of Maya sites including Tikal (I visited in 2006), Kaminaljuyu, Copan, Becan and Oxkintok. 

It is speculated that at one time the population of Teotihuacan grew to 250,000.  

One of the most fascinating places to visit on this planet. 

 
 
 
 
 
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We stopped for lunch.  After we were dropped off at our hotel, I took a taxi to one of my favorite haunts/bar/restaurant where they usually have great music.  
 
  
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DAY 13 - Last day of vacation
June 8: Today was a very special day.  My friend, Francisco, came to the hotel to join me for breakfast, and we spent the day visiting some interesting sites that were very rewarding.

Since I had not walked around this area around the hotel, Francisco suggested a walk on Hamburgo street.  He pointed out a sculpture, Diana, of a naked woman with a bow whom Francisco knew as a teenager.  The arrow points north even after it has been moved from its original location.  Her name is Helvia Martinez.  I saw smaller replicas of that statue at other places for sale.

 
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Francisco's office
 
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Since Francisco asked me where I would like to visit, and it's been on my plans for the past couple of years to visit Carlos Slim's (new) art museum, Soumaya, so that was our first destination.  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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After spending sufficient time in the museum to visit all the floors that displays art works by Diego Rivera, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Auguste Rodin, Renoir, Monet, van Gogh, and many others, it was indeed a rewarding morning of art appreciation.  
 

We walked to a nearby shopping mall, and took a cervesa break at Snob bistro, walked back to the car, and drove to Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM),

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The university was founded in 1551,   Our first stop at the university was to the Department of Culture where they have a theater, workshops, a restaurant, and other facilities.  We walked a little distance, then returned to the restaurant, Azul y Oro for lunch.   Francisco suggested I get the tomales which I love, so that's what I ate and fish.

 
 
  
 
 
 

 
 
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After lunch, we drove to the Central Library with murals covering all four sides.  The building is 13-level high, and the mural covers all of it!   
 
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The north wall represents the god of water in pre-historic culture, and the streams represents the major cities bordering the lake of Mexico; Coyoacan, Churubusco, Iztapalapa, Xochimilco, Atzcapotzalco and Tacuba.  
 
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According to legend, the nomadic tribe found an eagle perched on a cactus, which hands them land.  Francisco explained much more about the murals, but I can't remember most of what he told me.  

I searched on the web for information in addition to what Francisco shared with me that follows.

The east wall represents the contemporary world with the atom in the center of the new world.  It represents the principle of energy of plants, birds, fish, reptiles and man - and even minerals.  At the top are the sun and moon which corresponds to life and death.
 
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The south wall represents the colonial past with two discs that proposes a European world view in conjunction with colonial New Spain.  There is a Greek temple and a Christian church with the right side the weapons of war, and the left side the fruits of culture.
 
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The west wall represents the university and the current Mexico.  The shield dominates the composition of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, created in 1921 in the rectory of Jose Vasconcelos.  On the top left of an open book are the initials of the National Library, and on the right side on the parchment of the National Newspaper Library.  The great shield refers to the creative and recreational activities of this institution.  The right portion refers to science, art and sport with the Olympic rings.  The left side represents the Mexican people with their traditional clothing and culture.  
 
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More murals
 
 
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Juan O'Gorman was the artist. 
From Britannica.com.
Juan O’Gorman,  (born July 6, 1905, Coyoacán, Mex.—found dead Jan. 18, 1982, Mexico City), Mexican architect and muralist, known for his mosaic designs that adorned the facades of buildings.
Early in life, O’Gorman was exposed to drawing and composition through his father, Cecil Crawford O’Gorman, a well-known Irish painter who settled in Mexico. Despite this influence, he chose to focus onarchitecture early in his career. After graduating in 1927 from the school of architecture of the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City, O’Gorman began designing spare, rectilinear houses and buildings in the style of the Functionalist architect Le Corbusier. Included among these designs were, in 1928, the house and studio of the muralist Diego Rivera, a close associate.      

The Olympic pool and other sites.
 
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Onward to Coyoacan: 
Leon Trotsky was born to Jewish parents in the Ukraine in 1879.  He was a Marxist, a writer, organizer and military strategist, and was instrumental in the organization of the Bolshevik Revolution.  He was ousted from the government by Joseph Stalin in 1925.
Trotsky was attracted to Kahlo, and their interest in each other developed into an affair.
Kahlo got tired of Trotsky, and broke up with "the old man."  Trotsky was murdered with an ice-pick in Mexico City by Stalin's order in 1940.

Diego Rivera was considered a prodigy at an early age, and began painting at the age of two.  He studied in Spain, France and Italy, and developed a passion for murals.  Rivera was active in politics and the Communist Party.   He formed the Commission of Mural Painting for the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes.   Rivera married Frida Kahlo in 1929, but after having been married for less than a year, he had his first affair that led to their divorce in 1939.  They remarried until Kahlo's death in 1954.  
 
 
 
 
 [NOTE:
Romeo and Juliet starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes was released in 1996.]
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Back at Zona Rosa and final notes.
I walked an average of 3.8 miles every day for 12 days.  The contrasts and varieties of sites, sounds, smells, restaurants and bars, food and drink, cultures, activities, and sharing time with friends was an absolute priceless reward.    It's no wonder that the enjoyment of travel sustains me.  I'm looking forward to my next trip to Nova Scotia in September, and a trans-Atlantic cruise with my friend in November.   Thanks for visiting, and stay tuned.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
  



 
 
 
 
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