It’s been almost 4 months since our arrival to Mexico and Central America, and to be honest it already feels like yesterday. Just the thought of going to Mexico and even more south gave me mixed feelings. I was trying to give myself courage but sometimes I was hearing news about the violence in Mexico and suddenly I would become depressed. The trip in USA was ending and although I would not like to live there I feel I understand more about this big country and maybe I have a bit of melancholy for some places that I enjoyed a lot.
But time has come for a new adventure and during our last weeks in Florida, we bought the plain ticket to Mexico DF where a new adventure will begin. Sometimes I think I do not like developing countries, or poor countries but then I always find them interesting and enjoyable with all the sorrow and sadness but in the same time some sort of peacefulness and acceptance of the people living in these countries. To be honest I did not know much about Mexican culture, both contemporary and the past. I never take the news as the main information source so I began to read more about this amazing place that is part still of North America and even if it is quite gringonised ( a word in spanglish that means Americanized) still preserve its own immense cultural heritage and identity. The main impact that we had once putting our feet on the Mexican soil was the faces of the people. There were no more mixed people….most of them are indigenous or Spanish looking (with a bit of indigenous)…very latino as they say.
I liked discovering this new universe of faces and on our way to our host, Jan, (all by public transport in DF) we could observe all these new people and their behaviour. Travelling by metro is your best option by far in DF and so we also took advantage of this well built and cheap mean of transport. One ticket costs as much as 0.25 cents of euro and you can make with that large distances in this capital of 9million people and located at an altitude of 2300m. No wonder that when we arrived directly from Florida….with just few meters of altitude, we felt tired for a few days just by doing nothing. It was because of the altitude change and strong air of the city. Our host Jan is a czeck guy married with a Hungarian girl and living in Austria for sometime and now working for UN Human Rights protection Agency in the city. He offered to host us for a few days in his beautiful apartment in a good area of DF ( Roma – Condesa) in the metro station Sevilla. We received a whole room just for ourselves and we were so surprised by the confidence that Jan showed us, giving us the keys of his home even before we could meet him. His hospitality was great and so we connected on many levels pretty easy and began to share meals, talks and walks together. We went out with his friends, had good conversations and many nights we played board games at home. In the same time he was hosting two Singaporean girls also on their journey through central and south America by bicycle. Although their journey sounded interesting it lacked the soul and we felt they were using the people of CS just to have a free place to stay with minimum interaction unless the people praised them constantly. alth
The Zocalo is one of the most important attractions in the Capital, with a big pedestrian street going from the Palace of Bellas Artes to the main square. The whole area is good for an afternoon walk and also the park of the Bellas Artes offers a good range of street food. Inside the Palace of bellas artes one can enjoy the paintings of Diego Rivera, the most important painter of Mexico and then there is another museum for his wife Frida Khalo (also amazing painter). The Zocalo in DF is built on top af a Aztec pyramid. The Spanish when they colonised the place they kind of did that to the old mayan temples in order to show to the Aztec descendants their superiority and also their religious superiority, ending up by making of Mexico one of the most Christian countries. The good thing in Mexico is that they still preserve through their indigenous tribes and villages their Aztec and Maya beliefs and customs.
The city of Mexico is built on soft soil that used to be the base of lake Texcoco which they drained in order to build so many houses and old buildings and it will surprise you in Mexico DF because their structures are in a worse situation than the Tower of Pisa.
Being on a mountain plateau the climate is quite dry and the air can be so dry and dusty that it can hurt your nose. During our stay in Mexico Df we did a day trip to Teotihuacan, one of the biggest ruins in Mexico (protected by the UNESCO- A prehispanic archaeological site) and an impressive site to see. The ethnicity of the inhabitants of Teotihuacan is also a subject of debate. Possible candidates are the Nahua, Otomi or Totonac ethnic groups. Scholars have also suggested that Teotihuacan was a multiethnic state. The ruins are located 40km away from the city, about 1 our in the good buses of ADO ( the best bus company in Mexico and the safest). Once there we walked the whole midday and afternoon, also climbing the main Sun Pyramid…with a bit of difficulty because of the height and the steepness. The religion of Teotihuacan was similar to that of other Mesoamerican cultures. Many of the same gods were worshiped, including the Feathered Serpent (the Aztecs' Quetzalcoatl) and Rain God (the Aztecs' Tlaloc.The dominant civic architecture is the pyramid. Politics were based on the state religion; religious leaders were the political leaders.
Teotihuacanians practiced human sacrifice: human bodies and animal sacrifices have been found during excavations of the pyramids at Teotihuacan.
Scholars believe that the people offered human sacrifices as part of a dedication when buildings were expanded or constructed. The victims were probably enemy warriors captured in battle and brought to the city for ritual sacrifice to ensure the city could prosper. Some men were decapitated, some had their hearts removed, others were killed by being hit several times over the head, and some were buried alive. Animals that were considered sacred and represented mythical powers and military were also buried alive, imprisoned in cages: cougars, a wolf, eagles, a falcon, an owl, and even venomous snake.
During our stay in the capital we also visited el barrio San Angel ( a neighborhood where they organized a nice arts and handicrafts market, Coyoacan ( a neighborhood interesting for the night life), the big market of DF, La Merced, where we walked and had lunch with Yunuen, a Mexican girl that we contacted through CS. In the same market, while we were walking and shopping and taking some photos, an older lady approaches Jan and asks him if he is taking interviews. Jan replies half afraid half surprised that No, he is just taking photos….and then the lady says:”- If you see the president, tell him he is killing us with these prices”…and then, as sudden as she came, she left on her way, feeling probably happy that she met a close friend of the president and he will tell the president what the people need to make him hear. It was funny and sad at the same time to live such an experience.
Before leaving DF and moving south towards other interesting places, we could not leave without having a nice picnic with Jan in the Desierto de los Leones (close to the city in a nice wood at an even higher altitude but with more fresh air) and also we could not miss a good free dinner but for which we had to pay the price by learning how to play drums. It all happened with the help of a friend of Jan, Eider, a Basque girl that worked for the Mexican Government in collaboration with the Spanish Government and who told us that there is this big holyday at the Basque cultural center and if we dressed for the part and played the drums we could eat for free ( the dinner was about 25$ per person).
So we all enrolled for this adventure and we dressed up as Basque cooks and played the drums for an unforgettable dinner party- it was fun). After so many adventures and good times in Mexico DF, we felt sad when we had to say goodbye to Jan but a new city was waiting for us : Puebla and Cholula where our first local host Mario was waiting for us.