May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets’ towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkey’s howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches where storms come and go as lightening clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you---beyond that next turning of the canyon walls. ---Edward Abbey (thanks Trudy Hall)

Friday, March 9, 2012

Mexico City: the Promised Land

El Salvador
February 27—We flew over El Salvador and saw the big volcanoes as we landed and then off to Mexico City where we stayed again in Hostel Amigo for the night because when we got to the hotel we booked there was a big “for sale” sign on it!  Surprise.  I thought my eardrum would rupture in the plane because of the blocked sinuses. 
The most luscious fruit salad and drinks
We settled in, took a nap and the last Sudafed before we headed out for more drugs and some DELICIOUS fresh fruit salad and shakes. We became a regular at Juice Canada each evening. 
Bedspread with Aztec Warrior and Virgin
View out our bedroom window
Nice grilled food
Instructions in our hostel
We shopped for a hostel with a private double, looked at three and ended up reserving a place at Cathedral Hostel that lies adjacent to the main square of Mexico City.  It’s really nice with a happy restaurant downstairs and rooms that have windows that open to the common courtyards.  Upstairs is laundry, kitchen and up farther is a bar and terrace that looks over the city.
A dance with two dozen bell-shaped gowns?

Jesus bends over backwards
The next morning we stashed our luggage and made our way to the Indian Embassy where we applied for our visas.  With only a little resistance he took our information and asked us to call in a week.  We anticipate picking them up before we fly to NYC where we’ll try for a Chinese visa.  Folks at Emma Willard wrote about new changes and an exciting new class to teach next year.  It is strange to be so left out regarding changing plans for next year; I need to come back in the fall as if it is a new job.
3 Cultures: Aztec, Spanish, Contemporary
Images of Aztec Calendar Parts Around This One
Still working on the layers of pyramids
Our informative guide
Guardian Saint of the Spanish
Roots: Modern Art Installation
Installation of Modern Art All Around the Center
February 29—We signed up for a tour to see the pyramids.  Alan was our guide and took us first to the old ruins they call the place of three cultures: Aztec, Spanish, and Contemporary.  In one spot we could see the ancient pyramids where they sacrificed warriors to the gods, where the Spanish tore down alters to build their own cathedral, and a modern museum and apartment building.  In the church there was special attention paid to Santiago Apostol, who appeared to the Spanish and gave them the courage to conquer the Aztecs.  Also, people had taken pictures of themselves and affixed them to the clothing of a statue of Jesus for special miracles.    Outside, we could see part of the temporary art exhibit with giant fiberglass roots that went into and out of buildings all over the center of the city to express the idea of roots connecting the cultures and peoples.  Ugly-yes, provocative-yes, so I liked it.

THE miraculous poncho of Juan Diego!!!!!!!!
New Basilica, Outside
Inside of the new basilica, during service
The old basilica is sinking forward.

The Virgin of Guadalupe is Everywhere
Juan Diego and Sue's heart to heart
Our second stop was to the place where poor Juan Diego conversed with the Virgin Mary on a hill; she said she wanted a church built for her there. Because the bishop would not believe a simple man, Mary told Juan Diego to collect the roses and put them in his poncho then let the roses fall out of the poncho in front of the bishop.  When he did this, the roses had painted a picture of the Virgin Mary with all kinds of amazing detail.  Alan said that before this time, the Indians did not want to worship a man that was bleeding and weak on a cross because they were warriors—it didn’t make sense.  But when this miracle happened with the poncho, the Indians believed and that’s when the big conversion to Catholicism in Mexico came to be.  We saw the hill where it all happened, the old basilica that is sinking and leaning because of the soft land, and the new airy, modern basilica where you can see the poncho!

Agave Plant: Liquor, paper, soap, needle and thread
They collect the natural water from the Agave
3 Liquors: Mezcal, Pulque, Tequila
The third stop was at a place that makes obsidian figures like the ones of old days.  They also explained how pulque, tequila and mescal are made.  With the same plant (Agave), they also made paper, shampoo and extract a needle and thread from the tip.  It was great to see how they can dye the fibers with flowers and calcium.  They had a tray with the three liquors and we tried each one.  The pulque was by far the sweetest and smoothest.  It was only fermented.  The tequila was distilled, and the mescal was distilled twice.  I found it bitter.

Ancient flush toilet in homes near pyramids
Snake Mural
Mural Piece

Under nearby rich homes

After a lunch there, our last stop was at Teotihuacan—the largest pyramids of Mexico.  Alan told us about the people and customs and said that near the end of this huge civilization.  We saw well-preserved murals on the walls underground.  They had cut down all the trees and had no rain, water, food, or heat; they were dying.  The people grew frustrated with the leaders and the gods.  They killed their government personnel and burned the city and left.  For this reason, very little is known about this culture.  The site was not discovered for another 500 years after the people were gone with their stories and history.

Pyramid of the moon
Road of Taxes Looking at Sun Pyramid
We made it to top of the Sun!
From the Top of the Sun Looking at the Moon

1/2 way down, looking down and beyond

Pyramid wall from below

 The climb to the top of the Pyramid of the Sun looked much more daunting than it was.  Les counted 220 steps, and it was very pleasant and breezy at the top with a magnificent view of the whole complex, including mounds that are certain to be in the next excavations. (They are waiting for more money and more careful tools to commence the next projects.)
Low income people don't "finish" homes to avoid paying taxes

Homes that ring Mexico City
 On the way home we saw where the poor people build their homes on the hills on the edge of the city.  Alan said that they are unpainted, or they are missing one window or a part of the roof, because if they “finish” their home, they have to pay taxes on it.  Most of the homes have been in the building process for years, even though they are very small.  He said it’s a way to cheat the government out of money.
Ancient View of City with Temples
Artist's view of the ancient city from the air
Model of the original Mexico City
March 1—With some insomnia, I finally fell asleep to the bells of the cathedral (I think the cold medicine keeps me up), and we got up to join a walking tour of the historic sites in the center of the city finishing with the museum of Anthropology.  We passed a mural in the making on a fence that surrounds one of the most ancient sites of Mexico City.  This is supposedly the place where the prophecy came true; someone saw the eagle carrying a snake from a cactus in the middle of a huge lake.  This is where the Promised Land was supposed to be—but it was a vast marsh!  The people started building the city by making square lots, planting fast growing plants and gardens until the soil was built up enough to build on, and the city grew and grew from there to one of the biggest in the world!  In addition to the ruins, we saw a model of the city as it was growing, with large temples on the holy site and canals like Venice, and four roads leaving the city: N, S, E, and W.  

Diego Rivera's Colonial Mexico
Modern (1950's) Mexico
Strife around the Mexican icon
Artists at work

Market with Prostitute
Next, we went into the National Palace.  We were caught with pens and had to put them back in the lockers.  Contraband!  I could see why, as Diego Rivera’s murals were close enough to touch.  It would be a shame to have some crazy person augment them.  The most impressive thing to me was that Rivera’s paintings depicting the history of Mexico included his political opinions that were not always complimentary of the government.  Accolades to Mexican politicians!  There was so much to see in the paintings: the agriculture and religion of the ancient people, the various wars and conflicts, the progression of the religious evolutions and political revolutions and a little portrait of Frida and family.  There were other paintings depicting how old cultures did their art, sold wares, kept their animals and others. 
Valiancy Prudence Courage
The palace fountain in the courtyard is in 3 layers, symbolizing valiancy, prudence and courage: three things the politicians need to keep in mind as they lead.

The Famous Post Office

Street decoration
Looks like Emma Willard's Gargoyles
Bellas Artes with National Theater inside

House of Blue Tiles

Main Cathedral of Mexico
Old alter for the kings
To get a miracle, put your photo on Jesus's clothing
We walked through the city center and gazed at the architectural marvels from the past: the old post office, homes of the rich and famous, the national theater building and the house of tiles, where a man criticized his son for being lazy and said he couldn’t even tile a house.  With this, the boy changed his ways and tiled every part of the huge home, inside and out!  Now it is the sight of the biggest Sanborns store and restaurant so we could see the inner rooms too.

 On our way to the final destination of the day, we saw men performing the ritual where they climb on a huge pole, wind up ropes at the top, attach them to their centers and hurl themselves off the top platform to unwind together upside down while one of them plays the flute and drum.

Coffee and Chocolate with our fabulous guide
Also we stopped in a unique bookstore for a coffee.  It was build around the trees, with clear walls, where you could see the ground under the floorboards, and had a view of a very green lake. 
Gladiators fight. Blood flows into middle and out.
What time is it?
Beautiful Jaguar

The snake got him
Les trying to get over his fear of snakes.  This one is feathered

Mano y mano
Wish I could relax that way...
 The Archeological Museum is pretty darn awesome.  The huge, open layout included a giant umbrella in the center quad where I imagine rainwater to pour into the drains openly, like a waterfall.  We weaved through the polished exhibits where we could (but didn’t) touch much of the stones.  I have strong memories of the Aztec calendar from when I was a 5-year old.  Now it stands on end much higher in a huge, open room.  The place was awesome…overwhelming.  Go to the web site and check out the collections, from prehistoric, pre-Columbian, through the cultures that lived in this country to present day context.  Wow.
"Chapul" is Grasshopper in Aztec Lanugage

Palace in Chapultepec Park

Chapultepec Park was closed, and people in suits awaiting awards were filing in when we got out.  We made our way to the subway via the tower of light.  It was rush hour and we got pushed and squished very hard in the train cars.  It was interesting to see how the locals navigated in these tight conditions, whispering, ”proximo” to the next person, or giving another a look to indicate they wanted to pass.  Teen boys came in and puffed up, taking as much room as they could.  That really irritated Les.

View from Hostel Rooftop Kitchen
March 2—We stayed in the hostel and did laundry, computing, talking and caught up on sleep. I went to the zocalo and had memories of my first words in Spanish when I was 5.  It was there that Mom told me to go to this little girl and say, “Como esta usted?”  I was set back when the little girl began yacking non stop in Spanish.  Wow.

Next: the trip to visit my "Mexican Brother" where I lived a summer in 1973, and the rendezvous with Maureen and Jen, GREAT friends from my school at Emma Willard.
Les thinks I eat like a Wolverine
Diego's Pre-Columbian Hairless Dog

1 comment:

  1. Hi Sue - I was told that the exact same thing happens to buildings in Bangladesh where the final floor never gets finished to avoid taxes. So, throughout Dhaka you'll see rebar spires sticking out everywhere. All the best and so neat you got o see Jen and Maureen!