Mexico! Part IV: City Center

Reading this week:

  • Cobalt Red by Siddharth Kara
  • The Making of the African Queen by Katharine Hepburn

Our big day in the city center began with some pastries. For these we walked down to a shop near the place where we were staying and indecisive about which to pick we just got a bunch and somehow ate all of them. Mexico City has excellent pastries, can recommend. Fortified, we got ready, called a Didi, and head in.

Per our request, our Didi dropped us off at the Templo Mayor, except (per our unfortunate instructions) we were at I think the back of the complex, right on a very very busy street full of shops. I know I wax and wane about the everyday commerce of ancient cities, but Mexico City is an ancient city and people must have been doing their shopping on this very spot for centuries and centuries. This is a thought I shared with my super amazing wife, and she appreciated it for what it was, but did not appreciate it for what it wasn’t, in that it wasn’t me trying to figure out how to get us off this busy city street and to our intended destination. So we walked and saw the backs of more impressive buildings, such as the Palacio Nacional. Our attempts to see the fronts of these buildings were thwarted for quite some time due to all the streets that were closed on account of recent and pending protests, but finally we stumbled out onto the Plaza de la Constitución.

This let us get our bearings and at long last we wound our way to the Templo Mayor. The neat thing, or at least one of the many neat things, and also tragic things while I am thinking about it, about the Templo Mayor is that it has been more or less razed, with its building materials recycled into the various buildings that surround it. But because it has been razed as you walk along the pathways over it you go deeper and deeper into the temple and can see the iterations of the temples that came before and were built over to construct a larger and larger pyramid. There are also scattered around the temple signs of the colonial structures that were built on the spot, including even the wooden foundations of houses and a sewer. There are a few displays right when you enter the temple complex but after you walk around the temple there is a big museum full of artifacts and history that is really well done. They had a lot of types of artifacts I hadn’t seen before in relation to Aztec and pre-Aztec art, such as these cute little sacrificial knife dudes:


After we emerged blinking into the sun from the temple complex, it was time for lunch. That didn’t stop us from perusing the Catedral Metropolitana but it did prevent me from enjoying it much because I was getting hangry. So we stumbled through a Chinatown we hadn’t known existed and got ourselves some fish tacos. Fortified, we took a look at some other sites, such as the House of Tiles and a beleaguered Alexander Von Humboldt, and then explored a street we had spotted on our Didi ride that was just chock-a-block with used bookstores. Our dream! Of course neither of us read Spanish but it was cool to see a whole street of used bookstores, something that the less-literary (apparently) society of the United States just does not support anymore. One of the stores had three gigantic cats napping on a couch, which drew us right in. This is the power of marketing.

Bookstore and bookstore street.

From there we tried to figure out what to do next and while wandering around stumbled into the Museo Nacional de Arte, which we hadn’t realized was there. So of course we had to check it out. It is in a gigantic gorgeous building with the sort of inside-outside architecture that I really like, not to mention a bunch of beautiful art. The only downside is that a lot of the galleries had an entrance and an exit which you had to use in accordance with their designated purpose, and while we were adept at finding exits the instructions to the entrances were always confusing (that lack of Spanish again) but we managed to make it eventually via trial and (much) error. I liked best the 19th century landscapes of Mexico, which were large and intricate and detailed. José María Velasco was well represented. In other art items, there was a statue by Rómulo Rozo that I found alluring along with some magnificent skateboards by Dario Escobar:

It’s called “Sin Título,” whatever that means.

We wrapped the day up by visiting some markets on the hunt for souvenirs, and my super amazing wife walked away with a mug and I walked away with two dearly priced mangos. After our now customary shower we went out for traditional Mexican food, found the place closed, and got sushi and tempura instead. We returned and drifted off asleep, dreaming of a mango breakfast.