Mexico day 1
Thom and I arrived in Mexico City and took a registered cab to our hotel. We will be staying at Hotel San Fransisco in the Historic Centro district. We immediately dropped our bags and headed out to do some exploring on our own before our group meeting at 6:00.
Now Mexico City itself doesn't have a great reputation and I am not here to dispute that. But just like any city there are bad sections and good ones and Mexico City is HUGE!!!! The greater Mexico City metropolitan area is one of the world's largest and the largest city in North America, with an estimated 20 million people living in the region. We are staying in the Centro historic area. This area is so great in many ways. Yes it is very busy with people but everyone seems really friendly. Mexico City is divided up into 16 delegaciones , similar to the boroughs of New York, which in turn are divided into "colonias" (neighborhoods), of which there are about 250.
There is so much history here and so much to do that I am actually sad that we don't have more time here. Here is an extremely brief history. Mexico City was actually once a lake. Crazy right! Due to this reason and earthquakes you can actually see how some of the buildings are crooked and slanted. The city now known as Mexico City was founded by the Aztecs in 1325. The old Mexican city is now referred to as Mexico City. It was once called Tenochtitlan. The Aztecs were one of the last of the Nahuatl-speaking peoples who migrated to this part of the Valley of Mexico after the fall of the Toltec Empire. The Aztecs were fierce warriors who eventually dominated other tribes throughout the region. They took what was once a small natural island in the Lake Texcoco and expanded it by hand to create their home and fortress, the beautiful Tenochtitlán. Their civilization, like their city, eventually became the largest and most powerful in pre-Columbian America.
In 1519, the Spaniards under Hernán Cortés arrived in New Spain. Cortes learned about the political problems of the Aztec Empire and was able to exploit them, enabling him to eventually conquer Tenochtitlan. The Spanish colony of New Spain was influenced by the timing of Cortes' arrival. The Aztec ruler, Moctezuma thought that Cortes was the god Quetzalcoatl, who was predicted to return to the land around the year that Cortes and his men appeared. While Cortes and Moctezuma initially treated each other with deference, friction between the Aztecs and the Spaniards soon erupted into violence. This culminated in the eventual siege and destruction of Tenochtitlan, and with it, the Aztec Empire.
The Spaniards rebuilt Tenochtitlan, renaming it Mexico City. They also rebuilt much of the infrastructure of the Aztec Empire, replacing themselves as rulers, with the Roman Catholic Church as the spiritual basis. This inhibited opposition by the natives to Spanish rule. The Spanish colonial city was built using much of the old Aztec layout and was about the same size.
So back to us now.... it is relatively easy to get around here with a map and our limited Spanish and so we head out. The architecture is fabulous!
The Palacio de Bellas Artes is the most important cultural center in Mexico City as well as the rest of the country of Mexico.
Amazing churches.... Even if the were built with parts of ancient temples and on top off Aztec ruins...
The Casa de los Azulejos or "House of Tiles" is an 18th-century palace in Mexico City, built by the Count del Valle de Orizaba family.
What makes this palace, in the City of Palaces, distinctive is that its facade on three sides is completely covered in the expensive blue and white tile of Puebla state.
The palace remained in private hands until near the end of the 19th century. It changed hands several times before being bought by the Sanborns brothers who expanded their soda fountain/drugstore business into one of the best-recognized restaurant chains in Mexico. The house today serves as their flagship restaurant. We had breakfast here a day or so later.
The city is fun and vibrant with Halloween and Dia de Los Muestos approaching and there are displays and street performers set up.
Display for Day of the Dead...more on the custom of this later....here are some teasers
Our main goal of the day with limited time is to reach The Secretariat of Public Education Main Headquarters.
Many murals Diego Rivera are painted there and it is totally free to see! Diego María de la Concepción Juan Nepomuceno Estanislao de la Rivera y Barrientos Acosta y Rodríguez, (sheesh ... You know I copied and pasted all that!) known as Diego Rivera was a prominent Mexican painter and the husband of Frida Kahlo. His large wall works in fresco helped establish the Mexican Mural Movement in Mexican art. Between 1922 and 1953, Rivera painted murals among others in Mexico City, Chapingo, Cuernavaca, San Francisco, Detroit, and New York City. In 1931, a retrospective exhibition of his works was held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
Covering all of the walls of these two courtyards are murals. 235 panels or 1585.14 m2 of this mural work was done by Diego Rivera between 1923 and 1928.
This was Rivera’s first major large-scale mural project. The themes center around workers, and the glorification of all things Mexican, especially the Mexican Revolution. Rivera named the two courtyards “Labor Courtyard” and the other the “Fiesta Courtyard” based on the themes he painted in each. Because he was affiliated with the Communist Party at the time, Rivera painted small hammers and sickles next to his signature on the panels in this building.
The smaller, or Fiesta Courtyard, has murals by Rivera and other artists. Ground floor has the murals that give the courtyard its name “The Deer Dance” “The Corn Fiesta” “May 1 Meetings” With geometric planes and concentration of figures, “The Day of the Dead” is representative Rivera composition.
The upper rectangle is occupied by a trio of a peasant, a revolutionary soldier and a worker with the opposite side containing images representing the clergy, militarism and capitalism.
There are so many panels
On the first floor of the Fiesta Courtyard is the coats-of-arms of the different Mexican states painted by Jean Charlot and Amado de la Cueva. On the opposite side of this floor are works by two other painters: “Washerwomen” and “Loadbearers” by Jean Charlot and “The Little Bull” and “The Dance of the Santiagos” by Amado de la Cueva.
The second level contains another Rivera work, “The Arsenal,” which has an image of Frida Kahlo distributing arms to revolutionaries. In the far left section of the panel appears the face of David Alfaro Siqueiros. Generally speaking, this corridor is devoted to revolutionary songs called “corridos” that crown and link the murals.
After this we decide to head back to the hotel and rest and refresh before meeting our group and guides. We stop and grab this amazing taco from a small shop on the way back.
Finally it is 6:00 and we meet in the lobby to join our new travel mates and guides. There are actually two groups and two guides and we will be all together most of the time. Our two guides are Chimy and Javier and I can tell from our first meeting that they are going to be so helpful and friendly. We head out to a taco restaurant for our first dinner. Chimy and Javier are patient and helpful in decoding the menu for us all. Food was delicious! We take a nice walk to the Zocalo center. The Zócalo is the main plaza or square in the heart of the historic center of Mexico City. More about this later too.
Here we can see the beginnings of preparations for Day of the Dead. We also see ruins from the Templo Mayor. So much to take in and it's only the first day. It's going to be a really great trip!