Tuesday, July 24, 2007


On Sunday, we went with our neighbors and new pals, The Catheys, to check out the blockbuster Frida Kahlo show downtown. This year is the 100th anniversary of Kahlo's birth, and there is a big retrospective exhibition showing her paintings as well as drawings, photographs and personal letters. We waited in line for over an hour at the Palacio de Bellas Artes to enter the exhibit hall. It was really interesting to see up close the intense interest people have in Frida Kahlo. Her work is incredibly introspective (self-portrait after self-portrait ) yet it has genuine mass appeal as demonstrated by not only the long lines at the museum but also the Hollywood movie and the piles of Frida trinkets out there. I wonder if she has become more popular and her work more recognized than Diego Rivera's?

This is the Bellas Artes. The building is incredibly heavy (all that marble) and is slowly sinking into the ground.

We were pretty geeked about seeing the Rivera mural, "Man, Controller of the Universe" (above). Rivera repainted this as a version of "Man at the Crossroads," the mural which was commissioned in 1933 for the Rockefeller Center in NY. The original version ended up being chipped off the Center's walls shortly after completion because it included a portrait of Lenin. After that fiasco, Rivera recreated the mural in Mexico --- Lenin's still there on the "socialism" side of the street (the other crossroads being capitalism, science, industry).

The Bellas Artes includes murals by Siquieros, Orozco, Tomayo and O'Gorman. Here are some images from Orozco's "catharsis."

.....So from one palace to another: just across the street from the Palacio de Bellas Artes is the Postal Palace! Seriously, this is the most over-the-top post office I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. The Palacio Postal also happens to be celebrating its centennial as well. Here's a look at this dripping-in-gold beauty:

Check out my giddy delight --- I love a post office, but this one is taking the prize. Finally, a building that adequately celebrates the glory of national mail service! I can't wait to go back and mail a letter!

We ended the afternoon in our typical fashion by sitting down for a giant lunch. Kate and Michael had a line on the oldest restaurant in Mexico City: Hosteria Santo Domingo, just a few blocks away in el Centro.

This restaurant has been running since 1860 and is housed in a former monastery. It has good traditional Mexican food, and is famous for chiles en nogada. Kate ordered the marquee dish and declared it delicious!

Sergio ordered ants:

Yep, that's him eating ant larvae. And it was good!

Standing on the Sun

We took a trip to Teotihuacan to see the pyramids. Teotihuacan is about 30 miles North of the city, and is the site of an ancient city (founded in 300 BC) that may have had as many as 200,000 people at its height in AD 600. I have read that the city was larger than any cities in Europe at that time, and it was a thriving commercial and ceremonial center. Around 650-750 AD the city declined and fell, and it never bounced back tho it was considered a sacred place by the succeeding civilizations, including the Aztecs who named it Teothuacan (Place Where Gods Are Made).

Teotihuacan features two major pyramids, The Sun (above top) and The Moon (above bottom), constructed in the first and second centuries AD.

I'm standing near the top of the Sun in this photo. It is the third largest pyramid in the world. You can see the lesser Moon pyramid in the background. Apparently, these pyramids were originally plastered and painted red.

There were folks of all ages here, including a ton of nuns. Probably at least 150 of them! They were scrambling all over those steps. (And the steps are no joke, quite steep and narrow.) The sun was really bright in Teotihuacan, and we were happy to finish the afternoon by heading to an underground cave just up the road where we had a charmingly mediocre lunch at La Gruta.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Hill of the Grasshopper

Chapultepec is essentially the Central Park of Mexico City, where you can rent a paddleboat, hang out and people-watch, or take in the fantastic views from the historic hilltop castle, like this one above. On Sundays all the museum and sites are free, so the park is brimming with local folks and vendors, although sadly for us no dogs.

People on paddleboats (duh).

Do you realize how exotic Sasha looks in this country? I know she's hot, but seriously, people on the street stare at her like she's from another planet. It's like to them she's what Salma Hayek is to us. Or better yet, Charo. Cuchi-cuchi!

Apparently I've gone blind.

A famous quasi-true story from Mexican history is of Los Ninos Heroes, a group of 6 teenage military cadets who stood tall against the invading gringos during the Battle of Chapultepec in 1847. They all fought to the death and legend has it that one wrapped himself in the Mexican tri-color and threw himself off the castle walls in one glorious gesture of patriotism (or lunacy, depending on your point of view).

Anyway, they have this cool monument to the boys on top of the castle and, most impressively, this amazing mural of the final legendary fall:

The best part is, that's a fresco. On the ceiling.

Dude Crossing

These are some really cool street signs near our house. We don't know if this is an official Pedestrian Crossing template or not, but it made us smile.

Polanco Temples.

Our neighborhood is geared toward eating lunch and going shopping. Not a lot of grand colonial architecture or ancient Aztec scenes around these parts. So on Saturday we went out in search of some new dishes and went to two of the local shopping centers. We didn't find anything we liked (my usual M.O.) but hey it is kinda cool to walk to a mall right? That doesn't happen much at home

Monday, July 9, 2007


We spent the weekend doing a lot of shopping and eating. Two of the dumber items we picked up included this weird sweet pumpkin fruit called mame and some giant chocolate covered marshmallows.

El Centro

El Centro

We visited the historic center of Mexico City, "el centro," this weekend. It is fantastic, and my favorite neighborhood so far. The whole area is a UNESCO World Heritage site and packed with great-looking buildings. We started the touring off with a breakfast at Sanborns, an old fashioned department store chain that sells everything under the sun--- this particular downtown location is found in the House of Tiles (a 400 year old building covered in blue tiles) with an Orozco mural along one stairwell. The food was fine, but the setting was spectacular and got us properly in the mood for sight-seeing.

The main downtown square, the Zocalo, is one of the world's largest plazas and is surrounded by the Cathedral (the largest in Latin America), the National Palace and City Hall. Just off the Zocalo are the Aztec Templo Mayor ruins. Conquistadors destroyed the temple and used the stone to build the Cathedral right next door. After poking around in the Zocalo, we headed over to La Lagunilla, the biggest flea market I've ever encountered. It was exhausting just to walk through, and I suspect we only saw a very small selection of all the tube socks, spatulas, nail clippers and baptism gowns on offer.


We live by two peaceful parks: America Park and Lincoln Park. America Park is closer, and is a dog park with skateboarders. Lincoln Park is a little bigger and has a statue of Abe and one of MLK. Nice.

I just read anLA Weekly piece from last summer on Mexico City's cultural scene: http://www.laweekly.com/general/features/down-and-delirious-in-mexico-city/14217/&cid=0&ei=PFkHRdekJ5ioaJu28MkN/?page=1 Another reminder that world-class cities are a lot alike---blah blah blah about gentrification and how the scene here used to be better, but a good primer on the neighborhoods in DF (and the Presidential election). It starts off with our Polanco. I like the part where the guy in Condesa says, "I can give you fiesta."

Home Sweet Home

Our house in Mexico City is in an apartment complex in Polanco, a central neighborhood. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polanco) We live in a compound with other folks who work in the American Embassy. There are 40 apartments in three buildings built around courtyards. Moving in here feels a lot like moving into the dorms in undergrad: there's the same motor court style housing, institutional furniture, and rambunctious hall mates. And I've been surprised by how relatively diverse the area is: there's a smattering of international types due to all the embassies in the area, and there's a large Jewish community here. Most of our neighbors outside the complex in Polanco are pretty fancy, but unlike Middletown, there are plenty of places to spend money here. Polanco boasts a kind of 5th Avenue shopping drag featuring all kinds of boutiques (Chanel, Cartier, Hermes, and on and on). Oh and yep, I've seen armed bodyguards at the shopping center.

Perhaps because of the dorm-like surroundings, some have called these apartments the lousiest housing in the Service which is really kinda thrilling to hear. Sergio and I are delighted by our "tenement" and really dig the fact that we haven't driven the car but once in a week! If this is as bad as it gets, we have a lot to look forward to with this career. We're sure not missing that Capitol Hill basement apartment or DC commuting much...

El D.F.!

Saturday, June 30th. Arrived in DF! The Mexican toll roads were just as good as everyone had described, with the added surprise of grazing livestock along the freeway medians and a lot of rain. As the car climbed up to Mexico City, the highway widened and the traffic got a little wilder. Soon enough, we were stuck in a Saturday afternoon traffic jam. We'd made it!

Mexico City is "el d.f." , the distrito federal. I think it is the second most populous city. There was a NYTimes story reporting it coming in at over 18 million, quite a bit behind Tokyo's 28M. Wow. (http://news.aol.com/story/_a/un-predicts-urban-population-explosion/20070629210909990001)

LouLou: Road Warrior

We couldn't make it as far as San Luis Potosi after all, and stopped earlier in Matehuala. Lucky for us, the kind hotelier in Matehaula agreed to suspend their "no pets" policy for Miss Lou. Cos really, who wouldn't want a furry sleeping angel as a guest?

Border Crossing

We crossed the border in Laredo on June 29th. We had a slow start from Laredo due to various inexplicable but entirely common delays at the border. Laredo made a big impression on me. A dusty, spooky, edge of the world impression. The plan was to take two days to get to Mexico City, with a stop in San Luis Potosi. Unfortunately, we weren't able to be much more specific about our plans because even with the entire SLP US Consulate trying to help us out, we couldn't find a single hotel/motel that welcomed dogs. Yikes.