Sunday, April 22, 2007


I'm going to steal a line from today's Houston Chronicle travel section about travel in Mexico City.....

Crime, pollution and way too many people, true. But the former capital of the Aztec empire remains a magnificent city brimming with energy, color and cultural treasures.

Although we didn't feel threatened with crime any more than in any other major city of the world, and we didn't find the pollution too bad, we did find lots of people, energy, color and cultural treasures. I've already written about the museums we saw so now let me give you some other impressions from our visit in the historical center of the city.

The historic center was also the Aztecs' center and at the Zocalo you can see the ruins of Templo Mayor. Now right in the same area is the Catedral Metropolitana and the Palacio Nacional which houses Mexico's White House and Capitol. These buildings sit on the edges of one of the largest municipal plazas in the world. Until the early 20th century that plaza was a maze of vendor stalls. Now those stalls have been pushed out of the plaza or zocalo and they fill the streets for several blocks around it.The afternoon we arrived, it was amazing to me to see vendors of everything from food to boxing gloves selling their wares shoulder to shoulder, back to vendor facing the street the other the sidewalk and a few hours later when we went to dinner, all of the vendors except for just a few around the Catedral were packed up and gone. The street was clean. About 9:30 the next morning the vendors were returning pulling and pushing dollies loaded with boxes, crates and tarps. Within 30 minutes everyone was set up and ready for the days sales. At night where do they store all these tons of stuff? Where do they live? Can they make a living doing this? What do you want? Food? bras? shoes? books? perfume? cosmetics? DVDs? the latest movies? Rayban sunglasses? purses? How about body piercing? and the list goes on and on. I made a photograph or two and one guy came up telling me I couldn't photograph there. I just kept walking. I figured that he was concerned about me photographing the pirated movies but a friend told me that the vendors are very watchful because the police sometimes come in and do a raid so they are always ready to close up shop and hightail it out of there. Street after street of sidewalk vendors....just an amazing jumble of color and energy. Some streets seem to have clusters of a product. In one area we saw numerous shops that sell bridal wear, another where the tailor's windows are full of the finest fabrics for men's suits, another where shop after shop was full of used books and another where cameras were the major product. One of those shops was called B&H Photo. We started to ask if they were connected to B&H from New York but before Ned finished his sentence they laughed and said, no. You will also find international speciality stores. So you could easily come to Mexico City and buy anything that you need. There are a lot of sidewalk cafes and some streets have been closed and trees planted so that sitting at the sidewalk cafe and people watching is very pleasant. In the USA, business attire has become less formal but you still see lots of suits in Mexico City. And some of the fabrics and tailoring in those suits is just exquisite. Remember the Hanes commercial where two women would be watching the men go by and decide if they were wearing Hanes underware or not. Well, I was sitting watching the men go by and deciding if they were wearing a hand tailored suit or not.

A lot has changed since the last time we were in Mexico City's historic center. Alameda Parque has been refreshed, there is a strong police presence, there are fewer beggars, the streets are cleaner, Bellas Artes has a new dome. I don't think it will be too long before we go back to explore some more.

You'll find more photographs from the trip here.


james said...

arrr I can't believe I missed you. Great posts. All of them. I got chased out the last time I tried to shoot those twirling bridal gowns.


Billie said...

James, they must have thought you were a lurker waiting to peep under the gown. hahaha