Mexico City hasn’t lived up to most of its press.
Four days in and I haven’t been a victim of or seen any crime yet. People have been friendly and helpful. I haven’t been ripped off. It’s been ridiculously easy to get around. I, with my obviously western looks, haven’t even received any of the unwarranted male attention I was warned about on the Metro. I’m not quite sure what to make of this.
Mexico City is big (third largest city in the world) and it still feels like it can barely contain all it has to offer. In my first 24 hours here I stumbled upon students posing for prom pictures under a monument, an outdoor exercise class and bicycles taking over main roads, babies in their Sunday best on their way to baptisms and the sound checks for a free concert in the main Zocale (biggest town square in the America’s) competing with the Metropol Cathedral’s Sunday Mass service and bell ringing. While people might be concerned about crime here, it certainly hasn’t stopped a vibrant and busy street life.
Mexico City is loud and brash. Wherever you look there are people selling anything and everything – my best being encyclopedia’s in the metro car – and they’re usually yelling their offer. I’ve read that there are no or hardly any building regulations in the city, which is reflected in a complex mixture of building styles. I’m pretty sure that the city would make an excellent furled trip for architecture students wanting to see a little bit of everything. And yet certain neighborhoods have distinct character’s, which is not only miraculous but feels more reflective of its citizens past and present. One imagines body corporate meetings revolve more around tequila than car-park disputes.
I think I’ve walked more here then all my trip’s hiking combined and I don’t even think I’ve scratched the surface of the few neighborhoods I’ve visited. But there are unexpected surprises that jump out at you. I’ve never seen such a high profusion of street art from murals in the metro stations to monuments and statues (you really must have had to do something wrong to avoid a statue). All the big international brands in one over-sized ode to a high street, right around the corner from a crowd of taco stands and roast chicken stalls down the road from the National Art Museum. There are also museums documenting and informing everything from history to archeology to popular culture to political cartoons to economics and even those all in Spanish still are really well presented. Imagine being a kid here. I might have even taken an interest in economics.
The stand out for my first day involved visiting an archeology museum of all things. It’s the archeology museum just off the main Zocale featuring the ruins of where they believe the Aztecs first built the structures on which the Spanish decided to build Mexico City. I’m quite a fan of ancient ruins in the middle of city’s. This one might not have been the prettiest but awed me for a couple of reasons. The Mexican government literally pulled down the colonial buildings on top of the Templo Mayo after their eventual discovery and the tour guides will explain how more runs are literally under the surrounding streets. The site is dramatically lorded over by the imposing Metropolitan Cathedral in what must be one of the most visual symbols of colonialism around the world. But with the help of earth quakes and volcanos, it looks like the Aztecs might be having the last laugh – the layers of ruins under the Centro Historico are literally pushing up several of its main buildings including the main cathedral (so if some buildings appear skew in my photo’s, it’s not just my photography). Sometimes history can be so cool!