Saturday, July 23, 2005

Mexico in three stories

For most of the last couple of weeks I have been in Mexico, separated by a quick trip to Baltimore, but I digress. I wrote about the AGU-Zacatecas trip in an earlier post. But this trip was to Mexico to visit another couple of friends. I stayed in the apartment of a friend in an area of the city that I had previously not been aware of - it is really handy to everything.

I came in on Friday and went to dinner with both friends - we talked about one friend's attempt to open a restaurant. He is meticulous in detail and wants to open a small place in Xalapa. We also decided to do the tourist things in Mexico City. So on Saturday we went downtown to the Templo Mayor and the Cathedral. My friend who is a priest is going to give a talk on the history of Mexico so I agreed to take some shots he could use to illustrate the talk - the Templo Mayor is (was) a big deal in the middle of the lake that was Mexico City at the time of Cortez. The TM is in the center of the city and has three layers. When Cortez entered the city, it was there. Right next to the TM is both the palace of government as well as the Metropolitan Cathedral Over the last decade the Cathedral has had a pretty massive engineering restructuring. Concrete was pumped into the foundation to add some support to the building. The interior is a beautiful classic church. In the center of that area of town is also a place where a lot of civic activity takes place. Right now, the Mayor of Mexico City - Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador holds a lot of rallys there. At this time he is the putative favorite to be elected to succeed Vicente Fox in the 2006 election. He is a classic demagogue. When I was in Aguascalientes in early July one friend gave me a book on AMLO which is not a bit complementary.

Sunday in Mexico is family day. In the city lots of people bring their families to a place in the center of the city that includes Chapultapec Castle The castle went through a long renovation. It is a cross between a memorial to the PRI view of Mexico - which is decidedly areligious, a national museum to key events in mostly modern history (Porfirio Diaz is presented well - but so is Juarez. The Castle has three parts - a former military college, the former official site of government, and the private residence of the president (until Los Piños). Included in the Castle are several impressive murals and a pretty good treatment of the history of independence. On Sunday evening we went to the Bellas Artes. I've seen opera there but this time we saw folklorico. Unfortunately I did not bring a camera. This was an especially wonderful presentation with about 20 variations of Mexican dance. The Company is one started by Amelia Hernandez - their program is a cross between Alvin Alley and Riverdance. The Folklorico was very good and very colorful.

On Monday we went to look for some chairs with the friend who is looking to start a restaurant and then to the nurseries at Xochomilcho. The nurseries have a ton of small vendors of flowers. As I have done a lot of flower photography this was like kids day at the fair.

Tuesday we spent the day doing light stuff including going to Coyoacan. It is a pretty part of town. We ate lunch there and then searched some bookstores. We got caught in one as a result of a torrential downpour. I bought a brief history of Mexico created by the Collegio de Mexico. On the way home later in the week I began to read it. It is slow going but pretty good.

On Wednesday we spent six and a half hours in the Museo Nacional de Antropología. My friend knows a lot about anthropology in Mexico so we went through a tour that was exceptional - we purposely did not follow the way the museum is laid out but instead took a tour based on a historical timeline.

Thursday before I left for California, we went to the Shrine of Guadalupe. The site has several churches including a modern one built about the time of John XXIII and a more ancient one that was built a couple of hundred years ago. The site now has a memorial to JPII, which is fitting because he celebrated mass here a couple of times.

All in all the visit was a wonderful one.

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