Many Months Ago in Mexico: Part 4 – Mexico City

Part 4 of Many Months Ago in Mexico: This blog entry is told by Kelly because Milo was back in Bergen, Norway completing the first semester of graduate school.

After 2 weeks of sharing the company of Monica, from Portland, the school and I saw her off with a celebratory cake and school diploma. Here she is with Martha, one of the owners of CETLALIC.

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Monica asked if the other students at the school and I would like to accompany her to a weekend in Mexico City before she caught her flight home. One other student (who wishes to remain anonymous) and I decided to join her for a weekend of sightseeing in the capital.

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Right when we got off the bus from Cuernavaca we hopped on the very efficient subway and began to navigate across the city to our hotel.

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We got off at the right stop but then got turned around trying to locate the hotel. We happened to stumble upon this coffee shop and roasting company. We took a break and talked to the owners.

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There were many wood carvings one the wall so I enquired about them. The owner said he made them, then proceeded to show us every carving he had in back. They were all so intricate and beautiful that we were pleased that he had what seemed to be an endless amount of his artwork to show us.

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The entire coffee shop seemed to be his and his wife’s work space for various projects they were in the middle of.

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They agreed to a picture and asked us to come back anytime we were in the area. Unfortunately, this was our only visit to their establishment.

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Once we had some coffee, we got our bearings and navigated to the hotel. As you can see, Monica is crossing the street  and in the background is a row of free rental bicycles that can be picked up and dropped of in hundreds of locations around the city.

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The more time goes by, the more of these bicycle-share projects I see popping up in major cities. Being a bicycle enthusiast and environmental advocate, it’s very invigorating to see these programs catching on!

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At our hotel, we were all blown away by how decorative both the exterior and interior were. El Patio 77 is an eco friendly bed and breakfast with art decorating the entire space. They employ gray water systems and light timers to cut back on the recourses they use. They also give guests environmentally friendly soap, shampoo, conditioner and lotion in the bathroom. They use natural cleaners such as baking soda and vinegar.

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It is a refurbished house that is close to many districts and tourist attractions, but still far enough away to enjoy a quiet neighborhood, which is especially important in the evening. The staff is friendly, warm and inviting, and the breakfast was incredible. They were also more than happy to accommodate my vegan diet with some very tasty food.

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It’s about a 30 minute walk to the city center and so worth the walk- one can enjoy a stroll, shaded by trees lining the streets through a quiet neighborhood with cafes and taquerias that aren’t expensive like the ones in more popular areas of the city. It’s about a 5 minute walk to the subway station, a 10 minute walk to Plaza Revolución, and a 20 minute walk to Zona Rosa.

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Needless to say, I recommend this hotel to anyone planning a visit to Mexico city. Click to check out their website here!

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Once we set our stuff down and had a little rest, we headed back out. We wanted to see Plaza Revolución because the teachers of Mexico are striking and protesting against the changes the president, Enrique Pena Nieto, wants to incorporate into the public school system. Pena Nieto is a very-far-right-of-center politician who caters to the rich and powerful people and corporations that wish to privatize many institutions that Mexico socialized back in the 1930s, a time which many consider to be the peak of Mexico’s most progressive time for its citizens. Some of the school reforms that he has enacted all are designed to weaken the long standing and favored teacher’s union in Mexico, including a new process of hiring new teachers and a different way of assessing current teachers’ abilities.

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Some consider the teacher’s union to be corrupt, but everyone considers the Mexican government to be corrupt, which leads most people to take the side of the teachers.

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Mexico has a long and bloody history of revolution, so this monument was erected to represent the people’s struggle. What better place for the epicenter of a modern revolution, than here?

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In every direction from the top of the monument, multi-colored tents and tarps are erected with classes, cooking, documentary viewing, and sleeping all taking place.

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Monica and I stood for a long while talking about the inspiration we drew from this sight; how the people are allowed to voice their discontent and set up 24/7 protests to inform and educate the people. We talked about the way the USA brutally handled the Occupy Wall Street protests, stomping upon our 1st amendment rights of freedom of speech and assembly. We gloomily discussed how the USA has become more and more of a police state with no end in sight. We talked about what ideas we have and what we hope to see accomplished and the strides activists continue to make every day, despite what seems to be an ever-growing upward slope. We decided to continue to fight the good fight, peacefully.

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Here you can see classes to teach chess to everyone and anyone who wishes to learn. The instructor explained that in order to take down a corrupt government, the people must understand strategy and what better way, he says, than learning how to play chess. Since I am a lover of chess, I really enjoyed watching people learn.

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Next to a tent with a documentary playing is a booth of documentaries for sale.

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After Plaza Revolución, the day was getting late and we started heading toward the city center.

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Though we wanted to get there quickly to see it in daylight, it was hard not to take a few steps and stop to see street performers and city art.

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Everywhere we went we saw dancers, bands, artists and much more.

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Behind this belly dancer is Bellas Artes, an important cultural center of Mexico. With frequent orchestra performances, plays, and art exhibits, including a Diego Rivera mural,  this is a must see in Mexico City. We visited the next day but failed to get any good pictures, for they were refurbishing the interior and all the murals were covered with reflective plastic.

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When we finally got to the city center is was well after dark. We walked around a lot and took in all the sights and smells.

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Our friend was pretty tired, still suffering from jet lag, so we went back to the hotel relatively early to drop her off.

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After seeing our friend back to the hotel safely, Monica and I took off to Zona Rosa, the gay district. We found an incredible Pozoleria, a corn soup restaurant, that also serves a wide variety of other authentic Mexican dishes. I ordered the vegetarian pozole without sour cream or cheese. It was by far the best pozole I have ever tasted. I ate so much, my stomach was bulging out as if I had a baby growing in there.

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After dinner we went dancing to work off our meal. We didn’t take any pictures while movin’ and groovin’ the the beats of reggeaton, salsa, and hip hop, but best believe we had a blast!

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The next day, we said goodbye to Monica at the hotel and began our day of seeing more of this incredibly large and fun-filled city. Above is a recyclery site where people bring their unwanted goods and trade for other things, or sell them for the price of scrap metal. If I lived in Mexico, this is where I would go for a used, but better than new, bicycle.

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We went back toward the city center and took a look at the Aztec ruins directly next to the National Palace.

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The Mexican government claims to have been unaware of the ruins until very recently, but that is very hard to believe when you can distinctly see 3 different time periods of construction in this one photo. The red brick half circle is part of a water canal that was underneath the city’s roads in the 1800s.

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This is a wishing well that many visitors throw their pocket change into in hopes of it landing directly in the middle. I tried a few times, but didn’t make it. One thing that I will never forget is what my fellow student and day traveling companion said when I carelessly said, “I will try one more time, it’s just a peso.” They said, “It might just be a peso to you, but someone less fortunate than us would benefit much more from that peso if it were not thrown into a hole.” It was such a powerful and true statement; I am grateful for the lesson they taught me that day.

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We then went into the National Palace to look at a Diego Rivera Mural.

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Like I have mentioned before, Diego Rivera’s artwork is so powerful and important because it illustrates Mexico’s history of conquest and revolution. We see how brutal Mexico’s history was and can reflect on how it is that we came to be where we are today. In the USA, we don’t have the honor of having any Rivera murals. In the 1930s Mr. Nelson Rockefeller, urged by his mother, Abby, commissioned Rivera to paint a mural in Carnegie Hall followed with several walls across the United States. After viewing the first mural, Nelson Rockefeller decided that he didn’t like the raw truth of America’s history that Diego had portrayed. Rockefeller fired Rivera from the entire US mural tour and painted over his work.

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Thankfully, Mexico holds Rivera’s work in high esteem and would never (at least for now) dream of destroying his art.

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In this shot, you can see Frida depicted in Rivera’s work.

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This is the fountain in the center of the National Palace.

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Once outside of the National Palace we visited the Cathedral in the city center.

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Neither my traveling companion nor myself are religious, but we still found beauty in the design of the cathedral.

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After a long weekend in the Capital we head back to Cuernavaca. The next couple weeks were pretty routine. I spent time with my friends and finished up my classes at CETLALIC.

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This is Mario, the teacher who taught me the most often. It was great to spend so much time at the school because I really got to know everyone in the CETLALIC family, including the cleaning lady and host mothers.

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Overall, I had an incredible visit to Mexico. Although, I missed Milo terribly, I was able to pass the time (2.5 months) in a good mood with good friends, eating good food in a good city. During my visit, Milo and I talked nearly every day on Skype which made it a bit easier to bear. During one (or many) of our conversations, we talked about when we will visit Mexico together. We are thinking 2016? Who knows, maybe sooner!

 

This concludes the entries of my journey in Mexico. Stay tuned for our reunion and return to Norway!

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