The Zocalo, the heart of the Historic District in Mexico City, is a popular place not only for political rallies and protest demonstrations, but other activities as well. For instance, families gather in the evenings to fly kites. We were given the privilege, for several minutes, of holding the line to the highest kite in the sky!
One Sunday the area was roped off for indigenous dancers to perform traditional rituals to the accompaniment of beating drums..
On the last evening we were there, the Zocalo was ambitiously staged for a music concert. Two huge, colorful canvas pavilions were constructed for people to enjoy the music while picnicking on grass – yes, large areas of sod were laid on the concrete! And there were colorful lights everywhere including the National Palace.
And the morning after avery event, the cleanup began.
Throughout the areas of the city we visited as tourists, we were amazed at the cleanliness of the sidewalks, streets, and parks. There was no litter, not even discarded gum on the pavement. We saw many city employees keeping the places clean.
Mexico City has several large parks and many smaller ones. The parks are beautifully maintained and the landscaping tended to. There are gazebos, bandstands, fountains, and lots of people relaxing and enjoying various activities. And the Jacaranda trees were in full bloom!
A violin class was taking place on the grandstand.
Roller skaters practicing maneuvers.
Girls practicing a dance number in the park.
We also encountered a parade organized by a group encouraging support for the arts.
And then there are many food and drink and souvenir vendors in the park as well.
And the Mexico City Zoo is in part of a large park.
There were many souvenir vendors in and outside of the Zoo. We noticed kids, young and old, wearing strange looking things on their heads. On closer inspection we discovered they were monkeys with raised tails!
The parks were a welcome respite for us from the commotion of the commercial streets. In fact, on those streets we experienced STIMULATION OVERDOSE!
In the Historic District where the streets dated back to Colonial times, the streets can only accommodate one way traffic so that there is room for parking on one or both sides of the street. The buildings have shops on the ground level with residences on the upper floors. Many of the buildings exhibited architectural details from their Colonial origin.
Street activity gets a slow start in the day in Mexico City. Shops open between 9 and 11, and after that there is a lot of movement, noise, and visual stimuli, so much so, that at first I was overwhelmed.
The sidewalks are filled with people, the shops play music, and the displays of merchandize are abundant. The display aesthetic seems to be “the more the better” with and unending amounts of STUFF. Even the high end stores crowded their windows and interior spaces with merchandize.
Not only is there the sound of music and traffic, but also there are loud speakers mounted on cars sending out loud audio waves of announcements. On our street, from 4 to 7, there was always someone on a loud speaker. But from 7 pm, the street was quiet.
In addition to shop after shop, there are the street vendors adding to the commotion. Everywhere there were carts where street food was being prepared and sold surrounded by people eating the food. And trinket vendors spread their wares on the sidewalks.
And then there are outdoor markets where clusters of vendor would set up in plazas, near Metro stops, outside of parks or wherever they could find space in the crowded city.
And we felt safe. We noticed there were plenty of police. They were there to do traffic control, or to oversee peaceful demonstrations that take place regularly in the city, or to be a visible presence. They also were helpful with directions!
For security, most of the shops were closed with metal shutters, like garage doors. Many of these security doors were painted with murals. (Notice how clean the street and sidewalks are.)
Although there were many different images painted on these doors, a favorite image was of women’s faces.
In addition to security doors, we saw large murals on building throughout the city.
And then we were delighted so discover a sculpture park in the ground of the Museum of Modern Art as well as sculptures installed at many locations around the city.
And we discovered public art in the subway stations as well. Here is a train with Keith Haring graphics!
This station had self-portraits of cartoonists.
We found that getting around the city was a challenge at times. Either we sat in congested traffic while taking an Uber or we took the subway (Metro) where we were at least moving, but not saving time. So, we compromised by taking the subway in the morning and an Uber in the late afternoon when we were exhausted. (The cost of a subway ride is 30 cents with unlimited transfers to anywhere in the city.)
The map on the right is of Mexico City proper and the red dots indicate our destinations. We spent most of our time near the heart of the city, but ventured out to the University and Xochimilco, which are indicated with big dots. The University is about 12 miles from our apartment, but it took close to an hour using either the subway (changing trains twice) or Uber.
When we took the subway, we usually rode in the cars at the head of the train that are reserved for women and children under 12.
One more Mexico City post coming – architecture, art, and entertainment.