mexico

CDMX: A Zócalo Walkabout

Standing here, in the Zócalo, the heart of Mexico City, I can see the city’s entire cultural history laid out. Layers of history spanning thousands of years. I can see it and I can touch it, all from this vantage point.

Physically, the Zócalo itself is nothing more than a large central plaza, a stone-paved platform for events, sacred and profane, bureaucratic and royal. It is the city’s place to protest or celebrate. It is the place where its people come to be seen and to be heard.

It is also the centre of the colonial-era city, a legacy best represented by the Cathedral Metropolitana, a vast heap of Baroque and Neo-Classical stonework dominating an entire side of the square. Construction started in 1524, just as the invading Spaniards began redefining Mexico City in their likeness.

Yet, just off to the right side of the Cathedral, tucked between it and a ring of Hispanic buildings, is the site of an earlier civilization, the one demolished in order to establish the Mexico City we see today.  (more…)

CDMX: Night of the Dead

One of Mexico City’s sixteen boroughs, Xochimilco is, in some respects, the heart of the city. The vast lake that once covered the Valley of Mexico—including the entire site of today’s Mexico City—was tamed 1,000 years ago with a network of canals defined by artificial islands, called chinampas. Canals were once the main mode of transportation throughout the valley. Since colonization, that vast network has shrunk to what remains in Xochimilco. Today, it’s not more than a remnant, an endangered World Heritage Site. Yet what is left is a remarkable, enchanting place.

Today, Xochimilco is best known as a playground. This is where Mexicans come on Sundays and tourists come at all times for an entertaining afternoon ride along the canals on colourful trajinera boats. 

But, for Gail and me, the goals for our journey to Xochimilco have been deliciously disrupted. This is November 1, the first of two Days of the Dead.  (more…)