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Ciudad de Mexico!!!

Written on: Tuesday March 4th, 2008

A journal entry from: Camping Mexico

* We uploaded photos from Puebla in a seperate blog at the same time as we uploaded this Mexico City blog, so be sure to view those as well. They are in the blog previous to this entry :)

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Colin:

I didn?t know exactly what to expect from Mexico city until a few days before we arrived. The city itself holds 1/6th the population of the entire country, 600 people move there everyday. Images of dirty streets packed with traffic, pedestrians and street vendors were well established in my head until we met a couple in Veracruz, who were just coming down off their high from 5 nights in ?the worlds largest city?, they enthusiastically retold their adventure to us.

Mexico City?..it is probably one of the most stereotyped cities on the planet, not many people would even give it a chance but if you are driving right by you mid-as-well take a look. It feels like it is on the same level as Paris, London, New York, Tokyo, and Sydney however it has not had the marketing success as the formers have enjoyed. I have distinctive images of buildings, city-scapes, cultures, and foods for all of these major cities however I had none for Mexico

(other than some taco stands).

The plan was to camp at an RV resort 35 km north of the Zocalo and go in by taxi the following day for 2 nights in the centro (we ended up staying 3). Talking with several of the people at the campsite we decided to forgo the $250 Peso taxi ride and opt for the $22 Peso combination of bus and metro. Ok, so the bus and metro option seemed a little more intimidating and ?dangerous? at the time but this is an adventure right? A 2 km walk from our campground and we were standing just south of the last toll booth on highway 57 heading into town. Looking like a couple of penguins in the desert a bus driver soon realized that we had no idea which of the many busses we required so he tossed us on to the bus headed for the northern bus terminal. Upon disembarking we were escorted on the metro to the center of town by a sweet older woman who was traveling in to see her friend and visit her father?s grave, our first encounter with someone from the area (born in Mexico city). Julia was not even heading to the center of town however she felt compelled to help us on our way and talk to us about Mexico and our travels, definitely a good start to our stay.

After disembarking the metro and leaving Julia to her business we walked ten blocks to the center of Mexico city and what may be considered the center of the country itself (not geographically). Events which have played out within this small area have dictated the course of the entire country. You can immediately tell from the Aztec ruins just 200 ft away from the presidential palace to the modern day photography exhibit taking place in the square that a lot of important and significant events have taken place here.

One of the things which made the both of us appreciate the idiosyncrasies of modern day Mexico was our accommodations. We located a hostel, which served both breakfast and dinner to its guests, where we could get a private room with bathroom for $390 Pesos a night. The amazing part about this arrangement is the location. Outside of our room window and across the street (just 40 ft) was the national palace where the president lives, and just down the street?..the cathedral which is depicted on the $500 Peso bill. Within a 5 minute walk of our hostel were hotels which charge over $300 dollars a night, this my friend is one of the most interesting and amazing aspects of Mexico today. Outside of designer boutiques and ritzy neighborhoods you will find sleazy taco stands and street vendors selling useless items. It is impressive that such varied classes of citizens coexist on a daily basis in such small proximity.

Alayna:

Why on earth would you dare visit Mexico City? Have you not heard?

You?ll be pick-pocketed by a malnourished Mexican child while you?re mugged by a crazed street vendor selling hammocks as you try to yell for help but you can?t because your lungs are full of smog.

What a tragic and underserved reputation the world?s largest city has acquired. It really couldn?t be further from the truth.

Most people buy into this common assumption of Mexico City, myself included. I have never approached a city with such an incorrect postulation of what I was going to experience. The stereotypes that plague the discourse surrounding Mexico City are by and large negative, and certainly insulting. People are convinced you?ll fight your way through traffic (true) into a megalopolis of a city absolutely laden with crime, poverty, and pollution. While one cannot deny that such problems do exist, you must also acknowledge that these problems are present in all large western cities as well. It is the perceived scale of which these problems occur in Mexico City where people are mistaken.

Standing in the middle of the zocalo (Central Square) for the first time was a powerful experience. The historically and architecturally significant buildings that rise all around you are of such a grand scale they make you feel slightly diminutive. There are hoards of people everywhere you turn, taxis and cars whip around blowing their horns, and street vendors abound. All the while, I felt completely safe and totally excited to be there, in the heart of Mexico City!

On Friday we toured around the city all day on an open-top bus for a measly 100 pesos. We hopped off at several locations of our choice, toured around, and then jumped on the next bus. We spent over 8 hours experiencing the city this way, and it was brilliant. We lunched in a trendy and young neighborhood called Condesa. As Colin and I sat there eating our wraps and drinking our smoothies surrounded by young Mexicans we decided we could have been anywhere in the US or Canada. It was similar to Cook Street Village?on steroids. I?d bet no less than one million people lived in the surrounding neighborhood ;)

On Saturday night, as we eagerly headed out the hostel door to visit a large photography exhibit in the zocalo, we were convinced (easily) to scrap that lame idea and opt for a much more culturally rich experience. Literally two minutes later, we were in a van with 20 other gringos (Swedish and Danish medical students), headed for a large stadium to witness some authentic wrestling, Mexican style! We arrived, along with 5000 Mexicans, bought litre beers (literally), and cheered on the masked hombres for over 2 hours. It was hysterical. Perhaps the highlight of the evening was when Colin purchased a wrestling mask, and then spontaneously threw it on throughout the remainder of the evening. We spent the rest of the night throwing back tequila shots out of the bottle with guys named Bjorn and Ives. I must now watch the movie Nacho Libre when I get home.

What an incredible city, and far too interesting to describe fully here. Visit this city sometime in your life. Enough said.

 

From MOM on Mar 6th, 2008

Fab photos of Mexico city...we have avoided cities in NZ and enjoyed amazing country side...we are about to start the rail trail tomorrow, 150 k over 3 days through the vinyards etc. Then home...Nice to catch up on your blog!