Day 5- December 28, 2014: Puebla->Distrito Federal (Mexico City) sightseeing
We rolled out of Puebla after stopping at a well known barbacoa place for a late breakfast. I was already starting to be over things with beans and cheese and since I got chalupas without the salsa (not a fan of hardcore hot), them being dry just meant that I was extra over beans and cheese. Thanks to Ixtzel driving to Puebla with Alejandro, we had a ride back to DF and it really took no time, about 1.5 hours. We dropped off Ale and stopped at Ixtzel ’s old home and current apartment of her brother. And there’s another future LIBRO story (See end of Day 4 for explanation) tucked into this moment. We left via standard street bus and changed to the Metro subway. We got off downtown and ate at an outdoor market by the Hidalgo Metro station.
We then walked through Alameda Park and came to Benito Juarez Plaza where the following was set up to both denounce the disappearance and potential killing of the missing 43 students from Raul Isidro Burgos Rural Teacher's College of Ayotzinapa from Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico and pray for their safe return.
This emotional moment led to the next as we then crossed the street to the Museum of Memory and Tolerance (Museo Memoria y Tolerancia). Since it’s Sunday all the public museums have free entry and because we just keep winning in Mexico we were able to see this really great exhibit called, “The Legacy of Mandela: 20 Years of Liberty in South Africa” for free! It was well-done, powerful and of course had me low-key wiping the tears from my eyes.
We then mosied our way down the Avenida Juarez to Palacio de Bellas Artes (on the corner of Eje Central) for a free look at another exhibit that featured the work of someone whose name I can't remember as well as pieces from Frida Khalo and Diego Rivera. That museum is gorgeous. It’s art deco and made me kind of feel like I was in the Untouchables.
We then attempted to head down Madera street and for the first time I felt like I was in a city with 22 million people.
We eventually got to the Zócalo (different one from Puebla) as the sunset and it looked like Christmas on crack, in a good way. There was another ice skating rink, like the one in Puebla, with lines that wrapped around at least four times. Folks in places without ice or snow seem to be serious about their access to ice skating.
The place was teeming with people and lights. I’m used to being around a lot of folks living in NYC but we typically avoid such scenes, yet I was right up in the mix here. Definitely a sight to see.
We eventually got outta there and took a good little walk back down Madera and all the way to The Monument to the Revolution (Monumento a la Revolución).
We were exhausted and got onto yet another mode of transportation in the city, the MetroBus. The thing you need to know about the Metrobus is that you can’t get on without a card and this costs about 30 pesos (around $2) so if you aren’t going to use it much you don’t want to buy it (I know I hate when I have to buy a $1 Metro card in NYC). But we asked someone entering if we could pay him as he added to his card and we were in. We then headed back to Ixtzel’s car and from there to Sanborn’s to meet her sweet parents for dinner. The only thing was we were completely exhausted, as one could imagine from such a jam packed day. We’re going hard and every night we look like we’ve got nothing left. So we weren’t the most upbeat. But the worst part was that we didn’t offer to pay for the check when we had the opportunity. Of course they said, “no, no, you two are traveling,” but they really deserved it and we kicked ourselves later. But in our defense our brains were on the fritz. We were taking in so much, bobbing and weaving, learning, processing. We owe them.
Day 6- December 29, 2014: Distrito Federal (Mexico City) mall, touring and independent cinema
We packed up all our things at Ixtzel’s house in the Tlalpan section of DF because we were supposed to go stay at another woman’s house through Couchsurfing that we’d arranged before. But when we got downstairs to leave Ixtzel’s parents insisted that we stay and chat with them as they gave us breakfast. How could we say no? We spoke about life and family, social security, education systems, jobs, our respective countries, etc. Then they offered to give us a ride to the mall and then to the dentist since Salma had to go and Ixtzel’s brother had a friend who was a dentist. Mind you, we didn't know these folks at all a couple days earlier and yet here they were acting like our Mexican surrogate parents. It just warms your heart.
Mall life in other countries can be interesting if you’ve got the extra time to spare for something chill. You can see what certain classes of folks think is “in”. But this was by far my favorite part of the mall visit.
Something that has been striking about this trip thus far is a bit of a paradox. We’ve by and large seen very few foreign tourists. Now granted, in a city so large and so populated maybe they just are dispersed throughout the city and we are missing them. But even in the tourist hot-spots we’ve seen very few of them. And yet, here’s the interesting thing, we don’t get stared at. We look visibly different from most other people so it’s not like folks don’t stare because we just blend so well and not because it appears they are accustomed to seeing people who like us on the regular, and yet, especially when compared to other countries, there is very little staring. One could say that it's a culture that finds staring rude, but I'm not getting that vibe either. We feel neither invisible nor like we’re on stage. It really allows for a level of calm and normalcy in a foreign space.
After the mall we got dropped at the dentist closer to the center of town then bid Ixtzel’s parents farewell. I waited and wrote up the first two days of this blog then. We walked a bit of a ways with our things to the metro that was supposed to be closest to our next host’s home. So here’s where I tell you another tip. Get yourselves a DF map. We were totally without one. When Salma got to the airport first, mind you the international airport for a mega city, the tourist office was closed. It was also closed when we were in the Zocalo. So when we got out the metro we really didn’t know where to go. And guess what? Neither did the taxi drivers. I hate paying to be lost. We eventually got to Sylvia’s house and it was just as we pictured a cool ass, artsy woman from DF would live. The house was just full of character and light. We had a huge room and a mattress on the floor and were all good. We rapped for a bit with Sylvia. She gave us the house keys and a copy of the city map (finally!) and we headed to yet another mode of DF transportion, the trolley, down Eje Central (Ave. Lazaro). We got to Frida Kahlo’s house in the Coyoacán neighborhood but alas, museums are closed on Mondays! Boo. We walked around the neighborhood which is super cute. They really do a lot with public space in DF. They are full of benches and trees, places that look like they are actually intended to be utilized by the public (for the opposite of this see Parque Centenario in Cartagena, Colombia). We then found our way to way to the Cineteca Nacional on foot so we could check out what independent films they were showing. My mouth straight dropped upon entry. No really. THIS was the independent movie theatre????
I felt like I walked into a NASA observatory. We were just in time to catch a Turkish-German movie with Spanish subtitles called Winter Sleep (Sueño de invierno/Kis Uykusu). The cashier had Colombian parents and when I said I went to Columbia so we could get the student rate he got excited (confusing the two), we responded and before we knew it we both paid about $1.75 to watch a new independent movie in one of the flyest theatres I’d ever been in. DF, I see you tryna win me over, and it’s workin’.