Zocolo, Xochimilco, UNAM, Frida and Diego

Zocolo means pedestal.  One was installed for a statue that never arrived, but the name stuck and that’s what this huge and ancient plaza is called today.  This is the original site  of the Mexica city Tenochtitlan.  The Spaniards conquered the Aztecs in 1521 and  killed their last king, Cuauhtemoc.  They named the area where the Temple sat Plaza Mayor.  Now the plaza is bordered by the Cathedral Metropolitano begun in 1573.

img_3793-1

Some of the original temple was uncovered in the 70’s when workers were laying cable lines.  There is an on-site museum displaying the foundation of the temple and architectural materials salvaged during the digging.  The Spaniards drained the lake on which the city was built and today it is sinking.

On the east side of the plaza you’ll see the Palacio Nacional which houses the office of the President and shelters a bonanza of Diego Rivera’s brilliant mural tracking the history of Mexico and dropping in Rivera’s biographical and political observations for good measure.

img_3792-1

In one panel you’ll get a whiff of what Rivera thought about the Spaniards.  Here is Hernan Cortes paying a slave trader.  Hiding behind him is his consort Malinche with their child on her back.  The child looks at you with his startling blue eyes.  “See,” says Rivera, “here is the first mestizo.”

img_3838-1
Rivera paints two of his three wives and his son who died in Russia. He places Frida Kahlo at the top.

He and his wife Guadalupe Marin each had numerous affairs.  To get even with her Rivera paints her as a prostitute.  A high caste warrior is offering her an arm recently separated from its owner as payment for her favors.

You pass through a gate on the side of the Palacio and walk into a lovely courtyard and then through these arches.  The Rivera mural is inside this interior portion of the building at the top of a lovely grand staircase.

You can see how big the lake was.  Mexico City was once a group of islands which the Mexica enlarged building bridges that allowed passage to and fro. The city was founded in 1321.  At one time farmers fed a population of 200,000.

 

UNAM

I’ve never been a tour person but this one was fun. Our tour group was two women, aunt and niece, from the mid-west, a couple from Cancun, and a pediatric pharmacist from Oakland.  Our guide, Scarlett, is a student at the UNAM, Universidad Nacional Autonomo de Mexico.

“Johansson, I asked?”

“No, my mother read Gone with The Wind.”

We all piped up doing our best Rhett Butler,  “Frankly, Scarlett, I don’t give a damn!”

She looked bemused. Perhaps she hadn’t read the book!

She is one of 350,000 students at this largest and most prestigious university in the country.  You need a score of 100% on your entrance exam to get in.  Oh, by the way, tuition is free!

This is the Biblioteca Central designed and decorated by Juan O’Gorman.  The mosaic tiles are made from indigenous material.  The library hosts over 1 million titles.

Xochimilco

It’s great fun floating on the water.  You can eat, listen to mariachi, and buy all kinds of souvenirs.  A non-profit was recently founded to ensure the water is unpolluted and a wildlife refuge is supported.

Casa Azul

Our last stop was in the Colonia Coyocan where Frida’s Casa Azul is visited by 200 visitors every half hour.  We were fortunate to go to the front of the line.  Selma Hayek’s film Frida really put the artist on the map.  It’s a lovely home.

We headed back at this point.  I had a great time.  I’d do it again!

 

 

 

 

 

Did you say French food?

 

I threw caution to the winds last night and ordered a Caesar Salad at Le Moustache a French restaurant across Avenida Reforma on Rio Sena.  (So far, so good.)img_3871 Sometimes I want a break from very inexpensive Mexican food which has been my custom.  This is my second fancy meal since arriving eight days ago.  The restaurant is housed in a beautiful two-story room, the tables are lit by candlelight, very well trained waiters provide excellent service and classic French food is on the menu. It appears Le Moustache has won medals galore. I’d had a full day on a guided tour and needed a quiet place to veg.

I was surprised to see that even in this environment the ubiquitous mobiles prevail.

img_3864

img_3865

I had una copa de champagne, Moet, and ordered the salad, and Sole Meuniere Almondine.  img_3868Very well presented and tasty.  I concluded with chocolate mousse and tea.  But the best part was the pianist and violinist.  The piano was located upstairs near the balcony and the violinist played in the dining room. They included Albaniz’  Tango in D, and  Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain which I love. They did not overwhelm conversation or wander around looking for a tip.  This extravagance set me back just under $100 but considering I had spent very little on food prior, it was money well spent.  I walked home observing the Angel de La Independencia amidst the lights of the racing traffic.

img_3875