Mexico City

Mexico City

Thursday, April 26, 2018

A Teacher's Pride

One of the greatest rewards of having been a teacher is to learn that you in some way positively influenced your students' lives.

A couple days ago a fellow retired teacher from the high school where I taught sent me an email with a link to an article from the online magazine of Ohio State University.  It was about a former student of ours by the name of Luther Nolan.  You can read the story here.

Luther has been working as a groundskeeper at Ohio State for the last sixteen years, and he has also been a full time student at the university.  In 2013 he earned his bachelor's degree in anthropology.  He continued with his studies, and at commencement ceremonies next month he will receive a second diploma... this time with a major in history and minors in Spanish and Andean and Amazonian studies.  Along the way he has also learned Quechua, the language of the Incas, and has some knowledge of Mayan hieroglyphics.  He has been accepted into Ohio State's doctoral program, and next fall he will begin work on his PhD in Latin American studies.

I remember Luther as a high school student in my Spanish III class.  Because of my travels and my interest in archaeology, I spent quite a bit of time in that class with units on the pre-Hispanic civilizations of Mexico and Peru... accompanied with slide shows of my travels to archaeological sites.  Shortly after I started writing this blog Luther posted a comment.  He said that he had thoroughly enjoyed all those slide shows of pyramids and ruins. It was an influence on his decision to study anthropology with an emphasis on Mesoamerican cultures.

Luther, I am so proud of you... and humbled that I, as a teacher, had some influence in your life.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Landscape from the Past

Yesterday I wrote about Chapultepec Castle and its ill-fated residents Emperor Maximilian and his wife Carlota.  Today I was in the National Museum of Art, and noticed this painting which ties in with yesterday's post.

The work is by one of my favorite Mexican artists, José María Velasco, a 19th century landscape painter.  This painting, done during the reign of Maximilian and Carlota, is a view of the Alameda Park.  The Alameda is today very much in the heart of downtown Mexico City, but in those days it was a bucolic spot on the city's edge. 

Velasco rarely included historical people in his landscapes, but in this case the Empress Carlota and her retinue are shown riding in the park.  

One assumes that they would have ridden from Chapultepec Castle.  In the background, far removed from the city, you can see the castle.  The white, diagonal line running from the castle is the road that Maximilian ordered to connect the imperial residence with the city.  That country road is today the skyscraper-lined Paseo de la Reforma.


The Alameda Park today

The Paseo de la Reforma today, as seen from the terrace of Chapultepec Castle

Fancy Food

I have written many times about my favorite restaurant in Mexico City, "Angelopolitano".  The owner and chef of "Angelopolitano", Gerardo Quezadas, has also taken on the responsibility as chef overseeing the restaurant at the Maria Condesa Hotel.  Saturday evening Alejandro and I decided to try out his new place.

Unlike "Angelopolitano" which features traditional, family recipes from the state of Puebla, the menu here is continental, mainly French-inspired, cuisine with a touch of Mexican influence.

We began by sharing an appetizer of codfish croquettes. 

Alejandro then had the French onion soup, and I had the roasted tomato soup.

For my main course I had red snapper.  Although the portion looks lost on the large plate, it was a sizeable chunk of fish.  The little dabs of guacamole to the side seemed a little silly to me however.

Alejandro had a steak... with a pear on top.

For dessert I had a chocolate / orange mousse while Alejandro had a pear in white wine sauce.  (His dessert was the only truly disappointing part of the meal.)

Our food was certainly delicious.  Gerardo is without a doubt a talented chef whether he is doing a traditional "mole poblano" or a contemporary gourmet dish.  Our tab of 1000 pesos (around $55 U.S.) was pricey by Mexican standards but not exorbitant.  However, I doubt that we shall return.  This place is just another one of many fancy, continental restaurants to be found in Mexico City.  "Angelopolitano", however, remains an unique experience in superb Mexican fare. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Up At the Castle

On Saturday, Alejandro and I took the new Route 7 Metrobus to Chapultepec Park.

It was Alejandro's first time on the double-decker bus, and we had front row seats on the upper level.

When we got to the park, our destination was Chapultepec Castle which crowns Chapultepec Hill.

Throughout the castle's existence it has served as a military academy, an astronomical observatory, a royal palace, and a presidential residence.  Today it is the National Museum of History.

We have both been to the museum numerous times, but my reason for making a return visit was to see a special exhibit on Mexican ceramics.  The exhibit had been advertised on a large billboard along the Paseo de la Reforma , but in fact the exhibit was very small and very disappointing.  Well, as long as we were there, we decided to wander around a portion of the museum.

The castle's hilltop location provides one of the best views of Mexico City.

Zooming in on Mexico City's famous tree-lined boulevard, the Paseo de la Reforma, you can see the Diana Fountain, and the Independence Monument with its golden angel.

Looking in a different direction you can see the World Trade Center on the horizon just right of center.  The apartment I rent is just a block away from there.

Of all the occupants of Chapultepec Castle, the most romanticized and tragic are Maximilian and his wife Carlota who briefly reigned as Emperor and Empress of Mexico. They were placed on the throne as figureheads by Napoleon III during the French occupation of the nation.

Alejandro poses in front of the royal couple's carriage.

A number of the rooms in the castle are furnished as they were during the reign of Maximilian and Carlota.

In one of the salons hang the portraits of the ill-fated couple.

From 1863 until 1867 they resided at Chapultepec, making it the only royal castle in the Americas.  It was Maximilian who laid out the Paseo de la Reforma (he called it the Paseo de la Emperatriz - the Boulevard of the Empress) as a direct route from the castle to the center of the city. 

When France realized that its imperialistic escapade in Mexico was too costly, the French troops were withdrawn.  The forces of the Mexican Republic, who had been fighting against the French occupation all along, defeated Maximilian and executed him.  Carlota, who was in Europe at the time trying to gain support for her husband, had a mental collapse... some say she went insane.  She lived in seclusion in her home country of Belgium until her death in 1927.

Even though the ceramics exhibit was a disappointment, a visit to the Castle is always an enjoyable experience.

Festival of Flowers

The Botanical Gardens of Chapultepec Park were advertising a "Festival of Flowers and Gardens" running for a limited time last Friday through Sunday.

I visited the Botanical Gardens a few years ago and I really was not impressed.  (I thought the Botanical Gardens of the University of Mexico carved out of the Pedregal, the lava flows on the far south side of the city, were much more interesting.)  However, last Friday, because of the Festival, I paid another visit, and I am glad that I did.  Beyond the special exhibits for the event, the gardens have been thoroughly renovated with new landscaping, and are very attractive.

There is, as might be expected, a sizeable cactus garden.

A few of the cacti were blooming.

There is also an agave garden.

Among the varieties there is the blue agave which is used to make tequila.

The national flower of Mexico is the dahlia, and there is a garden planted with various varieties of the flower including the original wild dahlia from which all the others descended.

There is a "wet garden".

There are a wide variety of succulents.

The colorful "pollinator garden" was filled with flowers that attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.

The orchid house contains a large number of different orchids, although not all of them were in bloom at this time.

For the festival, there were archways of flowers, similar to those set up along the Paseo de la Reforma.

There was also a tunnel covered inside and out with roses.

A whimsical feature was the garden created entirely out of recycled plastic.

I'm glad that I visited on Friday.  On Saturday Alejandro and I were in Chapultepec Park, and the line of people waiting to get into the Botanical Gardens stretched down the Paseo de la Reforma around the corner and down one of the park paths.