city at night

city at night

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Dinner with a View

On top of the Mexico City World Trade Center, there is a circular structure.

That is the location of the Bellini Restaurant, the largest revolving restaurant in the world.  

Several years ago, Alejandro had a coupon for the restaurant, and we went there to eat on a Sunday afternoon.  I wouldn't say that the food was bad, but it wasn't memorable.  I have no idea what the prices are.  I have looked at the menu on its website, and prices are not listed.  Reviews of the restaurant vary, but they all say that it is expensive.  However expensive by U.S. standards and expensive by Mexican standards are two different things.  The only indication of price that I have been able to find is from a tour company which offers transportation and a three course dinner for $65 U.S. per person.  

Of course, what you are paying for is the view.  Located on the 45th floor, the view is spectacular.  During the course of your dinner the restaurant makes a complete 360 degree revolution.  

The reason that I bring this up is that I am wondering whether or not my friends would like to have a splurge dinner there when they come to visit me in Mexico City this fall.  It is something that I shall have to discuss with them when I return home.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Breakfast Choices

I have a list of places near my apartment that serve a good breakfast, but I am always checking out more places, especially since friends of mine are coming to visit me in Mexico City this fall.

A short walk up Insurgentes Avenue from my apartment, located in a brand new, high rise office tower, is a Toks Restaurant.

Toks is a chain of restaurants with locations throughout Mexico.  They are not as ubiquitous as the larger chains of Sanborns or VIPs, but Alejandro and I agree that their food is generally better.  However, I have never eaten breakfast there, so I wanted to see what their breakfast menu was like.

I ordered the chef's suggestion, a dish called "Delicia Mazahua" (Mazahua Delight... the Mazahuas are a tribe to the northwest of Mexico City).  It consisted of a "cake" of egg covered in "mole" and cheese.

It was very good.  The "mole" was spicy with fruity undertones.  It might not be something my friends would like, but there was quite a variety of dishes on the breakfast menu.  Toks is definitely now on the list of places to go in the morning.

Of course, if my friends get homesick for a U.S.A. breakfast, we can go to the IHOP at the World Trade Center (but not on weekends when there is a line out the door waiting to be seated).

And I am still patiently waiting for the advertised opening of "El Cardenal" across the street from the World Trade Center.  "El Cardenal" is a chain, but their traditional Mexican food is excellent, and their breakfasts are supposed to be superb.

My friends will definitely not be going hungry when they come to Mexico City!

Sunday, July 29, 2018

From the Vatican's Basement

The Colegio de San Ildefonso, a Jesuit boarding school, was one of the most important educational institutions in colonial Mexico.  In the 19th century the building became the National Preparatory School, affiliated with the University of Mexico.  It is now a cultural center and venue for special art exhibits.

The building is worth visiting as a fine example of colonial architecture.

It is also known as the "Cradle of Mexican Muralism" because it was here in the 1920s that the government began its policy of commissioning artists to decorate public buildings.  The courtyard and stairwells feature murals by a number of Mexico's most important painters.

On Thursday I paid another visit to San Ildefonso to see a special exhibit which has been drawing large crowds... "The Great Vatican Collections in Mexico".  

The exhibit commemorates 25 years of diplomatic relations between Mexico and the Vatican and contains over 180 objects from the Vatican Museums and other church collections.  

Fortunately, the exhibit is free, because, quite frankly, I was underwhelmed.  I know that the collection of the Vatican Museums is huge and contains some of the world's great artistic treasures.  But for this exhibit they must have cleared out some items that were in storage in the basement.  There were a few pieces of Roman sculpture, and a few minor pieces by well known artists such as Raphael and Titian.  (One of the painters included was a 16th century Italian by the name of Marcelo Venusti, who is best known for making copies of Michelangelo's paintings.) The theme of the show was the history of the papacy, and there were numerous portraits of Popes done by middling 19th century painters centuries after those Popes actually lived.  

The Colegio de San Ildefonso is worth seeing, but not because of the current exhibit there. 

Saturday, July 28, 2018

The Return of the Aztecs

Before there was a Mexico City, there was Tenochtitlán, the capital of the Aztec Empire.  The capital of modern Mexico was built atop the ruins of the pre-Hispanic city, and stones from Aztec temples and palaces were used to build the Spanish colonial city.

Today, just steps away from Mexico City's Metropolitan Cathedral, are the excavations where archaeologists have uncovered the foundations of the Aztec main temple.

A photo-shopped image conceptualizes what the center of Mexico  City would look like if the great temple were still standing intact.

Today, when you go to the plaza adjoining the Zócalo and bordered by the side of the Cathedral and the archaeological site, you will see people (who may or may not be of pure indigenous ancestry) dressed as Aztecs and performing, for a small fee, spiritual cleansings on passersby with incense and bundles of herbs.  Others might be doing their interpretation of Aztec dances.

On Thursday, however, when I went downtown, something entirely different was going on.  There were hundreds of people dressed, with varying degrees of authenticity, as Aztecs.

Applying the finishing touches to his body paint

Even an Aztec warrior needs to keep hydrated in the noonday sun.

On the pavement of the plaza, women were arranging floral offerings.

Others were creating a replica of an Aztec painting with colored sand.

Several youths were playing the pre-Hispanic ballgame.  (No human sacrifices of the losers were reported.)

There was the incessant beat of drums.

The air was filled with the smoke of "copal", the incense used in pre-Hispanic ceremonies.

So what was the reason behind all of this festivity which I had just stumbled upon by chance?  Thursday was July 26th, the anniversary, according to tradition, of the founding of Tenochtitán, the Aztec capital, in 1325.

Shortly after noon, the ceremony began in earnest.  The participants marched around the plaza, and alternately raised their arms and then kneeled as if in supplication to the Aztec gods.

And then the dancing began.  On and on and on...

About three hours later, I returned to the plaza, and they were still dancing.

A man pays reverence before the ruins of the Aztec temple.

I can imagine that the Dominican friars of the Inquisition are turning over in their graves!

Friday, July 27, 2018

Cool Architecture

On Wednesday, as I walked down the street from the Museum of Popular Arts, I passed a couple of buildings that were worth photographing.

The first one was very ornate, but I am not enough of an architectural scholar to classify its style.  It was probably built in the early twentieth century.  Would you call it neo-colonial, or art nouveau, or perhaps the "modernismo" style which flourished in Barcelona at that time?

Regardless of what its style is, the architecture is quite striking.
Right across the street was a building that has seen better days, but from its decoration there was no mistaking its Art Deco style.

Mexican Fabrics

I went to the Museum of Popular Arts on Wednesday to see a special exhibit on Mexican textiles which has been held over until September.

Here are just a few of the items on display...

18th century church vestments

An elaborately embroidered sombrero

A "huipil", a traditional, tunic-like, woman's garment
This one is embroidered with the national emblem of Mexico.

From left to right:  a dress from the Tarahumara tribe, an "Adelita" dress typical of the era of the Mexican Revolution, a dear-skin "charro" outfit, a dress from the Tehuantepec region of Oaxaca, a widow's dress from Chiapas

There were several outfits worn by movie stars from the Golden Age of Mexican cinema.

The dress on the left was worn by Dolores del Río, and the formal "charro" suit on the right was worn by Jorge Negrete.

These two outfits, typical of the indigenous Zapotec people of Oaxaca, were worn by María Félix and Pedro Infante in the classic motion picture "Tizoc".

Embroidered fabrics from the states of Hidalgo and Chiapas

A display of "huipiles" and blouses

Detail of the embroidery on one of the blouses

A traditional pedal loom

A "charro" suit with a sarape slung over the shoulder.  More sarapes are displayed on the wall behind it.

A "quexquemitl", a poncho-like garment worn by the women of numerous indigenous tribes of Mexico.

The final portion of the exhibit, discussed the plagiarism of Mexican designs by modern, international designers and clothing companies.

This Hermes scarf uses traditional Mexican folk designs.