Thursday, January 31, 2019


Alejandro sent me this photo which he took from his house today.  The volcanoes "Izta" and "Popo" are clearly silhouetted against the early morning sky.

A Whole Lot of Books

On Tuesday afternoon, after a lot of walking, I took refuge in a large bookstore in the Condesa neighborhood.  The store had a café, so I ordered a chocolate malted, sat down and rested my legs for a while.  The bookstore is part of a chain called "Fondo de Cultura Económica".  It's a large and modern store, and, after I finished my malted, I spent a considerable amount of time looking at books as well as their sizeable collection of movie DVDs and music CDs.  I didn't buy anything, but I had fun browsing.

I later did some research on the "Fondo de Cultura Económica".  It is a non-profit, government subsidized publishing company.  It was founded in 1934 with the purpose of providing books in Spanish for students at the National School of Economics.  They soon expanded into publishing works in the areas of social sciences, humanities, science, literature as well as books for children and young people.  Over their more than 80 years of existence they have published more than 10,000 titles.  They have been the publisher for a number of famous authors of modern Mexican literature, and they have translated many foreign works into Spanish. 

The bookstores they operate are of a fairly scholarly nature.  You don't see displays of the latest "Top 10 Bestsellers" or paperback romance novels.  Not all of the merchandise is published by their own company...  obviously not the DVDs and CDs.  The "Fondo de Cultura Económica" has 17 stores in Mexico City and 20 others throughout the country.

Besides the "Fondo de Cultura Económica" there are three other major bookstore chains in Mexico City... El Péndulo, Porrúa and Gandhi... and numerous smaller shops.  It's nice to see that bookstores are thriving here in Mexico City.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Random Shots in Roma

Here are some photos of odds and ends that caught my eye yesterday when I walked to the neighborhood of Roma Sur...

I took the "Ecoducto", the garden lined pedestrian path that follows the median strip of the Miguel Alemán freeway.

Here's one of the iris which are in bloom along the "Ecoducto".  I thought that my readers in the frozen north might like something to remind them that spring will arrive in a couple months.

I got off of the "Ecoducto" at Medellin Avenue, one of the main streets in Roma Sur.

A taco joint along Medellin had some humorous sayings on its awning...

"A taco a day is the key to happiness."

"My body says gym, my heart... five (tacos) with everything."

This van parked along a side street is from a business that sells foliage, both live and artificial, for green walls and rooftops.  I was compelled to touch the foliage on the van.  It was artificial.

A flowering bush cascading down a wall on a pleasant Roma street.

An interesting painting on the wall of a stationery shop.  (Do stationery shops even exist anymore in the U.S.?)

The painting is called "The Tree of Hope".
"History" is written at its roots, "Equality" along its trunk, and "Justice" and "Health" to either side.

Finally, I have shown you a couple photos of men holding advertising banners in the middle of the street when the light turns red.  A more common sight is to see performers, usually jugglers, in the street.  Before the light turns green, they go to the cars hoping for a few pesos from the motorists.  I gave this older gentleman five pesos before taking a video of him.

Searching for "Roma"

Billboard in Colonia del Valle advertising the movie "Roma"

By this time there are a lot of people that know that "Roma" is not just the capital of Italy, but also a neighborhood in Mexico City that is the setting for the movie of the same name... a movie which is nominated for 10 Academy Awards.  It is probably a shoe-in to win the Oscar for best foreign film, but it is also up for best picture of the year, something which I think is very rare.  Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón is nominated, and, in her first screen appearance, Yalitza Aparicio is nominated for best actress.  Aparicio is the first indigenous woman to receive that honor.  (Her father is Mixtec and her mother is Triqui, two tribes from the state of Oaxaca.)  She is also only the second Mexican woman to be nominated... Selma Hayek was the first for her role in "Frida".  

Last year Mexican director Guillermo del Toro won the Oscar for best director  and his film "The Shape of Water" won for best picture.  If "Roma" wins some major awards this year, it would be quite a feather in the cap of the Mexican film industry.  

I have not yet seen the film, but obviously I am eager to do so.  There are some people who say the film is too slow, but I suspect they are the type of people who prefer action movies with lots of car chases and shoot-outs.  I am sure that I will find the film fascinating, especially for its depiction of Mexico City in the early 70s, the time period in which I made my very first trip to Mexico.  

The movie is very autobiographical.  It closely parallels the boyhood life of Cuarón and his upper middle class family who lived in Roma.  The lead role, played by Aparicio, is that of the maid / nanny who is separated by race and social status from the family, but who is much beloved by the children.

I have written several times on this blog about the neighborhood of Roma.  At the beginning of the 20th century it was a very affluent district.  After the earthquake of 1985 wreaked havoc on the neighborhood, it fell into decline.  In the last ten years or so it has had a renaissance, and is now considered one of the hippest, trendiest parts of the city.  It is jam-packed with restaurants of every description as well as art galleries and boutiques.

Since I am here in Mexico City, I was thinking about taking another stroll through Roma, and perhaps finding some spots where the movie was filmed.  I posted on the Mexico City forum of Trip Advisor to ask if anyone knew the exact location of the house that was used as the home of the family in the movie.  Within minutes, someone had replied.  The house is at 21 Tepeji Street in Roma Sur. 

So, with that bit of information, I set out yesterday morning to find the house from "Roma".  The neighborhood is divided into two sections, Roma Norte and Roma Sur (North and South).  It is Roma Norte that is considered so trendy.  Roma Sur is composed mostly of quiet residential streets that seem mostly middle class.  There are some newer apartment buildings, but many of the houses look as if they were there in the era in which the movie takes place.

I had consulted Google Maps before heading out, so I found Tepeji Street without any problem.

  It is another pleasant residential street.


I found Number 21, but across the street at Number 22 there were a number of people speaking with a lady outside the door of the house.  I had a feeling that it was more than a group of neighbors chatting on the street.  It seemed that the lady was being interviewed.

I walked over there, and, sure enough, there was a plaque on the outside of the house.

"Here was filmed Roma"

The lady is the owner of the house, and I had a chance to chat with her for a bit.  Her house was used for filming the downstairs scenes.

The house across the street, Number 21, is the house where the director Alfonso Cuarón actually lived as a boy.  Having seen some trailers for the movie, I believe that it was used for exterior shots.

For many of the interior scenes the director had a replica of his boyhood home built.  The set was meticulously furnished as it was in the 1970s.

During my conversation with the lady, I said that I could not find any movie theaters where "Roma" was being screened.  It is not playing at either of the big movie chains, Cinemex and Cinepolis.  She said that she thought it was playing at Cine Tonalá, a small art house cinema just a few blocks away.  When I returned to the condo, I found the website for Cine Tonalá, and, yes, "Roma" is playing there a couple days a week through the month of February.  So I plan on going to see "Roma" right there in the neighborhood of Roma!

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Kitchen Experiment

Yesterday I threw some ingredients together to make soup.  I had some avocados that I had bought at the market in nearby Colonia del Valle that were at their peak of flavor.  In the pantry I had small cartons of chicken broth and diced tomatoes that I needed to use up.  First I put those items in the refrigerator since this was going to be a cold soup.  After they were chilled, I cut up an avocado, put it in the blender along with the broth and tomatoes.  I added a bit of garlic powder and a dollop of "salsa macha", a spicy salsa made from roasted chiles and peanuts.  I blended it until smooth, and then garnished it with chunks from another avocado.

The recipe wouldn't make it into any gourmet cookbook, I am sure, but it was ridiculously easy to prepare.  And I thought it was tasty, so that's all that counts!

Ad Men

I recently posted a picture of two guys standing in the street holding an advertising banner while traffic was stopped at a red light.  Yesterday I returned to the condo after spending the weekend at Alejandro's house.  When I got off the Metrobus, there on Insurgentes Avenue were two fellows taking the gimmick to another level.  Not only were they dressed in silly outfits, but they were on stilts!

I'm not sure how effective this is as an advertising campaign.  I was too buy watching them walk out onto the street on stilts to even notice what was written on the banner.  It wasn't until I uploaded and enlarged the photo that I saw that it was an advertisement for a Chevy dealership.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Remembrance and Celebration

It was one year ago today, January 28th, that María Luisa, Alejandro's mother, passed away.  January 29th is the birthday of Pedro, Alejandro's father. 

This past weekend we remembered María Luisa's passing and celebrated Pedro's birthday.

On Saturday at noon a mass was held at the nearby parish church in memory of Alejandro's mother.

After the mass, the relatives and friends in attendance all came to the house.   There were around 35 people in all.  Fortunately, Alejandro and his sister did not have to prepare food for them all.  Alejandro had ordered enough "mixiotes" to feed fifty people.  "Mixiote" is a pit- barbequed meat dish seasoned with chiles and spices.  The meat mixture is put in little bags made from the skin of the maguey plant before being roasted.  Salsas were provided, as well as garnishes of onions and "nopales" (sliced prickly-pear cactus paddles... thorns removed of course).  After the mass, Alejandro's sister went out and bought fresh tortillas so that we could make tacos with the "mixiotes".  To drink there were a variety of soft drinks, beer and tequila.  Alejandro also decided to make the traditional "ponche" (punch) that is usually served at Christmas.  

 Alejandro and I were up at 7 AM on Saturday morning to make the "ponche".  I helped with the preparation of the fruit that is used.

There are slices of apple and guava, prunes and raisins, tejocotes (a unique Mexican fruit) and tamarind removed from its pods.  "Piloncillo" (little cones of unrefined, brown sugar), a cinnamon stick and a bit of "jamaica" (dried hibiscus blossoms) are put into a large kettle full of water.  The water is brought to a boil, and then all the fruit is added.  That is left to simmer for several hours.  It is served hot and has the taste of a very fruity tea.  

After we put the "ponche" together, Alejandro and I went to pick up the "mixiotes".  And then we went to a bakery to pick up a birthday cake.  Alejandro's father had no idea that this gathering was also going to be a celebration of his birthday.  Fortunately, when we got back to the house, his dad was upstairs, and didn't see us bring in the cake.  We then barely had time to shower, get dressed and head to the church.

After the mass, we were all at the house eating "mixiotes" when a mariachi band entered through the front door singing "Las Mañanitas", the traditional Mexican birthday song.

There is a street in the neighborhood where mariachis bands hang out, and the night before Alejandro had contracted a group to come and play at the party.  They stayed for about an hour serenading us and taking requests.

Pedro dancing with his daughter, Sandra

After the mariachis left, the birthday cake was brought out, and once again, "Las Mañanitas" was sung.

It was a complete surprise for Alejandro's father, and it helped greatly to lift his spirit on an otherwise sad occasion.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Venezuelan and a Bit of Italian

There is a new Venezuelan restaurant just a couple blocks away from my condo.  On Friday Alejandro and I decided to try it out.  It is a little hole-in-the-wall place.  The menu is written on a blackboard on the wall... and on another blackboard there is written an obscenity about the Venezuelan dictator Maduro.  

Alejandro and I each started off with an "arepa".  The "arepa" is the cornerstone of the Venezuelan diet.  It is a grilled patty of corn dough.  Mine with stuffed with cheese, and Alejandro's with chicken.

We each ordered a main dish called "pabellón".  It consists of seasoned shredded beef, fried plantains, rice garnished with avocado, and black beans.  The beans had a unique flavor.  They tasted as if they had been cooked with honey.

The food was simple but very tasty.  As Alejandro said, it was "comida casera"... home cooking.  We would definitely go there again.

Just down the street, we found a "gelatería", a shop selling gelato.  We stopped there for a dessert of Italian ice cream.  The owner was chatting with us, and said that the gelato was authentically Italian.  I have never been to Italy, so I can't really judge, but it certainly tasted great to me.

Just what I needed.  Two more places just a stone's throw from my place tempting me to break my efforts to diet.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

More Wanderings

On Thursday when I went to the Metro Museum, I could have taken the Metrobus most of the way.  Instead I chose to walk there and back for a total of around 5 miles.

Here are some photos that I took during my wanderings...

Most of my walk was along Insurgentes Avenue.  The building boom that Mexico City has been experiencing is in evidence along this avenue.  This shiny, high-rise office building is nearing completion.

I don't even remember seeing this building before.

I passed by "Parque Hundido" (Sunken Park).

The paved area at the entrance to the park has recently been named "Plaza Dolores del Río".

Dolores del Río was a Mexican actress who made it big in Hollywood in the 1920s and 30s.  She was considered one of the great beauties of her era.  The statue does not do her justice, so here is a picture of her from the internet.

After leaving the Metro Museum, I saw this, which is not an uncommon sight in Mexico City.  The two young fellows are employed to stand in the middle of the street and hold an advertising banner each time the light turns red.

First time visitors to Mexico City are often surprised by the number of U.S. businesses they see.  Near the subway station was a large KFC.

And next to it was an Office Depot.

The last time that I was in this neighborhood, this luxury condo building was under construction.  Now it is ready for occupancy.

The old and the new...

I headed back to Insurgentes Avenue to take a closer look at one of the city's newer skyscrapers, Torre Manacar.

This 30 story office and commercial tower does not even rank in the top 20 tallest buildings in Mexico City, but I find the architecture to be stunning.

As I passed by I noticed the workers washing the windows.  Definitely not a job that I would want.

Inside the front entrance there is a waterfall cascading several stories down the windows.

A separate entrance leads into a five story shopping mall.  It's probably not the biggest in Mexico City, and it has the same old stores you see in most malls here.  However I think it is one of the most beautiful malls I have seen anywhere.

Looking up at the tower through the mall's glass dome.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Underground Museum

As of yesterday, I can add another Mexico City museum to the list of those I have visited... or at least I think it counts as a museum.

I walked about 2 miles from my condo to the Mixcoac Metro Station.

I descended into the station, and used my Metro / Metrobus card to pass through the turnstile... 5 whole pesos.  I did not get on the train however.  My destination was right here in the station... the Metro Museum.

Admission is free (other than the 5 pesos I paid to enter the station).  You enter the museum through another set of Metro turnstiles that are there simply as part of the theme.

The museum is small, but provides an interesting look at Mexico City's subway system, the largest in Latin America.

A blow-up of the front page from a Mexico City newspaper on June 19, 1967
The circled article says, "Work on the Metro begins today at 11:00."

Engineers' drawings for the construction of the Metro

One of the fiberglass seats used on the first Metro cars.
They can still be found on a few of the trains.

The original train operator's uniform, used only until 1970

An icon was created for each Metro station.  The picture referred to the name of the station or a nearby landmark.  These pictures were used to help those who were illiterate and foreign visitors who were unfamiliar with the place names in Mexico City.  The icons were created by an graphic designer from the United States by the name of Lance Wyman.

Signs from Metro stations

There is a collection of every ticket ever printed for the Metro...

and the plastic cards that are now used for the Metro and Metrobus.

This map shows that the Metro lines cross through what was once the Aztec's island capital of Tenochtitlán as well as other pre-Hispanic towns on the shores of the former lake.
As a result, the excavations for the Metro line uncovered a treasure trove of Aztec artifacts.
A few of those items are displayed in the museum.

For someone such as I who uses the Metro frequently, this little museum was quite interesting.