Thursday, October 31, 2019

Tacos and Marigolds

One of the places that I want to show my cousin and her friend when they come to Mexico City is the Jamaica Market.  With its enormous flower section (more than 1000 flower vendors) I think it is the most amazing market in the city.

I had read about one of the food stalls there which sells "tacos de carnitas", tacos with braised, flavored pork.  The place is called "Carnitas Paty", and it gets rave reviews.  I figured I would try it out to see if it would be a good place for a snack when I take my visitors to the market.

I ordered the one taco of "maciza"... the lean, chopped pork meat as opposed to the various other parts of the pig.  "Maciza" is supposedly less flavorful than the other bits and pieces, but, I'm sorry, I am not into organs.  My order was a pile of meat along with chopped onion and cilantro and three tortillas.  So I really had three tacos.

It was very messy, but quite tasty.  As in many market food stalls, the plate is covered in a plastic bag to eliminate the need to wash dishes.  Bowls of salsas and lime wedges (squeezing some lime juice on your taco is a must!) are on the counter. 

To drink I ordered a small glass of "tepache", a beverage I had never tasted before.  "Tepache" is made from fermented pineapple rinds flavored with brown sugar.  Although fermented, the alcohol content is minimal.  I thought it tasted very good.

After my snack I explored the market.  There were loads of special items for the Day of the Dead. There were skulls made of sugar or chocolate...

"Catrina" decorations...

Even nearly life-size "catrinas".

In the flower market, the marigolds or "cempasúchil" take center stage at this time of year.  The air was filled with their pungent fragrance.  Of course that is the whole idea... the smell of the marigolds will guide the souls of the departed back to their families' homes on the Day of the Dead.

The marigolds arrived by the cartload.

They arrived by the truckload.

More marigolds than you have ever seen in one place at one time!

You can even buy bags of marigold petals to scatter a path to your door to guide the souls of the departed home.

Second in popularity for the Day of the Dead is this unusual red flower.

I asked a vendor about the flowers, and she told me that they are called "terciopelo".  "Terciopelo" is the Spanish word for velvet, and they do have a rather velvety appearance.  I did a bit of research later, and found out that they are a variety of cockscomb, and that they symbolize the blood of Christ.

Although my visitors will miss the special excitement of the days leading up to the Day of the Dead, the market will still be an incredible sight with thousands of different kinds of flowers and plants.

A New Card

When I am in Mexico City I always carry my Metrobus card with me.  This card gets me through the turnstile to take the Metrobus, and I can also use it on the Metro (subway).  There are machines at the Metrobus stops where I can load my card with more pesos.  I usually put between 50 and 100 pesos on my card when it is getting low.  Each ride on the Metrobus costs a whopping six pesos (about 31 U.S. cents), and a ride on the subway costs five pesos (about 26 cents).  Transfers between the Metrobus lines are free, but there is no free transfer between a subway line and a Metrobus line.  The card can also can be used on the "tren ligero" (light train) that goes to some of the southern areas of the city.  However, it's been a long time since I have used the "tren ligero".  Between the Metrobus and Metro, I can usually go to wherever I want to go.   I also keep a couple of extra cards that I lend to friends when they visit me down here.

In the photo below, the top three cards are the ones that I have been using for myself and for visitors.  Each one is different, sort of like commemorative stamps.

When I arrived in Mexico City on this trip, Alejandro told me that starting in 2020, the old Metrobus cards will no longer be valid.  You have to buy a new card, which is now available from the machines.  So I have been using up all the pesos on my card and the cards that I would lend to visitors.  All of them are now down to a balance of zero.  I bought myself a new card and loaded it with pesos.  The new card is the one at the bottom of the photo.  It's colorful but generic.  I will have to buy a couple more before my cousin and her friend arrive in less than two weeks.

Alejandro has no idea why everyone is being required to buy new cards.  They cost less than one U.S. dollar, but given the millions of people who use the transportation system, that's a lot of pesos going into the city coffers.  Yeah, it's probably just to get more money.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The Not-so-International Parade

On Sunday afternoon the "International Day of the Dead Parade" was held in Mexico City.  As far as I know this was something new in the increasingly busy calendar of events leading up to the Day of the Dead.  I assumed by its name that this parade would have participation by other countries.

A couple hours before the parade was scheduled to depart from the Zócalo at 2:00 P.M., I had found spot that seemed to be ideal.  I was near the Palace of Fine Arts where the parade would turn off of Avenue Cinco de Mayo onto Avenue Lázaro Cárdenas.  I was standing at one of the barricades which had been placed all along the route.

 This is where the parade turned.
The impressive old building on the corner was the original headquarters of the Bank of Mexico.

I had an unobstructed front row view, but very quickly there was a mass of humanity behind me.

I don't know if the parade started on time at 2:00, but by the time it reached where I was positioned it was around 2:45. 

The parade was festive and colorful, but, frankly, I found it superfluous.  There wasn't anything to distinguish this parade from the main Day of the Dead parade which will be held on Saturday.  This one was shorter and definitely more commercialized than the main parade, and some of the costumes were recycled from last year's parade.  And I am baffled by the name "International Day of the Dead" since there was absolutely no participation by other countries.

Preparations Downtown

On Sunday I headed downtown in the morning to see the "International Day of the Dead Parade" which was scheduled to begin at 2:00 P.M.  I took the subway to the Zócalo, the main plaza, which was to be the departure point for the parade.

On the Zócalo they were in the midst of setting up the "mega-ofrenda".  The "ofrenda", as I have said before, is the altar which families set up in honor of departed loved ones.  The city for some years has been erecting a large-scale display for the Day of the Dead.

Some of the decorations that will be part of the mammoth "ofrenda"

On Pino Suárez, one of the streets emptying into the Zócalo, the floats for the parade were already lined up.

And on 20 de Noviembre, another avenue leading into the Zócalo, there were tents where the participants could change into their costumes.

Some were already in their parade attire.

Some were grabbing a bite to eat before the parade.

Although it was more than two hours before the parade was scheduled to begin, I headed down Madero Street to find a good spot to view the event.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The Big Procession

Although Alejandro could not join me because of his father's illness, last Saturday evening I went to watch the "Mega-Procesión de las Catrinas".  If you have read about Day of the Dead here or elsewhere, you probably know that a "catrina" is an elegantly dressed skeleton, an iconic symbol of the celebration. Actually I suppose the event should more correctly be called the "Mega-Procesión de los Catrines" since both women and men participate in this parade.  ("catrina" - feminine  "catrín" - masculine  "catrines" - plural, mixed company)  Hundreds of people, dressed as stylish skeletons, march down Mexico City's Paseo de la Reforma.

I took the Metrobus from my apartment to the Paseo de la Reforma.  The boulevard was busy with people coming for the event, and, of course, where there are people, there will be vendors.

Many were selling Day of the Dead related merchandise.

Crowns of paper or plastic flowers are popular with the ladies.

I would have loved to have bought one of these large "catrinas", but they were just too bulky to carry around for the rest of the evening.

There were plenty of food vendors providing snacks for those waiting for the parade.  They were selling cotton candy, popcorn, ice cream, even roasted grasshoppers.  Yum!

I found a good spot along the boulevard near the traffic circle called, for obvious reasons, "La Palma".

More than an hour before the scheduled start of the procession, the boulevard was crammed with eager spectators.

There were some in full regalia who weren't waiting to to be a part of the procession.  They were walking down the boulevard and posing for pictures.

After a long wait, the procession was under way.

Unfortunately, part way into the procession it began to drizzle, and then the drizzle turned into a steady rain.  Fortunately I had a waterproof jacket with me.  The procession continued in the rain, but I left and returned to the apartment.