Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Party Games

Last Saturday Alejandro and I were invited to a baby shower for a friend of his.  I always thought that showers (bridal or baby) were strictly "women only" events, and Alejandro said that they usually are in Mexico too.  But this shower was attended by men, women and children.

I also thought that the party centered around the opening of gifts.  (Alejandro and I had bought a present from her gift registry at Liverpool Department Store.)  The gifts were piled in the corner of the room, but they were not opened.  I understand that it is standard procedure to have themed party games, and we had several of those.

Two of the games were word search and scrambled word puzzles.  This retired Spanish teacher did miserably on them both.

On the word search I only found five of the words... carreola - stroller, pañalera - diaper bag, cambiador - changing table, cuna - crib, and tina - tub.  On the scramble word puzzle I only figured out four... pañal - diaper, cuna - crib, babero - bib and leche - milk.

Everyone received a little teddy bear made of chocolate mixed with amaranth, a grain that has been cultivated in Mexico since pre-Hispanic times.  These traditional amaranth treats are known as "alegrías"... the Spanish word for joy.

By the way, the Spanish word for "baby shower" is... "baby shower"!

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

A Taste of Vietnam

As befits a city of more than twenty million people, the restaurant scene in Mexico City is very cosmopolitan.  I have eaten in Italian, Polish, German, Uruguayan, Thai, Chinese, and Korean restaurants here.

On Thursday afternoons, the cleaning lady comes, and I get out of the apartment.  Last week, I was looking on Google Maps for someplace different to eat.  I found a Vietnamese place, about a half hour walk from the apartment, that had good reviews.  I decided to try it out.

The restaurant is located within a small market building in a neighborhood with the tongue-twisting name of Tlacoquemecatl.  

I walked up and down the aisles of the market, passing food stalls and small restaurants, but I could not find the Vietnamese eatery.  I ask a couple of people working in the stalls, and they had never heard of the place.  I double checked on Google Maps.  One of the reviews said that it was located within the market.  The reviews were all recent, so it was not a case where a restaurant had closed down.

I asked a third person, a butcher, and he took me to the restaurant.  It was located at the rear of the market building down a little passageway.  I would have probably never found it on my own.  It was simply a little kitchen space with a counter and four stools.  There were two guys cooking.  Neither one of them looked Vietnamese, and one of them looked like a "gringo".

I placed my order from the limited menu.  There was a couple, seated at the stools next to me, finishing their meal.  One of them asked the shorter fellow where they were from.  He said that he was from Mexico City but that his business partner was from the United States.  After the couple left, I struck up a conversation with the owners, and asked the "gringo" where he was from and how he ended up cooking Vietnamese food in Mexico City.  His name is John, and he is originally from Florida.  He was studying hospitality management, but he then went to Vietnam, and lived there for ten years.  He visited Mexico City and liked it here.  He met up with Edgar, who is Mexican but has lived in Canada, Dubai and Abu Dabi.  They decided to start up a restaurant and found this market stall as an inexpensive place to start.  They have only been there for a few weeks, which explains why most of the people in the market had not heard of the place.

As I said, the menu is very limited.  They have spring rolls, Vietnamese sandwiches, and noodle bowls.  John hopes to expand the menu if the business goes well.  I ordered a chicken noodle bowl.  

It was tasty.  I was surprised that it was served cold, but since it contains lettuce as well as mint, basil, and cilantro leaves, I guess that it is served like a salad.  I have never mastered the use of chopsticks, so John went to another restaurant and borrowed a fork.

The place is called "Em Oi", which is the expression in Vietnamese that you use when you want to get the attention of a server in a restaurant.  I enjoyed my meal, and I especially enjoyed the conversation with John and Edgar.

As a postscript, on the way out of the market, I passed the butcher's stall.  I thanked the butcher for showing me the way to the restaurant, and I got into a conversation with him and his co-worker.  The co-worker is from Georgia and has been living in Mexico City for years.

Mexico City is full of interesting people and stories!  




Monday, January 29, 2024


Here are some random photos I took last week while wandering around the city...

A crumbling and graffiti-covered building just a block behind the San Carlo Museum

Sculptures on the Monument to the Revolution

The building boom appears to continue unabated, and construction cranes are seen everywhere.

This large, enigmatic mural dedicated to the Mexican worker appears on the facade of the headquarters of the Federation of Workers' Unions in Service to the State.

I have mentioned before that the Latin American Tower used to be the tallest skyscraper in Mexico City.  It held that position until 1984 when the Pemex Tower (the headquarters of the state-owned petroleum company).   This 51-story building was the tallest in Mexico City for nearly twenty years.

Nearly ten years after 43 students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers' College were abducted and murdered, there is still an encampment of protesters along the Paseo de la Reforma demanding justice.

A street cleaner along the Paseo de la Reforma using a broom made of twigs bundled together.

The office tower above the Reforma 222 shopping mall

I can't help but wonder who chose the name for this chain of jewelry stores that you see in all the Mexico City shopping malls.  Do they only sell bizarre jewelry?

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Lenin Street

 After walking through the neighborhood of San Rafael, I crossed into Colonia Cuauhtémoc, a fairly affluent neighborhood on the north side of the Paseo de la Reforma.  As I was walking down the street, I noticed that on each lamp post there was a poster.  These were reproductions of vintage Soviet propaganda posters, many of them featuring Comrade Lenin himself.


I could not figure out why these Bolshevik posters were decorating the street.  The neighborhood is very bourgeois... the residents' political leanings certainly would not even be mildly socialist, much less communist!

Then I noticed the street sign.  All the streets in this neighborhood are named after rivers, and I was on Río Neva.  OK, here is your geography quiz.  Where is the Neva River?  Answer:  the Neva River flows through St. Petersburg (formerly Leningrad), Russia.  That must be the explanation for the Russian posters.

Now I am curious.  If I go to Rio Danubio Street will I see posters of Johann Strauss?  Does Río Nilo have pictures of ancient Egyptian ruins?  I guess I am going to have to do some further exploration of this "colonia" also!

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Exploring Another Neighborhood

 On Wednesday, after visiting the San Carlos Museum, I crossed Insurgentes Avenue and wandered into the "colonia" or neighborhood known as San Rafael.  Other than Parque Sullivan where the Sunday artists' market is held, I was not familiar with the neighborhood.

San Rafael, like its neighbor to the north, Colonia Santa María la Ribera, was one of the earliest real estate developments in Mexico City.  Former ranchlands were converted into a residential district in the late 1800s.  The area attracted wealthy families wishing to escape the congestion of the central city.  Eventually, however, as the city continued to expand, the wealthy moved out to newer neighborhoods.  Their mansions were subdivided into apartments.  The area declined further after the 1985 earthquake which damaged many buildings.  Some abandoned houses were taken over by squatters.  Crime and prostitution increased.  But the good news is that San Rafael is on the rebound.  Young artists and professionals are moving in because rents are affordable compared to the astronomical prices in trendy neighborhoods such as Condesa and Roma.  

As I walked around San Rafael during the daylight hours, the neighborhood felt perfectly safe and quite charming.  Just on the few streets along where I wandered, I passed dozens of architectural gems from the area's heyday.  Some structures were well maintained; others were in a state of elegant decay.  There are 383 buildings in San Rafael which have been classified as having historic value.

Here are some photos of the architecture of San Rafael...

This interesting building is an elementary school.

The striking neo-Gothic facade of the Church of San Rafael Arcangel was built in 1943 and is one of the most unique in the city.

As in neighborhoods throughout the city, there are new apartment buildings under construction.  I just hope none of the historic structures will be sacrificed.

I will definitely return and do some more exploration of this interesting neighborhood. 

Friday, January 26, 2024

More at the San Carlos Museum


There were a couple more special exhibits at the San Carlos Museum when I visited last Wednesday.

One exhibit in a small gallery was devoted to art based on works of literature including the Bible and classical mythology.

"The Drunkenness of Noah"
by an unidentified 16th century Flemish artist

"Salome Receiving the Head of John the Baptist"
by an unidentified 17th century artist in the workshop of Peter Paul Rubens

"Daphnis and Chloe"
depiction of the Greek myth by an unidentified 19th century painter

a 19th century German lithograph depicting a scene from Shakespeare's "The Tempest"

"The Musketeer"
by an unidentified 19th century painter
inspired by the Alexander Dumas novel

"Faust and Marguerite"
by Auguste Jean Baptiste Maria Blanchard
19th century
inspired by the drama by Goethe

Another larger exhibit at the museum was called "Between Presence and Sense".  I really have no idea what the theme of the exhibit was.  The description was, quite frankly, a bunch of pretentious gobbledygook.  It was a collection of modern art, and, if you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that I am not a big fan of a lot of what passes for art nowadays.  However, there were some paintings that I found interesting, even if they weren't something I would necessarily hang in my apartment.

by Carlos Orozco Romero

"Woman with Iguanas"
by Raúl Anguiano

"Second Skin"
by José Chavez Morado

"Recumbent Man"
by David Siqueiros
(The most famous artist represented in the exhibit, he was one of the big names in Mexican muralism.)

by Carlos Orozco Romero

"Two Women"
by Carlos Orozco Romero