city at night

city at night

Thursday, February 29, 2024

"Popo" Is Still at It

The volcano Popocatépetl to the southeast of Mexico City continues to spew ash into the sky.  I went up to the roof of Alejandro's this morning, but the sky was hazy on the eastern horizon, and the volcanoes were not visible.  However, this webcam photo shows the mountain still fuming.


The winds have turned in direction, and the ash is now directed toward Mexico City.   On Tuesday, 22 flights were cancelled at Mexico City International Airport due to safety issues from the ash.  However, I looked at the airport's website this morning, and there did not seem to be any disruption to flights.  Here at Alejandro's house, there is a very thin layer of dust in the courtyard and on the terrace which Alejandro and his sister are sweeping a couple times a day.  What surprises me is that this dust is slippery to walk on.

I looked at the Weather Channel's air quality forecast for Mexico City.  They list the air quality as moderate.  Every type of pollutant (ozone, carbon monoxide, etc.) is listed as good except for small particulate matter which is listed as moderate. In the words of the Weather Channel...

Air quality is acceptable; however, for some pollutants there may be a moderate health concern for a very small number of people who are unusually sensitive to air pollution.

So, the situation does not seem to be serious.  Nevertheless, I am spending my time indoors. 

Monument with a View

After listening to part of the free concert on the Zócalo on Saturday, I headed back toward Insurgentes Avenue where I could take the Metrobus back to the apartment.  That took me past the Monument to the Revolution.  


An elevator takes visitors up to an observation deck which offers a 360-degree view of the city.  I have been to the observation deck a number of times (and I have written about it on this blog).  However, I have never been up there for a nighttime view.  On weekends the deck is open late, so I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity. 

Here are some views from the Monument...


Looking to the east, there was a full moon.


Directly beneath the monument, on the Plaza de la República, a taco festival was underway, with 100 of the best "taquerías" in the city participating.  There was a long line to enter the festival.





To the southeast is the newly completed "Be Grand Reforma", a 50-story high-rise of offices and luxury apartments.




Looking to the south is the line of skyscrapers along the Paseo de la Reforma.




To the west, the skyscraper on the horizon in the center is the headquarters of PEMEX, the government-owned Mexican petroleum company.  To the left is another high-rise apartment building which is nearing completion.





Completing my circuit around the monument, looking to the north, you can barely make out the silhouette of the Guadalupe Mountains, and the lights of the TV and radio antennas on top of one of the mountains.






Wednesday, February 28, 2024

A Free Concert

Last Friday when I was downtown, I saw lots of posters publicizing a free concert on the Zócalo the next day.  The concert was to be given by "la Orchestra Monumental de Pilares", a community orchestra made up of people, young and old, who have attended government sponsored music workshops.  I decided to check it out, and late Saturday afternoon I took the Metrobus downtown.

I arrived at the Zócalo shortly before 7:00 when the concert was scheduled to begin.  The musicians were in place on the stage.  (The stage extended beyond the range of this photo.  It was a BIG orchestra!)  The orchestra is composed of 1300 instrumentalists and singers, making it the largest community orchestra in the world.



The audience filled much of the Zócalo.




Before the concert began there was a somewhat long-winded speech by the current executive of Mexico City, Martí Batres.  It verged on politicking in his praise of the ruling party for establishing the "Pilares" program in which residents can attend free workshops to learn a variety of skills.



Finally the concert began.  Obviously, I was not expecting a performance on the level of the Vienna Philharmonic or the Cleveland Orchestra.  The performers are all to be applauded for their efforts, but let's face it, these are beginners.  Even the fact that there were 1300 of them amassed on the stage could not hide that fact.  It was like attending a humungous elementary school band concert.  Also, the loudspeakers tended to distort the sound.  With that many performers, was amplification really necessary?

The pieces that they performed ranged from the popular Mexican standart "Bésame Mucho" to the Ode to Joy from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.




After about an hour, I discretely made my exit. There was something else I wanted to do while I was downtown that evening, which will be my next post.




That day, February 24th, was also Mexican Flag Day.  So here is a photo of the flag flying over the Zócalo.





Tuesday, February 27, 2024

On the Zócalo

After my shopping trip last Friday, I passed through the Zócalo, the vast main plaza of the city.  Recently the city government made the entire Zócalo a zone exclusively for pedestrians.  The streets on all four sides of the perimeter of the plaza have been closed to vehicles.




There were barricades closing off part of the Zócalo that day because they were setting up for a concert the next day.  (More about that in my next entry)


In the middle of what used the street in front a city hall, there was a giant chess set, and two young people were playing while spectators gathered around.


 

The Zócalo has always been a stage for protests.  Now a group of indigenous people have set up tents on the plaza and are camping there.



Their banner says, ¨No more abuse of authority.  We demand respect and equality for the indigenous peoples."


It seems that no matter who is in control of the government and what their promises might be, it is always "los indios" that get the short end of the stick.

Monday, February 26, 2024

Street Music

There are always street musicians performing whenever I walk down 16 de Septiembre Street in downtown Mexico City, and last Friday was no exception.

First I came upon these percussionists performing Latin music.  (Notice the couple who are dancing on the sidewalk.)



Down the street was another fellow who was playing the drums.  A guy passing by, who I suspect was a bit tipsy, was swaying to the rhythm.



Finally, there was this very good singer who was performing "ranchera" songs.



Sunday, February 25, 2024

Shopping with a Purpose

 On Friday I went shopping downtown with two specific goals in mind.

GOAL #1

In the kitchen of my apartment, by the phone and the intercom, there is a circuit breaker box.  The former owners had a souvenir from London hanging on the wall to cover it.  It's not that I particularly disliked what was hanging there, but it didn't cover the entire box.


I wanted to find some sort of plaque or an "azulejo" (decorative ceramic tile) that would cover the whole box.  I took the measurements of the circuit breaker as well as how much leeway I had with the phone and intercom.

I took a tape measure with me and went to the Ciudadela Handicraft Market.  I walked every aisle of that large market.  I found a few possibilities, but, when I measured them, they were not the right size.

I finally gave up and headed to my destination for shopping goal #2.  As I was walking down 16 de Septiembre Street, there was a vendor selling works of paper quilling.  Quilling is an art form in which strips of colored paper are rolled and curled to form decorative designs.  One of the pieces was framed and under glass.  I took out my tape measure, and it was the right size.  I had accomplished goal #1 after all.

Here's how it looks in the kitchen.


It could have been a fraction of an inch wider, but the box that it is hiding is barely noticeable.



A very pretty handmade item



GOAL #2

The office in the apartment is where I plan to do my painting.  The easel is already set up there.


There are plastic mats on the floor, so I don't have to worry about spilling paint on the carpet.  Next to the easel is a cabinet that will be useful to store my painting supplies.  However, when I am painting, I want to cover that piece of furniture so that I don't get paint on it.  Thus, my second shopping goal was to buy a plastic tablecloth.

I walked from the handicrafts market about a mile to the department store Nuevo Mundo.  The store is located near the Zócalo not far from the downtown branches of the bigger department store chains of Liverpool and Palacio de Hierro.  I find the employees at Nuevo Mundo to be exceptionally helpful and friendly.  One clerk directed me to the top floor, and once I was there, another clerk helped me find exactly what I wanted and then directed me to a cash register to pay for my purchase.  Unfortunately, the tablecloth was made in China, but I had expected that.



With my two goals accomplished, I headed back to the apartment with my purchases.
   



Saturday, February 24, 2024

A Truly Mexican Kitchen

There is an old joke that it you open the oven in a Mexican home, you will find that it is filled with pots and pans.  That is definitely the case at Alejandro's home.  If I want to bake something in the oven, I first have to clear it out.

Alejandro sent me this funny VIDEO that takes that joke to an extreme.

Well, I guess I am not a Mexican, because this is the inside of the oven in my apartment.



Another joke is that Mexicans always save the plastic containers from "crema" (the Mexican version of sour cream).  I have not bought any "crema".  However, I have saved a bunch of yogurt containers.


Does that make my kitchen "semi-Mexican"?

Friday, February 23, 2024

Calming Down

Judging from these webcam images of Popocatépetl from this morning and this afternoon, it would seem that the volcano, although still fuming, has settled down considerably from its explosive behavior earlier this week.




There was no ash fall at Alejandro's house nor at the apartment.  Even my cleaning lady, who lives in the far southern part of the city, an area that was supposed to be affected, said that there was no ash.

An Addition to the Library

 Alejandro and I have been watching a French series on Netflix called "Lupin".  Even though mystery thrillers are not generally my favorite, this series has been addictive.  The protagonist, Assane Diop, is an immigrant from Senegal living in Paris.  In order to avenge the death of his father, Assane becomes a thief and master of disguises.  The inspiration for his escapades comes from a book that his father had given him as a child... the adventures of the fictional gentleman thief and detective Arsene Lupin (hence the name of the series).  Arsene Lupin was indeed the hero of a series of short stories and novels that were written in the early 1900s by the French writer Maurice Leblanc.  The character has sometimes been called the French counterpart of Sherlock Holmes.

A while ago, Alejandro and I were at a bookstore / café called "El Péndulo".  I was browsing the section of books in English, and, lo and behold, I found a collection of Arsene Lupin short stories in translation.  Of course, I had to buy it to add to my personal library.



You may remember that on my trips to Mexico, prior to the final move, I had been packing a a number of books in my suitcases each time, so that I would have a good supply of reading material here at the apartment.  By the time I made the move, I had 70 books, enough to last me for quite a while.  Well, I need not have worried because I have found that "El Péndulo" has quite a large selection of English language books.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

"Popo" Is Fuming Again

Early Tuesday evening, the active volcano Popocatépetl erupted again sending an enormous plume of ash high into the sky.

(image taken from the internet)



The eruption continued throughout the day yesterday.  I went up to the roof of Alejandro's house in the morning, but the air quality was not good for viewing the volcano.  You might be able to make out the faint outline of "Popo" through the haze to the left of the pine tree, but to the right of the tree you can see the long plume of ash extending to the south (arrow).


 

I went to "Webcams de México" and found much better live images of the fuming mountain from various locations.  (As you can see, "Popo" has lost most of the snow from a few days ago.)







Some of the ash was forecast to fall on the southern and eastern districts of Mexico City, but not in the area of Alejandro's house nor by my apartment.

I just checked out the webcam again this morning, and "Popo" is still fuming.



Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Dr. Simi Nominated

A number of times I have written about "Farmacias Similares", a drug store chain represented by the cartoon character of "Dr. Simi", a jovial, rotund, elderly doctor.  As I was walking around Alejandro's neighborhood the other day, once again I saw "Dr. Simi" dancing in front of the nearby branch of the pharmacy.  This time he was dressed in a Mexican soccer shirt.


On radio commercials for "Farmacias Similares" I have heard that the real "Dr. Simi", the founder of the chain, Victor González Torres, has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for 2024.

(image taken from the internet)

"Farmacias Similares" offers generic drugs that are affordable for lower-income Mexicans.  Each drug store also has a doctor's office where people can consult with a physician and have simple procedures done at a nominal cost.  The popular "Dr. Simi" dolls are hand-made with recycled materials at a factory that employs people with disabilities, and 100% of the profits from the dolls are used to support programs for the disabled.  The company has been criticized and even threatened with lawsuits by pharmaceutical companies who question the quality of the generic drugs.  However, the generics, by Mexican law, must pass medical studies, and no lawsuit has actually been brought to court.

I have not been able to find any articles on the internet confirming that González Torres has been nominated for the Nobel Prize, but there is no doubt that the "Dr. Simi" character is beloved by the Mexican people.

   

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

More Snowy Peaks

I wrote about the snowfall last Saturday on the volcanoes "Popo" and "Izta".  Those two were not the only peaks to be covered in snow.  I mentioned Ajusco, a mountain on the south side of Mexico City that is within the city limits.  I suspected that it must have snowed there too.  A friend of Alejandro's sent him a photo which shows a bit of snow on top of the nearly 13,000-foot-high peak.  Yesterday, on the radio I heard that the roads heading up to Ajusco were still icy.



About fifty miles to the west of Mexico City, near the city of Toluca, is the country's fourth tallest mountain, Nevado de Toluca, with an elevation of over 15,000 feet.  One of Alejandro's cousins who lives nearby, sent him this photo...



I doubt that the snow cover will last long.  Here the long-range forecast calls for an extended stretch of days with high temperatures of over 80 degrees Fahrenheit... unusually hot for February in this high-altitude city.












 

Monday, February 19, 2024

Fun Socks

Alejandro and I were at a nearby shopping mall recently, and we saw a booth selling socks.  The brand name was "Skunk Socks" (with a German umlaut over the "o").  In spite of the bizarre name, the socks are made in Mexico.  There was a wide variety of fun designs, many of them with Mexican themes.  I bought some as gifts for friends back in Ohio.  And then, even though I have more than enough socks, I bought some for myself.


To the left is a pair of socks decorated with avocados.  In the middle are designs typical of the embroidery work done by the Otomí tribe.  And on the right are socks with skulls that I can wear for the Day of the Dead!

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Snowy Peaks

Yesterday I showed you some photos of the snow at the "Paso de Cortés", the mountain pass between the volcanoes Iztaccíhuatl and Popocatépetl.  At dusk last evening, Alejandro called me to come up to the roof of the house because the two snowy peaks were visible.

We both took pictures, but the photos from his cell phone were somewhat better.  "Izta" is to the left and "Popo" to the right, and you can see that the snow line extends all the way down to the pass.






 

Turning around, I was able to get a nice shot of the post-sunset sky.


The mountain on the horizon in the center is Ajusco, a 12,890-foot-high peak also of volcanic origin.  It is actually within the city limits of Mexico City and is the highest point in the city.  Because it is silhouetted against the sky, it is not possible to tell, but I don't doubt that Ajusco also had some snow on its summit. 

Saturday, February 17, 2024

"Tropical" Mexico

Winter is the dry season in Mexico, and I can't remember the last time that we have had any precipitation.  However, last night it started to rain, and it continued steadily into the morning.  The temperature turned chillier too, and even this afternoon it has barely reached a high of 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Alejandro has a friend who is a mountain climber who works as a guide for visitors wishing to hike up the slopes of Mexico's peaks.  (I've shown you photos that he has taken in some earlier posts.)  This morning, he was going to take some people up to Iztaccíhuatl, a dormant volcano and the third highest mountain in Mexico.  They drove from Mexico City to "el Paso de Cortés".  The paved highway ends at the 11,000-foot-high pass between Iztaccíhuatl and the active volcano Popocatépetl.  They reached the pass only to find that the mountain was closed to all hiking and climbing due to weather conditions.

Here are a few wintry images that he sent to Alejandro...








Brrrrrrr!


 

Getting What I Want

 If you have been reading this blog since my move to Mexico, you know that I have searching unsuccessfully for a piece of furniture for my apartment.  In the living / dining room area there are a modern dining set in black lacquer and glass and a black lacquer china cabinet.  In the same area is an antique style half-moon table with an antique style mirror above it.  I have already moved the mirror to the guest bedroom and replaced it with a modern mirror with a black frame that I had shipped from my old home.  I also had a black storage cabinet for my DVDs and CDs shipped down.  So, that antique-style table looks out of place with the rest of the modern furniture.  I have been looking and looking for a piece of furniture, I guess you would call it a credenza or console, to replace it.  I have not been able to find anything in black in the correct measurement.  I had decided that I was going to have to have the piece custom-made.  

Earlier, on one of my one walks around Alejandro's neighborhood, I found a little workshop where furniture is made.


I had drawn up a sketch of what I wanted with the measurements.  Yesterday, I took that sketch and went over to the workshop.  There I immediately saw a piece of furniture that was almost what I was looking for.  It was simple and modern in style, made of solid wood, with two shelves.  I asked the fellow there if he could make a similar piece in black (the one that was there was chocolate brown) and slightly shorter in length and taller in height.  He said, "Sí".  He kept my sketch for the measurements.  He said that he would have it done in a week.  The cost is 4000 pesos... that's about 235 U.S. dollars.  If I were able to find anything similar in a department or furniture store here, I am sure it would cost more than that.  And obviously, something equivalent would cost much more in the United States.

I'm thinking that I might go back in the future and have another piece made... a long, narrow table to put in front of the living room window (the window takes up one entire wall) on which I could place houseplants. 

Friday, February 16, 2024

What Is Happening to the Palm Trees?

As I walk around Mexico City, I have noticed that many of the city's palm trees are dying.  The fronds are turning brown and wilting.


In April of 2022 the city lost its most famous palm tree, a 70-foot high, 100-year-old palm that stood in the middle of a roundabout along the Paseo de la Reforma.  It had a fungus infection and could not be saved.  It was cut down, and an "ahuehuete" (Montezuma cypress) was planted in its place.  That tree died within a few weeks of planting after it was rammed by a car.  It was removed, another cypress was planted, and an ugly barricade was placed around the roundabout.  That tree is struggling but is still alive.

The recent spate of dying palms, according to what I have read, is due to insect pests and climate change.  The species affected is the Canary Island date palms.  Warmer temperatures have stressed these palms which prefer a mild climate, and they have become more susceptible to infestations of red palm weevils.  Last summer 155 dying palm trees were removed, and from the looks of things, many more will have to be cut down.