Sunday, June 30, 2024

I Agree

I noticed this billboard advertising a vegan, non-dairy creamer along Insurgentes Avenue in the "gringofied" neighborhood of Roma Norte.

Even though English is used frequently in advertising and in the names of stores and products, it was still quite jarring to see this sign entirely in English.

Then I noticed what someone had written on the billboard...

They should have written it larger so that everyone could see it.

Saturday, June 29, 2024

In Bloom

Some time ago when I wrote about my houseplants, I said that my aphelandra (or zebra plant) was getting ready to bloom.  It is now in full bloom.

The little flowers grow off of a colorful spike which is a bract, or modified leaf.

I read that these plants are quite fussy and not easy to grow.  It is not unusual for them to die before the next blooming season.  I have noticed that the tips of the leaves are turning brown.  An article on the care of aphelandras said that this was due to lack of humidity, so I am going to have to frequently mist it, or perhaps take it into the bathroom when I am taking a shower.

We will see how much luck I have with it, but it is a very attractive plant right now. 

Friday, June 28, 2024

Assembling the Calendar

Before I made the move to Mexico, my friend Frank gave us a gift... a mechanical, 3-D wooden puzzle to assemble.  The puzzle was called "Mayan Calendar", although, truth be told, the imagery was inspired by the Aztec Sun Stone, not the Mayas.  By moving dials, it actually functions as a calendar.

It has been sitting far too long on the shelf of the closet.  Last Saturday we did not have any plans, so I decided to bring it down and start work on it.  I opened the box and spread the pieces on the dining table.

The instructions were all in pictures and were a bit difficult to follow.  I got a start on it, assembling the outer ring.

As it became more difficult, Alejandro took over, and I took the job of assistant, finding the pieces that he needed.

It took around two hours to assemble.  The finished product looks very nice, and I am going to hang it the closet door in my office.

By moving dials and pointers you can indicate the date.  If you look very closely, you can see that I took this photo on Sunday, June 23rd, 2024.

Thank you, Frank, for a cool addition to the apartment.  And thank you, Alejandro, for being the chief engineer of this project.

Thursday, June 27, 2024

In Tlatelolco


To the north of downtown Mexico City is the district of Tlatelolco.  It is a place that has certainly seen its share of history.  It was originally a city-state occupying the northern portion of the island where the Aztecs had founded their capital of Tenochtitlan.  It was at first an enemy, and then an allied sister-city to Tenochtitlan.  It was here that the Aztecs finally surrendered to the Spanish in 1521 after a three-month siege.  After the Spanish conquest, the first European school of higher learning in the Americas was established here. In modern times Tlateloco was the site of the infamous massacre of student protestors in 1968.  The area suffered heavy damage and casualties in the catastrophic earthquake of 1985.

Today Tlatelolco is not the best of neighborhoods, but it is of touristic interest for the so-called "Plaza of Three Cultures".

Here are located the pre-Hispanic ruins of Tlatelolco, a Spanish colonial church, and a 20th century housing project.

I have been to Tlatelolco and the Plaza of Three Cultures a number of times, but after doing some research, I learned that there were a couple of places there that I had not seen.  So, last week I took the Metrobus up the Paseo de la Reforma, beyond the elegant portion of the tree-lined boulevard with its monuments and skyscrapers, to the "Tres Culturas" stop.

A short distance from the bus stop is a building known as the "Tecpan de Tlatelolco".  "Tecpan" in the Aztec language of Nahuatl means "noble house" or "government building".

Immediately after the Spanish Conquest, Hernán Cortés declared that Tlatelolco was to be an autonomous, indigenous town governed by Cuauhtémoc, the last of the Aztec emperors.  This building served as the town hall for the native community of Tlatelolco. 

On the opposite side of the building a new facade was added in the 18th century.  That facade was later dismantled and attached to another building, as you will read below.

The only remaining part of the original building is the arcade of seven arches. It is one of the oldest architecture features of colonial Mexico City, nearly 500 years old.

Located in a small room at one end of the building, is a mural painting by David Alfaro Siqueiros entitled "Cuauhtémoc Against the Myth¨.  

To the left, the Spanish conqueror is portrayed on a rearing horse, wielding a crucifix and firearms.  Cuauhtémoc, to the right, attempts to defend himself from the attack.  In the background, the former Aztec emperor Moctezuma (Montezuma) implores the gods to explain how this has come to pass.

(It should be noted that Cuauhtémoc ruled Tlatelolco from the "Tecpan" for only a few years.  He was accused, perhaps unjustly, of plotting against Cortés and was executed.)

A short walk from the "Tecpan de Tlatelolco" is the equally venerable College of Santa Cruz, the oldest European school of higher education in the New World.  

The school was established by Franciscan monks in 1535 with the purpose of training young men of Aztec noble families for the priesthood.  The building has been altered many times throughout the centuries.  The present facade was moved piece by piece from the "Tecpan de Tlatelolco" and attached to the former college in the 1960s.  The goal was to beautify the building, but in fact the structure's historic value was lost due to the renovation.

The school only lasted for about fifty years, but during that time it was one of the leading educational institutions in the Americas.  It was a center for languages, with young Aztec students learning Greek and Latin, and the Franciscan friars learning Nahautl.  Here in 1564, one of the friars, Bernardino de Sahagún, wrote "The General History of the Things of New Spain".  It is one of the most important books documenting the culture of the Aztecs, and Sahagún today is referred to as "the first anthropologist".

Over the centuries the former school has served as a monastery, a military prison and a barracks.  Today it serves as the archive and library of the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs.  Visitors are allowed to enter and walk around the attractive courtyard.

The tower in the background is that of the adjoining Church of Santiago.  The original structure was built in 1524, constructed from stones of Aztec temple.




Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Day Zero

Today is Day Zero, the day that Mexico City was supposed to run out of water.  However, the water is still running from the taps.  I took a shower and washed breakfast dishes as normal.  Surely, Day Zero has been delayed because the rainy season is clearly here.  Ever since Tropical Storm Alberto hit the Gulf Coast of Mexico six days ago, we have had rain every day.  In the last week 4.5 inches of rain have fallen on Mexico City.  As I write this at 2:30 P.M. the skies are cloudy, and thunderstorms are forecast to arrive within an hour.  The rain is expected to continue until 9 P.M.

That is not to say that we are out of the woods.  The reservoirs such as Valle de Bravo, two hours to the west of the city, are still at record low levels.

(image taken from the internet)

Some say that it will take years of normal precipitation to bring these lakes back to their normal levels.  However, the heavy rainfall in California due to "El Niño" replenished their reservoirs in a year.  We are now entering "La Niña" which is forecast to bring above average precipitation to Mexico.  Hopefully "La Niña" will do for Mexico what "El Niño" did for California.

My Cap

 When I venture out of the apartment, I usually wear a cap to protect my pate from the sun.  

I was thinking the other day, that someone looking at me from behind, might think that this is a cap favored by a certain segment of the population north of the border.

But then you see it from the front, and you realize, no way would I be wearing one of THOSE caps.

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

A Cultural Disgrace

 Next to the World Trade Center, not far from where I live, is the Polyforum Siqueiros, a cultural center which features the works of David Alfaro Siqueiros, one of the "Big Three" of 20th century Mexican muralism.

The outside is covered with Siqueiros murals.  Inside, there is an enormous, round hall which is entirely covered on all sides with a monumental mural called "The March of Humanity".  The interior and exterior together comprise over 93,000 square feet of painting, the largest mural in the world.  Siqueiros is not my favorite artist, but many years ago I went inside.  Completely surrounded by the murals, I was overwhelmed by this astounding work of art.

The Polyforum was inaugurated in December of 1971, a little more than two years before the artist's death.  The building is privately owned and operated by the Siqueiros Foundation, headed by the late artist's niece.  The outside murals are deteriorating, and at some point, the Polyforum was closed to the public, and grandiose plans were made for a complete renovation of the site.   Those plans included a high-rise structure with mirrored windows that would reflect the paintings on the roof of the Polyforum. 

I was trying to remember when the Polyforum was closed.  After some searching, I found a blog entry that I wrote in March of 2017 about the closure and the plans for the renovation.  So, the cultural center has been in limbo for over seven years.  You can read that entry HERE and see architect's renderings of what the project would look like when completed. 

In all those years, as far as I can tell, nothing has been done to the murals, and the ground has not been broken for the planned high-rise.   The site is still surrounded by a high barricade, and some of the panels still bear the signs touting the future project.

"A new 6000 square meter public plaza is being created to appreciate the exterior murals of Siqueiros."

The Polyforum has been closed to the public for years, but the hall is rented out for private events.  At one point, the neighbors in the apartment buildings across the street filed a complaint against the loud music at those events.

Now, the situation is even more disgusting.  The gates of the supposed construction site are open, and the grounds of the Polyforum are being used as a parking lot.



Monday, June 24, 2024

Signs of Pride

For decades, Mexico City has been the epicenter of gay life in Mexico.  Even when homophobia was rampant in a society where machismo was the norm, gay people from throughout the country sought refuge in the anonymity of the big city.  Homophobia still exists in the less cosmopolitan parts of the city, but today the metropolis is generally welcoming.  In 2010 Mexico City was the first jurisdiction in the country to pass marriage equality, five years before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples had the right to marry north of the border.  It is not uncommon here to see same-sex couples walking down the street holding hands... much more common than back in Ohio.  When Alejandro and I went to the civil registry to apply for our marriage license last year, nobody batted an eyelash.

June is Pride Month, and at the end of the month the Pride Parade will march down Paseo de la Reforma to the Zócalo.  It is one of the largest Pride Parades in Latin America, and regularly attracts 300,000 spectators.  So, it's not surprising to see signs of pride throughout the city.

I must say that I was a bit surprised that the first rainbow flag that I saw this month was on a government building... the headquarters of the "Centro Histórico".

Later I saw the rainbow colors decorating the headquarters of the Mexican Social Security Institute.

A rainbow flag at the entrance to the San Carlos Art Museum

A window display in the Levis store on Madero Street

The message on this sign in the window of a branch of Scotiabank was obviously for Pride Month:  "Here all people are welcome."

These signs in English were in the window of bakery in Condesa (a heavily "gringofied" neighborhood).

There were more rainbow colors to be seen along the Paseo de la Reforma.

At the Four Seasons Hotel

At a branch of "Le Pain Quotidien", a chain of European restaurant / bakeries

On an apartment above a Starbucks

In the Zona Rosa, the center of Mexico City's gay nightlife, there was a street stand selling Pride souvenirs.

Finally, at Toks, a restaurant where Alejandro and I usually have breakfast on Sunday mornings, the placemat advertised a rainbow "concha", a type of sweet bread.


Sunday, June 23, 2024

A New Favorite

Last weekend (yes, I know I am behind in my reporting) Alejandro and I were downtown.  We were actually passing through Mexico City's small Chinatown, when we noticed what appeared to be a rather upscale restaurant called Testal.

We may have been in Chinatown, but this restaurant served traditional Mexican cuisine.  We looked at the menu at the entrance, and there were plenty of choices that sounded good.  And although the prices were not inexpensive, they were not outrageous either.

We went inside and were shown to a table.  At that point the restaurant was not too crowded, although by the time we left most of the tables were occupied.  

We started off with an appetizer which we shared.  "Corundas" are little pyramid-shaped tamales that are typical of the state of Michoacán.  They were served in a tomato sauce with strips of poblano peppers, "crema" and cotija cheese.

They were delicious.  I could have eaten a whole plate of them as a main course.  Alejandro's mom came from the state of Michoacán and used to make "corundas".  He said that these were excellent.

We next had soup.  I had potato leek soup which was good.  But I had a taste of the soup that Alejandro ordered, and it was excellent.  Half of the bowl was filled with cream of corn soup and the other half with cream of "huitlacoche", the corn fungus that is a delicacy that is compared to truffles.

As a main course, Alejandro ordered a poblano pepper stuffed with "cecina", cured beef.   It was served with "crema" and bean sauce. 

I had a taste, and it was delicious.  Sometimes "cecina" is too salty, but this had a wonderful flavor.  I would definitely order it on another visit.

I ordered chicken breast in blackberry mole.  The mole was superb.  The blackberry flavor came through without overpowering the other ingredients of the mole.

Alejandro is a connoisseur of mole, and when he had a taste, he agreed that it was excellent.  They had several different kinds of mole on the menu, including a banana mole which sounds very interesting.

We ordered a dessert that was not Mexican.  We shared a piece of Black Forest cake.  Like everything else, it was delicious.

The service was as great as the food.  The manager frequently stopped at our table to chat.  He said that they will soon be serving our favorite dish, "chile en nogada", well before the traditional season of August and September.  We look forward to coming back to try it.

We definitely have a new restaurant to add to our list of favorites!

Saturday, June 22, 2024

A Recycled Factory

A couple weeks ago I visited a place which I had read about on TripAdvisor.  It is called "Ex Fábrica" (Ex-Factory).

The place is an abandoned flour factory which now bills itself as a museum of street art.

There are some very interesting murals, but there is also a lot of ugly graffiti which, I'm sorry, I do not classify as art. 

The passageway is lined with shops and restaurants.  At noon, most of the shops were not open.  The restaurants just sold pizza, hot dogs, and hamburgers.

I suspect that in the evening the place is livelier with a young, hipster crowd.  However, the neighborhood is not someplace where I would want to be at night.

I thought that the name of this candy shop was clever... "Dulce Caries" (Sweet Cavities).

I had to use the restroom, and that place was downright scary.  It was completely covered in graffiti, and there was the scent of someone smoking pot.

It was an interesting place to see, but I would not return there.