Mexico City: Coyacan, San Angel, and Lake Xochimilco

I finally made it to the Palace in Zocalo to appreciate Diego Rivera’s murals. Apparently he was going to paint his murals on all the walls of the palace, but his health faltered and he only finished one wall and part of the next. He painted a huge mural over the stairwell summarizing the history of Mexico (the subject of his more detailed murals lining the other walls of the Palace courtyard. Then I met a friend at the Antigua Collegio de San Ilfonso, which is free on Tuesdays. We enjoyed a very detailed exhibit on Darwin (a number of people recommended the college to me for its architecture as well as its interesting exhibitions).

The next day happened to be the last Wed of the month (June 25), which happens to be museum night in Mexico City (most are free and open from 6-10pm). I happened to be in Coyacan and was enjoying Viveros, a lovely park near Frida’s childhood home. June 25 I departed as early as I could from Bosque de Aragon (where I was staying with a familly).  I had a nice conversation with 2 women on the combi about life in Mexico City, how hard it is, how little people are paid (minimum wage is 2.50 US/day – that’s lower than Haiti, which I thought had the lowest mininum wage in the world).  I’m surprised there aren’t more robberies and assaults given the utter poverty here.  I think it’s a testament to the goodness of the Mexican people, their integrity and intrinsic sense of what is right.  I have tremendous admiration for the people here.  It is amazing to me what people can withstand, 4 hours or more hours per day in commute (for example, standing in a crowded metro subway, running to transfer and having to push to get on and off, and positioning oneself strategically near the door as one’s stop approaches).  After only 2 or 3 weeks of this, I’m exhausted and feeling like a rung out dish rag.  I can’t imagine years of living like this.  In any case, after 2 hours or so of combi/metro/transfers, I arrive at Viveros, a metro station near Coyacan, the part of Mexico City (prior a separate town) where Frida Kahlo’s father made his home. It’s a beautiful area.  First I walked through Viveros, a park about 5 to 10 acres dense with trees.

I returned to Coyacan and rented a bike (free for 3 hours) to get to know the surrounding environs. I spent time in the plaza de la conchita (iglesia), parque frida kahlo, a beautiful bookstore/cafeteria in honor of an important female Mexican writer, the house of an advisor of Hernan Cortes (now a restaurant – very elegant), Museo de Arte Popular (artesanal/typical crafts from all parts of Mexico), then made my way (by taxi – raining) to Estudio de Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, after their 2nd marriage, a bridge separating their 2 homes/studios. Spent the rest of the day there, then wandered the streets of San Angel and AltaVista, a very upscale (and old) neighborhood full of narrow cobblestone streets and huge gates hiding lovely haciendas. I ended up at the church in San Angel, made my way to the flower market, and took a bus (raining cats and dogs) back to the metro station (Viveros). Friday I went to Chapultapec – to the museum of modern art and the Castillo, which houses a huge amount of history of Mexico, as well as the furniture and interior decorating done by Maximillian before being killed by a firing squad and Porfirio Diaz. I decided to come back to Chapultapec Sunday and enjoy the zoo and museum of anthropology (which still charged on Sundays as I don’t live here – so I decided to come back another time). The sad history of the castle as it relates to the US is that we invaded Mexico in 1849 and many Mexicans died defending the castle and trying to stave off the US. As a result, Mexico lost Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon. It was one of many invasions that Mexico has endured. Saturday I went to Xochimilco, a very important historical town known for the canals and chinampas (small farms lining the canals) where campesinos used to farm corn, beans, squash, and other vegetables. It was something seeing the fancy boats with Mexicans from the city eating, drinking, and making merry. Mariachis playing and singing… I took a collectiva which was quite a bit cheaper than the standard boat fare (350pesos/hour, about 30USD). I wish I’d had more time there – there was a beautiful forest at the end of the journey (Bosque de Nativitas), which I’d like to explore. I completely forgot about the Museo de Dolores Olmeda here, and instead rushed back to see Annahuancalli, which I missed (it closed as I arrived), but I took some photos of the exterior (the huge pyramidal strucdture and plaza). Sunday eve, after Chapultapec, I walked a bit in Zona Roma (another beautiful part of the city with tree-lined streets and lots of foreigners), then made my way (laden with a 35 pound backpack and daypack) to Zocalo, the center, where I went to find inexpensive clothing (Mercado Merced) and then waited at a fancy hotel for a friend to meet me.

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