Punta del Este
A city with over 19 million residents, as Mexico City, by itself should impress a visitor. Should be expected that everything a person wishes for could be found there. And that is the way it is in México, whatever it may be, if look for, it will be there. This is one of those cities where a visitor has to be careful on what to wish for.
But we are not interested in finding or whishing for anything in particular. It is true we usually have a small itinerary and a list of hotels and restaurants, in the case of Mexico City quite large. Always helpful is a map, but in reality for us its utility is quite limited and we do not pay much attention to it. Still, we do try to let the trip in itself lead the way, which for us is what works best. And that is where we found this city impressive. Mexico City has no end.
During this visit to the city of Mexico, January 2002, we stay in a section of the city called Zona Rosa, or Pink Zone. Turns out that it was the same hotel where we had stayed last time we visited twenty years ago. This area of town, some twenty blocks, is adapted for the tourism and there are quite many restaurants and stores to this end, enough to spend a week there before beginning to get bore.
We also visited downtown Mexico. Not just to see the old Cathedrals, el Templo Mayor (Main Temple of the Aztecs), and the Presidential Palace, but to stroll among the old streets. This area is known as the Centro Histórico (Historic Center) for obvious reasons. There is a street there with so many book stores we could not go into all of them. There is another street of bridal dresses that although we are not much into it there were so many and so pretty we had to notice them.
According to legends, Mexico City, or Mexico Tenochtitlan, was founded on a small island in the middle of a lake where in 1325 the ancestor of the fearsome Aztecs saw an eagle on a cactus eating a snake; scene that is represented in the Mexican flag. Such island was where the center of the city is today. It was right there where the Aztecs build their pyramids.
Mexico being very fortunate in silver and gold, from the moment Cortes stood in its shores at Veracruz it was one of the desired possessions of the Spanish Empire. The city was given the title, in part to make sure the metals would not stop flowing, of the Virreinato of Nueva España (Subkingdom of New Spain). And above the pyramids the new lords constructed their new palaces and cathedrals. In this section of town we saw many samples of colonial buildings. We also saw where they are excavating the platforms of the Aztecs pyramids.
On this trip we were able to make it to Xochimilco, what remains of the lake that once covered what is most of Mexico City today. As we were told, before the ancestors of the Aztecs decided to settle in this regions, there were people of the Xochimilco culture living there. They were the ones that started to fill the lake by planting on floating platforms, called chinampas, their crops. Eventually the roots made ground on the bottom of the lake. They set these platforms in such a way as to leave open channels among them, through which they could travel in canoes. It is through those channels where they take the visitor in a fashion similar as their ancestor did. At the embarcadero (port), some 12 miles form Downtown Mexico, they rent these canoes, or trajineras. As per our guide the ideal time to arrive is just before midday and to have lunch in the trajinera. It is allowed for visitors to take their own food or to have it prepared, provided the guide makes the appropriate arrangements before hand, along with the boat. According to him, there are about a thousand of these canoes available but during holidays they are all rented.
An interesting detail is the name of Mexico itself. As per the Spanish language dictionary the preference is to write it with a “j” instead of an “x”, that is in Spanish. But the official name of the city, and the country for that matter, is with an “x”. This is just the beginning because as per our guide the old way of pronouncing the word is something like Meshico, with a long “e” which also has some resonance (as pronounced at the throat). What is interesting is that when the guide said it we remembered having heard it been pronounced that way. We do not remember if it was in the stories of our grandparents or somewhere else. The truth is that it was very natural and pleasant to the ear. As if it was a magical word, which pronounced correctly, it could very well be.
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