I am falling so far behind with my blog that I have decided to leave our journeys in the South-West USA until later and to get on with what is current. You can get a flavour of our travels in the US from THIS Flickr collection
We arrived in Mexico City after a long flight from Los Angeles. First impressions of Mexico City are not favourable. Its vast, noisy, crowded and rather smelly. A taxi ride from the airport to our hotel took us along busy roads with chaotic traffic.
But when we got within the gates of the hotel things were rather different. Outside – apparent chaos, inside – order. But once you get to know the place Mexico City is not all that bad. We never felt threatened on the streets or on the Metro. Both are rather dirty and smelly but that is because they are well used and full of people. And the people are all very polite and helpful.
On our first full day in town we went to the Xocala – the main square – where the cathedral is and found it to be very Spanish church with lots of decoration.
What was also noticeable about the place was that it was tilted. This is because any sensible person would not build a city where Mexico City is. The site is a lake which has been drained but the soil is still wet and not fully compacted. So the west end of the church with big heavy towers is sinking faster than the rest and there is a slope up to the altar end.
The Spanish built here because it was the site of the Aztec capital and they had just conquered them and the Aztecs built here because it was the centre of the universe – obvious really!
Some time after Mexico gained independence, there was a deliberate effort to promote the native influence and downplay the Spanish. So now the church does not have an official position in the state. But in the old days native culture was denigrated and destroyed. The cathedral is built on the site of an Aztec temple and many others around were destroyed.
Nearby is the Temple Mayor which was not so much destroyed as built over and forgotten. This was the Aztec Centre of the Universe! In the 19th century a sewer was built through it and nobody noticed the ruins! But in 1978 workers from the electrical company found some artifacts and a major excavation project started.
The Aztecs had the same problems as the later Spanish. Their religious edifice – a pyramid – kept sinking into the ground. Also as they grew more prosperous they wanted a bigger temple. So instead of removing the older building they built another pyramid round the older one. And they did this six times! So now there are seven pyramids on the same site, one inside the other.
The excavations found a plethora of things and these are displayed in the on site museum.
These vary from small objects in obsidian;
to large monoliths weighing tons.
The monolith shown above was the first object to be found and is a huge disk of over 3.25 meters (10.6 feet) in diameter, 30 centimeters (11.8 inches) thick and weighing 8.5 tons. The relief on the stone was later determined to be Coyolxauhqui, the moon goddess, dating to the end of the 15th century.
There are many other objects. Those which intrigued me are shown below.
Near the Temple Mayor and the Cathedral is the Palacio Nacional, built on the site of Moctezuma’s Palace. Nowadays, what is of most interest in the palace is Diego Rivera’s murals depicting the history of Mexico. His painting style is very suited to murals – his paintings are less successful – all his portraits look like self-portraits – strange shaped head, bulging eyes.
He had very definite ideas about the Spanish Conquest and in particular did not like Hernan Cortes.
He also put people he knew into the murals including his wife, Frida Kalho, as a native princess.
I do not know the significance of the severed arm.
We also went to the Museum of Anthropology which covers all of Mexico. It would be foolish to try and summarize the anthropological history of Mexico in this blog – even if I understood it myself – so here are some things which I spotted in the museum.
I like the slouch!
On a Sunday lunchtime we went to Xochimilco, on the outskirts of Mexico City to see the remnants of what much of Mexico City looked like many years ago.
The lake on which the city was built was drained by building small islands on which crops were grown, while the intervening canals were used for transportation.
Nowadays they are a welcome means of getting away from the dirt of the city. They are not a means of getting away from the noise – that comes with you!
Not far from the canals is the Museo Dolores Olmedo Patino which has lots of paintings by Diego Rivera and Frida Kalho, which you are not allowed to photograph, but which also has lots of peacocks
and lots of Mexican dancers (or there were on this Sunday afternoon) which you can photograph.
And that was some of what we did in Mexico City. We then took the bus to Guanajuato and that will be my next posting.