I’ve been to Mexico a solid 15 or so times now, almost always due to a surf related vacation or day trip. Trips to Mexico trigger memories of all-day surf sessions, exhausting heat, uncountable mosquito bites and the hassle of dragging a board bag around on public transportation. So for this short five-day vacation I decided to discover a different side of Mexico, one that is far from the ocean driven trips that I ‘ve grown so accustomed to, a trip to the heart of Mexico, Mexico City.
One of the first things one notices in Mexico City is the 7,000+ feet of elevation, which make for pleasant temperatures, quite the contrary to the blistering coastal humidity of Mainland Mex. By no means is it cold, I still do regret bringing two pairs of pants that I did not wear that took up a solid portion of my backpack, but it is cool enough to enjoy being outside and even possibly wearing a jacket at nighttime. The Chilangos (people from Mexico City) seem to think that it is freezing, because literally 99% of them are wearing jeans while all of the foreigners are in tank tops and shorts.
Since it was semana santa (two week vacation around Easter) in Mexico and most of the cheap hotels were booked, I was forced to find a hotel outside of the popular touristic areas. The taxi driver from the airport had no idea where the hotel was because he said that he never took tourists to that area and fortunately he advised me that if I wanted to buy guns, heroine or “lo que sea”(whatever), I was just a quick jaunt around the corner from the black market. Awesome. After hearing his tidbit of information on top of all the cautionary tales people have told me about Mexico City, I was a little uneasy, however I was pleasantly surprised upon arrival at the hotel. The neighborhood was not exactly easy on the eyes, but the hotel was quite nice and to make a long story short, other than the “I’ve never seen a gringo in this neighborhood” looks from strangers, nothing remotely sketchy happened during my stay there. I think I might go as far as to even recommend the hotel.
Day 1: Teotihuacán
After spending the night in the hotel, I met up with my friend from Mexico, Susana, who had traveled on an overnight bus from Colima. We decided that it was best to go to explore the pyramids of Teotihuacán on Friday to avoid the crowds that would be present on the weekend. We jumped on the subway and headed to the bus station to catch the hour-long bus to the ancient ruins just outside of Mexico City.
We arrived to Teotihuacán without a hitch, however maybe a little later in the day than ideal. Not wanting to pay or be restricted by a tour guide/group, we did our best to listen to what other people’s tour guides were saying and learn as much as we could about what we were looking at. Admittedly, I actually did most of my learning when I got back to the hotel on Wikipedia.
After the relatively short climb to the top of the Pyramid of the Moon and sufficient time to take in the scenery, we decided that we would head over to the larger Pyramid of the Sun and do the same. We could see that a line had formed on the face of the pyramid to reach the top, but we figured it couldn’t be that bad since there was virtually no line for the Pyramid of the Moon.
Upon arriving to the Pyramid of the Sun, we could see that the line was a little longer than expected. It snaked down the pyramid and then onto the ground, wrapping around three sides of the massive structure. Figuring that I probably wouldn’t be returning here anytime soon, I jumped in the line and trudged at the painstakingly slow pace towards towards the top.
No shade and strong wind that created dust storms made for rather unpleasant conditions while waiting in line. As the clouds passed that blocked the rays of the sun the crowd cheered, offering a break from our worsening sunburns. Everyone in line managed to keep a go-for-it attitude, trading sarcastic jokes about how worth it it would be once we arrived to the top. Sarcastically enthusiastic remarks were given to people who asked where the line started, much to my amusement.
Once I arrived to the top two hours later, I decided that the view from the Pyramid of the Moon looking towards the Pyramid of the Sun was probably better than the one that I got on the Pyramid of the Sun, but nonetheless it was breathtaking.
On the top of the Pyramid of the Sun, it’s a custom to put your hands towards the sun and soak up its energy. The irony of this made me chuckle, since the same sun that everyone in line had just been complaining about for over two hours suddenly became a spiritual source of energy and power.
Day 2: Centro Histórico
Day 2 of the trip was spent walking around the Centro Histórico (historic part) of Mexico City to see the main sites.
Upon arriving to Palacio Bellas Artes, a short, well-dressed Mexican girl, accompanied by her parents and appearing to be of about of middle school age, approached me and asked in English:
Excuse me, are you Americans?
With my height and sun bleached hair, I stick out like a sore thumb in most Latin American countries. I got so accustomed to the staring when I lived in Chile that it doesn’t phase me much anymore. I also have the power of making strangers think that anyone I am with is also a gringo. Susana, having a lighter complexion than me, was subject to this quite often.
I responded to the girl in Spanish, proving that I am not as gringo as she may believe, saying that I am in fact American, but that Susana is not. She proceeded asked me if I would like to participate in a short survey. I accepted. Why not?
The survey started out with very basic questions, asking my name, where I am from and how many times I had been to Mexico. Her parents were oddly circling around me, recording the survey at an uncomfortably close distance.
The questions then progressed to be about the country of Mexico and its people, posed in a manner in hopes that I would meet their stereotype of Americans.
She asked, “What do you think about the Mexican people?”
I responded, “Well there are a lot of them, it’s kind of hard to generalize them all into one word haha. But I guess I would say they are nice,” choosing my words carefully because I could see the direction that this survey was headed.
She clearly was not getting the stereotypical answers that she wanted from an American. The fact that I had been to Mexico numerous times and I speak nearly perfect Spanish with a hint of Chilean, threw her for a loop.
Then she dropped the bomb.
What do you think about Donald Trump?
I immediately burst out into laughter. I had seen videos online of people doing interviews like this in Mexico and I had a feeling that this was no different. Between the nervousness of her parents both recording me and the shock/hilarity of the question, I was unable to put together a solid, educated answer. In the moment I simply replied that I do not condone what he says and that I apologize if he offends you. Looking back on it I wish that she had told me that it was a Donald Trump interview so I could have put a logical argument together about why this guy should not be President. It seems so obvious to me that Trump is not fit to be President that I had never taken the time to prepare for such an argument.
Did she really expect to find a Donald Trump supporter in Mexico City? I would assume that very few of them live to tell the tale of a casual stroll through town.
Crossing the street en route to Bosque de Chapultepec.
Day 3: Museo de Antropología
The Museum of Anthropology is huge and dense, which can be overwhelming and hard to follow, but it’s full of interesting info about the history of Mexico.
Day 4: Tepoztlan
Starting to get a little fed up with the craziness and crowds of Mexico City, on the fourth day we headed to a quaint, mountain town an hour bus ride south of Mexico City, Tepoztlan.
Upon returning to Mexico City, we made it back just in time to go to the top of Torre Latinoamericana before it closed, this time at night.
Some time lapses that I recorded from the top of Torre Latinoamericana. Don’t mind the shakiness, there literally was nowhere safe to set the camera so I had to do it by hand with wind making it more difficult.
Day 5: Frida and Diego’s House
On my last day in Mexico City we went to la Casa Azul, the museum and house of Frida Khalo and Diego Rivera. Given that the line was much longer than expected (running theme in this story,) we were only left with about 30 minutes to go through the museum before I had to head to the airport to catch my flight.
Overall, going to Mexico City was an awesome experience, allowing me to see a new side of Mexico that I didn’t know. Before going to Mexico City, everyone had warned me to watch out, implying that bad things would happen. I managed to survive Mexico City without anything being stolen and really without even one sketchy incident. Like any big city in the world, there is a bit of everything and you have to be careful and cautious, but Mexico City is no worse, at least from what I saw. Mexico City treated me well, and while I do plan on my next trips to Mexico being of the surf variety, I don’t think this is the last time that I will be there. Hasta luego, México.