It was my first time traveling to Mexico City. My past traveling / backpacking trips illustrate my propensity to go to places where there is a lot of history, cultural experiences, and sites for exploration. I do yearn for that sense of wonderment and cultural exchange. Europe and the Middle East have drawn me in many times over the years, but it was time to check out cities and countries in the south.
As I’ve mentioned several times, I do enjoy going to many U2 concerts around the world because it compliments my backpacking ideals. They give me an excuse to go to places I’ve never been to before. This time around, I visited Mexico City to see the three shows at Estadio Azteca. While I spent several days in the GA queue, I was given lots of time to get away and site-see. I met up with my friends Patrick (Arkansas), Amp (NY), and Jorge (San Francisco) who joined me on some excursions. There were quite a few things that really struck me about Mexico City that compel me to return in the future.
First, the food. It should be no surprise that I had the best Mexican food while I was in Mexico. What I loved about the places I ate was that they were where locals went – small whole in the walls where no one really spoke any English. Luckily our friend Jorge (who is originally from Mexico) helped translate Spanish into English for us. Some U2 fans warned us against wandering too far off the Estadio Azteca grounds because it was rough and shambolic. Hunger drove us into deep into the seemingly ‘sketchy’ neighborhood, but it turned out to be a rather pleasant place. On one trip into the street markets, it was Mother’s Day, where all the mothers and their children were out having lunch and treats. It is a much bigger deal there than the commercially driven holiday in the United States and Canada. Schools would be let out early so that children can take their mothers out for the afternoon. Needless to say, it was difficult to get my favourite gorditas because the lines were long at the shops. Patience was needed to enjoy this amazing dish. I had also fallen for their tostadas, flautas, and flans. These dishes have given me ideas of what to expect when I try to cook them at home.
The open air markets reminded me of the souks in the Middle East – fresh produce, spices, meat, clothing, and trinkets. I miss the bargaining and banter associated with markets. The cacophony of noise and transactions is so much more lively than my corner grocer. As someone who grew up with mangoes on the table in my household, I was a huge fan of the in-season and deliciously ripe mangoes on offer. Squeeze a bit of lime on the fruit and you have a sublime summer dessert.
Another thing that stuck out was the deep history of Mexico City. If you are ever in the city, I highly recommend the National Museum of Anthropology. It has vibrant and rich displays that depict the history of Mexico. Although I didn’t make it to the nearby pyramids that lie a few hours outside of Mexico City, you still get a sense of how vivid Mexico’s history was and is. Spending an afternoon at the museum was clearly not enough, so a re-visit will be necessary. The promenade that leads up to the museum reminded me of the perimeter of New York’s Central Park – lush and green.
It was also recommended to visit the historical centre – where the Presidential Palace is located and where the city was founded by the Aztecs. I wanted to see the Mexican Mural and social realism of Diego Rivera’s art work on the palace walls. I loved his anti-colonial and critical pieces, which depicted the Spanish imperialists in an unflattering manner. After immersing myself in a PhD seminar about the Global South, and writing papers on post-development practice and theory, I have a deeper understanding of the historical implications of colonialism in modern times. Rivera’s work was intellectual as it was beautiful.
One lasting impression left upon me after the Mexico City trip was how kind the people were towards me. I admit most Mexicans I met were in the U2 queue (people who are generally easy-going anyway), but even those I encountered in the markets or passing on the streets were pleasant. I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived in Mexico City, but the friends I made are enough reasons to go back. I still need more time to go to the pyramids, explore other parts of the city, and perhaps skip over the to the beaches of Acapulco to relax with my friends.