Life in a Backpack: The big Manzana

Just a small example of Mexico City’s impressive skyline. One of the many entrances to Parque de Chapultepec, one the largest metropolitan parks in the world.

(This is part three of a travel journal series on Mexico City. For part III of this series, click here. For part V, click here.)

I did not come to Mexico City to relax, I came to be seduced, and to leave 100 pounds heavier.

There is something about wandering around this modern capital city, made up of grand boulevards, sizzling street-food stalls, and passionate citizens. A walk down any of these boulevards can be an assault on the senses, and a city with close to 22 million inhabitants isn’t quiet.

There are so many bold flavors to taste, but if you’re thinking that the taco or the burrito represents the peak of the cuisine — think again. Mexico City is the ultimate playground for those tourists looking to devour everything in sight.

Imagine watching shoe shiners buff the soot off of the shoes of business men as the crackling sound of mariachi music whispers over the roar of noon traffic. Imagine sitting on a bus or subway and mid transit, a young man with a guitar comes aboard to play for tips.

When it comes to Mexico, the truth is that I didn’t know what to expect before I came here, and if someone would have told me Mexico City was the way I’ve experienced it so far when I was 10, watching those Westerns with my dad, I wouldn’t have believed them.

In Westerns, Mexico was a place where the bandits rode off into the sunset away from the good guys. It was a place of free-flowing tequila, loose women and lawlessness that no sheriff from el Norte could tame. Mexico, for train robbers and killers, was a paradise.

In many ways, the evening news plays on a similar stereotype on Mexico and her people. All we hear in America about the other side of the border is that people are escaping from it. In some sick role reversal of those Westerns, the news makes it seem like everyone lawless is fleeing into the United States.

When that was all the information I was exposed to about Mexico, how could I possibly know any differently?

I don’t know why the United States can’t have the same relationship with Mexico as we do with Canada. Maybe it’s bad blood left over from the Mexican-American war. Maybe it’s because we’d rather have Mexico as the country we get all of our cheap labor, drugs, and inexpensive vacations.

My friends and coworkers need to stop going to the cruise destinations and come to Mexico City. Come see the small huts built into he mountains. Come ride the metro from Selliva to autobús del Norte in the middle of rush hour. Order dos cervezas to help nurse the sunburn from spending all day at Teotihuacan. Press the cold beer against your sunburnt arms, close your eyes, and listen and smell everything that makes Mexico City the best destination.

As for me, I will spend the rest of my life convincing everyone to go to Mexico City to connect with the culture and everyday working people.


Isabelle trying to lock the door to our AIRBNB in Coyoacán
While waiting for our Uber, I noticed the little church in the back of that courtyard. Remember how I said everything is multi purposeful in Mexico?
A common sight at a stop light: Venders selling newspapers, water, food, or toys zig zag through the maze of cars with their merchandise.

Wandering around

While waiting for our Airbnb host to get off of work, we wandered around the city, passing through the shadows of some of the biggest high rises I’ve ever seen.

The wolves of Mexican Wall Street on a smoke break.
An entrance to Chapultepec Park. Like Central Park in New York, this green space is smack down in the middle of a major metropolitan area. The further we ventured into the park, the less traffic noise we heard.
Walking into the park, we crossed over the freeway. Mexico City traffic… can’t fight it!
The squirrels in Mexico City look like middle aged men with white tips at the end the end of their fur.
Having only enough time to explore around the entrance of the park, we had to turn around and head back to the apartment. The park was filled with craft and snack venders, yelling out prices in Spanish. In the background, I could hear traffic, birds, and murmuring of Spanish.
Finally found a Mexico City metro stop!

National Museum of Anthropology

Before entering into the museum, we saw these guys:

They danced around the pole in circles to flute and drum music. When the music stopped, they climbed up the pole one by one. Drawing up the ropes that dangled from the top of the pole, they spun the top of the pole like a merry go round. It was hard to see because of the sun, but I had a distinct feeling that they were all going to leap off the top of the pole.

As the others spun around, one man stayed on the ground to play music. When he was done with his song, he climbed to the top to join the others. Once the last man was situated, he played on his flute again. As the music built in intensity, four men flung themselves over the edge of the pole. With a rope wrapped around their ankles, the mechanism at the top of the pull spun, lowering them all slowly.

At the very top was a man with a tiny drum keeping beat. They reached the ground with a roar of applause. These guys didn’t even look dizzy!

Here they are dancing around the pole.
One by one they climbed like ants to the top of the pole.
As the music built in intensity, they leaped from the top of the pole, and then spun down like acrobats.
Amazingly enough, they weren’t dizzy when they landed.

Speed Museuming

On average this museum takes about 16 hours to go through. Trip Advisor recommended spending all day here. Entering into the museum, Isabelle looked at me, took a deep breath and said, “Ready to cram a whole day into four hours?”

By about the third hour, we were all museumed out.

The photo doesn’t do this mammoth structure the least amount of justice it deserves.
Replica of The Pyramid of the Feathered Spirit with me in front of it for scale. This was Teotihuacán’s most important political and religious center.
Behind the Pyramid there were a number of dead tourists, who couldn’t handle Mexico’s spicy food..
I would say that these clay figures are more intricate than their Anglo/European counterparts. The detail is incredible, and I wish these photos did a better job at doing them justice.
Isabelle looked at and read everything. Being that most of the descriptions were in Spanish, I had a hard time figuring out what each thing was.
The guy on the right has two penises… Just saying.
These kinds of restaurants are what I’ll miss the most when I leave. Three or four tables, one or two people working, and cheap, authentic Mexican food!
Isabelle accidentally ordered two Tortas each! Oops. So much food, but a delicious breakfast for the morning after.