From my diary

Mexico City Travel Blog

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Sidewalk Santa stands

Mexico City such an inspiring, yet like other cities in Mexico most depressing.  A city notorious for its pollution, thieves and historic works of art and architecture.  An estimated 25 million people residing in an area of about 1,500km.  About 12 million people within the metropolitan area.  Upon entering this city one can believe that 50% of the industrial output of the country is done here.  The many smoking stacks and the fumes of the estimated 4 million cars creates a thick cloud of smog that obscures the vista.  I would say the visibility is only about one mile.  I've read that merely breathing in this, the largest city in the world is equivalent to smoking 2 packs of cigarrettes per day. Here's to your health!!

At an altitude of 2,240 metres & the amount of pollution I thought I would find it difficult to breathe but the effect is merely a dull headache each day.

Even Santa needs his boots shined!
  But in no way does it prevent me from enjoying this amazing city.

There is so much to see here it would take at least 2 weeks to appreciate a part of what this city has to offer.  We've been here 3 days now staying at a hotel close to the main streets and centre of the city.  It has been easier to get to the main attractions and buses which cost a mere 100 pesos - 5 cents.  As well, there are many taxis and everywhere you walk the drivers are lurking on the sidewalks and outside the hotels, bus stations and main tourist attractions.  Of course a ride is no mere 5 cents, from the bus station to our hotel some drivers wanted 50,000 pesos - $US25.  Finally after walking 100 yards from the station, the price dropped to 15,000 pesos!  Its not difficult to understand these people trying to get as much money as possible from the tourists.  With such a large population, jobs must be very competitive. And with the average wage of 8,000 pesos per day, $4 to make a few extra pesos from the tourists could mean a little more food or clothing.  There is no assistance from the government in the form of pensions for unemployment or the aged.  So the city is full of poor people.  Of these are the thieves, beggars and street vendors.  Luckily we've had no contact with the thieves, although we have been followed often by Mexicans on different occasions.  There are so many beggars, mostly women with young children, rattling tins or extending dirty wrinkled hands from under their tattered and soiled clothes.  Some are old but many are young. 

We've found most Mexican people to be very friendly and helpful.  Of course there are still those who just stare or the men who whistle and hiss from every door, car and construction site as we pass by.  The police and security guards have gone out of their way to help 2 female tourists.  Can't complain as it has helped us learn more Spanish through these conversations.  On our first day here we were crossing the street and two young policemen directing traffic from the medium strip stopped us and asked if we would like to go for coffee which we did.  One named Francisco invited us to a fiesta near his house.  The home had a large room out the back that was almost like a small warehouse with a second floor and balcony, (where the band was set up), overlooking the main room.  What an opportunity to see some Mexican families enjoying the pre-Christmas festivities.  Their community, maybe 20 different families arranged this fiesta.  The man who owned the house was so friendly and he and his son both spoke English.  We were made feel so welcome and during the evening the band made an announcement telling everyone where we were from and to welcome us to Mexico.  There were about 50 people young and old enjoying the pozole and bacardi and cola set on the tables. There was plenty of dancing and we had a fantastic night.  The children were in awe of us and spent their evening hovering around our table.

This is a great time of year to be here in Mexico.  With Christmas one week away the city is a buzz with pre-Christmas fiestas and the streets and parks are ablaze with coloured lights and decorations.  Before the fiesta on Sunday night, Francisco took us to the Basilica de Guadalupe. On the way there we drove through some of the residential suburbs.  Even these areas are adorned with lights and streamers hanging from one side of the street to the other.  Religion is strong here and there were shrines of the Virgin Mary surrounded by many vases of flowers, set up outside many of the houses. 

We were in the Zocalo tonight and there were 3 huge decorations about 50 feet high, a set of candles, a large star and a Christmas ball.  Along the sidewalk of the Almeda Central Park it looked like sideshow alley at the Royal Easter Show in Sydney.  Hundreds, possibly thousands of people attracted to the brightly lit stands.  Most of the stands had photographers with Santa.  Gaudy lollipop coloured stands adorned with every imaginable item to attract a childs attention.  Most having in the centre a sleigh and reindeers, where a jolly red faced Santa sat jingling bells and smiling at passerbys.  Christmas carols, often to a disco beat blared from small speakers beside everyone of the stands. 

to be continued

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Sidewalk Santa stands
Sidewalk Santa stands
Even Santa needs his boots shined!
Even Santa needs his boots shined!
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