Plaza Mayor Ruins
What do you see in two days in the city that has the most museums of any city in the world? It's almost foolish to think you can scratch the surface. Some people had talked about the famous pyramids of Teotithuacan but that's a half day treck and there are ruins right in the middle of Mexico City
that are supposed to be interesting. The archeology museum was pegged for Sunday so that left us with a tour of the immediate area. We were staying at ground zero of D.F. and it was founded over the ruins of the Mexicali Aztec complex that the Spaniards razed when the won the battle and established their city. Plaza Mayor was discovered fairly recently when workers digging for water lines hit some interesting formations and experts were called in.
Plaza Mayor Ruins
What was unearthed turned out to be the epicenter of the Aztec empire. We took a tour of the site and though the ruins were interesting, the explanations were scarce and it was hard to understand what we were looking at. The museum was much better, with excellent displays and a good flow. It was manageable to do the whole thing in a couple hours or so too, so we weren't worn out from overload. From the displays and a video that was playing, we learned all about the ancient Aztecs, the founding of Mexico City which was originally a lake that had long bridges leading from the mainland on the four axes to a series of islands that formed the ancient Aztec capital. They farmed on the islands and used canals as their roads. Since Mexico City is built on the filled-in lake, it's no wonder that parts of it are sinking dramatically and need urgent intervention to shore them up.
Plaza Mayor Ruins
It's supposed that turning the canals into dirt roads, and filling in the lake, has given the modern day city a water shortage of epic proportions, and has even changed the climactic conditions around the city.
After emerging into the light, we saw an enactment by modern day indigenous peoples of a dance ritual that was very interesting. We broke for lunch at a restaurant in a restored colonial house nearby that Jerry had read about. The food was good and it was very quiet in the courtyard so I enjoyed getting away from the mad scene on the roads and sidewalks. Afterwards we stopped to see the famous murals of the communist Diego Rivera in the Palacio Nacional. They depicted the Mexican history in terms of class struggle and revolution.
Plaza Mayor Ruins
The usual leftist themes with the ever-present anti-Catholic and anti-capitalistic slant. Interesting also were the murals of pre-Colombian Mexico and the time of conquest. His use of bold color and folk art themes and sweeping compositions is what he is known for and they were fascinating to look at. Next stop was the cathedral, but there wasn't very much to see there besides the carved wooden choir and some beautiful Baroque paintings in the sacristry, but they were charging entrance fees for both and we just wanted to have a quick look, not take an extensive tour. While inside the cathedral, the doors were open and I could hear the strains of "I Will Survive" getting louder and louder. We went outside to see what was going on and ran right into the largest assemblage of gays I had ever seen.
Plaza Mayor Ruins - Skulls
Huge sumptuous floats were going by with blaring loudspeakers and gyrating dancers. There was the most bizarre collection of dress (or undress in many cases) and just as bizarre behavior. Many were wearing large wings and that was just the start. I snapped some pictures but the crowd was so tight and after a short time the spectacle became intolerable and Jerry and I pushed our way out and back to the hostel. I read the next day in the paper that it was the largest gay parade in Mexican history and they estimated the crowd to be close to a million people. Some of the travelers wanted to go to the zona Rosa area known for its many clubs but I warned them that it would be a madhouse that night with all the crazy partying and it would be best not to attempt it.
Famous Aztec Disc
I think the gathering was timed to take advantage of the leftist protest scheduled for the next day.
We met some Dutch guys and then 2 English guys joined our group. Conversation was lively and I went over to two girls who were sitting off by themselves and asked if they wanted to join. They were from Puerto Rico and were happy to chat with us. Jerry and I eventually go hungry and walked around the corner to what could only be described as a Mexican Dennys. It was great...little booths, banging pots and pans, impatient waitresses, a greasy spoon menu. Jerry and I loved it. It was exactly what we were looking for. After we got back, we decided to move the party to the sister hostel and see what was going on there.
Plaza Mayor Museum - Pre-Columbian View
Again there was the complimentary Mezcal down the throat but the scene was sparse and after awhile it was clear the Puerto Rican girls were having fun with the Dutch guys and that left Jerry, a guy from California, and me as the 3rd wheels. He wanted to go out to a nightclub area but Jerry and I both agreed we were much too tired and we bowed out. As we found out the next day, it turned out they had quite a bender. I'm not sorry we missed it!