Well hello there Mexico City…! I’m not quite sure what we were expecting, but it turns out to be a pretty awesome place. Dusty, dirty and thronging with people for sure, but with wide boulevards, great public squares and imposing colonial architecture that that would not be out of place in Madrid or Barcelona. And, although it is a cliché, the people seem to be overwhelmingly colourful and friendly! The Mexicans are very proud of their Aztec heritage – quite rightly too, for the original city of Tenochtitlan on the current site of Mexico City was one of the largest and most advanced of its time.
Most Mexicans, not surprising after all this time, are of mixed indigenous and European blood, and so is the culture. So while the last Aztec Emperor, Cuauhtemoc, is a national hero, modern Mexico looks, feels and sounds very, well, Spanish. There is not a great deal of the Aztec left in the buildings, but what the Spanish constructed in its place – including the awesome Cathedral and Palacio Nacional (old Colonial Palace) – are wonderfully magnificent sights. Even the central Post Office must be one of the most grand in the world.
Diego Rivera is perhaps the most well known of Mexican artists – a portly socialist who believed in taking art from the exclusiveness of the easel and giving it to the Masses – he was part of the muralist movement of the early 20th Century. His grand murals are on display in several of the city’s public buildings, most depicting idealised images of Aztec life, the terror of the Conquistadors, and the Socialist utopian future he hoped was around the corner. Rivera’s fame has lately been eclipsed by Frida Kahlo, his on-again off-again wife, who is now probably the most famous female painter of the 20th Century. We had a fascinating trip out to the suburbs to visit her Blue House, where she lived and worked. We also dropped in on the Museo Casa de Leon Trotsky, her one time lover, creator of the Soviet Red Army, one of the leaders of the Russian Revolution and [that’s quite enough Russian history thank you – KA]
To get our fix of more classical history we took a day trip out to the mysterious ruins of Teotihuacan, which pre-date Aztec history by over 1000yrs. Not much is known about the civilisation that built this ancient city as they left no written records. Two things are for sure – they knew how to build a good pyramid, and they had yet to invent the escalator or chair lift…