Monday, 27 January 2014
Mexicans men and women, are of short stature, men stout and muscular when young and fat when older. As for women, the señorita of the north was difficult to find in the urban Mexico cities, instead big breasted and wide hipped females without any sexual charm or attraction.
I found Mexicans well dressed, men in business suits and women in skirts and blouses and jackets. Women and girls were casually dressed in a halter tops, or a sleeveless T-shirt, and a short skirt or Shorts. Office workers and bureaucrats in black suits, students in uniforms. Men wore well polished shoes with high heels, and had well trimmed, short cut hair. I also found Mexicans unsmiling and incurious people, devoid of any expressions on their faces. Seroius and sombre expressions. Mexican are courteous people but the elegance and grace and gallantry of the Spanish which wafted over the ocean, was no longer evident.
Ethnically Mexicans are divided in different classes, people from Spanish and European descendants, who considered themselves of pure and white blood, their descendants the Creoles, then Mestizos (mixed blood) and los Indios (the Indians), who were the direct descendants of original people who were the occupants of the country in pre-Hispanic times. There existed many tribes and in order of population, Nahuatlan, Zapotecan, Mayan Mistecan could be mentioned. The Mayan and Nahuatlan people were the formost tribes who have left, in the vally of Mexico and inYucatan, the monuments and cultural sites, their long lasting history. We were told by the guides that there are still numerous monuments in stone, scattered in the forests of Mexico, which are still to be discovered.
Columbus, who was searching for the sea route to India, erroneously thought that he had reached the shores of India and called the natives los Indios, name which came to be termed with contempt by the Europeans and Americans. The native tribes of Peru and Brazil are also called Indios, as are the indians of India by the Spanish. In Mexico there are many different tribes of Indians and Zapotec and Mistecas comprise more than half the population of the country.
As has happened in many countries like Venezuela, Peru and Chile and Argentina in South America, in Philippines, Malaya, Indonesia etc, in South East Asia, the so called white upper class people controlled the large part of the properties and businesses, administrative jobs etc, although the majority of the population consisted of people of mixed or Indian blood. These people for centuries, have been the backbone of the mining industry and agriculture. In the olden days you would find the well heeled people in Europeans dress and the working class in the garb of a peon, with a collarless shirt,very tight white trousers, colourful cloth belt (la faja) some times a bolero short jacket, reaching up to the waist, a colourful blanket (la manta) thrown over his shoulder. And a hat or el sombrero to shield him from the merciless desert heat.
Although the working and and labour class (peons) suffered from the Spanish greed for gold and silver, were the victims of their injustice and cruel slavery, which today would be described as crimes against humanity and holocaust, Mexican Indians do not suffer from any social and political discrimination or marginalisation. President Juarez and General Porfirio Diaz, the autocrat President, were from Zapotec and Misteca tribes respectively. Many people with whom I talked about the Spanish, were still angry at the uncivilised and barberic way the Spanish treated the Mexicans. And Spanish have never apologised for their brutal and inhuman treatment of the Mexican Indians.
Tuesday, 21 January 2014
30/09/2008. In the morning when we got up, sweating in the heat, and on opening the tap, I found that there was just a trickle of water dripping and the same was with the shower. No water. Some how we managed, soaking the towels with the trickle of water, cleaned our teeth, wiped our bodies and went down to the reception desk. The concierge told us that there was acute shortage of water in the city and at no time during the day or night, should we expect to have water for a proper shower.
So we came out of the hostel and started walking towards the city centre, which was not far off. And to have breakfast. So walking and asking, we came to calle Bolivar and found Hotel Principal at No.29. Hostel Isabel and Hotel Principal, both recommended by the Lonely Planet. On inspection, we found that the rooms were larger, and the one we selected, had two wide comfortable beds, a bigger bathroom and bigger shower-head too. And when I opened the tap, water came out gushing. The daily rate was 340 Pesos. So we booked the room for two days, went back to Hostel Isabel, collected our backpacks and deposited them in the newly selected one, and came down to explore the city centre.
The city was full of shops selling fresh juice,tacos & tortillas, chorizo and guacamole, all fried food and not fit for breakfast. At that time Alex was on vegetarian diet and we found that there was nothing by way of vegetarian food. In Mexico we found that except guacamole, cabbage and tomatoes, there was no other vegetable and it was very hard for him to eat anything. An other thing we found was, that there was no fresh baked bread, only Bimbo brand sliced bread. Mexican do not eat bread.
At ten minutes walking distance, we came to the historic city centre (Centro Historico) known as El Zocalo. Approaching the centre( La Plaza de la Constitution), a very large plaza indeed, from Avenida 5 de Mayo, you see this majestic and elegant Palacio Presidencial and the Parliament building in front, and the magnificent Cathedral y Sagrario Metropolitano, on your left.
The sight was amazing and impressive, bustling with people, entering and coming out from the Cathedral, priests listening to confessions of devotees sitting in booths open to the public, Mass being chanted. I asked Alex to take a photo of the priest listening to the confession of an old lady, he however, replied that a confession was personal and private, although it was open to public to see and listen.
The 16th September was the National Independence Day and the whole plaza was still decorated with light bulbs and Mexican flags, flying on many building surrounding the plaza.
The Palacio Nacional (National Palace) is a historic building, on one side is the Presidential residence, which was cordoned off and guarded by military soldiers, and on the other side was the gallery full of murals painted by Diego Rivera, Mexico's most famous artist, painter and muralist. The paintings depict the country's long journey through wars and revolutions, military rule and independence. In his paintings he reflected the lives of the working class and native peoples of Mexico.
The site of the Presidential Palace is, where once stood the palace of Montezuma. The city and its environs boasted of beautiful haciendas, towers and trees, its castle of Chapultepec and in the distance the volcanic peak of Ixtaccihuatl "The Sleeping Woman".
Tuesday, 7 January 2014
Key words: travel, tourism, food, sightseeing, places to see, hotel accommodation, places to stay, Mexico City.
In October 2008 I travelled to Mexico with my son Alexander. Now I found the diary where I had written down about this trip and I reproduce the same now, five years later. I hope it is of some interest to readers.
29/09/2008. We travelled to Mexico City on KLM flight No. 0685 from Amsterdam (Holland) in the early morning. The flight was 15 minutes late in starting and once we were on the tarmac, waiting our turn to be airborne, the captain informed the passengers that there was a problem with the system of refrigeration and he was taking the plane back to the terminal.
The flight was delayed for another 1hr 48mins (total 2hrs.03 min). The plane was full of Mexicans returning home, I saw less than fifteen passengers who looked like tourists going to Mexico. During this long delay, no further communication was made, we sat in the heat of the plane, without any refreshments or water. When I asked one of the cabin attendants for a glass of water, he told me that the water was sufficient only for the flight and I could not have any. The flight time to Mexico City was 13hrs, with a time difference of 7hrs. We reached Mexico city totally caput.
While the plane was descending to land, I could see the shimmering city lights, stretched to such a vast area, that it was very difficult to imagine where it ended, how its teeming millions lived. But I have seen it in India and in Thailand, in Hong Kong and in Singapore too. The vibrant societies, the hustle and bustle, business activities and the simple joy of living. And I thought, why should Mexico city be different?
On landing at the airport, when the doors of the plane were opened (only front exit), the passport and customs officials blocked the exist and I saw Policia Federal totting rifles, surrounding the entrance. I was asked to show my passport, how long I was planning to stay in the country. When we came out of the place, our hand luggage was searched. We found ourselves in a large lane full of people, full of shops, money exchange bureaus, restaurants etc.
The airport at Mexico city (DF) is modern, and very busy. Most of the Mexicans were coming from or going to the USA. We strolled along this long passage, following other arriving passengers and at last going down the flight of steps, found ourselves in the passport control and immigration area. A vast hall, full of arriving passengers, forming long lines. It took us two and half hours to clear the passport and customs. It was totally dark outside and very late.
In the terminal building, again a huge hall, there were many offices of bus and taxi rentals and although sitting next to each other, their tariffs were different. In one of the booths, offering accommodation, we booked ours at Hostel Isabel, calle Isabel la Catolica, No.63, in the Historic Centre of the city.
This hostel was the residence of Señor Lucas Ignacio Alamán y Escalada, the Mexican scientist, politician, historian and writer (born October 18, 1792-died June 2, 1853). He was born in Guanajuato and died in this house, which was converted into a hostel in 1920.
The interior of the hostel, as we entered, was wide, the reception desk at the very end and various doors on the sides and behind the counter. This wide empty space gave me the impression of being in a warehouse or a cargo terminal on a wharf. My immediate thought was that at any moment, the wall on my left would suddenly open up, revealing Spanish Galleons, berthed and surrounded by sailors, merchants, and I will see porters loading or unloading cargo. And the smell of tobacco and rum and sweaty bodies will engulf the warehouse. Nothing however, happened.
After the delay of a few minutes, a man in his sixties appeared from the door behind the counter, followed by a young man of about 25years. We registered as guests and paid 350 Pesos for the night, for a double room and followed the young man up the stairs on the first landing. The room had a high ceiling, was carpeted and with two single beds in it. The beds were clean and comfortable. We were so tired that without a thought of washing or showering, we peeled off our clothes and jumped in the bed.
Sleep was however, difficult to come. The heat in the room was making us sweat, outside the window, there a constant movement of people passing to and fro, there was no grill on the window and any body could have climbed in the room as the window was at waist length.