How to Survive Mexico City.

Mexico City Rooftop view with water tank

Place and time: Enforced three week stay in Mexico City waiting for a new passport to be sorted out.

Cash: Not much at all – our emergency budget allows us 2 dollars each and even that means we arrive in South America pretty skint and dependent on a plan to somehow power the truck and move it using just the solar panel.

Mission: To use up that time wisely without spending any money.

It behooves the contestant to do some research before arriving – first internet port of call is couchsurfing.org, facebook.com or whatever your favorite social website tool. A good webizen advised us of a cool place to park right in the middle of town:

Parque Las Americas, Navarte, DF, mexico

Parque Las Americas, four-star curbside, free.

  • Central location; 40 mins walk east of Downtown and 50 mins walk south of Centro Historico. 5 minutes west and north of the standard complexity of DF Urbana.
  • Park up with other crusty looking vehicles, some of which are three times your size, some of which are also lived in.
  • Water from various mysterious taps around the neighborhood (remember to take that mole wrench).
  • Electricity can be used temporarily at the back of the Urban Vigilantes’ Hut.
  • Free Wi-Fi from a couple of unidentified sources (strongest standing on the park bench nearest the south-east corner).
  • Full security from Vigilantes, passing Police cars (one every 10 mins, 6am to 11.30pm) and the numerous public-service ambulances, on-call telephone engineers and roadside recovery vehicles parked up around you taking a break.
  • Fruit and veg market, Navarte, DF, MexicoMeet the people of Navarte, the characters, the immense parts, the bit parts and the lost souls on their way around the Mexican Play of Life – dog walkers, joggers, alcoholics, vagrants, con artists and many other kinds of ambulantes vendredores.
  • Once a week, you can wake up to the sights and sounds of a traditional fruit and veg market – remember to move the truck the night before…

That’s the accommodation sorted, then.

Market Eatery, Mexico City

For eating, there are a couple of big supermarkets around and a few smaller markets with the usual bargain eateries located somewhere within their cores. To be avoided are the little coffee-shops/bars that dot the area and charge multiple dollars for basically snacks. There are also, of course, the ubiquitous taco stands.

Mexico City Street Snacks

Activities during the day in Mexico City include walking around getting a feel for the place, catching up on some European football at the competitively priced bars  around the Zona Rosa, seeing the sights with all the other tourists around the Zocalo or browsing the various commercial zones – near us was a Car Parts Area and a Printing Area (where you can spend a couple of days designing your own t-shirt, base-ball cap and cooking apron). Lovely, what else? Well, of course, the museums, galleries and stuff are free on Sunday when there’s also a massive flea market between Centro Medico and Lazaras Cardenas that’s good for a laugh. Of course, the metro is really cheap – like 15p a ride – it’s entirely possible to spend a few weeks getting out at strange metro stations and having a look around. But be warned: Mexico City isn’t that big.

Printing Shop, Mexico City

Metro Station, Mexico City

Vaga getting checked out by Mexico City mutt.

DF night life is slightly trickier. There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of proper old -skool parties. You might get lucky and get the invite to a kind of self-organized event where your ten quid cover charge buys load of food, drink and the opportunity to meet drug dealers but these aren’t the massive entities we’re kind of used to in our own capital city. Up until midnight you can hang around for free in the Plaza Garibaldi which is apparently the only place in town where you can drink openly in public. And there are lots of bars, sure, but they seem, like, undistinguished – the more interesting ones had cover charges of 100 pesos – I ask you: five quid to get into a Rasta Bar? Enough to buy weed for a fortnight… And in fact the absurd economics of going out might put you off the whole experience. We tried a few ‘squats’ too but we had no answers banging on the door and no answers over on facebook either – I had the feeling we were just between events, though. The most entertaining experiences will be had, of course, in the kitchens, bedrooms and dining rooms of the locals you get to meet. They are a crazy bunch, it has to be said.

Mexico City flea market

Three weeks later, Portuguese Passport in hand but 100 bucks lighter – we’re off to the beach…

Museums of Anthropology – Antiquities Renovation Campaign (ARC)

National Museum of Anthropology

When you make an arch you use framework to keep all the bricks in place until you install the keystone – the piece in the center that keep it all together – then you smash away the framework and, as if by magic, all you see is the self-supporting arch. The metaphor is used to illustrate theories on the beginning of life: there was some kind of system or framework (for example crystal substances)  that helped evolve DNA replication but disappeared as soon as  the beautiful arch of Gaian life spread around the world. Anyway, what I am trying to say is that renovating structures from the antiquities, repairing Stonehenge or redecorating Teotihuacan would be like reconstructing some of that framework to see how humanity arrived here today.

(The Ark is also the fabled ship spoken of by cultures all over the world. The ship that carried humanity safe during an apocalyptic moment of destruction.But that’s another story).

Maya Sculpture

For the moment, we’re at the Mexican National Museum of Anthropology.

Mayan wall relief

Hmm. Standard kind of layout starting with models of naked little men trying to kill a mammoth and ending up at the magnificent sculptures of the Aztecs. Most stunning are the replicas of  pieces of Mayan pyramids that gave us a foretaste, hopefully, of things to come as we’ll soon be in the Mayan heartlands, in South Mexico, Yucatan and Guatemala.

Teotihuacan Sculpture Replica

But the Campaign to Renovate Antiquities (CRA) thing comes out into conscious thought when viewing replicas of what the Teotihuacan pyramids would have looked like. You know, the impressive set of stones that we saw last week – imagine if they had been renovated to look like the magnificent replica that they had in the museum, towering red temples decorated with hundreds of alien gods and creatures…

The arguments against doing so are kind of obvious – we should touch as little way as possible the original stones. And there is a danger that if you repair Stonehenge and reclad Teotihuacan, then hordes of tourists will come here expecting people dressed up and re-enactment, hot-dog bars, places to sit down and it’s all fucking Disney-Land over again. Build your Disney-Land if you want but leave untouched the original stones, man.

The arguments for such renovation are less overt, however. There is the metaphor of the arch-building at the top of this post for example. Here is another illustration about that other structure lost from time, Stonehenge, that is crying out for renovation (indeed it has already been renovated a few times but possibly never finished); there is the latest spot of research (possibly wacky, I haven’t checked, but this is only an example anyway) that Stonehenge’s stones were arranged on a pattern resembling certain aural characteristics (i.e. the way sound waves reinforce or cancel each other out) – very basically, if a piper was blowing away in the center then, for the listener, the volume of the sound would increase and decrease in a circular pattern – strikingly similar (apparently) to where the stones are (or were or would be) standing. The argument for renovation would point to this theory and say; there, we would never know the reality of that proposition until we reconstruct the Henge how it was.

The same applies to the wonderful possibilities of seeing the Teotihuacan complex in something like its original splendor (what we know of it) – archeologists spend time wondering about the significance of the structures – there was no language discovered to even name anything correctly, even less to understand the inhabitants motives and ideas. An enormous clue, though, would be provided by renovating, however: Untold information could be gleaned from completing the hidden stories that they built – maybe astronomical significance, maybe shadows creep their way across the terraces, maybe the gloriously fearsome structure at sunset itself would inspire the appropriate responses in the visitor…

These are mysterious, old things – most of them built, if not by unknown civilizations, then by civilizations acting for unknown reasons – if we should ever have any chance to understand them and reconnect with their thinking, (thereby understanding our own evolution and better-guessing the future), then we should mimic their physical efforts and reconstruct.

 

Anyway, big up to the national Museum of Anthropology for at least doing a couple of replicas and generally educating the people. As you may or may not know all Museums in Mexico City are free on Sunday. They are also very busy on Sundays. This all proved to be the case the week before at the National Art Museum but if you’re sufficiently non-Mexican looking then you’ll be asked to pay the normal price of two quid unless you have proof that you’re a resident. Given that tourists, as much as anyone, should pay something in tax toward the common good, there must be nicer ways of doing it then basing the payment on skin-color and Spanish language control.

 

Anthrpology display

Prehistoric indiginous peoples of Mexico display

Outside the museum is an event in itself – loads of people and families; fast-food and fruit stalls; Replica Aztec Drumming, Dancing and Shamanistic New Age Blessing Ritual; non-replica Hari Krishnas doing their thing and feeding hundreds for free close by in the park – and the mighty Velodores who do a replica of an ancient ritual that is pretty impressive and even looks authentic if you blur your vision a little to obscure the fact they look a bit like Morris-dancers up to some mischief but rapidly re-approaching sobriety. I dunno, they could try and look a bit less bored about doing it a hundred times a day – maybe let some other people have a go (for a cut in the enormous takings they take from the spectacle-hungry crowd). And, of course, one other activity to be undertaken outside of the Museum; getting interviewed by some kid who has to do some foreigners for their English class. Beware! They got Dunia both times we were in the area and we saw many a group of tourists being hassled by posh kids accompanied by their parents (floating around, prompting the shy ones and video recording the thing for evidence in future litigation with the school when their brat completely fails or something).

Shaman blessing ritual, DF, Mexico

Hari Krishna ceremony, DF, Mexico

The thought does come to mind of starting up the old child-sacrifice thing at any resurrected ancient temple…

Interview by school children on assignment, DF, Mexico

Teotihuacan and How to Prolong the Life of a Camera Battery…

Teotihaucan Sculpture

Teotihuacan is 50 klicks northwest of Mexico City – a pleasant couple of days out of town – just remember to have a good charge on your camera battery…. Read on:

Teotihaucan's Avenue of the Dead Panorama

Nice bunch of pyramids – the interesting thing about them is that their proximity to the capital city (as opposed to the remoteness of some of the much more recently discovered Mayan pyramids) doesn’t mean that we understand these people more than the Mayan cultures, say. We don’t – they left no writing system. Our knowledge about them is evolving as we speak. In the various out-of-date guidebooks I quickly referred to, and reading the information at the museum here, already that massive pyramid of the sun has possibly become now the pyramid of the water due to the recent discovery of child skeletons at the corners of the pyramids – something that is associated with the water-god of the time. Hmm. We know so little.

Camera run out of battery just as we had entered the complex:  How many people know that if your camera batteries run out just as you arrive at a country’s premier tourist attraction – you can warm them up under your arm or down your trousers to give them some extra life. The pictures you see here were all taken with a camera that had been registered as empty – it was a bit of a palava; removing the battery from my pants, quickly installing it in the camera, taking a shot and then stuffing it back down into the body-heated warmth. But if you want those pictures – and there’s little chance of returning soon with functioning equipment – then, this is the way to go…

The funny thing is that the last time this happened to me was at a Stonehenge Summer Equinox Event and at the time I remember thinking that maybe it was the power of the stones that kept my battery alive. Now that it’s happened at some ancient, mysterious pyramids, I’m thinking that my battery dies because of  the sudden proximity to ancient constructions we know so little about… Hmm.

Oh and boondocking is available at the restaurant/tourist traps just outside the perimeter fence. They get coach loads of people on package tours from Cancun or somewhere so aren’t too bothered about the odd independent RV.

Teotihuacan Pyramid of the Sun