Mexico City
Benito Juarez Airport









Benito Juarez Airport

When you land in Mexico City, the decor of the airport has its own flavor.  In this instance, a slim and horizontal window gives a view of the outside, with a string of circular portholes above and below it.    In reality, the wall is not painted red; that's a bit of artistic license brought about using Adobe Photoshop.
Cathedral







Catedral Metropolitana

As large as it is, the main plaza at the heart of the city is overshadowed by the ornate and massively complex cathedral arrayed along its northern end.  Unlike in the States, crowds of people saunter purposelessly in this most public place and the atmosphere is always one of relaxed sociality rather than directed energy.
Street Performer





Street Performer

On a side street just off the central Plaza, this young man was a source of constant entertainment for the steady stream of (mostly female) passers by.  In this big city, as elsewhere in Mexico, street life is less controlled by the authorities than would be the case most places in the United States.

Whenever I have seen buskers in the U.S. or Canada, they have been catering to the tourist trade, but here in Mexico the art seems to be pursued for its own sake to some extent.  This man was not receiving much in the way of donations, but that did not  seem to deter him from doing his routine.
Palacio Nacional










Palacio Nacional


There is always a line outside the Palacio Nacional waiting for entrance.  Americans may not imagine Mexicans as particularly cultured, but this is chauvinistic ignorance.  Large numbers of Mexicans--and not just the wealthy--frequent the national treasures.  The Palacio Nacional is only one of many in the city.

I had for years avoided visiting Mexico City because its size and purported chaos intimidated me.  I found it to be a very liveable place, however, with a collection of separate built-up areas each having its own special identity and with attractive neighborhoods scattered widely.  There are of course huge zones in which impoverished neighborhoods bleed across the landscape with little in the way of aesthetics to recommend them, but is this really that much different from most large cities in the world?  In any event, the huge metropolis is well tied together by a remarkably efficient subway system.   
Diego Rivera








Diego Rivera


In the Palacio Nacional, next to the central plaza, the walls on the second floor are a nearly continuous run of Diego Rivera murals.  This champion of the downtrodden was one of the greatest mural painters of all time and his popularity in Mexico surpasses that even of his wife, Frida Carlo.  All the scenes by Diego Rivera in this building portray people in great numbers and great variety.  As you look at them, you quickly can identify stereotypes of virtually every class of people in Mexican life, both past and present.  Mr. Rivera must have been fixated on his famous wife for in almost every mural there appears a woman who resembles her.  Her pale skin and jet eyebrows and serious countenance--these identifiers mark her individuality and get attached to some particular female in the crowd.  She is not evident in this particular photo, although the woman on the far right with her face hidden might be Frida if we could see her better.
Mexico Old and New












Mexico Old and New


There is something about this young woman, with her inward looking countenance, that reflects the disposition of the indigenous people depicted in the mural behind her.  A very large portion of the Mexican population is Mestizo--a mixture of Indio and Iberian.  Whether she would be willing to admit it or not, this contemporary Mexican woman seems to be at least in part a product of her country's indigenous past.
Traditional Architecture













Classical Architecture


The interior of the Palacio Nacional is a great, square plaza with a fountain in the center.  Surrounding on all four sides are columns and arches of the sort shown shown here.  Above this ground level extravaganza is a second floor similarly outfitted.
Zona Rosa

Zona Rosa

The older and more traditional center of Mexico City is one thing, but the Zona Rosa off to the west is altogether different.  In recent decades, Mexico City has expanded to become one of the most populous cities in the world.  In the process, new commercial nodes have arisen that show a sort of preoccupation with the contemporary that is no less intense than that of any rich country.  Flamboyance, flair, and color, however, are perhaps a bit closer to the surface in Mexico than they are in the U.S.
Avenida de la Reforma






Avenida de la Reforma

As with Washington, DC, and Bucharest, Romania, Hausmann's Paris has been an inspiration for planning the expansion of Mexico City.  Avenida de la Reforma is like the Champs Elysee--a broad, straight boulevard with a heavily wooded median strip separating the lanes of traffic running in opposite directions.  Major crossing streets along the Avenida are accommodated by means of grand-scale traffic circles in the center of which are monuments such as the one shown here.

Chapultepec Park






Chapultepec Park

Parades and processions are a part of Mexican life to an extent unknown in the United States.  There are, of course, many formal occasions for them that are religious in nature, but even their great abundance does not seem to satisfy the insatiable national demand.  I do not know what stimulated this particular procession, but the paper mache creations look as if they must represent real people, perhaps people who in one way or another reflect some sort of political message.
Museo Nacional de Antropologia









Museo Nacional de Antropologia


Located within the vast expanse of Chapultepec Park, the Museo Nacional de Antropologia y Historia is one of the most highly regarded archaeological museums in the world.  The museum limits its attention to treasures that have been found within Mexico, but this is not a particularly confining factor since an extraordinary array of prehistoric civilizations have been unearthed in various regions of the country.

The sophistication and expressiveness of Mexican prehistoric art surpasses that which has been found in sites north of the border.  Both sedentarism and agriculture were well established among various Indian groups in what is now the U.S. and Canada, but the odds are high that farming and settled living were adopted from Mexican examples rather than independently invented.

Olmec Head










Olmec Head
in the Museo Nacional de Antropologia

You are looking at a face that is as tall as a person.  The Olmecs, a mysterious prehistoric society from before the time of Christ, lived in the vicinity of Veracruz.  Its artists carved great stone sculptures of the human head.  Typically presenting a face that is broad and round, it seems to contain features that are more Negroid than Amerindian.  Why would that be?

View from el Castillo

View from el Castillo

On top of a hill in Chapultepec Park sits a castle.  It was built in the 1700s, but came into its elegance when Emperor Maximilian adopted it as his official residence in the 1860s.   This is the balcony outside Maximilian and Carlotta's bedrooms, and the grand avenue running off into the distance is the Paseo de la Reforma.

Castillo Balcony







Castillo Balcony


El Castillo has a balcony that runs around two sides of the building and includes this spacious expanse.  On these two sides of el Castillo, the hillside bluffs drop precipitously and the view out over the city to the north and east is completely unobstrructed.  As you can see, it is a clear day, but even in these benign conditions the particulate pollution in the air obscures any view of the mountains that surround the city on three sides.
Inside el Castillo









Inside el Castillo


The eastern wall of el Castillo is a continuous run of stained glass windows.  This photo shows only a very small part of the glass wall's horizontal extent.  The woman you see here is depicted as standing under the shelter of a classical structure like the Parthenon, with columns all around.  Imagine her as only one of perhaps a half dozen women arrayed to the left and right of her, each one occupying her own separate part of the temple.

Cathedrals and religious motifs have been the form in which are a very large part of Mexico's art has been expressed, but as we can see here, it is not the only  form.
The Heroes

Los Ninos Heroes


When the United States invaded Mexico during the Mexican American war of 1847-1848, the final chapter of the story was written in Mexico City.  The final bastion of Mexico's defense was el Castillo here in Chapultepec Park, and many of the hastily recruited defenders were cadets who had not yet passed boyhood.

Rather than surrender to the Americans, six of those young cadets wrapped themselves in Mexican flags  and jumped  to their deaths from the ramparts of the castle.  The six statues on the far side of the fountain memorialize those boy heroes.
Taxco
Taxco Street


Taxco Street


Taxco is only a few hours by bus southwest of the capital.  One of the early centers of silver mining, it drapes over rugged terrain at a moderately high elevation in the mountains.  With narrow, cobbled streets and a cool upland climate, it is favored as a tourist destination and also as a retreat from the bad air and busy life of Mexico City.

Although the mining ended long ago,countless shops here specialize in selling silver. It is not unusual for a town to be heavily dependent on just one industry, but Taxco is quite remarkable for being so dependent on a type of retail trade instead.

Taxco Center











Taxco Downtown


This is the obligatory shot of the city center.  The white VW taxis and the ornate church spires--these are the signature items that make Taxco so immediately recognizable.

Some of the main streets in Taxco are so steep that whenever it rains the taxis cannot go up them.  They have to wait for the cobbles to dry.

Iglesia Santa Prisca
Christ and Street Life










Christ and Street Life


Bright colors, gay decorations, and motor scooters aside, the dark and sober story of Christ's demise never remains hidden away in the respectable bowels of a church.  It is an omnipresent public motif.  What would be the consequence, do you think, if this sort of streetside religiosity were erected in downtown Albany or on Main Street in Muskegon?

The Balloon Man

The Balloon Man


Life in the central plaza--the zocalo--of every Mexican town is . . . well, it's a gas.  There is always plenty of action.  It doesn't matter whether its nine in the morning or in the heat of the day or under the evening stars.  Musicians, street vendors, liasons, business meetings, old folks, families, teenagers--they all end up in the zocalo.  It's the ultimate "hang out."
The Church on the Hill

Musical Mendicant




Musical Mendicant
Street Life


Pedestrians Rule



Zocalo Teenagers
Taxco
Zihuatenejo

On the Waterfront

The Day's Catch
Beach

Ixtapa

Zihuatenejo is situated next to a bay that is shaped on its western side by a ridge of land that drops abruptly down to the beach.  The town itself is confined to the head of the bay where a small arc of lowland exists between the Pacific and the rugged hills.
Beach Activities