Sunday, September 13, 2009
I went to El Zocalo with no real agenda. I got on the metro, enjoying consistent flow of vendors that get on each train - chicles, MP3 cds, snacks, etc. Their sales pitch is almost in a form of a song, perfected from saying it so many times I'm sure. Once at El Zocalo, I go visit La Catedral. I look at the paintings and statues, impressed by it all.
After Catedral, I head to Palacio Nacional. I'm there to see the Diego Rivera murals. Access is free, although the entrance is a little intimidating as there are plenty of soldiers guarding it. Once in, I enjoy the feeling of being in such an old and important building. The murals are impressive and I could not be happier. They represent 2,000 years of Mexican history. I read them carefully, scanning every single image. There's a local guide explaining each mural to a tourist, so I trail them from time to time to get a better understanding. Near the end of the walk, I hear someone say "There's so much symbolism, dude. He really did an amazing job!" I cringe at the idea of someone saying 'dude' when describing a Diego Rivera mural. I turn around and see a tall guy with long hair, wearing a rico suave bandana. HIs comment made complete sense based on his looks.
After the murals, I go back outside and plan to go shopping. I've been to that area before, so I know there's plenty of street vendors everywhere. After all the water I've been drinking, I use a public bathroom and pay 3 pesos. It's at the end of a tight retail space, and you have to squeeze through a bunch of vendors to get there. The bathroom is what I expected, and I stare at a small poster of a beach scene over the toilet.
I proceed to walk around the stands, trying to remember what direction I'm going. Although there are plenty of picture moments, I decide this is not the proper place to be pulling out my camera. I'm looking for t-shirts, but can't seem to find any. As I walk deeper in, I find myself in some sort of toy district. I think I saw more stuffed animals than a human needs to see in a lifetime. I have some papaya at a local mercado, then continue walking.
I do end up finding what I was looking for, but there are not many shirts that look appealing to me. Hollister seems to be the most popular brand around, with Ed Hardy coming in a distant second. I find one stand that has shirts I like. I ask him if he has large sizes (I'm a large in the US, but in Mexico I have the hardest time finding shirts that fit me). He pulls out some Ed Hardy shirt. Of course he doesn't have large sizes for the shirts I like. I do end up finding a place with shirts that fit me and I make my purchase. I've probably been in this area for close to two hours, so it's time to head back to el Zocalo. I need to pee again, so I find a bathroom, this time for 2.50 pesos. The location is a lot more run down that before and I quickly notice that 50 cents can make a big difference in quality.
I go back to El Zocalo, to relax and people-watch. It's almost time to eat, so I head in the direction of Bellas Artes to eat at the legendary Cafe de Tacuba. Shops are a lot nicer in this part of the city. Not many street vendors and plenty of well-dressed people. Once at the restaurant, I enjoy the contrast between this nice sit-down meal and the papaya I ate at the mercado. Some fresas arrive and sit next to me, once of them boasting about the incredible dress she just bought (obviously not close to where I bought my shirts).
After my meal, I exit toward Bellas Artes. It's close to 6 PM, so I plan to take the metro back to my friends place. I see that there is some protest across the street, so of course I head in that direction. It's a group of farm-workers, complaining about the way the government treats them. There are banners that read things like "Treat us like you treat Obama." I sit to watch it all, next to some very young street kids that are apparently angry at each other and are smacking each other with plastic coke bottles. The protesters flow in and out of traffic, banging on drums to an incessant samba beat. That's when I noticed the Obamas. There must have been more than a hundred protesters lined up in front of a building, wearing Obama masks. What stood out to me the most was the way they danced, wondering if the real Obama could match their perfect coordination. I cross the street and walk past them, only to see another group dancing next to the drummers.
It was now time go get some rest, so I head to the metro. I get in the packed metro (rush hour) and had to elbow myself to make my exit. Excited to have seen el Centro Historico, and mentally preparing myself for my trip to Veracruz the next day.