In which we visit Mexico City…

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Over Thanksgiving we visited Mexico City. We’ve been excited about this opportunity ever since being assigned here. First and foremost because K has an aunt and uncle who we always enjoy spending time with, and they just happen to be living there right now. Also because Mexico City is just incredible. It’s one of the world’s largest cities (20 million or so people in the greater metropolitan area…twice as many as the State of Michigan). It has history on every street corner. Moctezuma and Cortes, Díaz and Madero, Frida and Diego; this city was the stage on which they and so many others did the great and terrible and beautiful and important and inspirational and ugly and groundbreaking and historical things that they did. Every cobblestone street and colonial building looks like it has a thousand stories to tell.

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Three layers of history in one picture. Foreground: Ruins of Templo Mayor, built in the 1300s. Middle Ground: Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral, built in the 1600s. Background: Torre Latinoamerica, built in the 1950s.

But Mexico City is not just a museum of history. It’s a living and vibrant place full of fantastic art, delicious food, loud music, new skyscrapers, lively political debate, and friendly people.

We had a blast. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Exploring ancient history…with real archaeologists! We happened to be visiting K’s aunt and uncle on the same weekend as a relative from the other side of their family and his friend. We teamed up for a lot of the touristy stuff, which was fun. We like making new friends. But what is particularly cool about these new friends is that they are both bona fide archaeologists in training at none other than Harvard University. And let me tell you…a nerd like me gets pretty excited to explore things like Teotihuacan, Templo Mayor and the Museum of Anthropology with experts who know their stuff. Definitely the way to go.

  • Food, food, food! Mexican cuisine is one of the most amazing things my palate has experienced. If you came to visit I would give you the chance to taste these amazing things. But you are not here, so these pictures will have to do.

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  • Family. As many of you know, and as the rest can imagine, living far from family is hard. It’s no easier around the holidays. We recognize that we won’t be able to spend every holiday with family, but it was fun to be with some relatives for turkey, football (the Packers really disappointed) and board games.

  • Statues. People have been living in and around the area that is now Mexico City for thousands of years, and creating a lot of beautiful things. I was struck by all the neat statuary that we bumped into everywhere…ancient and giant stone carvings, tiny yet detailed household deities, triumphant revolutionary era monuments, contemporary sculptures. I feel like you could study so much of the history of this great city just by looking at the statues.
  • Murals. Mexican Muralism is a pretty neat artistic tradition. I’ve seen pictures of and read about these fantastically detailed paintings that carry all kinds of social and political messages, so it was exciting to see a bunch of them in person. The scale is just awesome. Again, photos don’t do them justice. But here’s a picture of a famous Diego Rivera mural to give you a sense of the scale. It’s in the Palacio Nacional (where the legislature and President have their offices…sort of like the White House meets the Capitol building):DSCF9417
  • Scottish dancing. Yes, you read that right. We were privileged to attend the St. Andrews Day Ball put on by the St. Andrews Society of Mexico City. Bagpipes, kilts, boiled potatoes, good scotch, toasts to the Queen, and Scottish country dancing. It was epic. At dinner I sat next to a hot air balloon operator who choreographed this scene in the latest James Bond movie. The whole night was a bit surreal. I’m sure it was just a foretaste of the many unexpected and entertaining events we will find ourselves attending in future years.

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It was a fun trip, and we hope to get back there before our time in CJ is done.