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My Small Town
Søren Mexico's Blog

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México DF

     My small town    

 

Forget all the negative you hear and read about Mexico City, if you like a city that lives 24 hours a day ,where you can choose whether you will see a soccer game, go to the theater, hear a music concert, see an art exhibition, go to a fair or a circus, every day of the year, it's here.


Mexico City or DF as we call it, is a charming blend of all opposites imaginable, one sees Spanish 1600 century palaces beside modern glass hotels, luxury villas next to the cardboard houses, in front of a 1.class restaurant, from a street vendor, you can buy Gordos, tamales, tortillas and tacos. Next to the large discotheque, a small cantina with mariachis. Everywhere on the major streets and Avenidas there are lots of people and the noise is unbounded, but around the corner over in the next street, we find a small park with peace and quiet, green trees and birdsong.


     In the traffic, we see lots of green Volkswagen’s and half-sized buses, green Volkswagen’s are taxis and buses are called "micros".

Taxi drivers do not know the city and drive like they own it, Microbus drivers are all Kamikaze pilots, but try a micro bus trip it saves you a trip to the amusement park.

Taxi and Micro bus drivers are doing their best to break all the rules that exist, existed and should exist about traffic. Most private motorists drive more carefully, not because of respect for the law, but more because of fear of dents.

There are performed approx. 29 million one-way trips per day in Mexico city: 8 million with the subway (El Metro), 5 million, with micro buses, buses and taxis, the rest in private cars. There are approx. 30,000 micro buses, ca. 110,000 taxis and about 4 million private cars.


The city's history and tourist attractions can be read on the internet or in other media, I'll show you the city as I love it.

With the excellent metro, we go into the Plaza de la Constitucion (Metro Zocalo), in the southwest corner of the plaza is the Grand Hotel, the entrance is in the side street, we enjoy our breakfast on the roof terrace with good views to the Cathedral, Government Palace, and life on the plaza.


Breakfast is usually a buffet  with many different dishes, both Mexican and international dishes, but be careful with the chili, it burns first on the tongue then in the throat and after a few hours somewhere else. If you eat too much chili, eat a piece of bread with a little salt and drink a little cold water, it helps.

We leave the hotel and goes into the small streets around the plaza, we find here a structure in the trade that I have not seen in other cities.

Almost every street has a specialty, like Calle Donceles, 3rd street north of the plaza, books, Republica El Salvador, 3rd street south of the plaza, electrical items, Calle Victoria, 2nd street south, tools.

Also here we see the contradictions that are typical for Mexico, next to a nice big computer store, there is a store that's sells old junk, the computer shop is new and orderly, the junk shop looks like they haven’t cleaned since inauguration in 1910, and in between all this mess I find parts for my 30 year old jukebox, after a long talk with the seller, I get the price haggled down to half of the demanded, my Mexican wife is better at it, she usually gets them down to ¼.


During the time that I haggled with the seller, he handles 3-4 other customers, while he keeps an eye on all those who rummage around in his "inventory". Out on the street in the crowd I hold on tight to the purchase and keep checking my pockets.

The shops in these streets opens usually between 9 and 11 in the morning and closes in the evening between 21 and 23, all week, Shops closing laws, forget it.

Take your time and breathe in the noise, turmoil and aroma, take a break in one of the small cantinaes or cafes, you find everywhere.


We jump into the subway again and go to Plaza Garibaldi.

Plaza Garibaldi is filled with music, the Mariachis wanders around and form groups, play a few tunes in a group and moves on to another

Around the area there are restaurants and cantinaes where there are played and sung.

Mariachi music derived from Guadalajara, and was, from there, then propagated to the entire Mexico. The word Mariachi is an abbreviation of the French word Mariage (Wedding), so the Mariachis started out as wedding musicians, their uniform is NOT a Mariachi suit, but a Mexican Charro (Cowboy) suit. 

In the cantinaes it is common for musicians to come to your table and invite you to book "your" song, for approx. 30 pesos per song, you can hear all the ones you want.


Be a little careful on Plaza Garibaldi after dark, do not go there alone.

Mariachis can also be hired for private parties, very common is it that instead of a gift, to rent a group and let them play an hour or two as a birthday gift.

In several large restaurants around town, there are excellent shows with Mariachis and other folklore shows.

Shows are changing almost daily, so you should inquire as to where and when.


We're going to football match at Estadio Azteca. With the metro line 2, we take for Tasqueña where we change train to El Ligero (the light train) and runs south along Tlalpan to the stadium. If it is a popular match and we do not have tickets, we must obtain them from the sharks outside the stadium, there are Always tickets its only a matter of price.

If Mexico wins an international match, we goes into Monumento de la Independencia, El Angel on Reforma, and join the wild party, of course we have the phone with us and call later that night after our driver.

Very close to Estadio Azteca is Ciudad Universitaria (University City) and the Estadio Olympico.

In the university town, there are lovely green spaces and many roads and trails without traffic, and here are we going to teach our children how to ride a bike or when they have aged to teach them to drive a car.



Mexico's Venice called Xochimilco, it's a green area with lots of channels located in the southern part of town.

Xochimilco is a popular excursion. We agree with the family, friends and acquaintances, meeting place and time, packs the picnic basket , and fill the cooler with beer, tequila and ice, and after having been assembling troops (the Mexican is always late), we find a suitable Embarcadero.

By los Embarcaderos it is possible to buy all the things we forgot and for tourists to buy the typical souvenirs, obviously at high prices. After fierce debate about the price, we rent a flat bottomed barge, equipped with tables and chairs, with room for 15 to 20 persons.


The barge is driven by a Captain (in the Mexico, there are no sailors, all are Captains) and a ca. 6 Meter long wood pole.

   After the hard process, we are finally out on the channels, here we encounter a maze of barges, which offers everything you need for a successful outing, tacos, Gordo, tamales, roasted corn with chile, beer and soft drinks, flowers, souvenirs and last but not least, Mariachi barges, or barges with giant wood xylophones, with music on demand, pay and sing along.

There are plenty of barges on which are celebrated a birthday, an anniversary, Mother's Day, a wedding or like us a family outing, when we get close to another barge we toast them, and we sing together the familiar melodies, Paloma Blanca, Guadalajara, Mariachi loco etc. At both ends of the barge, there is a small space suited for a dance, in short, a folk festival. The main channels are filled with celebration, but in the side channels, you can find quiet places where Xochimilcos nature, with flowers growing wild, high shade giving trees and picturesque houses that can be enjoyed. Here again an example of the many contradictions in Mexico.


Typical of Mexico is a huge family unity, a trip like this takes the whole family, from mother in law at 88 to newborn Pedro, the young people show great respect for the elderly, and it is normal to see the grandchild help grandmother or great-grandmother on board a barge.

Family Unity also manifests itself in daily life, it is common to several generations live together, depending on income, in an apartment or house. Grandmother take care of the kids and cooks for all, father and mother works, and grandfather is sitting in the cantina.

Social assistance, social workers and other public assistance is only available in very modest form, but we are doing without, with a healthy common sense, good advice from mother in law and help from the whole family.

Security in Mexico city is very low, there are stolen around 200 cars a day, committed 13 murders and numerous armed robberies, but we live with it and take our precautions.

If you only think about retirement, the daily newspaper and TV, Mexico is not the place you should live, here the daily life is exciting and full of surprises and wonderful experiences, and personal freedom nearly unlimited.

Chilangoes (Mexicans from Mexico city) are warm , very guest friendly, sentimental, superficial, hospitable and always late.

the Chilango do not live to work, but work to live.

After more than 20 years in Mexico city, it has become MY city, you love it or you hate it, there is no other way.

I wrote this article in Danish 15 years ago, it was published in Danes World Wide, I made a Google translation and edited a couple of things.

Now onto the daily life today

15-20 years ago the shopping in Mexico was a disaster, modern clothes for women was nearly nothing or outdated, my size in clothes and shoes, not available, because of this we went frequently to Texas and made our shopping there.

Today we find nearly everything locally, but there are still things lacking or difficult to find, so we continue our shopping trips, one or two times a year, of course for B&O vintage, and things cheaper or just not available here, this may be because we are a 2 nation household, and we have other interest than the normal Mexican family.

For our son we had to pay a lot for private schools, the official free schools are bad, and run with under educated teachers, as Danish schools are non existent (I wonder why), we choose for him a German one, when he started in primary school we paid about USD 200.00 monthly 12 month a year, last year when he graduated in High school, we paid USD 700.00 a month. Well, it paid out, now he is in DK studying in a Danish university for free, and the Danish state pay him monthly a sum to live, as he says "barely". A Mexican worker has an average income of USD 3-400.00 a month, Christian gets  about USD 800.00 a month, so we tell him "live with it".

Will come back with more when I feel for it




Posted Sun, Mar 11 2012 10:40 PM by Søren Mexico

Comments

tournedos wrote re: My Small Town
on Sun, Apr 15 2012 11:03 AM

I didn't realize we have a section like this! That was a great read, thanks Søren :)

vikinger wrote re: My Small Town
on Tue, Jan 22 2013 2:13 PM

Just discovered through Søren's recent forum link!

Yes, a great read!

Graham