Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Mexico City scenes

(I am once again in an old, sophisticated culture where I know next to nothing. What follows are some superficial tourist scenes from Mexico City. Perhaps in the future I will write more complex things about this country and the looming shadow of my own, but for now, here are pictures from two days sightseeing with our Mexican friends.)

The "Angel of Independence," Mexico's national monument, coexists with the Hong Kong-Shanghai Bank Corporation, as we all do.

Mexico City is unimaginably populous (23 million people) and traffic impacted, but not humanly dense, not crushed by the sense that people are crammed in every cranny, the way I have felt in Manhattan -- or Lima. We dealt with the traffic by riding the tourist bus.

Locals deal with us by gawking at the tourists. Mexico City has an historic center whose buildings date from the 17th and 18th century colonial era, a lay out and many grand monuments from its 19th century hey-day, and every artifact of modernity side by side. The city I know of which it reminds me the most is Washington, DC -- but older and more subtle.

This is a city proudly filled with public art. Murals by Diego Rivera line the halls of the Palacio Nacional. Whether contemporary scenes or historical, Rivera's murals always show the human labor of that creates our world. Here, women workers in pre-conquest times.

Many less edifying 19th and 20th century monumental sculptures line the streets. Tastes change. Here, Benito Juarez.

You have to love a city that boasts a fountain and statuary in honor of the nationalization of the oil industry.

You have to love a city where tourist police look like this.

This is the old cathedral and the Zocalo, the grand plaza where enormous popular political rallies take place -- and where over 14,000 people recently choose to stand naked as an art event!

Since this is Mexico, there is politics: this banner condemning the corruption of the Senate was draped on the Avenue Reforma by peasants protesting theft of their land by the wealthy. This is a land where the class struggle cannot be hidden out of sight...

...and the new stock exchange building looms over the street...

... while gold covers cathedral walls.

But what's not love in a place where university students (these are studying economics) parade about in pseudo-medieval dress singing for crowds?

The economic boys were thoroughly upstaged by the boys from the town band of Tlahuaco.

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