Puebla City

The Puebla fountain, outside the main theater.

It’s no secret that though I’ve worked hard to establish a retirement fund, I simply don’t know how I can afford to live in the USA. Latin America, specifically Mexico, may be my answer. I also enjoy teaching English, as a was to supplement my pension and get involved with the local scene. So, part of my touring this week includes checking out a couple areas near Mexico City, as a way to get a feel for them. One of these is Puebla, the capital and largest city of the state of Puebla, and one of the five most important Spanish colonial cities in Mexico. It has a population of about 3 million and is the fourth largest city in Mexico.

There are many pedestrian shopping areas.

The city was founded in 1531 in an area called Cuetlaxcoapan, which means “where serpents change their skin”, in between of two of the main indigenous settlements at the time, Tlaxcala and Cholula. Due to its history and architectural styles ranging from Renaissance to Mexican Baroque, the city was named a World Heritage Site in 1987. The city is also famous for mole poblano, chiles en nogada and Talavera pottery. However, most of its economy is based on industry.

The central park of the Zocalo.

The Zócalo, the main square (and a common name for the square of many major cities in Mexico), remains the cultural, political and religious center of the city. It was the first block to be laid out, with the rest of the historic center traced out from it in the form of a checkerboard. Until the end of the 18th century, this was the main market for the town. For much of the colonial period, it was the main source of potable water via a fountain that had been installed in the center in the mid-16th century. Many political and cultural events have been and continue to be held here. Bullfights were held in the main square from 1566 to 1722. Today, the Zocalo is a tree-filled plaza and contains a large number of sculptures, but the most noted is the one of the Archangel Michael that is in a fountain placed in the center in 1777. The city is often call the city of angels.

It was a very rainy day, but still a lovely city.

Just off the center square is the Puebla Cathedral. The Cathedral, located on 16 de Septiembre and 5 Oriente, took 300 years to complete, in part due to interruptions in its construction.

El Parian is an arts and crafts market, within walking distance of the plaza. It consists mostly of permanent stalls but there is an area provided for vendors who visit and sell their wares on blankets spread on the ground.

This is the artists quarter. Despite the rain, many were painting outside.

Mexico City–the floating gardens

The tour of the Floating Gardens was part of the “Modern Mexico” day tour. While sweet, it wasn’t my favorite. After all, I’ve seen the floating gardens of Southeast Asia, which are much more impressive. Still, Xochimilco is attractive enough, especially with the locals. The area is centered on the formerly independent city of Xochimilco, established on what was the southern shore of Lake Xochimilco in the pre-Hispanic period. It has an identity that is quite separate from Mexico City, due to its historic separation during most of its history. Xochimilco is best known for its canals, which are left from what was an extensive lake and canal system.

These canals, along with artificial islands called chinampas, attract tourists and other city residents to ride on colorful gondola-like boats called “trajineras,” a vestige of the area’s pre-Hispanic past, and a World Heritage Site.

the boats that float by have items to sell. There is food and gifts, but also musicians.

This system of waterways was the main transportation venue, especially for goods from the pre-Hispanic period until the 20th century.

These remaining canals and their ecosystem was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987, with the purpose of saving them. An important part of this ecosystem is a juniper tree called a “ahuejote” that is native to the shallow waters of the lake/canals. These stem erosion, act as wind breakers and favor the reproduction of a variety of aquatic species. Some of these endemic species include a freshwater crayfish called an acocil, and the Montezuma frog. However, the most representative animal from these waters is the axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum). I’m sorry to say I didn’t see any of these creatures. This amphibian was used as a medicine, food and ceremonial object during the Aztec empire. It was considered to be an incarnation of the god Xolotl, brother of Quetzalcoatl. It has been studied due to its abilities to regenerate limbs and other body parts. It can also reach sexual maturity as a larva, which no other amphibian can do. While mostly aquatic, it does have limited ability to breathe air. As of 2003, there were only 600 axolotls known to exist in the wild. Most of the threat to the species is loss of habitat and pollution, but the introduction of non-native fish such as tilapia has also had disastrous effects on the population of this and other species.

Many tasty treats can be eaten on the boats. Beer, too.

It would take about an hour long canal ride to get to the best know

There were also greenhouses.

, or floating garden, in Xochimilco. Isla de las Muñecas, or the Island of the Dolls once belonged to a man named Don Julián Santana Barrera, a native of the La Asunción neighborhood. According to the legend, Barrera discovered a little girl drowned in mysterious circumstances in the canals. Some stories say the girl was his daughter. He also found a doll floating nearby and, assuming it belonged to the deceased girl, hung it from a tree as a sign of respect. After this, he began to hear whispers, footsteps, and anguished wails in the darkness even though his hut—hidden deep inside the woods of Xochimilco—was miles away from civilization. Driven by fear, he spent the next fifty years hanging more and more dolls, some missing body parts, all over the island in an attempt to appease what he believed to be the drowned girl’s spirit. After Barrera’s death in 2001—his body reportedly found in the exact spot where he found the girl’s body fifty years before—the area became a popular tourist attraction where visitors bring more dolls. The locals describe it as “charmed”—not haunted—even though travelers claim the dolls whisper to them. Professional photographer Cindy Vasko visited the nightmarish island in 2015 and described it as the “creepiest place she has ever visited”.

This isn’t the island of the dolls, but it does represent it.
I’m sure the real place is even more creepy!

Mexico City–Frida Kahlo’s Blue House

The Frida Kahlo Museum , also known as the Blue House (La Casa Azul) for the structure’s cobalt-blue walls, is a historic house museum and art museum dedicated to the life and work of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. It is located in the Colonia del Carmen neighborhood of Coyoacán in Mexico City. The building was the birthplace of Kahlo and is also the home where she grew up, lived with her husband Diego Rivera for a number of years, and eventually died, in one of the rooms on the upper floor. In 1958, Diego Rivera’s will donated the home and its contents in order to turn it into a museum in Frida’s honor.

You enter the house at the large garden.
Made of flowers!

The museum contains a collection of artwork by Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and other artists along with the couple’s Mexican folk art, pre-Hispanic artifacts, photographs, memorabilia, personal items, and more. The collection is displayed in the rooms of the house which remains much as it was in the 1950s. Today, it is the most popular museum in Coyoacán and one of the most visited in Mexico City.

Frida was known for her clothing, and also her corsets, needed to support her damaged body.

Originally the house was the family home of Frida Kahlo, but since 1958, it has served as museum dedicated to her life and work. With about 25,000 visitors monthly, it is one of Mexico City’s most-visited museums. It demonstrates the lifestyle of wealthy Mexican bohemian artists and intellectuals during the first half of the 20th century.

The museum consists of ten rooms. On the ground floor is a room that contains some of Kahlo’s mostly minor works.

This is Diego’s bedroom, located on the ground floor. The pillow says “Carina,” a term of endearment.
The traditional Mexican kitchen.
Kitchen (cocina). Decorative features include papier-mache Judas skeletons hanging from its ceiling, and walls with tiny pots spelling the names of Frida and Diego next to a pair of doves tying a lovers’ knot.
The two rooms of the upper floor which are open to the public contain Frida’s final bedroom and studio area. This is the original furniture and her wheelchair.
The final upstairs room, with a death mask of Frida.

Frida Kahlo was born in this house in 1907, and it remained her family home throughout her life. She spent her last thirteen years of it here as well. Frida was the daughter of Wilhelm (Guillermo) Kahlo, who immigrated from Europe to Mexico and native Mexican María Calderón. Frida spent her childhood in this house. She stated that during the Mexican Revolution, her mother would open the windows of this house in order to donate supplies to the Zapata army when it was in the area in 1913. She also spent large amount of time in the house convalescing, first in 1918 when she was struck with polio which would leave one leg shorter than the other. When she was 18, a trolley accident left her badly mangled. She spent about two years confined to her bed in casts and orthopedic devices. It was then she began to paint as a way to pass the time.

You exit the house by these stairs, back in the central garden.

The Frida and Diego were very political. Because of intervention by Kahlo and Rivera, Russian Leon Trotsky obtained asylum in Mexico. Trotsky and his wife, Natalia Sedova, were first housed in La Casa Azul starting in January 1937. The windows facing the street were closed in with adobe bricks for Trotsky’s safety as he was under a death sentence from Stalin. In the studio upstairs is an unfinished portrait of Stalin, on an easel which is said was given to her by Nelson Rockefeller. Stalin became a hero to Kahlo after the Red Army victory over Nazi Germany on the Eastern Front in World War II.

During her lifetime, Frida Kahlo was relatively unknown by the public, outside other artists, and her husband was the better known, mostly for painting political murals. In the 1980s, a movement called Neomexicanismo promoted her and her work. Since that time, she has become a cult icon, with images of her appearing on many pop culture items, and many of her works now command high prices.

Touring Mexico City

Touring Mexico City! This week I’ve already been on four day tours–an economical way to see the area. In front is the tour guide, who ended up leading three of the four tours. I’m the gray haired lady in the third row with her mouth open.

These are just a few random photos that didn’t fit in with other posts. I’m enjoying my tour of Mexico City.

The agave is very important to Mexico. Not only is it popular for making alcohol, but it also is a source for paper, clothing and thread.
This is xoconostle — pronounced cho co nos le — a low type of liquor I’ve only seen in Mexico City. It is mildly sweet and has a low alcohol content. Another of the many products from the agave plant.
This is one of the major universities in Mexico City, National Autonomous University of Mexico. It is a public research university in Mexico, one of top universities in the world. This is the central library building, constructed of a mosaic of different colored stones, is part of a UNESCO World Heritage site.
This stadium was built for the 1968 Olympics. These were the first Olympic Games to be staged in Latin America and the first to be staged in a Spanish-speaking country. They were also the first Games to use an all-weather (smooth) track for track and field events instead of the traditional cinder track. The 1968 torch relay recreated the route taken by Christopher Columbus to the New World, journeying from Greece through Italy and Spain to San Salvador Island, Bahamas, and then on to Mexico.
This is Aztec Stadium, or The Estadio Azteca. It is a football stadium located in the suburb of Santa Úrsula in Mexico City, Mexico. Since its opening in 1966, the stadium has been the official home stadium of the professional Mexican football team Club América and the official national stadium of the Mexico national football team. With an official capacity of 87,000, it is the largest stadium in Mexico, though my guide said it was the largest in the world. It is regarded as one of the most famous and iconic football stadiums in the world. The stadium was also the principal venue for the football tournament of the 1968 Summer Olympics.

Hard to see, but a small lizard is making it’s home in this huge cactus.
Here we try some of the beverages made from the agave plant. Tequila is well known, as is its more artisan version, mescal. These two are distilled, but there’s also pulque, made from the fermented liquid. Pulque was once the alcoholic drink of the area, before distillation. It’s similar to hard cider, but not as sweet. After tasting it, I can see why it’s not a popular beverage now.
So many handicrafts to buy–but where would I put them?
This is a native dog, almost completely hairless except for a spiky mop on it’s head, but it’s not a chihuahua.
A serpent garden.
For lunch we were treated to a native dance, but they moved so fast, I couldn’t get a good photo.
Lovely gardens everywhere. The weather is mild and it’s easy to grow flowers year round.
Silver is handcrafted here. It was one of the major exports after the conquest.
Jewelry stores are abundant in Mexico.

Mexico City–Teotihuacan

In the background is the Pyramid of the Sun. You can see all the other temples surrounding the two great pyramids, mostly located along the Avenue of the Dead.

I’m spending the week saying goodbye to a year of teaching English in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. While the school was a big disappointment, and I had some very bad luck, I still truly like the country and it’s people. If you’re paying with US dollars, it’s a true bargain. It’s a potential retirement spot for me (mostly since I can’t figure how I’d afford to retire in the US). My Spanish is still very rough, but I’m improving. While I may never be fluent, I do hope to be better than functional.

This week I visited the impressive pyramids of Teotihuacán. This is a must-see if you are in the area. Teotihuacan is an ancient Mesoamerican city located in  the Valley of Mexico, 40 km (25 mi) northeast of modern-day Mexico City. It’s known today as the site of many of the most architecturally significant Mesoamerican pyramids built in the pre-Columbian Americas.

The city is thought to have been established around 100 BC, with major monuments continuously under construction until about 250 AD. The city may have lasted until sometime between the 7th and 8th centuries AD, but its major monuments were sacked and systematically burned around 550 AD. At its height, perhaps 450 AD, Teotihuacan was the largest city in the pre-Columbian Americas, with a population estimated at 125,000 or more. The ethnicity of the inhabitants of Teotihuacan is a subject of debate. Possible candidates are the Nahua, Otomi or Totonac ethnic groups. Scholars have also suggested that Teotihuacan was a multi-ethnic state.

The city and the archaeological site covers a total surface area of 83 square kms (32 sq mi) and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. It is the most visited archaeological site in Mexico.

The Avenue of the Dead, the broad walkway flanked by temples. We are facing the Pyramid of the Moon. There’s renovation on the top of this pyramid, so visitors can only go about halfway up.

The Pyramid of the Sun is the largest building in Teotihuacan, believed to have been constructed about 200 AD, and one of the largest in Mesoamerica. Found along the Avenue of the Dead, in between the Pyramid of the Moon and the Ciudadela, and in the shadow of the massive mountain Cerro Gordo.

It is thought that the pyramid venerated a deity within Teotihuacan society, however, little evidence exists to support this hypothesis. The destruction of the temple on top of the pyramid, by both deliberate and natural forces prior to the archaeological study of the site, has so far prevented identification of the pyramid with any particular deity.

The archaeological park of Teotihuacan is under threat from development pressures. In 2004, the governor of Mexico state, Arturo Montiel, gave permission for Wal-Mart to build a large store in the third archaeological zone of the park. According to Counterpunch.org, “[P]riceless artifacts uncovered during store construction were reportedly trucked off to a local dump and workers fired when they revealed the carnage to the press.