• Home
  • Audio
  • Video
  • Print
  • Art
  • Photos
  • Live
  • Features
  • About
  • Sale
  • Instagram
  •  

    Is This the Isthmus? Tour – Mexico Part 19

    Monday, October 16, 2017
    Mexico City, Mexico

    The Zocalo in CD MX, which means Ciudad Mexico, which means Mexico City.
    The Zocalo in CD MX, which means Ciudad Mexico, which means Mexico City.

    The Catedral Metropolitana de Mexico in Mexico City, Mexico.
    The Catedral Metropolitana de Mexico in Mexico City, Mexico.

    As soon as I stepped out of the Casa San Ildefonso, I was taken aback by the high volume of pedestrians on the sidewalks. Needless to say, it was challenging navigating through the mass of ever-shifting humanity. Mexico City is definitely one of the most crowded places I’ve ever been in. For my first day in town, I just wandered around the main square, the Zocalo. Ducking inside the Catedral Metropolitana de Mexico, I was very impressed by the sheer grand scale of it all, including the cloud-high columns, the massive organ (which was easily the biggest I’ve ever seen), and the skyscraper-sized ornate carvings.

    The interior of the Catedral Metropolitana de Mexico in Mexico City, Mexico.
    The interior of the Catedral Metropolitana de Mexico in Mexico City, Mexico.

    One of two massive organs in the Catedral Metropolitana de Mexico in Mexico City, Mexico.
    One of two massive organs in the Catedral Metropolitana de Mexico in Mexico City, Mexico.

    “The Catedral Metropolitana de Mexico is the largest cathedral in the Americas, and the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Mexico. It is situated atop the former Aztec sacred precinct near the Templo Mayor on the northern side of the Plaza de la Constitución (the Zocalo) in downtown Mexico City. The cathedral was built in sections from 1573 to 1813 around the original church that was constructed soon after the Spanish conquest of Tenochtitlan, eventually replacing it entirely. Spanish architect Claudio de Arciniega planned the construction, drawing inspiration from Gothic cathedrals in Spain.

    Sitting ducks next to the Sagrario Metropolitano in Mexico City, Mexico.
    Sitting ducks next to the Sagrario Metropolitano in Mexico City, Mexico.

    The Sagrario Metropolitano next to the Catedral Metropolitana de Mexico in Mexico City, Mexico.
    The Sagrario Metropolitano next to the Catedral Metropolitana de Mexico in Mexico City, Mexico.

    “The cathedral has four facades, which contain portals flanked with columns and statues. The two bell towers contain a total of 25 bells. The Sagrario Metropolitano (tabernacle), adjacent to the cathedral, contains the baptistery and serves to register the parishioners. There are two large, ornate altars, a sacristy, and a choir in the cathedral. Fourteen of the cathedral’s sixteen chapels are open to the public. Each chapel is dedicated to a different saint or saints, and each was sponsored by a religious guild. The chapels contain ornate altars, altar pieces, retablos, paintings, sculptures and furniture. The cathedral is home to two of the largest 18th century organs in the Americas. There is a crypt underneath the cathedral that holds the remains of many former archbishops.

    The interior of the Sagrario Metropolitano next to the Catedral Metropolitana de Mexico in Mexico City, Mexico.
    The interior of the Sagrario Metropolitano next to the Catedral Metropolitana de Mexico in Mexico City, Mexico.

    The interior of the Sagrario Metropolitano next to the Catedral Metropolitana de Mexico in Mexico City, Mexico.
    The interior of the Sagrario Metropolitano next to the Catedral Metropolitana de Mexico in Mexico City, Mexico.

    “Over the centuries, the cathedral has suffered damage. A fire in 1967 destroyed a significant part of the cathedral’s interior. The restoration work that followed uncovered a number of important documents and artwork that had previously been hidden. Although a solid foundation was built for the cathedral, the soft clay soil it is built on has been a threat to its structural integrity. Dropping water tables and accelerated sinking caused the structure to be added to the World Monuments Fund list of the 100 Most Endangered Sites. Reconstruction work beginning in the 1990s stabilized the cathedral and it was removed from the endangered list in 2000.”–Wikipedia

    Walking north on Calle del Carmen in Mexico City, Mexico.
    Walking north on Calle del Carmen in Mexico City, Mexico.

    An elevated art walk on the Zocalo in Mexico City, Mexico.
    An elevated art walk on the Zocalo in Mexico City, Mexico.

    Proceeding across the street, I was dismayed to find the Zocalo square completely covered with a tent city. But, rest assured, this was no homeless camp–it was the scene of a huge book fair. Too bad I didn’t get to see the vast expanse of the square empty. A bit later, as I was walking by the Templo Mayor, a guy said he had just been laid off and asked me for food money. I was feeling generous, so instead of giving him cash, I took him to a taqueria and bought him a couple of tacos. He claimed to have lived in California in the past. He was kind of gnarly…and annoying in that simmering tough guy kind of way.

    Close-up of an elevated art walk on the Zocalo in Mexico City, Mexico.
    Close-up of an elevated art walk on the Zocalo in Mexico City, Mexico.

    Detail of an elevated art walk on the Zocalo in Mexico City, Mexico.
    Detail of an elevated art walk on the Zocalo in Mexico City, Mexico.

    Around sundown, I decided to head over to Plaza Garibaldi, where the Mariachi bands play. So, I descended into the bowels of the city, also known as the subway, where I waited in a long line to get a card or some tokens. Reaching the window, I was baffled by the fact that the clerk was issuing small tickets. I told her I wanted to go to Plaza Garibaldi, but she didn’t understand. So, I walked away to look at the turnstiles. Sure enough, people were feeding the tickets into them. So, I walked back over to the window, but the first few people blocked me, even though I had just waited in line. Finally, I threw 20 pesos in the tray and the lady angrily yelled something at me and gave me four tickets. I was stoked it only cost one ticket to ride–even including transfers to other subway lines.

    Another long block in Centro Historico, Mexico City, Mexico.
    Another long block in Centro Historico, Mexico City, Mexico.

    The Templo Mayor in Mexico City, Mexico.
    The Templo Mayor in Mexico City, Mexico.

    Exiting the subway at the Garibaldi station, I was totally bewildered. I didn’t see anything around the area that even remotely resembled a quaint plaza where Mariachi bands would play for passersby. Even though I had a map of the area on my iPhone and two different (but not-very-detailed) paper maps in my pocket, I could not get a handle on it. Long story short, I ended up walking around in circles and back and forth down a bunch of streets to no avail. I asked two or three different people for directions, but the plaza refused to materialize before my eyes.

    Lunch at a snobby, white tablecloth restaurant called El Mayor in Mexico City, Mexico. A waiter here rolled his eyes right in front of me when I said I didn't want a drink.
    Lunch at a snobby, white tablecloth restaurant called El Mayor in Mexico City, Mexico. A waiter here rolled his eyes right in front of me when I said I didn’t want a drink.

    Looking west down Republica de Guatemala in Mexico City, Mexico.
    Looking west down Republica de Guatemala in Mexico City, Mexico.

    Finally, I asked a couple of ladies who were exercising in a park if they knew where the plaza was. They said that area was too dangerous for me to walk through, so they escorted me down a block, put me on a bus and told the driver where to let me off. That was super nice of them. I guess it was good karma payback for those tacos I bought that one guy earlier today. At the third stop, the driver told me to get off. Luckily, Plaza Garibaldi was right there. For a short while, I walked around the plaza and shot a few photos of some Mariachi statues, and inside a restaurant where a Mariachi band was playing.

    A crowded subway platform in Mexico City, Mexico.
    A crowded subway platform in Mexico City, Mexico.

    A Mariachi band performs at Plaza Garibaldi in Mexico City, Mexico.
    A Mariachi band performs at Plaza Garibaldi in Mexico City, Mexico.

    Next, I walked up to a musician and he asked me if I wanted them to play a song. I said yes and forked over 100 pesos. Then about seven or eight guys came running up and clustered together. After tuning up for a minute, they started up a killer tune—complete with a lead singer belting out the lyrics. I was stoked I managed to capture the whole thing on video—despite the fact my camera battery was almost dead. After the dust settled, I thanked the musicians and made my way out of the plaza. Before I reached the street, a tout from another restaurant right there handed me a full-color brochure and tried to lure me inside. I told him it was getting late and I had to leave, but he would not take no for an answer. I really had to be firm with the guy to get him to back off.

    A Mariachi band performs at Garibaldi Plaza in Mexico City, Mexico.
    A Mariachi band performs at Garibaldi Plaza in Mexico City, Mexico.

    Aztec musicians perform next to the Zocalo in Mexico City, Mexico.
    Aztec musicians perform next to the Zocalo in Mexico City, Mexico.

    Luckily, I managed to find the subway station just a short walk north. When I exited at the Zocalo, I chanced upon another Aztec band very similar to the one I saw at the Zocalo in Oaxaca City. They were totally going off, singing, dancing, playing stringed instruments and wailing on a huge drum even though barely anyone was around. One of them approached me, gave me a photocopied Aztec calendar and asked for 20 pesos. It was worth paying to be able to shoot photos and video completely unfettered. After a short while, I had to head back to the hostel since it was almost 11:00 pm and I didn’t want to push my luck out on the desolate streets of Mexico City.

    Words and photos ©2017 Arcane Candy.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *