I am failing at keeping my blog up to date which I think is ultimately a good thing – being too busy to blog. For the first time since I have started this journey I am in my hotel room before midnight which is also probably a good thing.
I have left Mexico City – I am now in Oaxaca. But I want to do a retrospective blog on Mexico City.
What to say?
Well. It’s fucking massive. I feel like I got to understand moments of it – snap shots – but in order to understand the whole, well, that would take weeks, months, a lifetime. From the Northern point of Mexico City to the Southern is 26miles – a marathon, and from East-West it’s even longer. Its population is one and a half that of Scotland – nearly 9 million, probably more now. It’s unimaginable in numbers and when you are there on street level you forget the scale but as soon as you are on a hill, or up a few floors, or in a plane you get an idea but still, it’s only an idea.
My time in Mexico City was in some ways simpler than my time in Tijuana. Mexico City is a massive metropolis, you can do, eat, see just about anything you want. So, I tried to keep it local.
One day we went on the ancient cannels in Xochimilco. A beautiful tranquil suburb of the city which felt like a million miles away from the bustling centre. It’s green, lush, full of wild life. On the weekends people go and rent a trajinera (boat) get pushed down the cannels for hours and get trashed on beer, on the week days – well, hardly anyone was there. I kept to my bottled water and just sat, listening to the world. It was beautiful. It made me realise how I miss nature if I don’t get to see her for a while. I felt renewed after my time on the water. To top it off, on leaving we saw a flock of over 30 pelicans take off into the sky. One of my plays – Swallow, has a mythical (or is it?!) pelican at the heart of it and so, they’ve become a rather personal symbol of hope. So, to see a pelican during this trip, well… if it was a sign, i’ll take it.
In the final moments of the trip we saw a young boy – maybe 7 or 8 trying to move one of the trajineras across the river. The driver of our trajinera said that the boy’s father had fled to America, leaving behind the boy, his mother and many siblings. The boy is either the only or the eldest son (I couldn’t quite translate) and he asked one day if he could work on the trajineras. So, all the other drivers donated a trajinera to him so he could learn and one-day work on Xochimilco cannels. I think that is a story that typifies Mexico City – kindness, danger, family and hardship all in one.
While in Mexico City I also got to visit one of my most favourite places on earth – the Museum of Anthropology. Prior to this trip I have only been to Mexico once and that was for 4 days in Mexico City. During that time, I visited this Museum and I wanted to make sure it still makes my top 10 things to do the world…. and it does. I love it. The first exhibit in the museum is about the evolution of monkey to man and let me tell you – there is something so refreshing about feeling insignificant. We are forever telling ourselves how important we are to the world, in the world but you know what… sometimes it’s just really nice to feel like you are the smallest link in a massive chain that is millions of years old. Geradro said he didn’t like feeling like that, I found it liberating. I think it’s okay to feel insignificant, if only for a moment.
One part of the exhibition seemed to be simply occupied with difference vessels that the Aztecs kept human hearts in… they were a war obsessed people, bloody and brutal but also brilliant and beautiful. Since I was a child I have been obsessed with ancient and indigenous cultures – this museum covers both.
The photo below shows the blades that the Aztecs used to cut themselves when they scarified themselves to the gods. The photo below that of the ‘cute’ animal was a vessel to keep human hearts in it. Blood, sacrifice and heart – another good way of understanding Mexico City.
While in Mexico City I visit markets, restaurants, folk craft shops, galleries. The food is amazing – though I keep it relatively bland due to prior food poisoning, the markets are an excitement of colour and culture, the crafts are beautiful and the galleries – amazing.
On my final day I visit a classical gallery with an exhibition about Melancholy and Mexican Artists. I find the exhibition a mixture of comforting and distressing. How universal and timeless melancholy is… I imagine even the Aztecs felt it. The second gallery is modern art and there is a beautiful sound installation which involves a series (maybe 50) machetes hitting off one another. It reminds me of a story I heard in Tijuana about someone being threatened by getting light off a machete shone in their eye…
Mexico City is wondrous. I love it. In many ways it’s not a city but a country. It’s VERY different to the rest of Mexico. People tell me that because of narco-gangs it’s becoming increasingly unsafe. One interesting thing is how UBER taxis have helped Mexico City become safer. Taxi’s were a known point of kidnapping and violence. UBER is cheaper, safer and organised in a way the yellow cabs aren’t – it’s making life possible. Which makes me feel less bad for using them in other cities… I should say I never felt unsafe in Mexico City.
I met some brilliant people in there – artists of all sorts, mostly people who work in theatre. They shared their thoughts and time with me – which I am very grateful. I also had the opportunity to see Ximena’s new play which was brilliant and ambitious and thrilling but I am going to save that for another blog… I have a lot to write about! And not much time… but as I said, I think that is a good thing.
I am very aware that I am collecting thoughts and opinions and images that I don’t feel like I can share in any useful way at the moment… but that too is for another blog.
What to say about Mexico City?
It’s monstrous and magnificent, it’s moving (forward, mostly), it’s blood, it’s heart, it’s ancient and ambitious. It’s fucking massive.