Mexico City Family travel is a whole different experience than travel for work, as it should be. My crew has a variety of objectives. For some it’s art. For others it’s about fun and something going on all the time. For others it’s about rest and relaxation. Shopping in local markets is high on the list for some and nowhere for others. For all, it’s about negotiating compromises, finding balance, and searching for middle ground: good luck with that!
Usually when I’ve visited Mexico City in recent years, it has to do with the Neza where we organize or our remittance campaign or several years ago a meeting of our international staff or various conferences with Enlace or others. My first experiences in Mexico City though were as a tourist over Thanksgiving in 1974, more than 40 years ago. We stayed in the Zona Rosa then, rather than a neighborhood like Colonia Roma Sur now. There was no Airbnb or Uber. We took a bus to see the pyramids not far out of town one day and a bus to Taxco, the famous silver mining town, another day. Our biggest adventure involved my father and I taking several buses to Coyoacan, a city suburb of sorts then, but now one of the thoroughly integrated sixteen boroughs of the DF, the Federal District. We visited the home where Frieda Kahlo and Diego Rivera lived and then walked nearby to visit the house where Leon Trotsky lived and was assassinated in exile from Russia after the internecine conflicts of the Russian Revolution. In both homes, we had the run of the place, and were virtually the only visitors. Now, when some of my crew visited and even though they had bought tickets online they were on the street for 45 minutes, walked through the house cheek to jowl with many others, and could not get near many areas of the house that my father and I had enjoyed with free rein.
That is not to say that Mexico City has gone from exotic to banal. Mexico City it a great place to visit in many ways because of its size and immense diversity and possibility of all kinds. A visit to the Instituto Nacional de Antropologia Historica in Chapultepec Park is mandatory for example, and having been there many times, I still feel like I have never seen the whole museum. In more modern art museums, I like the political art. The displays of work by Golub in the Museo Tamayo, the modern art museum not far away from the Anthropology museum, was powerful, and like all political art, disturbing. For the first time I visited the Museo Dolores Olmedo in Xochimilco this trip. The peacocks and hairless Mexican dogs in beautiful grounds almost trumped the rest of the displays, but even in this setting of opulent wealth it was hard to strip out Kahlo and Rivera’s hard line politics or pretend that Rivera’s almost cartoonish paintings from his visit to Russia did not spring from his commitment to Communism. The museum had also wisely leavened the iconic displays there with dramatic folk art and intricate religious sculptures. It is impossible not to forgive most of these institutions for charging a special fare to foreigners.
Truth to tell, I had never been on a flatboat, poled along the canals of Xochimilco, that millions of tourists count as a treat, and we got a kick out of that as well, even knowing full well we were being skinned alive on the price. But, hey, everyone has to make a living!
It’s the small things. You can even find art and expression in the markets and everywhere on the streets of the city. Avoid the water, don’t eat salads, get used to the altitude at a mile high, and ignore the pollution if you can, and Mexico City is always a special treat.