We left Puebla and headed to Teotihuacan, 25 miles outside Mexico City, where we left Ruby for 6 days whilst we travelled into Mexico city and stayed in a lovely hotel in the old central district. There are complicated rules governing when you are allowed to drive in Mexico City and most of Mexico state, due to pollution, and the police are hot on stopping and fining you, if you get it wrong. We decided to leave Ruby at the campsite, as the easier option!
We really enjoyed our time in Mexico City, the most populous city in North America. Mexico City is one of the most important cultural and financial centres in the Americas. It is located in the Valley of Mexico a large valley in the high plateaus in the centre of Mexico, at an altitude of 2,240 metres (7,350 ft). It is the largest Spanish speaking city in the world. We visited the wonderful main plaza and its cathedral; the supreme Court of Justice which contained absolutely amazing murals about justice and injustice, the national palace with its Diego Rivera (married to Frida!!) murals and the Templo Mayor-ruins in the middle of the city which was the main temple of the Aztecs in their capital city. We also visited the public education building which was Diego Rivera`s first large scale mural project.
We had a couple of days on the hop on hop off tourist bus-visiting the important monuments in the City and Chapultepec park. The park was fabulous and we spent most of a day there, visiting the wonderful anthropology museum which was world class. It took us through the entire history of Mexico and contained wonderful artifacts. We also visited the botanic gardens and the castle of Chapultepec.
We visited the districts of Roma and Condesa-hunting out great street art and of course, we had to visit the Frida Kahlo museum in Coyoacan. I found this museum-housed in Frida`s childhood home and where she lived for a time with Diego and where she died-mesmerizing! 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. It is the most popular museum in Coyoacán and one of the most visited in Mexico City.
The Mexican artist Frida Kahlo (1907–1954) is now regarded as one of the most significant artists of the twentieth Century. Severely injured in a bus crash in her youth, Frida Kahlo took up painting when confined to her bed. Her life was changed forever by the accident and the portrayal of her body, wracked with pain, is a recurring theme in her paintings. Frida said that there were two accidents in her life – the second was her tempestuous relationship with the renowned Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. It is in her iconic self portraits, unrivalled in their poignant beauty, that Kahlo depicts both her isolation and also her indomitable spirit and sense of self. The exhibition also reveals the less well-known aspects of her work; her powerful political insights about national identity, the plight of the poor, the march of technology and Mexico's relationship with its neighbour the USA.
The museum consists of ten rooms. On the ground floor is a room that contains some of Frida`s mostly minor works. This room originally was the formal living room, where Frida and Diego entertained notable Mexican and international visitors and friends. The second and third rooms are dedicated to personal effects and mementos and to some of Diego Rivera’s works. The second room is filled with everyday items Frida used, letters, photographs, and notes. On the walls are pre-Hispanic necklaces and folk dresses, especially the Tehuana style ones that were Frida’s trademark. The sixth and seventh rooms are the kitchen and dining room. Both are in classic Mexican style, with blue and yellow tiles and a long yellow table, where Frida's sister Ruth stated that Frida spent much of her time. The two rooms are filled with large earthenware pots, plates, utensils, glassware, and more which came from different parts of Mexico. Decorative features include papier-mâché 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.
Off the dining room was Rivera’s bedroom, with his hat, jacket, and work clothes still hanging from a wall rack. Next to this is a stairwell that leads from the courtyard area to the upper floor. This area also contains a large number of folk art items and includes about 2,000 votive paintings from the colonial period to the 20th century, other colonial era work, and more Judas figures.
The two rooms of the upper floor which are open to the public contain Frida’s final bedroom and studio area. This is located in the wing that Rivera had built. The original furniture is still there. In one corner, her ashes are on display in an urn (she died aged only 47), which is surrounded by a funeral mask, some personal items, and mirrors on the ceiling. On her bed is a painted plaster corset she was forced to wear to support her damaged spine, and under the canopy is a mirror facing down which she used to paint her many self-portraits. The pillow is embroidered with the words "Do not forget me, my love." Her wheelchair is drawn up to an unfinished portrait of Stalin, on an easel which is said was given to her by Nelson Rockefeller. Stalin became a hero to Frida Kahlo after the Red Army victory over Nazi Germany in World War 2.
The tour of the museum ends at the large courtyard garden which is completely enclosed by the four sides or wings of the structure. The courtyard area is divided by a stepped pyramid, a fountain, and a reflection pool. These were built in the 1940s when Rivera first moved into the house and built the fourth wing enclosing the house. This wing’s walls which face the courtyard are decorated with marine shells and mirrors. There are also sculptures by Mexican artist Mardonio Magaña. One side of the courtyard contains the inscription "Frida y Diego / vivieron en / esta casa / 1929-1954" (Frida and Diego lived in this house – 1929-1954).
I loved it and spent a good 2 hours or so listening to an audio tour and even going back and repeating some of the rooms, whilst Gav whizzed around in less than an hour! He waited patiently for me outside and gave a little smile as I appeared with a big smile on my face and clutching-you`ve guessed it-more Frida souvenirs!!
We visited the colourful museum of popular art that promotes and preserves Mexican handicrafts and folk art. The museum has a collection which includes textiles, pottery, glass, furniture and much more.
Friday night came and we headed for our first ever Lucha libre experience. Lucha libre means free style or literally translated as "free fight" and is the term used in Mexico for professional wrestling. Since its introduction to the country in the early 20th century, it has developed into a unique form of the genre, characterized by colourful masks, rapid sequences of holds and manoeuvres, as well as high flying manoeuvres, some of which have been adopted in the USA and elsewhere. The wearing of masks has developed special significance, and matches are sometimes contested in which the loser must permanently remove his mask, which is a wager with a high degree of weight attached. Tag team wrestling is especially prevalent in lucha libre, particularly matches with three-member teams, called trios.
We had been looking forward to this all week and it did not disappoint! We purchased 2 colourful lucha libre masks and I (Jen) had mine on within minutes, even though it was incredibly hot inside it! We had front row seats and within a few minutes, were being interviewed for Mexican TV-although we had to speak Spanish!
Once the fights started we threw ourselves into it alongside the rest of the crowd. For the first 2 rounds I kept my mask on whilst shouting, hollering and screaming, and nearly suffocated! It had to come off so I could breathe. I got into it so much that when the fighter came out of the ring next to us, I leapt up and was shouting and gesticulating so much, that security came rushing over and told me to sit down! What a great night`s entertainment-a must do when visiting Mexico City.
We left Mexico city and headed back to collect Ruby from Teotihuacan. Before we headed off, we visited The holy city of Teotihuacan ('the place where the gods were created'). Built between the 1st and 7th centuries A.D., it is characterized by the vast size of its monuments – in particular, the Temple of Quetzalcoatl and the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon, laid out on geometric and symbolic principles. As one of the most powerful cultural centres in Mesoamerica, Teotihuacan extended its cultural and artistic influence throughout the region, and even beyond. We climbed the huge pyramids of the sun and moon and enjoyed wandering around the ruins for a couple of hours.
Next stop was to San Miguel de Allende and a reunion with our friends Fi and Ken, who we last saw a few months ago. We enjoyed the pretty city of San Miguel but the highlight was spending time with Fi and Ken and taking up where we left off with our card games and teasing Ken for his Americanisms! Their plans were flexible and they had decided to head back into the USA, before shipping to Colombia. We decided to travel together for a few days and we made a couple of camping spots together (at Matehuala and Monterey) before crossing the USA border at Laredo. The border crossing into the US was easier than our first into Seattle last year-however we somehow managed to miss Mexican immigration to get stamped out! We gave in our temporary vehicle permit for Ruby and will receive the deposit we paid when we first entered Mexico within a few days. We had to answer a few questions about our plans in the USA, then wait a short while to get our visas stamped. Car insurance for foreign vehicles, particularly old ones like Ruby, is incredibly expensive in the USA. I had managed to find a Mexican agent who insured us at a reasonable price for our final 2 weeks in Texas, which was a relief.
We spent 2 final nights with Fi and Ken-at a state park in Laredo and at a hotel in Cotulla. These 2 have become very dear friends and we know we will see them again someday.
We have absolutely loved our time in Mexico-it is a diverse, beautiful country with friendly and helpful people. It has a bad press because of cartel violence, however, like most people we met, we never felt unsafe. It had my favourite food of the trip-food being very cheap and incredibly tasty. We spent about 4 months here in total and would love to return one day.