At long last, I arrived in Mexico City. I booked a full month’s accommodations here, slowing down the trip to allow myself to finally get some work done on my heretofore neglected apps.
Mexico City is a monster, plain and simple. The city proper is home to about 10 million residents and the broader area to about 26 million. The city was originally founded by the Aztecs in 1325 and constructed on an island in the middle of Lake Texcoco. Hernan Cortes arrived in 1519, eventually capturing and practically razing the city in the subsequent siege. While the basic city layout was preserved by the Spanish, the Aztec temples were destroyed and replaced with Catholic churches.
As the Spanish expanded the city’s development, the city limits gradually ran up against the edges of the island. Lake Texcoco was thereby drained in the 1600s, upon whose dry clay riverbed much of the city rests today. This soft base is collapsing due to over-extraction of groundwater, which is leading to problems with flooding and wastewater management, and greatly exacerbates the damage that results from earthquakes.
While many picture Mexico City as a congested, polluted urban monster, I found that many pockets of the city are quite pleasant. I stayed in the Condesa neighborhood, an upscale and rather hip area featuring tree lined streets and an abundance of diverse restaurants, something unheard of until now in the trip. The picture below is of the street I lived on.
One does get a bit of monument fatigue here. They're everywhere.
The Angel of Independence is the city's most emblematic monument.
The Monument to the Revolution:
And pictured here is the Palace of Fine Arts, lit up during a light festival:
As seen from above:
While the city is quite pretty on foot, the traffic is the worst I've seen in all my travels.
Thankfully, the subway system is extensive and efficient and fairly easy to navigate.
The Zocalo, or central plaza, is the biggest in the country. A staggering amount of history has taken place within this space, having served as a site of art, celebration, and protest for 700 years. It is bordered by the Cathedral to the north, the National Palace to the east, the Federal District buildings to the south and the Old Portal de Mercaderes to the west, the Nacional Monte de Piedad building at the north-west corner, with the Templo Mayor site to the northeast, just outside view. In the centre is a flagpole with an enormous Mexican flag ceremoniously raised and lowered each day and carried into the National Palace.
I have a feeling this isn't the last I'll have seen of Mexico City, I really enjoyed my time there.