A trip to Taxco (3 hours south) to see the ornate gold-leaf ornamentation of the carvings and architecture of the Santa Prisca church rewards the visitor with its decorative Baroque architecture but a view of a relatively unspoiled mountain town, quiet, pedestrian, filled with reflections of jewelry displayed in every window and mined underneath the town itself. Here you will also find real Mexican crafts, colorful masks and baskets, not the Taiwanese souvenirs that seem have invaded other cities.
Travel north four hours and visit San Miguel de Allende, a colonial city that is home to many American expatriates. A brief negotiation with a taxi and you can visit the Atontonilco church nearby. It was from here that Padre Hidalgo took the banner of the Virgin of Guadalupe that became the flag of the Mexicans in the War of Independence. Six chapels with murals. The cappelli, inundated with baroque silverwork, the posterior alter room, circumscribed by the apostles are a hidden masterwork at the end of a bumpy cobblestone road. There are few building in this pueblacita other than this parish house and supporting structures. The isolation and beauty of this gleaming white plastered exterior, framing the gold and silver within, is one of the more remarkable discoveries in Mexico. Buy one of the most unusual souvenirs, key chains that are tiny replicas of the coarse whips were used by Atontonilco pilgrims to flagilate themselves.
Further east, approximately 450 kilometers east is Veracruz , the first town founded by the Spanish in Mexico on 1519. and the Castillo de San Juan de Ulua (accent over second u). This fortress once protected, or tried to protect a city of now one million inhabitants. San Juan de Ulua is now threatened by the encroachment of the sea, the undercutting of the foundations by the corrosive tides, and the encirclement of the activity of the harbor as monumental cranes describe the perimeter of the skyline surrounding the fort. In addition to being a fort with the first lighthouse in the Americas, it has some frightening remains of a prison, including a stone chair carved out of one wall, where prisoners were chained and a fire was built underneath them. The center square is charming, where dances are held on the weekends. Couples, both old and young, gracefully execute their steps on the marble plaza. Have breakfast at the Cafe de la Parroquia where the waiter pour hot milk in a flowing stream into your coffee.
Here as in several other locations such as Chiapas and Chiuhaua, the World Monument’s Fund focuses the attention of the world, and injects funding to halt erosion, collapse and eventually rehabilitates and restores these sites.
A diverse and exciting itinerary can be formed by simply picking up a list of these locations from their offices in New York.
In the midst of the centuries of cultural development, little can equal the memory of Senorita Por Favor. A simple working woman, stretching her tired body hands linked as she stretches and pulls her arms above her head and 180 degrees to the rear. This while accompanied by a limbering of her Achilles tendons as she rises from the loft of her already heady six inch heels. Here the lovely Senorita references the mysteries of the building of the pyramids of the sun, of the moon as the viewer must wonder about the substructure that supports such power, tension, architecture and virtual torque. This is architecture to be admired from a different aesthetic viewpoint, but miraculous none-the-less.
Mexico City is the capital of a foreign country and a foreign culoture, make no mistake. Take for example the restaurant, El Sabor del Grito—The flavor of the cry or scream—The TV monitor centered on the open wound, the dark cavity, probed by surgical steel, yielded endless feet of intestine, glistening, drops of blood clinging to the whiteness, the fat moisture glistening as feet yielded to yards and the organic material kept coming as the surgeon pulled to find the tear, the rip to be sewn, the wound repaired. Just at the moment of discovery, the waiter served my dinner. Upstairs, the matador, Gleason was being interviewed, as he sat at the dais, watching and narrating the surgery on the screen. In front of him, his suit of lights was propped in homage on a chair, in the middle of the room, surrounding the monitor, the matador, the suit sat 50 matadors, in rapt attention to the narrative, while eating their dinners, drinking their beers.
In Mexico, TVs are in nearly every restaurant. The soaps are on in the finest seafood restaurants, the football games are watched through the smoke of the grill serving 5 tacos for 15 pesos, food stand on wheels, lit by a bare bulb, at the corner of Insurgentes and Reforma. The surgery accompanies the enchiladas at “The flavor of the cry.” It’s not a bad idea to take a Pepto-Bismol each morning to act as a preventative…..but do check with your physician and remember bottled water or bottled liquids is standard, and remmber the words “sin hielo, without ice.”
From the pre-Columbian Indian Civilizations to the wonders of the modern physicality, fashion and style of the local citizenry, Mexico is a country that is too often over-looked, too frequently “slammed” by the cliches presented to off-handedly, casually to discourage. It is unjustified. Open your eyes to the charm of the Mexico, the rewards are ample. If only they would shut off the TV during dinner.
If You Go
Mexicana, Delta, Continental, American; avoid AeroMexico
Hotels in Mexico City-Fiesta Americana Reforma ($100+/night for a double). Reforma 80
06600 Mexico D.F.
beautiful, exemplary service hotel. A great clean, safe salad bar in their CAFÉ REFORMA coffee shop. (After a week of cautious eating most Californians will find this an oasis of roughage.)
Veracruz-Hotel Imperial, Located in the center of the zocolo, balconies overlooking the endless parade of locals and tourists on weekend nights, one of the oldest, most beautiful elevators in Mexico. Architecture lovely, but rooms smell like a combination of insecticide, mildew and mold in a cocktail shaker of air-conditioning. Rooms approx. $40/night. Miguel Lerdo 157. Tel 011-52-29-32-12-04
Taxies are about 100 pesos ($11) from the airport to town (fixed price)
Tourist taxis in Mexico City are the highest prices, set rates and negotiated, green and white Volkswagen taxis are cheap (The front passenger seat is always removed to allow entry for the two passengers in back. Make sure the driver uses the meter and doesn’t have it on a speed-reading setting.
Minibuses go up and down Reforma for 2 pesos (22 cents) a person, no matter what the distance. The distance buses are a normal mode of transportation to places such as San Miguel of Teotihuacan, either first or second class, they are comfortable alternatives to flying for the shorter hauls. Bottled water and all intestinal precautions are a must. A little common sense and most tourist discomforts can be avoided.