Friday, January 29, 2010

Finally Friday

It's Friday night, the week is finally over, let the weekend begin.

We (my gordo and I) sometimes feel like we never take real advantage of our weekends. Granted, after a stressful week, yucky weather, and over all exhaustion, a weekend spent in PJ's on the couch is not only justifiable, but sometimes even well-deserved!

But on occasion, it feels good to explore, see what's happening, discover something new, right? So what are you going to do this weekend?

Here are a couple of suggestions if you live in DF:

Explore El Bazaar Sabado (Saturday Bazaar) in San Angel. For the last 50 years, Plaza San Jacinto turns into a labyrinth of little shops every Saturday. From hand made jewelry, clothing, house decors, paintings, and Mexican handicrafts  - perusing through all the artistic offerings is a great way to spend a Saturday.

A recent New York Times article actually mentions this Bazaar as one of the 'to-do' activities when you have 36 Hours in Mexico City.

Aside from shopping, simply walking around this colonia is breathtaking. Houses from the colonial era still line the cobblestone streets shaded under trees making it all so romantic and nostalgic.

Take a break and grab a bite to eat at Fonda San Angel inside the Bazaar itself, or better yet, head over the San Angel Inn, which I hear is super famous for its margaritas.

If you wake up on Sunday wanting more, head over to Monumental Plaza de Toros Mexico and catch a bullfight.

Most people think bullfighting is really more of a Spanish pastime, even I did, until we went to see a corrida here last Sunday, but it seems that it is also quite popular here in Mexico.

Actually, many young toreros from Spain come to Mexico to debut their careers. They get practice fighting here first, so Mexican spectators even have a special cariño for Spanish matadors.

If you like bullfights, El Juli from Madrid is fighting this Sunday, January 31st. He is currently one of the best out there and definitely worth seeing.

Even if you don't live in Mexico City, I'm sure there is a local flea market near you that you can browse through for some great finds. Finding a bullfight may be a little more difficult though.

El Bazaar Sabado
Plaza San Jacinto 11
San Angel, Mexico D.F.

San Angel Inn
Diego Rivera 50 y Altavista
Col. San Angel Inn
56 16 14 02

La Monumental Plaza de Toros
Augusto Rodin 241
Col. Noche Buena

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Second Star!

The second installment of Televisa's Estrellas del Bicentenario is here! This one features the state of Tamaulipas:

In case you are wondering, Tamaulipas is almost in the middle (latitude-wise) of the country, but it's on the eastern coast, which is the Gulf of Mexico.

[Map photo thanks to Mexico Cronicas, click to view larger.]

If you haven't seen the first video of Chihuahua, you must check it out here.

It's not all fun and games!

You may have read my post about all the excitement in the air now that we are finally in 2010 and the Bicentenario celebrations can begin, but...

Here is a different point of view from TIME magazine:

Forget 2012. As far as many Mexicans are concerned, the ancient Mayas were being generous: the sky's actually going to fall next year. Why? Because it's 2010, Mexico's bicentennial, and Mexican history has an eerie way of repeating itself. Mexico's 1910 centennial, after all, saw the start of the bloody, decade-long Mexican Revolution, which killed more than a million people. And that cataclysm was precisely a century after the start of Mexico's bloody, decade-long War of Independence in 1810.
You get the picture. As a result, there's been no shortage of talk lately about possible unrest, especially in the form of armed rebel groups, erupting south of the border in 2010. But is there really a basis for concern? None as apparent as the popular grievances that existed in 1809 or 1909. But this is still Mexico; and while Spanish colonizers no longer oppress the country, and dictators like Porfirio Diaz aren't brutalizing campesinos, the country nonetheless is reeling from the worst criminal violence in its history and one of its hardest economic slumps. "We are very near a social crisis," José Narro, the director of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in Mexico City, said recently. "The conditions are there."(Will the world end in 2012? What the Mayan prophecy is and how the movies see it.)
Mexican insurrections often do coincide with important dates. Most recently, Zapatista guerrillas in the poor southern state of Chiapas started a revolt on Jan. 1, 1994, the day the North American Trade Agreement (NAFTA) took effect. A big fear now is that Mexico's drug cartels, responsible for almost 15,000 killings in the past decade, are lending their resources and firepower to emerging guerrilla groups. If so, their plan may be to sow bicentennial terror and turn Mexicans against President Felipe Calderón's drug-war offensive. This past fall authorities say they seized an arsenal of large guns and grenades allegedly being sent from the Zetas, a vicious drug gang, to José Manuel Hernandez, a purported leader of the rebel group called the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR). The EPR in recent years has claimed responsibility for attacks on Mexican oil infrastructure, including the bombing of six pipelines in 2007. (Hernandez denies the charges.)(See how Mexico took down a major drug lord and why it may not make much of a difference.)
At the same time, political observers like Denise Maerker, a prominent columnist for the Mexico City daily El Universal, fear that provincial governments in places like Chiapas, where the weapons were found, are using 2010 fears as a pretext for cracking down on social activists. "They're drawing questionable links between advocates for the poor and armed groups," says Maerker, who adds there's little evidence that Hernandez is an EPR boss.(See pictures from Ciudad Juarez, the most dangerous city in the Americas.)
Either way, the drug cartels have already shown they're willing to use high-profile national celebrations as a stage for narco-terror. Last year, during Independence Day festivities in drug-infested Michoacan state, narcos killed seven people with fragmentation-grenade blasts. Mexicans were rattled again in September when bombs went off at three Mexico City banks and another at a car dealership. No one was injured, but to many chilangos, or capital residents, the explosions seemed a warning of things to come.
Aside from inflated drug and guerrilla violence, another specter is unrest resulting from Mexico's deflated economy. Given its enormous reliance on the U.S. market — and on remittances from Mexican workers there, which have declined sharply this year — the global recession has hit Mexico especially hard. Its GDP, in fact, will contract more than 5% in 2009, exacerbating unemployment as well as Mexico's chronic poverty. A report this year by the Colegio de Mexico, one of the country's top universities, warned, "A national social explosion is knocking at the door." Said top Roman Catholic Bishop Gustavo Rodriguez, "We cannot separate the economic crisis from the violence and criminal crisis that we live day by day."
But while many fear the bicentennial year could galvanize that discontent, especially with the symbolic hype surrounding 1810 and 1910, Calderón insists the country will break the ominous century-cycle next year and make 2010 "a moment of peaceful transformation." Last month, he predicted next year will see "Mexico on a different trajectory toward development and progress." Calderón tried to get the ball rolling this month with a major political reform proposal that would allow re-election for Mexican office holders like mayors and legislators, a change he insists will give voters more power. It would still limit Presidents to one six-year term; but the move is significant, especially on the eve of 2010, because the ban on re-election was a pillar of the 1910 revolution.
Before Calderón can turn the bicentennial into a transformative engine, however, he has to get it jump-started. The economic crisis has forced chronic delays for a quarter of the more than 600 bicentennial projects Mexico had on the drawing board. Rather than being afraid of 2010, says Maerker, Mexicans are instead "just weary, especially of the economic situation." The year 2010 might not offer the fireworks of a revolution, but, unless Mexico can escape its general malaise, the bicentennial might see a quiet but dispiriting national devolution.



Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sunday Strollin'

If I remember correctly, I visited Tepoztlan on my very first trip to Mexico. And ever since then, every time we go, we end up at El Ciruelo for lunch. There is no better way to end the weekend than with an ice cold clamato con cerveza on a lazy Sunday with not a care in the world. And their sopes con queso de cabra* are to die for.

*these sopes are little corn tortillas (a little thicker than a normal tortilla you use for tacos) filled with beans and topped with goat cheese, lettuce, and fresh cream. Add a little salsa verde and you are all set!

In 2001, Mexico's Secretary of Tourism launched a program called Pueblos Magicos in an effort to promote towns across the country that are places with "symbolism, legends, history, important events, day-to-day life, in other words "magic" in its social and cultural manifestations, with great opportunities for tourism." The complete list of pueblos magicos can be found on their website, and I've also posted it here:

You may have noticed that Tepoztlan is currently not part of actual list, but it was one of the first towns to be added in 2002. To be considered a pueblo magico, the town must comply with certain requirements that are upheld every year, and unfortunately, Tepoztlan was not able to. Their prestigious title was removed last year.

Regardless, we still had a good time strolling the streets after our delicious lunch. To be fair though, you should be prepared to share the quaint streets with a million other tourists there to do the same thing as you. The Sunday flea market attracts plenty of attention.

As the sun was setting and the vendors were packing up, I added another 'to-do' on my never ending list:


I'm sure there is a completely different vibe without the hoards of people.

Zaragoza 17
Barrio la Santisima
Tepoztlan, Morelos

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

200 years in the making...

If you happen to live in Mexico or have spent time here recently (or if you are Mexican I should hope you know this) you may have gathered that 2010 is the Bicentenario - 200 years since the Independence of Mexico on September 15th 1810.

Mexican Declaration of Independence
Since we moved here 6 months ago, one of the first things I noticed were these signs that seemingly popped up everywhere:

Ruta 2010 signs are on highways around the country to mark important routes used by the revolutionaries during the fight for freedom from the Spanish Crown. The other stamp is on everything the government declares is part of the celebration; which of course is everything.

As we fast approach September (and if 2010 flies like 2009 did, that will feel like next week!), you get a sense that people are really gearing up for this year's grito celebrations. If on any ordinary year it is already a huge party, I imagine that 2010 is going to be a never ending fiesta.

As part of the preparations, Televisa is producing a number of short clips called the Estrellas del Bicentenario, which feature different states of Mexico. The first one out is of Chihuahua:

Now, doesn't that make you want to take a year off and go visit every place imaginable in Mexico, starting with running through el Desierto de Samalayuca with a flow-y white dress? What a beautiful country, no? I can't wait until the rest of the clips are available.

Lots to celebrate, but also a lot to learn. I remember studying Mexican history back in university for a Latin American Business course, but of course it is only hitting home now. I started at the Castillo de Chapultepec, but there are many incredible museums to visit around the city. If the cold is keeping you in your pantuflas however, check out the website of the Bicentenario for some lessons - and of course there is always Wikipedia.

Friday, January 8, 2010


Residents of Mexico City have been warned that tonight's cold front will drop temperatures to 3 degrees Celsius during the early hours of Saturday morning.

Officials are urging the capitalinos to dress warm and take caution. Schools today registered high rates of absentees. The traffic is noticeably less chaotic. People are staying indoors to keep warm.*

*which is almost pointless considering 99.9% of housing in Mexico doesn't have central heating.

As all this happens, I think about my brother, who this morning walked to work through the snow in -4 degree weather...and of my Mom sitting in Finland with my grandparents enjoy the -20 degree freeze.

Everything is relative.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

What did you get for Christmas?

Tengo que presumir unos regalitos. I guess the correct translation would be I have to show off a few presents - but somehow it doesn't sound as snooty Spanish!

As I sit here, my feet are all warm and cozy in a pair of fleece slippers that I've lived in since I got them on Christmas Day.

And TA-DAAA! I finally have an amazing, awesome, much needed, new camera thanks to my gordo! Yehay!

Much easier for me to handle around the city than his SLR. Safer too.

Uff - this was another great gift too:

We finally have our very own Girolle! YUM YUM YUM. We promised each other healthier eating in 2010, pero ni modo, tête de moine will be part of my life forever. Now it's just a matter of saving up each time for it - at $650 pesos/kilo, it's a small luxury.

For this last Christmas 2009, my gordo and I decided that to help make our lives easier, we would each come up with a WISH LIST to give the other. Sounds fairly straightforward, right? Right, so we decided on a budget and agreed to get back to each other within a week.

7 days before Christmas in the car driving around Cuernavaca:

Me: Do you have your wish list ready?
Gordo: Yes.
Me: Ok, you go first.
Gordo: I want boxing gloves; I'm going to join the gym in January and I need gloves. But they have to be Cleto Reyes gloves.
Me: (?!?!?!?-Who is Cleto Reyes and where will I find his boxing gloves?) Um, ok.
Gordo: I also want an iPod. I've never had my own iPod. I've always used yours.
Gordo: A PlayStation 3 would be pretty awesome too.
Me: Wait, wait, am I supposed to stick to our budget and buy all that at the same time?
Gordo: Bueno, that is why it's called a wish list, it's supposed to be items you wish for. A stretch.
Me: I know, but I thought we were going to be realistic so the other could actually buy what is on the list.
Gordo: Ay, dream a little. Your turn.
Me: Um, ok.
Gordo: What's on your list?
Me: I want pantuflas.
Gordo: Pantuflas.
Me: Si.
Gordo: Your number one wish, longing, and desire this Christmas is a pair of house slippers?
Me: Um. Yes.
Me: But since we are wishing, I'd also like a designer handbag.
Gordo: Aha!

And thus, my feet are warm...

...and I hope my gordo doesn't come home with a broken nose!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

3 Kings and a New we go!

Today is the feast day of the Epiphany. The Three Kings. Los Reyes Magos. When the 3 old wise men visit and pay their respects to Jesus in Bethlehem, bringing with them gold, myrrh, and frankincense.

Of all the holiday festivities over the Christmas season, I would dare to say that January 6th is probably the most anticipated and the most celebrated by Mexicans.

Christmas Day does bring gifts from Santa Claus, but the majority of presents for chamacos and chamacas (kids) come from the 3 Kings. Instead of leaving milk and cookies for Ole' Saint Nick (I personally used to leave him whiskey - according to my Pappi: last thing Santa wanted after trekking around the globe was milk*) - children leave grass and hay for the camels the Reyes Magos rode in on. Come to think of it, they should leave that for the reindeer on the 24th come only Santa gets refreshments? And...they also leave their shoes out in the hopes that they will be filled with goodies.

*you can imagine how long my fantasy of Santa lasted...deprived child here.

Growing up, I remember all the beautifully decorated mangers at churches and in front of people's homes over the it's not like this feast is foreign to me. However, Christmas Day was really more of the celebration during my childhood. On Three Kings, we would go to mass and then come home and finally take down the tree and all the decor. But no more gifts!

So in 2005, during my first trip to Mexico, I also got to experience my first Dia de Reyes - with the Rosca de Reyes and the hot chocolate and all the warmth of family and friends.

The Rosca de Reyes is a sweet bread baked in the form of a ring with a little doll (representing baby Jesus) hidden inside.

Tradition is that whoever finds it has to host a party at their house a month later for Dia de la Candelaria.

As we get older (I say we, 'cause I'm not the only one getting old dear reader!), January 6th has also come to represent something of equal importance: el fin de Guadalupe-Reyes!!! December 12th is Dia de la Virgen de Guadalupe; and the start of all the holiday festivities in Mexico.

Thus, for the next 25 days, everyone is engaged in a marathon of family comidas, end-of-the-year office parties, get-togethers with friends, and new year celebrations. It literally does not STOP.

So today - the Three Kings have finally brought an end to the non-stop socializing and holiday rush, some time to detox (at least a little!), and to once again start anew on all those resolutions we make, but never seem to keep.

Maybe this year...