Published: October 28th 2012October 26th 2012
SEP Courtyard of the Fiestas
A scenic courtyard with a statue of Benito Juarez and a young boy. A plaque below uses a quote explaining the power of education to the "heat of a man."
This morning I landed in Mexico City. My first surprise came when I turned on my phone and found out that I have service with Verizon. I don't have a Blackberry or Iphone or anything similar so I was shocked. Anyways, I made it safely to my hotel in the Historic Center (Centro Historico) and was ready to go out and explore.
Mexico City is quite different than any other city I visited before. First of all, it is very crowded and you can't help but bump into people everywhere you walk. It is also a city torn between tradition and extreme liberal progressivism that has been fostered by globalization and free-trade. There were more emo kids, punk rockers, tattoos, body piercings, gay and lesbians, and couples who seem willing to make out anywhere (especially in front of Diego Rivera murals) than I have seen in most U.S. and even European cities. Then there are the people who fill the cathedrals throughout the day gripping rosaries in prayer, and indigenous natives that still perform ancient rituals inside the Zocalo and in front of the National Palace. Moreover, Seven Eleven convient stores are juxtaposition alongside hole-in-the-wall mom and pap
At the Arsenal
One of Diego Rivera's many masterpiece murals
taco joints and Wal-Marts nearly border giant Mexican market places. Mexico City has appeared to somehow find a near perfect balance between upholding tradition and embracing globalization. This I think is the primary reason why Mexico City has left a unique first impression on me.
My plan for today was to independently visit some of the famous murals which are located throughout the city. Mexico's three most famous muralists are Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco, and David Siqueiros. All did works around the same time beginning in the 1920s, although Siqueiros was a bit later. They did, however, have very different outlooks which thus influenced their works, with Rivera ultimately having a more optimistic outlook than either of the other two.
The places I visited today for murals were the College of San Ildefonso, SEP (the public education building), National Palace, El Palacio de Bellas Artes, and the Museum of Diego Rivera.
The SEP was by far my favorite location for seeing murals. Unlike the other locations there were few tourists because it is not considered a main tourist attraction and it is not a designated museum. In fact, it is
a work location, free of charge, consisting of two courtyards surrounded by three stories of offices. SEP murals were primarily those of Diego Rivera completed in the mid to late 1920s. After Rivera completed his first public mural at the College of San Ildefonso, his earliest collection of public murals was painted here. The theme of the murals at the SEP illuminate the workers struggles coupled with the relative ease of life for the wealthy. This is depicted in his Entry Into the Mine and The Sugar Mill
murals which both show the backbreaking labor of the working class. Contrast this with the wealthy drinking Champaign while taking part in a luxurious dinner in his Wall Street Banquet
mural and you can see just how divided the classes were. Diego Rivera's political beliefs were especially displayed in another SEP mural called At the Arsenal.
In this particular mural a flag with the hammer and sickle is displayed in the background and revolutionary activist and Italian photographer, Tina Modotti, is pictured on the far right handing ammunition to Julio Mella, founder of the international Cuba Communist Party. Rivera was a member of the communist party and Russian communist Leon Trotsky actually
lived with him for awhile.
Rivera also managed to create murals depicting different festivities in Mexico. These are primarily in the SEPs Courtyard of the Fiestas and include pictured events like Day of the Dead, the corn harvest, and the Festival of the Redistribution of Land. Overall, this was a beautiful place and I would highly recommend.
I will also highly recommend seeing Diego Rivera's Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park.
This mural depicts the "wealthy only" Alameda Park being occupied by dozens of famous Mexican citizens as well as others who only represent the class differences. Orozco's, The Catharsis,
stands out for its sticking bright colors as well as for the creepy face on the dead woman who is actually a prostitute. Man at the Crossroads
by Rivera is quite famous although the only reason I mention it here is because of the history behind it. It was first designed to be in the Rockefeller Center but it was destroyed because of its portrait of Lenin (pictured on the bottom right area). Rivera re-created the work and it is now in the Palacio de Bellas Artes and now named, Man Controller of the Universe.
While viewing murals made for a memorable experience so too did watching a break dancing competition as well as sampling tasty tacos and burgers from street vendors and quick eateries. The break dancing was awesome and these dudes could also pull off some crazy stunt positions. I gave the best one $50 pesos (like $4) so that was my good deed of the day! And for those that don't know, the typical hand-out is between $1 and $10 pesos so I'm not cheap.
As far as tacos go my favorite so far has been "tacos de chicharrones" (pork skin), with a few habanera peppers and some spicy salsa verde. The tacos are small but you can't beat 5 tacos for less than $2. The atmosphere is also "muy tranquilo" and when locals see a tourist sitting at a street vendor stall eating the food, they love to start conversations. I must add, it's also fun drinking a 7 Up out of a glass bottle, something that is not common in the U.S (neither glass bottles nor 7 Up). I did try a hamburger from a roadside stand and it was
The place with the umbrella was where I went. It is located near the Zocalo but most tourist don't stop by. Awesome tacos de chicharrones!
actually very good and to make my mom happy it was cooked well done! Of course my instinct to stop in 7-11 and get a Gatorade and candy has gotten the better of me twice today, but I'm only doing what most Mexicans seem to do.
Upcoming Blog: I never like to fully plan any day but tomorrow I plan on spending time at the world famous Mexican Anthropology Museum and then try to explore a few neighborhoods in order to get a better feel for the city.
There are more photos below