My friend Emily and I decided to take a day trip to Mexico City (the capital of Mexico) so we could have a chance to check out some of the art museums and other cool things to see around the city before we have to leave. The trip is only about two hours by bus so we left at 8am from Puebla and began our day of tourism. Our first stop was the Palacio Nacional which is located along one side of the enormous “zocalo” in downtown Mexico City. Here we went inside to see the incredible murals of Diego Rivera. It was beyond impressive to see these huge works of art that I have read so much about. I can still remember the pictures that Senora Mertz showed us in high school Spanish class, and now I actually had the opportunity to see them in person! I think that awe-inspiring is the only way to describe the experience.
Next we headed to Frida Kahlo’s house because Emily had not had a chance to visit yet. It was still impressive the second time around, and nice to be able to look at the art and notice things that I had missed the first time. After Frida’s house we took the short walk to the house where Leon Trotsky lived when he was in Mexico. The house has now been made into a museum so we went inside and took a tour. I really enjoyed the style of this museum because you felt as if you were just walking through the house and Trotsky had been living there yesterday. A lot of effort has been made to preserve everything and leave it all just how it was. Even his bathroom still had all of his things sitting along the edge of the sink! The tour was also nice, giving us a lot of background information on Trotsky and his political activism before coming to Mexico. The guide did tell us that he moved out of Frida’s house because he did not agree with Rivera’s politics, however we know the real story is that his wife found out he was sleeping with Frida and wouldn’t stay in her house any longer!
From here we took a cab to Museo Dolores Olmedo which is the huge estate of Dolores that has now been turned into a museum showcasing her enormous collection of art that she had purchased over the years. Dolores herself was more of a socialite with an extensive amount of money and a love for pretty things, but she travelled in the same circles as Diego Rivera allowing her to amass an impressive collection of artwork. We wandered through the rooms of her giant mansion looking at the endless Rivera pieces and other works by countless other artists. Even outside of her house was beautiful, with sprawling lawns full of peacocks and ancient Aztec dogs called “Xoloitzcuintle.” We had lunch at a cafe on the property before heading off to our next destination.
We managed to make it to the Museo de Arte Moderno ( Mexican equivalent of the MoMA) with half an hour until closing time. Since both of us very much enjoy photography we headed to that room first and were in our own little version of heaven. We had learned about many of the photographers in our class on Mexican culture and literature but we also discovered a few new ones that we really liked. We were actually allowed to take pictures inside so we saved some time by snapping shots of the placards with the names of the artists we liked instead of writing them down to research later. After the photography exhibit we walked through the section of painters which we also thoroughly enjoyed. Since the museum was closing for the night we decided to take a walk through the Parque de Chapultepec (Chapultepec Park) and enjoy some delicious candy that Emily remembered from her childhood in Mexico. We wandered for quite a while, taking pictures and people watching the endless crowds heading home on a Sunday evening. At this point it was getting rather late and we knew we would have to head back soon but there was one more thing we wanted to see.
The Plaza de Tres Culturas (Plaza of Three Cultures) was a place we had just finished studying in our culture and literature class. It is in a poorer area of the city and not a common tourist destination and all in all a place that Mexico would probably rather forget about. It was in this plaza in October of 1968 that a peaceful student march occurred, at the end of which the Mexican military massacred almost all of the thousands of students in the square. The government claimed to be “stepping in to break up conflicts between the protesters” however the entire march was completely peaceful and the military had shooters mounted on the roofs of surrounding apartment buildings as well as tanks blocking off all exit routes for the students. When students did try to run into the apartment buildings and escape they were searched for and rounded up and then executed with the others who had tried to run. The entire incident was kept quiet by the Mexican government since Mexico was hosting the Olympics in a few days and wanted to appear stable, but for those who witnessed it the day could never be forgotten. After learning about this horrible tragedy we felt that we needed to actually see the place where this happened. We had our cab driver wait for us outside the park and walked in to take some pictures and look around. Other than a small monument there was no acknowledgment of the terrible event, but standing in a square where you know thousands of people were gunned down is very eery. Looking up into the windows of the surrounding buildings and knowing that parents had looked out of those same windows, unable to save their children below as government officials shot from the street and from the roof, gave us both a very strange feeling. It was almost as if you could feel the sadness of the place and the losses that had occurred there.
After this last visit it was getting late and we were tired so we headed for the bus station and got our tickets to come home. It was a great day with lots of picture taking and art viewing, and we definitely accomplished some serious sight seeing! It’s sad to think that I only have a few weeks left in this country, I need to take advantage of every free second I have to see all the sights I can see!