May '13 - Feb '16
I got up early this morning and quietly slipped out to head down to Coyoacan, recommended by one my friends as one of his favorite neighborhoods. The metro drops you off a good ways off from Coyoacan, on the opposite side of a huge park, the Viveros de Coyoacan. You can’t actually access it from the metro side. You have to walk about a half mile along the perimeter fence to get to one of the three entrances. It was really irritating to me at first having to walk all the way around along a miserable divided thoroughfare, but I understood once I got inside.
A viveros is a tree nursery as well as a public park. This is where the trees are grown and nurtured for the city’s use in landscaping and parks around the metropolitan region. You want people to respect that and the plants and to preserve it as a destination rather than a access corridor. People have to want to go here. And they do. It was an amazingly beautiful morning, and the park was filled with runners and walkers on the soft paths, and also surprisingly, tons of other activities. There were several clearings filled with groups of martial artists, everything from fully kitted Kendo fighters, to jujistu, to karate lessons. Tons of people in their karate uniforms practicing and fighting and stretching among the trees. There were people doing yoga, calisthenics, even European broadsword.
In the middle of the park is a circular clearing where there were several baseball cap toreadors. They were older gentlemen, casually dressed except practicing the movements of their capes. Another guy wielding a pair of horns, played the part of the bull. They didn’t sadistically stab him with swords, but it was actually pretty fun to watch the “charge” and the swirls of the cape.
The park had a wide variety of species and densities and the air smelled wonderful with all the oxygen from the new plants. It’s easily one of my favorite places in Mexico City now.
Coyoacan was a separate little town until it was swallowed by the city. It’s got picturesque squares with and old cathedral, its surprisingly clean, brightly colored, several markets, tons of ice cream shops, cafes, bars, restaurants, and public fountains and benches beneath shady trees to eat your ice cream. It is a beautiful neighborhood.
I got a cappuchino first at Cafe El Jarito which was a really nice little coffee shop tucked into the corner of a triangular building. They roast their own beans so the aroma fills the air, and you enjoy your coffee sitting under the awnings on both sides on the sidewalk.
The markets were clean, nice, and had some seriously interesting things I havn’t seen at tourist markets so far. Ended up buying a simple leather band bracelet for $3. I’ll have to return sometime for souvenir shopping.
Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul is nearby. While not the place she lived with Diego, it was a house she was born in, returned to often, worked in, and died in. Her cremated remains are there in an urn. It was a really beautiful house with a lot of love for color, light, earth, plants, and indigenous culture. Her studio on the second floor is apparently just as she left it when she died. It’s also just a beautiful example of a house from the time period, with vibrant blue walls throughout the exterior.
The ticket was also good for her sometime husband Diego Rivera’s museum, Ananhuacalli, so I decided to take a train down and see that too. Diego Rivera was an interesting man, a designer of many ambitions and talents. The way the museum describes it, he amassed a huge collection of pre-Hispanic native cultural artifacts, pottery, and sculpture to keep in from falling into the hands of foreigners. Most of it is very old, some pieces from 400 BC or older. He designed a museum on a hilltop to display it, based heavily on both indigenous pyramid temples and a bit of 1930s modernism. It’s an ugly building, built heavily and omnimously of volcanic rock. The first floor feels like a tomb- it was designed to feel like the spiritual underworld. The good news is as you climb, the spaces become lighter and less oppressive until you emerge onto the roof terrace, which has jaw droppig views around and to the south, where you can see the hills and ridges and volcanos which arc around the southern edge of the city.
Urban and architectural explorations from Mexico City to Stuttgart Germany through the eyes of a iterant architectural designer