Back on track

It’s been quite a long time since I had last exercised in a gym. I’m not the sportiest person but I enjoy taking long walks alone or with my daughter and our dog in our pretty neighborhood.  When I was living in Germany, in Munich to be more precise, I used to drive my bike quite often and in Summer I used to go swimming in a small lake close to our home. It is called the Olchinger See, Olching is the town and see means lake. This was also a nice walk in the Fall and during quiet snowfall in Winter.

The lake of Olching, Germany


I’m currently living in Mexico city, with only the Chapultepec lake close to our home. However, you could’t swim in there and the walk takes longer. After initially starting a new life, settling in a very different surrounding and feeling well in my job, I have finally  decided to start moving again.

In Germany I went for about a year to a gym that had training machines and offered some courses, like yoga, Pilates on the floor, spinning and some stretching. I got a trainer, who by the way was the father of some schoolmates of my daughter, and who skyrocketed to almost two meters of height. On my side, you have to substract half a meter to that measurement to know my height above the floor. So, well, this trainer, Peter, told me what exercises I should do and what courses I shloud visit. The training program started with bike riding, in a gym, not in the fresh air, which I accomplished bravely. The next machine was the so called ellyptcal trainer and as soon as I managed to get on the steps I realized that I was too small. With my strenght and lenght the machine didn’t move, so my trainer just told me! ‘leave it, there are other machines ‘. However, I had the feeling that everything was too big and I didn’t feel quite well on the torturing machines.

After more or less a year, I left the gym and my fitness plans.

Almost 10 years later, I have decided to give it another  try.  This time I went to visit the gym very close to work with my daughter, now 21 and a friend who works at the same place as I do.  She is  more or less my age and just a couple of centimeters taller… well, I think almost everyone is taller…    This gym or better this sports club, has everything from trainig machines to a small swimming pool, a tennis court, squash and paddle courts. Oh, and the very best thing, I can look at almost all of the trainers into the eyes, that is, they are not 2 meters.

On our first visit, we met our trainer, a young, short and very muscular guy with an American name. He asked us some questions and after having confesed that we hadn’t exercised for years, we got a simple cardio training program, walking, ellyptical and cycling all at almost level zero or 1.  He told us that after two or three weeks we should look for him.

The Gym 


Three weeks later and feeling very athletic, my friend and I looked for our trainer.  He had already warned us that we would have to train with weights. He looked at us and said: We’ll start making muscles… He gave us a printed training plan where we wrote our names and height (I still don’t know why the height). Our program consists in 15 repetitions of about ten machines and that in two rounds. Some of the machines have menacing names, like the Leg Press and other look quite menacing.  We started with the first one, continued to the second and so on, till my friend asked the trainer:’ Sorry, this is still the first round, but we are very respectable ladies, could we maybe continue next time?’  He looked at us with an amused smile and said, ok look for me next time.

A week later we got ot the gym and I looked for a dressing cabinet, where I proudly took out of my bag my new and shiny training bra. I put my arms through the bra and started sliding it down. At a certain point I couldn’t move because the bra wasn’t elastic enough and it got stuck on my neck. I started panicking, but thought of how embarrasing it would be if I started shouting: “Help me out of my bra!”  So with a yoga movement I finally got out of it and into my everyday bra, hoping it would really be a wonder bra and would help me through the training session. Thank god for modern lycra!

The day hadn’t finish yet because when I returned to my locker I couldn’t open it. Just some minutes before I had thought, what if I forget my locker number or the combination… and it had happened!  After some tries and even trying other lockers I finally told my friend that I had forgotten where my locker was. She looked at me thinking I was joking, but noticing that I was sweating more than in the previous training session. She and other ladies tried to help me to find the right cabinet, but none seemed to open.  I fianlly asked the person in charge who told me that I only had three chances to gues my combination or my locker. I was quite sure which one it was, so I pointed to the first one I had tried, and, yes, I was right from the beginning. The lock was stuck and therefore I couldn’t open it with the combination I had entered. When we got home we went directly to bed and could’t move till next morning… and you won’t believe it, yes, we indeed could move.

“We’ve got a ticket to ride”

Moving around in one of the biggest cities in the world may be difficult and challenging. The everyday traffic is heavy and disorganized. It’s like the jungle, where the strongest and boldest will be the first. Maybe not the first to reach the waterhole, but the first to reach the other side of the crossing. That’s one of the reason why on the weekends, I enjoy taking the Metro to go downtown.

In one of my posts I told you about taking a cab (“Where to, señorita” in January 2015), and also mentioned the subway system in Mexico City.

This time, we took the Metro and got our senses full with sounds, colors and smells, that are not always nice…  It was early for our Mexican Saturday morning and therefore the booths with all kind of supplies in the Metro hallways and corridors were either closed or opening. Some of these hallways are on street level and can be very long with stairs going up and down, some electrical. This makes me wonder how older people or people with a handicap use the metro, the cheapest way to travel… And I really admire them the most.  We took the first train in a quiet station and had to make the first connection. We started walking one of the corridors and we noticed different offers on the sides of the corridors: coffee and ‘no name’ donuts, some “tortas” and “licuados”. Tortas are white bread buns filled with ham or cheese, avocado, tomato, salad, cream and jalapeño peppers. Licuados are milk shakes with fresh fruit.  We also saw some mini stores selling everything for making ourselves beautiful while on the train: mirrors, eyelash curlers, eyeliners, curlers, hair slides. Another shop was selling every gadget on earth for cellphones, but mostly ‘no name’ items and very cheap. For those who love pizza for breakfast, there were pizza slices from Domino’s close to the stairs. After a good walk we reached the next train and jumped in because there is almost no time to get in or out of the wagon.

We found two seats side by side and so we could enjoy the ride… if you are not very sensitive or picky. The cars and seats are not very clean, and as some are from the seventies and are a little bit shabby…

A Metro wagon

I remember the elegant U-Bahn (subway) in Munich and forgetting the colors and the elegant materials of the German counterpart, I personally find our version more practical. The wagons in the new Munich subway are like a long worm with almost no possibility of support. The only support rings are high up hanging down from the ceiling… This keeping in mind that the medium height for a German woman is 1.71 cm!  Some of the seats in the worm’s belly are light in a kind of triply wood in a long row (not in the picture), so that when the U-Bahn stops  the last person in the row starts sliding to the front of the car and remember, there is no halt. It’s a little bit like taking a ride in the fair. Sometime the rides are not nice, and I have to mention the bad smell of some U-Bahn (= Metro) users.  in Winter because they haven’t take a shower or washed their coats and in Summer because … I imagine you know what I mean.

ubahn- muc

The new U-Bahn in Munich

However, as I have mentioned before, Mexico is a very colorful country, and the Metro itself is orange with green, or blue seats while the station pictograms go from pink to dark brown. It’s a very good system with attractive designs and colors so that one can easily follow the lines. I imagine this is also very practical for people who cannot read. One of my favorite names of a Metro station is “Indios verdes” or Green indians… The native American folks were a lot more world and environment friendly, but I guess this is not the reason to name this station this way. Is it may be because some Indians turned green with the smell and the filth in the wagon? No, well, it’s because of the two sculptures depicting two Tlatoani or high political leaders in the Aztec empire standing in a big avenue in the Northern part of the city.

In Mexico the political situation, the economy and everything, according to Mexicans, is very bad… However, we don’t lose the good humor. I really had to laugh seeing the sign for the toilets in the Metro Station “Taxqueña”:

Public toilets in the Metro station

Continuing our trip, in the wagon, the first thing that caught my attention, was someone shouting “Fresas con creeeemaaaa” and then “con creeeeema las fresas”. I asked myself how can he manage to sell strawberries with cream in the subway?, and exchanged a surprise look with my daughter. When he got closer I understood, he was selling popsicles!  My daughter and I didn’t think that someone could possibly buy such a thing at 9:30 in the morning in the subway, but we were shown wrong. Two young ladies sitting in front of us bought one “strawberry and cream” and an “arroz con leche” ( rice pudding) one. Well, there are no rules for breakfast in Mexico…

During weekdays you can find all types of people using the subway, elegant businessmen or businesswomen, school children, students, policemen, doctors, nurses, tourists and more, all  representing many of the social classes in our city. Every single time I take the Subway to get to Palacio Nacional in the heart of our capital, I see women making themselves pretty for work. I’ve seen girls using their mascaras and eyeliners with perfection while being rocked and shaken by the Metro. I have never seen one getting down of the wagon like a Panda bear! They are really good at it. This last week I saw a mature women sitting in front of me, who took out a make up bag out of her purse between “Chabacano” and “San Antonio Abad”, two of the stations. With one finger she sustained the bag, with the other two she took out a make up brush and used it to brush creamy make up to her face. I was almost in awe at the procedure. I had to get out on the next station so I couldn’t see the last result, but I imagine it was flawless. Maybe next time I’ll take note of some beauty tips, without forgetting the young girl with the metal teaspoon curling her eyelashes!

In every trip you may jump at the opportunity to buy sweets, peanuts, combs, scissors, tools, books, even anatomy books and creepy legends of the city, maps, hairpins, ball-pens, colors and really everything you may need in your daily life… and maybe even more!  The merchants are also very flexible and sometimes with one hand they sell one thing and if no one is interested, they switch to another thing that they have hiding in their plastic bags or in their backpacks with the other hand.  There are other people who give everyone something, for example a bag of soft candy and a paper that explains why they want you to buy and contribute to their cause. Others simply sing to do something for a coin or two.

Reaching our goal, we got out of the subway system at the Zocalo, or Main Square in the Historical Center of the city. As usual, the wideness of the area and the monumental buildings surrounding it, amazed me. It’s quite a sight: the magnificent Cathedral, the Sagrario Metropolitano, that is the small church adjoining the cathedral, the Palacio Nacional and the huge Mexican flag in the middle of the square.  On one side of the Main Square or Zócalo, you see a very long Colonial building, The National Palace is the seat of the federal executive in Mexico.

We crossed the Zocalo to get to the Gran Hotel de la Ciudad the México to have breakfast on the terrace with one of the nicest views in downtown Mexico City and to exchange our impressions of this entertaining ride.

Zocalo y Palacio Nacional

The “Zócalo” or Main Square with the National Palace in the background

I hope you enjoyed the ride!

Refugees and populism

This time I’m writing on a hot topic. Not hot because of its popularity, but hot because it causes controversies, pain and even war.

People tend to classify everything they get in contact with: colors, numbers, food, things and even people. How many classifications of the human race have there ever existed? If I remember the history book on Colonial New Spain, there were quite a lot. Now, how many wars have included racial definitions, belief or other human definitions as reasons to fight for?  What is race? What is religion?

We have all been following the press reporting on the US presidential campaign, either, if we are interested or not,  A radical and racist guy, we know who, is running a campaign to be elected President of one of the most influential countries in our times. In Europe, it’s not that clear because there are usually more than two parties running for elections. However, in France a party of the extreme right has been elected and has won in many of the French regions or départements. Germany has had a history of racism that caused millions of deaths is having again a problem that may have to do with the definition of ‘race’ believed by some people, maybe too many.   There is now a new party, the AfD or ‘Alternative für Deutschland’ a right-wing populist political party founded in 2013 that has won 7.1% of the votes and 7 out of 96 German seats in the 2014 European Parliament.  Some years ago, the Green Party was the third in the country and now?

In my opinion this party supports those old views and and is even worst than the New Nazis party. The New Nazis were mostly supported by young men with little chances in society, many unemployed or with bad paid jobs, with very little education. This has changed in the past years and the new extreme right is now supported by educated people and more women have been participating actively and have even got higher positions in this new party. If we look at the traditional way of life and the way families are organized, women are the ones responsible for passing their values to their kids, that is, to the next generation. These women and men are well educated…

(If you speak German, watch the documentation: Die Anti Asyl Front , http://goo.gl/KxgogV on German TV)

We my come to the conclusion that in Europe this phenomenon may be caused by the millions of refugees that have got there last year and the thousands who have tried it by sea in the last years crossing the Mediterranean and dying in the intent. This may be the case in Europe, but where are the millions of war refugees trying to get to the US? Isn’t ‘America’ an immigrant country or better an immigrant continent? I really dislike the idea of calling the US by ‘America’.  Since the 16th century people have been arriving there. Who were at that time the refugees?

I used before the word ‘race’, how do you define it? We are in the 21st Century, haven’t they heard about genetics? About the origins of the homo sapiens? about phenotypes? I have just read an article in the German paper talking about the Neanderthal genes that we all have.  Even in the same family, one child maybe blond and another have dark hair, one can be short another tall, one can have blue eyes, the other brown. What does this have to do with race and more, what does this have to do with nationality?  I wonder…

What is now happening in Europe, more precisely in Germany, where I lived for more than 20 years, is really shocking. On the one hand the arrival of more than a million of people with nothing would collapse any country and forgetting that not all are good souls, it simply gives me the creeps. Imagine that you invite two or three friends to dinner and they arrive with their families, friends and even their neighbors…  Oh, and they would stay indefinitely. I imagine that you wouldn’t be that pleased.

Germany, well, Angela Merkel, was the one who offered to welcome the refugees and to help them and the country started receiving refugees not only from the Middle East, mostly from the bombed Syria. However, Germany is already very crowded in a small space and the land doesn’t have enough space or schools or hospitals or homes for the people already living there. I don’t want say Germans because exactly using that term is what causes so much tension. Are only Germans entitled to live there? Who are those Germans? By nationality because they live and are registered there or because of their ‘blood’?  The ones living there, working, paying taxes, with children in school, or the ones whose families were there for generations and they may look a little bit alike? Are the first ones less ‘German’?

The current situation with a rise of populists parties all around Europe is not only a result of not liking foreign or different looking people, but it has also to do with the fact that people in the middle of the society fear loosing their status and their work gained position in society. This fear is exactly what those populists do, agitate people using their fears against those who are different or foreign.

I really would like to know where all this is going, but I prefer not to think and not to imagine… The scenarios may be horrible.

To understand a little bit more, you may read the following article: https://goo.gl/s8W0he

Years and age

What does it mean to you to get a year older? Do you feel the difference from the day before your birthday? In many cultures there are different celebrations for that special day.  Some people like to celebrate their birthday, while others prefer to forget or actually do forget it. In English the word means ‘the day when you were born’, same as in German ‘Geburtstag’, while in Spanish we simply refer to completing another year, counting up or down, ‘Cumpleaños’, one more or one less…

Birthday cake

An Austrian birthday cake

On that day, if you celebrate, you  become king or queen or star for a day. People congratulate you for being born (they should congratulate your mother…) and give you presents, not always. In Germany, for example, if you go out with your friends you are the one who should pay and they bring you the presents. In Mexico you should’t pay for your meal and usually everyone contributes to pay the bill. Many of my colleagues in Munich used to bake a cake and bring it to the office or to school. It is a real honor to bake the cake for the day. You may believe it or not, but in the IT companies I worked for the men were proud bakers, while many of the women simply bought the cakes. I did’t ask why… Men had the recipes from their mums or grandmas and I found that quite nice! The German culture is a cake culture or should I say a self-baked cake culture?  I wasn’t that good at baking and had only two fool proof recipes, but my mother-in-law had about ten times more!

Here in Mexico, you rather buy the cakes in the bakeries.  After more than 20 birthdays out of Mexico I really enjoyed this one. I didn’t have to bake and didn’t pay my meal 😉 Over here we usually sing the famous song “Las Mañanitas” that mentions the day that you were born was the day when all flowers were born and the nightingales all sang… very poetic! However, the poetic part gets lost when it is your neighbors who have engaged a Mariachi group to sing “Las Mañanitas” to someone in their family or to their sweetheart at 5 or 6 am when the sun sets and the birthday is starting!

In Germany there is a special hymn “Hoch soll er/sie leben, drei mal hoch!” Something like with honour should he or she live, heigh up, three times up! And if you’re not that big and heavy you may be thrown up in the air three times!! You may be very familiar with birthday parties in the US, there are many films and TV series that show you the celebration. I remember that the tradition of cake and candles is an American one… I hope I’m not wrong.

This year was a very special birthday for me. I felt that I had a accomplished a major task. I have closed a big cycle in my life and have started a new one. It’s been like beginning to write a new book, with some old and many new characters, some good, some mean… 😉 and in a different surrounding. The book I finished, was an exciting story with a positive ending. The one I’m starting is one with a good beginning and I hope it won’t get very rough (accidentado). There will always be laughter and happiness, sadness and tears, and all those emotions that make life worth living it. I’m very excited of what this new era will bring and I’ll keep you posted 😉

p.s. I like to celebrate with family and friends, but I don’t like to confess my age. However, there are always good schoolmates who remind you of it and of those good old times in Kindergarden posting the exact dates on your Facebook page…

Grasshopper’s Hill, the Carmelites and Santa Fé 

What a funny title is that. What do these words have in common? Some of you will already know what I’m referring to while others will know what it is. Last weekend, one of the quietest ones in Mexico City we decided to do some sightseeing in the city.

We started on the 25th of December to the South of the city and drove through an almost empty Avenida Revolución to San Ángel, which is one of the prettiest neighborhoods in town. This neighborhood is well known for its beautiful colonial buildings, its buganvillea leaning on the walls and its baroque churches. We left the car in an almost empty plaza and started our walking tour. On such a day Mexicans have a very late breakfast and usually visit their relatives to have the rest of the Christmas dinner warmed up, that we called Recalentado. The Christmas Eve dinner usually consists of dried cod fish in a tomato, caper, potatoes and chilies sauce called Vizcaina style or Basque style, remembering our heritage. There is a very traditional dish made of shrimp dumplings in a mole sauce with a vegetable called “romerito” because it resembles the Rosemary bush used in the Mediterranean kitchen. However, it has no aroma. These are usually very hot. There may be a real big turkey or maybe something else, besides the “Christmas salad” that has to contain apples and nuts. My grandmother had another version which contained red beets, oranges, peanuts and some sweets called colación… a strange and sweet mixture.

You can imagine that after these delicacies and a lot of noise present in every Mexican celebration, on the morning of the 25th everything is very calm… Silent morning, instead of silent night

We walked and passed at least two small squares full of Poinsettias and then got to a side entrance that didn´t really show where it was leading to. We entered the porch and reached the atrium with very big figures made of pottery representing the Nativity. We then heard people praying and a priest officiating Christmas mass. We got closer and went inside the church, a beautiful colonial church with a golden altar called San Jacinto. This church was built in the 17th century by Carmelites monks. This Catholic church has beautiful gardens in the front part and is very popular for weddings and baptisms. We stayed for a while enjoying the ceremony and the warm voice of the priest.

Yard

Inner yard, San Jacinto in San Àngel

Belén

The Nacimiento or Belén

We left San Jacinto and walked through the irregular streets of San Angel imagining the insides of the mansions we walked by. Some have enormous gardens where you could get lost in and many of them have huge libraries with all kinds of books…

We got into a small shop, the only one opened, and admire some handicrafts. However, we were not in the mood for shopping. We crossed the avenue and got into the yard of the El Carmen complex. This areal includes the church with its beautiful 3 domes covered in yellow tiles, the former monastery and religious school building. This monastery is now a museum and is very famous for its mummies in the basement. We didn´t visit it because it was closed for the holiday. But we will come back.

Leaving this beautiful neighborhood we drove southwards on one of the longest avenues in the city, Insurgentes. We reached a huge entrance that let us to a newer shopping center with restaurants, cinemas an amusement area for children, a Catholic chapel and a small park. This place used to be a paper factory, Peña Pobre, that merged with another paper industry called Loreto, so that they were known under the name Loreto y Peña Pobre. Nowadays it’s this new outside mall called Plaza Inbursa, a big Insurance company. Times change and investors, too.

We were amazed because besides the very big parking lot and park area there is this beautiful old central building with a light ceiling that lets in the light. There are the usual shops and well known restaurants, but they are well integrated in the area and we had a very good meal in one of those.

Next morning we had breakfast in a ‘Vintage Green’ coffee shop in La Condesa. The place is nicely decorated with wood, plants and wine bottles. There are vegetarian and even vegan dishes and we thought of coming back with one of my brothers for a gluten free meal. After a delicious coffee, hot chocolate, bread and eggs… for two, we continued our walk to Chapultepec park or the park with the grasshoppers’ hill. It was close enough for a walk, but the difficult part was to cross the three or four lane streets surrounding the park. Finally, we made it and got to the park. This is the biggest “lung” in the city and it has always existed. I mean, the area, the hill and the water were there in prehispanic times. The name is nahuatl or the language that the last civilization in the Mexican valley before the Spanish conquerors arrived in the 15 hundreds spoke. At that time the valley contained a huge lake where the Mexicas or Aztects built there first city in the 13 hundreds. The park the way we see it was made a park at the beginnings of the 20th century and the zoo was created. There is also the famous Castle of Chapultepec on the hill of the grasshoppers, that was the royal residence of Maximilian of Habsburg and his wife Carlota in the 2nd half of the 18th century. As we may remember, his reign was very brief and he was executed by the Mexican forces in 1867 in Queretaro. Carlota went crazy or had a monster depression and left for Europe where she was kept in a closed castle. There is a very good book telling this part of Mexican and European history called “Noticias del Imperio”, Fernando del Paso, who presents an accurate and interesting view of that time. More information on the Castle, click here.

To get to the top of the hill you can take a small train up and down. From the top you can get a beautiful view of the city and of the park with its small lake.

We went down and started walking through one of the main streets inside the park. However, we hot the feeling of walking in a marketplace of Asia or the Orient. There are hundreds of people selling their merchandise shouting to praise their goods: Globoooos, refrescos pa’ la sed, paleeeeeetaaas, algodones, quesadillas,,tacos and, and, and… My daughter just shouted: ‘ You made my day!’, when she saw the cotton candy machine and the cotton candy in all rainbow colors almost the size of a tree 😉 We had to buy a purple one that matched the color of her boots!

Chapultepec

Cotton candy and more in Chapultepec park

We then tried to reach the zoo entrance, but the many booths selling all kind of stuff to the people who were arriving at the park made our goal almost impossible and we decided to take a side way close to the zoo and left Chapultepec.

The third free day we had for the Christmas holidays we decided to drive to the Mecca of modern Shopping in the city: the famous and very popular Santa Fé neighborhood. It’s in the west part of the city that has become a very important business district. Many of the skyscrapers contribute to the attractive landscape with its original architecture. The Santa Fe shopping center is one of the biggest in Latin America. This part of the city is like being in the United States and it represents a big contrast to the Colonial Mexico and a bigger one to the pre-Columbian ruins scattered in the city.

Plaza Santa Fe

Santa Fe Shopping Mall

Good or bad, but visiting this mall you are not really shopping in the ‘Third World’. However, it also shows that the world is globalized and is getting very homogeneous… or maybe boring?

No cow, no horns

Have you ever heard of a city called “Cow horns” or something like that? There is a beautiful city only about 80 km from Mexico City, on the way to the Pacific Ocean, called Cuernavaca.

Who thought of calling it that way? Are there many cows around? No, no cows. It was the way the Spaniards in the 16th century understood the name of the Aztec town which was called “Cuauhnáhuac”. This means “by the woods” in náhuatl, the language mostly spoken in the central part of Mexico and that had extended to the South of the country reaching even Central America.

Cuernavaca is known for its fabulous weather, never cold, never too hot, because of its privileged situation. It lies at about 1510 m above sea level. That’s why in the 19th Century Alexander von Humboldt called it the “city of eternal Spring”.

Last week we went on a short trip to stay there for a long weekend. The highway to Cuernavaca is usually very crowded on the weekends so we decided to leave in the early Friday afternoon making a stop at “Three Marys ” or the real name “Tres Marías” at about 3500 m above sea level. This stop is almost a must for everyone traveling that highway. There are hundreds of small booths, or mini-restaurants offering all kinds of Mexican delicacies served in tortillas or in other specialties made of corn flour. We ordered delicious quesadillas filled with cheese, the classical version and that’s why they are called that way. You may also order others filled with potatoes, beans, chicharrón that is “roasted pig skin”, a very hot sauce and fresh avocado. I promise, if you don’t know what “chicharrón” is, try it, you’ll love it.

After our break we continued on the highway to Cuernavaca. The highway is one of the best in the area and, without consideration of some of the not so experienced drivers, you’ll feel quite safe.  Mexicans are very brave, proud and family loving. They won’t hesitate taking their whole family, including the parrot and the dog, to spend a warm and sunny weekend in Cuernavaca. They also have a deep faith in the Virgin of Guadalupe, the patron virgin of Mexico, and counting on her help, they will drive their old cars with almost no brakes… Don’t be afraid, there are emergency lanes in the highways surrounding Mexico city especially marked as “Emergency route for cars with no breaks” =:-O

On the other hand you’ll find some of the Mexicans on the other side of the wealth scale driving their powerful German cars or motorcycles. I always think that the Virgin always has to be very busy…

An hour or so later we arrived with no problem to our destination, a nice neighborhood South of Cuernavaca and we spent the afternoon by the pool with a perfect view of the valley.

On the next morning after an excellent breakfast at home we drove downtown. My brother was a little bit afraid of our sightseeing tour because there have been some violent incidents in the city in the past year. However, we decided to go anyway as it was during the day, not by night.

Our first stop was at the “Palacio de Cortés” that is now the Museum of the State of Morelos.  This magnificent palace was built by Hernán Cortés as one of the official residences of the Marqués del Valle de Oaxaca, himself, in 1535 and is one of the oldest residencial buildings in colonial Mexico.

Museo del Edo. de Morelos

Palacio de Cortés

The building itself reminded me of the medieval castles in Spain with some characteristics of the Arab architecture. It displays an array of objects from the prehistory to the contemporary rural state of Morelos. The most interesting work to me was the mural painting of Diego Rivera, showing the different stages of the “Conquista” starting from the arrival of the first Spanish conquerors to the Mexican Revolutions with its heroes Emiliano Zapata and José María Morelos. This Mexican state is named after him.

We left the museum with a mixed feeling of proudness and shame, and maybe only my Mexican readers will know what I mean…

We continued walking one of the main streets and entered a recent opened museum for modern Mexican Indian folk art, (Mmmmh, how do I translate this: Museo de arte Indígena Contemporáneo?)  It was too new and only the shop and the library were open. What a pity!

We walked to the Cathedral of Cuernavaca, dedicated to the assumption of Mary (la Asunción de María) that was built as a convent in 1537. We were quite shocked with the masses of young people and the food booths in the yard, but what shocked us the most was the pop music that was being played with very loud bass tones.

Yard

Inner yard

IMG_2616

The Cathedral

We walked through the gardens and entered the main building. What a surprise! There are very old wall paintings depicting the missionaries on their ships and boats cruising the ocean to the Americas.  We could also appreciate the first “Mexican” cherubs in the walls. The indians had to learn the sculpting techniques used in Europe at that time, 16th century, and decorated the monuments, created in the Viceroyalty of New Spain (Virreinato de la Nueva España), that way. Some of the oldest ones are found here.

cherubs

Cherubs in the New World

However, it is a shame that the Catholic church abuses its power and organizes such big events in the Cathedral. Unfortunately, people don’t realize that they are destroying our historical patrimony with their parties. They had extremely loud music with the loudest speakers and sound mixing machines under the arches of the main building making everything vibrate and reverberate, not only our stomachs. Besides that, they also took down a wooden sculpture of a saint with no care, damaging the fragile wooden hands. It is valid to try to engage the youngsters and to give strength to their faith, but aren’t there any other safer places in town?

Worried and fascinated we left the Cathedral to walk to the “Jardínes de la Borda”, a nice house with a magnificent garden with all kinds of flowers and plants of the region. They were originally built by a rich miner José de la Borda of Taxco, the Silver City. This big house with its gardens were used later on as the weekend house of Maximilian of Habsburg and Charlotte of Belgium, later of Mexico. Though they couldn’t enjoy their residence for a long time…

It was quite hot and sunny so we decided to take a break and have lunch at a nice restaurant, called Hidalgo, just in front of the museum. I was a little skeptical because very often the eating places close to main attractions are not the best ones. However, I trusted my brother and we went there. It was the best choice we could have made! The food was excellent and we sat outside with a nice view of the Palacio de Cortés and to the small plaza next door. We had the best “sopes” ever! Sopes are made of corn flour, but they are smaller and thicker than tortillas. Some were mixed with black beans and other were mixed with baked banana, simply delicious! We also had some tacos with salmon “pastor style” and as a main course white fish in a mango sauce cooked in a big banana leaf and some tender grilled beef with guacamole. All this with a light rosé Mexican wine. Excellent!

Afterwards we decided not to walk very far, we couldn’t have done it after our meal 😉 We stayed for a while in the plaza with huge trees enjoying the live music, the dancing people, the smells of corn and sweets and the fair that took place there that weekend.

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Sweet and more in the plaza

We got home very happy with our tour and continued talking about what we had seen by the pool…