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.

IMG_2633

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…

Advertisements

Saturday morning in “la Roma”

How is life in Mexico City, the D.F., as Mexicans know their capital? People living in other countries have heard or read about the atrocities committed every day in this huge metropolis. To our luck not everything in this city is horrible. There are dangerous areas and neighborhoods where you’d never dare to walk or drive through either by day or night…

In spite of the millions living here, the rhythm of this city is different compared to big, not huge, cities in Europe, such as Frankfurt or even the small Munich. Does it have something to do with the patience of the Mexican character and the impatience of German citizens? Let’s see what to do on a Saturday morning.

In Bavaria life starts very early, even earlier on Saturdays. In some country sides, such as the “Allgäu”, Saturdays are the days to repair anything there is to repair: your house or car or bike or… It is also the day to go an get your car washed and to go shopping, either groceries or home appliances or cars. Shops open rather early and by noon you’ll be ready to go home and cook lunch or to go have lunch in a restaurant that will only open from 11:30 to 14:30 or 15:00, if you’re lucky.

And on a Saturday morning in one the biggest cities in the world? Well, it will depend on the neighborhood you live in and on your wallet. Nevertheless, life won’t start very early. At around 10 o’clock you can go and have breakfast in some nice coffee shop or “antojitos” booth or restaurant.  Mexicans love to eat and they enjoy eating out with family and friends. At around 11 o’clock you’ll find all those places very crowded.

Last week we decided to start our day with breakfast in the nicely decorated “Mercado Roma”, close to where we live. We took a taxi to avoid having to look for a parking lot in that area, that is usually very crowded. The driver left us in front of the Mercado and we strolled through the narrow corridors full of smells, sounds and colors.

Mercado

Mercado Roma

As you can appreciate in the picture above, before 11 o’clock on a Saturday morning you won’t have trouble finding where to sit. There are booths selling Mexican specialties, such as enchiladas, sopes and tacos. Other merchants sell excellent olive oil, different kinds of vinegar,  cheese and other specialties. There is a delicious bakery specialized in maccarones in several flavors and there are a couple of tapas bars. On that morning we felt like having some churros with cinnamon and sugar, some hot chocolate and a cup of coffee. They were delicious! We enjoyed the view to the inner backyard full of plants.

The market is called “Roma” because it’s in the neighborhood called “La Roma” or colonia Roma, with its South and North parts. The well sounding name reminds us of the beautiful Italian capital, Rome. If you see some of the mansions built here at the beginning of the XX century you may think that it is because of it’s beauty that it is called that way.  I also thought that way, but I was wrong. As I said before the colonia Roma started extending itself very close to downtown, el Centro with its Colonial buildings and Aztec ruins. The better situated citizens started moving out of the “Centro” and founded the new neighborhood.  At the beginning there used to be some “Romerías” or Spanish styled markets and “fiestas” of pilgrims dedicated to some catholic virgin or saint. The pilgrims used to walk all the way to Rome… So maybe, Rome is really in the name!  People started calling this neighborhood the “Romerita” or small romería, and the very short form “Romita” stayed and changed to “Roma”. (Info taken mainly from ” Time Out, Mexico Magazine, July)

After our stop at the “Mercado Roma” we walked the street called “Tonalá” where we stopped several times to admire nicely renovated houses. We also passed in front of the Institute Goethe with cultural activities and German courses… However, if you live in Mexico city and want to or need to learn German just give me a call 🙂

I told my daughter that my mother was born in this neighborhood and that my alma mater was located in the street called Puebla. We decided to go and visit the place. We continued on the “Tonalá” street till we got to the Avenida Insurgentes, that crosses the city from South to North and is 28,8 Km long. I really didn’t want to continue walking on this main road so I suggested a smaller street to get to “Puebla”. We passed by many different shops and even a Vegan coffee shop. One of the shops drew our attention when they finished opening their doors. Its a disguise store that has all kind of disguises in all sizes. You’ll find the traditional clowns, next to pirates, sexy ladies, Darth Vader, Batman and Wonder Woman and some aliens I couldn’t identify. They gave us their visit card and we left laughing and imagining how we would dress for our next event!

Our next interesting view was the church “Parroquia de la Sagrada Familia” or something like the “parish of the Holy Family” that was built during the critical period of the Mexican Revolution. It was one of the first churches in the neighborhood.

IMG_2571

Church in La Roma

We continued walking and I started wondering if this was the right street. When we got to the next big avenue, Avenida Cuahutemoc, I knew it. We had been walking in the wrong direction. I apologized and I suggested we should cross Avenida Chapultepec and go back in the right direction walking through the Zona Rosa. This neighborhood is known by is known for its shopping, nightlife, gay community, restaurants and bars. There is also a pedestrian area with beautiful sculptures and trees. In the 80´s the Pink Zone lost its flair and started changing color to a deep red with all its bad sides. Nowadays local business are trying to change it again making it safer and not that “red”. Let’s see, if they can. I hope so.

After some hours walking in the sun we decided to take a break and have something to drink. We started looking for a coffee shop and decided to take a sit in a place called “La Casa de los Abuelos”, or grandparent’s home. We got in thinking that it was a small place with its own bakery, but what a surprise when the lady at the entrance assigned us a table in the main hall. A big area decorated with big candlelights and pictures giving the place an air of  “old” or “like our grandparents saloon”. The fruit juices we ordered were very refreshing and we thought of going back to have breakfast some other Saturday morning.

After this well earned break we continued to “Puebla” street, but this time in the right direction. We got to the “Universidad de las Américas” and to my surprise the nice façade has been changed into a red wall. It used to be a very nice façade with a Mayan design that let you see a small inner garden and some of the classrooms. Very nostalgic I told my daughter that I had studied there and had taught English and Spanish here, parked my car in this street, had some Corn Dogs in the old TomBoy in the corner, which doesn’t exist anymore,  and that I had had a great time. However, everything changes, and I’m now getting to know my city again.

Have a nice time!