Sunday, June 26, 2011

Mexico City, Day 4: Six Flags

Back in March of 2010, I used Six Flags Over Texas as an analogy for Flag Day.

How ironic, or maybe just appropriate, that our first post ended up being one of a tiny majority to actually have a Six Flags.

TJ and I are theme/amusement park enthusiasts. When we tell people that we visit these parks during vacations abroad, they look at us like we're crazy fools who have wasted precious hours in an exotic locale. Maybe they're right. But for us, it's a day well spent. The food, the attractions, the theming, the costumes...they always give you just a little bit more insight into the country you have found yourself in.

Six Flags Mexico is no exception.

For example, the very first thing we noticed about the park was that, despite the gates opening at 10:00, there was no food or beverage to be found until after 11:00. This speaks to a culture that tends to have late breakfasts, later lunches, and horribly late dinners. Not something we've adjusted to yet, and we totally forgot to grab breakfast on the way. Even Vicente, a native Mexican, was getting a little restless for some yum yums. And if the, army...of birds that surrounded us as we finally sat down to eat are any indication, we were definitely not alone in our thinking.

The second thing to strike me was the cross-promotional material for other Six Flags parks. The only sister park to get any mention was Six Flags Fiesta Texas. This particular park is located in San Antonio, which of course is home to a large Latino/Hispanic population. According to the 2006-2008 American Community Survey, the racial composition of the city breaks down as follows:
  • White: 68.9% (Non-Hispanic Whites: 28.9%)
  • Black or African American: 6.6%
  • American Indian: 0.6%
  • Asian: 2.0%
  • Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islanders: 0.1%
  • Some Other Race: 19.4%
  • Two or More Races: 2.4%
  • Hispanic or Latino (of any race): 61.2%
So, clearly, Six Flags Mexico knows who they cater to.

The third thing that we noticed was that the labor-intensive attractions, such as the Batman Stunt show and the Terminator X, cost extra. Typically, price gauging of this sort is reserved for sky coasters and the like, but it seems to work here. The current General Admission price for Six Flags Over Texas is $36.99, compared to $30.98 for Six Flags Mexico. What this means is that a cheaper ticket price is offered for those that may just wish to bring their families to the park to enjoy the rides and not worry about the loud, violent, potentially scary shows (Note: We cheaped out and didn't pay extra for anything).

As for the rides, they were pretty much standard Six Flags fair. You have your mandatory Superman and/or Batman ride. There was a gravity house, which I haven't seen since I was a wee lad. There were bad magic and dance performances. There were overpriced carnival games. Overall, it was your typical amusement park experience...which accounts for the fact that we didn't take many pictures that day.

I know, I know. I should be ashamed of myself. But I'm not. I had a lot of fun, despite "almost" starving to death. And I got a nifty Daffy Duck mug and a Flash hoodie, so I'm all set for memories.

But I do want to share one last observation with you.

Mexican Robin is smokin' hot.

Mexico City, Day 3: Teotihuacan

If you were to head 40 kilometers northeast of Mexico City, or what we shall now and forever refer to as the "Gee-that's-pretty-but-I-sure-wanted-to-see-Tenochtitlan" City, you would run into a magical little place called Teotihuacan.

And if you're a sucker like us, you might pay a local guide 500 pesos to show you around. You might even be as surprised as we were to discover that this was 500 pesos well spent. We learned all sorts of things that the ravages of time will cause us to forget.

Established circa 100BCE, the city is thought to have lasted until somewhere between the 7th and 8th centuries, CE. In 1987, it was indoctrinated into the registry of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is the third such site we have visited since arriving in Mexico (see Post Labels below)

Our tour guide informed us that the Aztecs discovered Teotihuacan (The City of the Gods) as they searched for what would ultimately become Tenochtitlan, but that they did not actually build the city. It was already there. As for who is responsible for the construction, that's a question we may never know the answer to (insert spooky music here). All that is known is that some Aztecs sojourned forth toward Mexico City...and some stayed behind.

After the tour our guide took us to a small compound at which we were taught about the practical, non-Tequila uses for Agave. Apparently, it was both an early form of paper (peel the stalks) and needle and thread (break the tip off, thread it with shredded Agave stalks).

We then received a presentation about precious stones that can be found in Mexico (and the art that is made using them), after which we were invited to shop (ah! the catch!) their art gallery. We're suckers, so of course we bought stuff. Our friend Vicente bought a stone turtle carved out of obsidian, while we bought a little totem-man, carved from the same.

We then returned to the archaeological site, where we were able to climb half-way up the Moon Pyramid (Can't go to the top anymore because an old white lady fell down and died. Tour guide said that plenty of Mexicans have fallen to their deaths, but it took an American dying before safety regulations were put in place. Sad, if true.) and all the way to the top of the Sun Pyramid (I guess no old biddies have busted a hip on this one yet).

The climb, she was a tough one. Lots and lots of teeny, tiny stairs. All close together. Tall, yet skinny. It was kind of scary, and the hand rails are mega-flimsy. At one point, to get down, TJ sat on the ground and butt-scooted all the way to the bottom. Has a bit of a problem with heights, that one. He likes to keep it a secret. I didn't even know until Fall 2009 when he flipped out in the Eiffel Tower. He really likes to keep that to himself.


Above you will see the Moon Pyramid (left) and the Sun Pyramid (right). Our guide told us of a small metal marker that lies at the top of the Sun Pyramid. He advised us that, were one to touch the marker while holding an object crafted from onyx, one would receive special powers...which I will fully admit is our reason for buying our little souvenirs earlier in the day. Damn, he's good.

Below you will see the Temple of the Feathered Serpent, aka The Temple of Quetzalcoatl, aka the Feathered Serpent Pyramid. Standing directly in front of it is The Adosada Platform. The remains of over 200 human sacrifices have been found beneath the Temple, which was named for the beautifully rendered carvings that decorate its exterior.

Although it was both a religious and political center for the city, the eventual erection of The Adosada Platform, strategically placed to block the view of the pyramid, suggests that there was a shift in public opinion or religious ideology.

Speaking of a shift in public opinion...remember those powers I talked about earlier?

Well, after attempting human sacrifice, calling on the Power of Grayskull...

...presenting oneself, and stabbing each other in the back...we got nuthin'.

Maybe that tour wasn't worth 500 pesos after all.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Mexico City, Day 2: The Origin of Mexico

There is an old Aztec legend that tells us how the Aztecs chose the site on which to build their capital city, Tenochtitlan.

Huitzilopochtli, who pulled double duty as both the sun god and the god of war, visited the Aztec chief in a dream. The leader was instructed that he must settle his clan, which referred to itself as "The People of the Sun," in the place in which they would find an eagle sitting on a prickly pear cactus eating a serpent. And so they set out to find this very thing. If you believe in legends and/or ancient dieties, then you might also believe that they were successful.

Tenochtitlan was founded in 1325.

The approximate 5.2 sq mi city served as the Aztec capital until Spanish invaders captured the city in 1521.

If there are two things I remember about Mexican history, having grown up in Texas, it's that:
  1. The Aztecs were bad-ass; and
  2. Texas and Mexico have a very violent shared history (Sidenote: My time in Mexico has taught me that blame for this is placed differently depending on which side of the Texas-Mexico border you lie)

But we aren't talking about Texas today. We're talking about Tenochtitlan. Home of the Aztecs, the dominating force in Mexico's pre-European civilization. I had always dreamt of visiting this city.

Maybe I should have paid more attention in history class; Tenochtitlan ain't there any more. Well, not exactly.

Following the Spanish occupation, Hernán Cortés ordered the destruction of the city. Modern day Mexico City would eventually be built on its ruins. So, technically, I guess I've been there after all.

Here's what the original city may have looked like.

...and this is all that remains of this important piece of history...

Also, as if to add insult to injury, the one place that held any remaining hope of my seeing this once great city, the Templo Mayor Museum, was closed for renovation.

Oh, well. Mexico City is a wonderful place. I'm sure I will go back one day. And by then, the museum should be open.

In the meantime, I've discovered that what I PROBABLY always meant to see was another ancient city called Teotihuacan. And see it, I did. But that's a subject for another day.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Mexico City, Day 1.5: Walking Along Reforma

I suppose in hindsight this one should really be Day 1.0 and the Ricky Martin concert should be 1.5, but I wrote that one first and I'm not changing it, so we'll all just have to deal with it.

Anyway, sometime between exiting the plane and arriving at the concert, we found time to check into the hotel, nap, shower, and see a little of the city, being the super vacationers that we are.

So what did we see? Glad (to pretend) that you asked!

Our hotel of choice was the Hotel Emporio, located on Paseo de La Reforma. We reserved a room here not really knowing much about the area other than that it was pretty central to a lot of the things we wanted to see, so we were relieved to find that it was located in a safe, clean, and active part of the city. In fact, La Reforma is such a happening place that our first afternoon was spent just exploring this one street.

The Feria de Las Culturas Amigas bore a passing resemblance to April's Feria Internacional Gastronomica...but only in passing. Hosting 64 countries over a period of 15 days, Mexico City's feria easily overshadowed Guadalajara's 1 day, 20 some-odd country event.

Organized by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the event's purpose was to promote respect for cultural diversity, pluralism, and richness of tangible and intangible cultural heritage. That's all well and good, but so far as I can tell, proceeds did not go to charity, so Guadalajara scored some points there. But we were able to snag an awesome seder plate at the Israel both, so mega points to Mexico City.

As we perused the booths we had to dodge and weave our way through countless bicyclers, rollerbladers, and joggers. For, you see, this was Sunday. And we quickly learned that, as in Guadalajara, Sunday mornings in Mexico City are reserved for the RecreAtiva.

Basically what this means is that certain streets are closed off to traffic and opened up to the exercise-minded members of the community. In Guadalajara this takes the form of the Vía RecreActiva, which we have done a couple of times but has not found its way into this blog (yet). In Mexico City, it is called the Muévete en Bici, and consists of a 24km trek along Reforma.

The Fountain of Diana the Huntress (aka The Northern Star Shooter) was built in 1942 as part of a city beautification initiative. During more conservative times, bronze pants were actually fashioned for the statue...

...but she seems to be a bit more free wheeling these days.

El Ángel de la Independencia ("The Angel of Independence") is one of the most beloved monuments in the city and plays host to many events, both joyous and controversial. During our week in Mexico City, we saw both a PETA protest and a feria-sponsored rock concert occur at the base of the statue.

The monument commemorates the centennial of Mexico's 1910 War of Independence, and at one time acted as a mausoleum for that war's most recognized heroes. The bodies have been relocated...a subject that will be touched upon in an upcoming post...

..but for now, it's bed time. I must say, a month off from serious blogging, combined with the late hour, makes for one tired Aaron.

Hasta luego, y'all!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

We Now Resume Our Regular Broadcasting Schedule

Okay. Finally...FINALLY. I have rejoined the digital age and am able to ignore all of my real-life friends in favor of communicating with you wonderful on-line people.

Actually, maybe the almost-month away from the Internet has done me some good. We've been reconnected since Monday, and I've still been too busy with face-to-face human interactions to post a blog.

Went to a movie with a friend tonight ("X-Men: First Class," MUCH better than the previews made it out to be).

Cooked dinner for another friend last night (then contracted a bad case of the hope-I-can-make-it-to-the-bathroom-in-time's...fortunately, I was the only one, and so I blame it on the gas station sandwich I had for lunch and NOT my fine cooking, thank you very much. Yes I said "gas station sandwich." Who are you to judge me? I'm looking at you, Suzi!).

And Monday? Well, on Monday we spent an hour or so hosting the TelMex guy as he tried to figure out what's wrong with our Internet and phone line. It only took three weeks and 7+ calls to get the big galoot out here. I don't think he solved the main problem, but he definitely put a useful band-aid over the wound.

No plans to socialize tomorrow, whether it be with friends or handymen. This is a good thing. I just looked at the calendar, and realized that it has been exactly one month since our arrival in Mexico City. It's time to get some blogging done!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Epic Fail

Ok, so just as I felt recuperated enough to write something grand and marvelous about my trip to Mexico City (or, depending on your outlook, trite and self-important)...the Internet went and died on me. It's been dead for over a week now. Land line, too.

Telmex is the culprit. Evil, evil Telmex. With their monopoly on the Mexican interwebs, they are able to pee in your eye, offer you some sandpaper to dry it off, and still know that they will have your money at the end of the day. Service with a (sinister) smile.

They told us last Thursday that a service request had been placed for us. It would take 72 hours for a response, not including weekends. On Tuesday, facing another day without connectivity, we called for a status update. We found out that our ticket had not been responded to (duh).

But not to worry. They have placed another request for us. Our case has been elevated to a higher tier of customer service. We can expect a response in....72 hours.

We'll see.

In the meantime, I'm sitting at Starbucks, reminiscing about my first month here in Guadalajara. The month without the World Wide Web. What a horrible world to live in.

I could blog. But I'm too jumped up on Caramel Frappuccino.