Cultural Submersion in Ciudad de México

For our week in Mexico’s monolithic capital we rented a small studio apartment in the district of Coyoacán, comprised of several cultural and historic neighbourhoods with many museums and plazas as well as (for us) the obligatory street art.

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Within walking distance from our place of residence is Cineteca Nacional, an independent multiplex cinema that first opened in the 70s. As well as more recent smaller releases there are plenty of classics that still grace the silver screens here and themed events are a regular occurrence. A Kubrick exhibition was on during our visit, which allowed Roger the opportunity to do a truly terrible Jack Nicholson impersonation.

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Also walkable for us was the Frida Kahlo museum, which is set within La Casa Azul – the house in which the artist was born, lived with husband Diego Rivera, and eventually died. Although not large as museums go, we spent three hours there without realising it and could easily have stayed for longer. It was quite incredible and humbling to walk in the space where so much pain and creativity had co-existed – and so many iconic images formed – many years ago.

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When we finally found time to venture out of our locality, we headed for the hip Roma Norte district. Its cycle-friendliness, leafy avenues lined with historic buildings and trendy cafés were quite the opposite of what you might expect from somewhere so central.

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On another occasion, we visited the Palacio de Bellas Artes in the historic centre to catch some ballet. Having not experienced the art form live before, it was fortunately gentle introduction for Roger, being a piece based on traditional Mexican folklore and dancing.

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As well as having a mighty impressive exterior and amphitheatre, the building also houses some of the finest murals by (amongst others) David Alfaro Siqueiros and the aforementioned Diego Rivera.

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El hombre controlador del universo (also known as “Man at the Crossroads”), 1934, Rivera

The streets in the surrounding area are abound with magnificent examples of architecture…

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… including the Palacio de Iturbide, a restored former palacial residence and now temporary art exhibition space. We stumbled upon it by chance, but were not disappointed by what we found inside.

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Arquelogia de Duchamp by Flor Garduño

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No trip to Mexico City would be complete without seeing Diego Rivera’s three-storey mural History of Mexico at the Palacio Nacional. Tours are available, and we learnt a great deal from our official guide.

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Left panel detail of Rivera’s History of Mexico

The palace acts as the current seat for the country’s federal executive (parliament) and contains many artifacts of historic interest, however the murals really take centre stage.

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Mural of the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan, Palacio Nacional, Rivera

Although the city is enormous and said to be densely populated, most of the areas we visited had a surprisingly spacious feel. Only the streets around the Zocalo and Palacio Nacional, right in the centre, were crowded. The metro got us around effectively and the majority of people we met were very friendly and happy to chat.

In spite of our dedication to overland travel, a combination of needing to make up a bit of time, the distances involved and safety concerns led a decision to fly over the border to our next destination – the Golden State!

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