It is well known that Mexico is a land of contrasts and this fact finds its origin in the capital, where folklore and indigenous roots are mixed with modern buildings and the finest restaurants of the moment. Today we come to the south of the city through the Insurgentes Avenue to get to the University Museum of Contemporary Art (MUAC), where we are meeting with Mexican writer Amélie Olaíz, in one of her favorite spots: the museum cafe.
We find her, of course, reading, on one of the cafeteria’s tables, illuminated by the shy sunbeams that appear through the clouds. Before sitting, Amélie indicates us these clouds, which in a very very mexican way she describes as “bombachas” and shows us some that resemble dragons, rabbits and different types of faces. Not having pot coffee (the one made with 'piloncillo'), Amélie orders a good American with a bit of milk and for us, two lattes, and that’s when Mexico becomes the protagonist of the conversation.
Getting to Mexico, to the colorful fabrics that have centuries of legends and to the flavors of corn in its infinite varieties also means reconnect with a part of our own history that we did not even know. And is because Mexico itself is the summary of the history of mankind: ancient civilizations, century’s old customs, twinning and mixture of cultures and also of wars, revolutions, pride and value wrapped in a land that tells its truth to anyone who knows how to look.
Although anyone can feel overwhelmed by the huge thing that the Federal District is, the truth is that the kindness and customs of Mexicans come to light at any corner, from the smile of the woman that sells tacos to Aztec dances you sometimes find when you walk around the Zocalo. And it is in the city center where “DF” is more Mexican than anywhere else. Amélie recommended us to visit it by getting lost in the streets ('walking Madero Avenue and 16 September is a delight') making sure to see theMuseum of the Templo Mayor, which contains the remains of what once was Tenochtitlan, the name given to the City of Mexico before the arrival of Hernán Cortés. The Metropolitan Cathedral, with tours that allow you to climb the roof and photograph the best views of the Zocalo and historic center and visit the murals of Diego Rivera at the National Palace.
In the historic center we can find what can be considered as the most important example of the culture of the whole country: El Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts), declared artistic monument by UNESCO in 1987. Its stage has host a great variety of artist, from Pavarotti and Placido Domingo to Les Luthiers, and Maria Callas sang there the only two functions of ' Rigoletto ' that she ever gave throughout her life. According to Amélie itself, 'the building is a gem and so are the Art Deco interiors'. The Palace is located next to the Alameda Central, the oldest walk in Mexico City captured by Diego Rivera mural in the 'Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park' . A few steps away and passing the Palacio Postal (post office), an impressive building of the twentieth century, we find the Plaza Garibaldi, where mariachis and other sets of Mexican folk music dressed in their finery and sing the most famous themes to be elected by those who gather there to hire musicians for their celebrations , serenades , weddings or birthdays. Also in this square is the mythical Tenampa Bar, which within its walls has seen the best Mexican song writers, including José Alfredo Jiménez. In recent years, Garibaldi has been renewed and now in its modern Museum of Tequila and Mezcal (MUTEM), the two quintessential Mexican drinks next to the margarita.
Mexican cuisine is known worldwide for its variety, its color and its culinary wealth and, before leaving the center and to confirm this, we must visit, as a mandatory activity, the Plaza de Santo Domingo and taste the famous “chiles en nogada” at Hosteria de Santo Domingo. The chile en nogada is a dish from the state of Puebla prepared by Augustinian nuns and made up a lot of ingredients that are decorated with walnuts, parsley and Granada to form the colors of the Mexican flag.
The clouds that cover the sky at the end of our conversationdont look like cotton anymore, and do not let a single ray of sunshine. Is cold in DF and we said goodbye to Amélie with the same double feeling that the city causes, the overwhelming way it envelops you and a huge desire to try to find out about all the hidden secrets.