We awoke with the alarm in a strange semi-darkness. A healthy and home-cooked breakfast at the hostel was scheduled for 8:00am, but when we arrived a few minutes past 8, the breakfast room was locked up and dark. Abandoning our expectations and the promise of a $2 meal in exchange for a punctual conference arrival, we headed straight to the event hotel, planning to grab breakfast in their vapid restaurant. Two cups of sugary yogurt, dry french toast, greasy potatoes, and juice–$30. The most expensive meal of the trip.
Wiping any remaining traces of food from the corners of my mouth, I followed James up to the conference area. It was deserted. No coffee or tea awaiting groggy guests, no bright-eyed ethnomusicologist. James and I turned to each other at the same time, looks of comprehension rising on our confused faces–the unusually dark morning, the missing breakfast, the empty conference room. James’ cellphone was still on NYC time. There we were at 7:30a.m. with an hour to spare. Obviously we headed outside to find more breakfast.
With the sun just reaching the tops of buildings, we found the monument to the revolution, dressed in scaffolding, marking the center of the Plaza de la Republica.
Surrounding the plaza on one side were abandoned buildings embellished by graffiti and dying vines.
The other side of the Plaza, much less forgotten, was outlined by the early morning commute and comparatively pristine upward reaching buildings.
Street cleaners and food vendors were up with the sun. Compare to the street cleaners of NYC, which are out just as early, but kick up no less dust.
For our second breakfast, we split Conchas, or Mexican sweet bread. The half bread half pastry was light and fluffy.
The rest of the morning was spent conferencing, with one small break which we used to grab a snack–A taco from a street vendor to split. At each stand, you have a choice of red sauce or green sauce. Without thinking, James chose the red. Never in my life have I eaten something so spicy, but so good. Tongue tickling from the burning and nose dripping, I ate every last bite of my half.
Before the afternoon session, we went back out on the streets to explore and look for lunch. On our way to see the Palacio de Bellas Artes, we walked through a large park full of vendors, art exhibits, and policemen on horseback.
The Palacio de Bellas Artes was beautiful.
Yellow and orange against blue
Lunch was challenging. We were on our own, left to order a vegetarian meal using limited Spanish. Do you know how we picked where to eat? There was a small place called something like the Ohm Cafe. We figured with a name like that, there had to be vegetarian food. Unfortunately we had a lot of trouble ordering beans and rice with french fries. A lot of pointing and miming.
A final round of papers, and then we were back outside again. I really wanted to see the Metropolitan Cathedral, which is the largest and oldest cathedral in the Americas. It forms the northern boundary of the Plaza de la Constitucion (the third largest square in the world). On our way there, the street turned into a pedestrian walkway lined by store fronts, small churches, and performers.
Organilleros with portable organ hurdy gurdy.
A returned Aztec warrior.
The street/setting sun
When we arrived at the square, it was full of people. People lounging, tourist, locals, people singing. It was also lined with police officers in full riot gear.
We found out later that the next day (November 20th) was Dia de la Revolucion, celebrating the anniversary of the beginning of the revolution. That explains the police, the demonstrations, and our inquisitive friend getting tear gassed.
The Cathedral was…large. I was only able to capture a small corner.
Inside was opulent, yet solemn and dark. Two main alters in the center of the cathedral were surrounded by smaller alters tucked into eerie nooks.
The spoken notes of a service echoed in the air while we walked around.
Leaving the Cathedral, huge Mexican flag.
Next: dinner and National Museum of Anthropology.