EST. 2009

September 29, 2018

That Downtown Drive-by

MUCH LIKE IN THE POST-REVOLUTIONARY MURALS produced by its famed artists, Mexico City continues to feature themes and scenes from its long, eclectic history. Spanish-era palaces, churches and convents co-exist with art deco buildings and Aztec ruins. Cobbled avenues are peppered with a combo of trendy joints and working-class establishments, catering side-by-side to an equally diverse mix of tourists, well-heeled locals, and everyday workers.

Ranked as one of the world’s most populous metropolitan areas, and officially renamed Ciudad de México or Mexico City since 2016, the metropolis is divided into neighborhoods called colonias. Popular ones include the trendy Roma and Condesa, the risque Zona Rosa, upscale Polanco, and the legendary Coyoacán where Frida Kahlo lived.

While I enjoy some hedonistic wining and dining, or mini sprees at polished shops de rigueur, the neighborhood I liked most was in fact downtown; a dusty, bustling, in some parts deteriorating, echo of a glorious past. Downtown Mexico is the city's historic center nonetheless, where Spanish colonizers built upon Tenochtitlan, capital of the Aztec Empire.

In the Centro Histórico, I found the San Ildefonso cinematic indeed, with dramatic multi-storey arches overlooking its courtyards. Considered the birthplace of Mexican muralism, its murals seemed to pale however to those at the Palacio de Bellas Artes; notable on its own for its art deco interior and art nouveau exterior. The scale it was built in gave me vertigo, as if Mexico City's altitude of over 7,000 feet doesn't cause it already.

If altitude sickness persists, there's always Mexican food.

Downtown Mexico, Museo Nacional de Antropología, Casa de los Azulejos, Palacio Nacional, and San Ildefonso College, Mexico City.