Viajando en la Ciudad de Mexico

Welp, guess I’m finally getting around to writing up my trip to Mexico City (it’s only been 18 days since I’ve been back, but I’ve been crazy busy trying to get the magazine issue out and had no spoons left by the end of the day). The week in Mexico was packed morning to night, from my personal touring around the city to my day job and conference work, so that by the end of the trip my ass was pretty much kicked with exhaustion. But it was awesome all around.

Normally, when I travel, I like to get out the guide book and plan my days. But for this trip, I just wanted to relax and not have to think too hard about how I was getting from one museum to another, so I went looking for a company that conducts tours of the city and found Journeys Beyond the Surface.

Journeys Beyond was amazing and went above and beyond the call of duty. In addition to putting together two tours, both tailored to my personal interests, Mojdeh (the company owner) also helped me figure out things to do in my spare time and let me know how to get around safely. By the time I arrived in Mexico, we had exchanged at least a dozen emails back and forth and I felt I made a friend.

Both of the guides who took me on the tours were wonderful. Though they both had different personalities, they were very knowledgeable and passionate about Mexico and its history — this knowledge and passion showed.

Touring the Basilica de Nuestra Señora Guadalupe and Teotihuacan

This day long tour was hosted by my guide David, who kept me entertained the entire day. Not only did he provide a wealth of information about the sites we visited — he was very passionate about the history and culture — but we also talked about music and culture and various curse words in both English and Spanish. One of the other things he did that I loved was that he brought supplementary materials (an illustrated history book and his I-pad) to help explain and elaborate on the history.

On our way out of town (David drove), we stopped at the Basilica de Nuestra Señora Guadalupe, which is where the following of Our Lady Guadalupe began. The story goes that an indigenous peasant, named Juan Diego, was walking through the hills and the Lady Guadalupe appeared to him in a glowing light, speaking his language Nahuatl and with dark hair and features. She told him she wanted a church built in her honor on that little hill. So, Juan Diego went and told a local priest, who did not believe him.

When Juan Diego went back to the hill to explain to the Lady, she told him to gather Castilian roses (an impossible feat since it was the middle of winter) and pointed to a nearby bush where they were miraculously blooming. Juan Diego gathered the flowers in his cloak and carried them down the hill to the priest. When he opened the cloak, not only did several flowers fall to the ground but an image of Lady Guadalupe appeared upon the cloth — that cloak with her image hangs in the Basilica today.

The Lady Guadalupe has special significance in part because the indigenous people were able to relate to her due to her dark hair and features and how the story and symbolism aligns with the Aztec goddess Tonantzin, and sometimes she is also called by that name. (There’s a book called The Aztec Virgin: The Secret Mystical Tradition of Our Lady of Guadalupe by John Mini that apparently explains in detail these cultural and symbolic connections and I’m looking forward to reading it.)

Apparently, every December thousands of people come to this church and flood the courtyard in honor the Virgin Guadalupe. People from all over the Americas worship her and come to this church, many of whom who are not even Catholic. One of the guides told me that more people visit the Basilica of Our Lady Gudalupe than travel to Mecca.

It was very cool to visit the church again — which like many old buildings in Mexico is sinking* — and to be able to see the cloak with her image. It’s in the back of the newly constructed church and you go behind and stand on conveyor belts to see it, but its amazing to know that the original is there. (When I traveled Mexico with my university class, we couldn’t find the cloak and so missed seeing it. So, this was a wonderful completion.)

*Yeah, see Mexico City was built on the five lakes, which were filled in, and the colonial buildings made of marble are incredibly heavy. So many of them are sinking, some have since as much as 6 meters since the ’70s. For example, the main cathedral in the Zócalo (the last picture in this post) has windows in the ground in front of the building to show where the original walkways used to be (about 6 meters down). And some of them are tilted, because one side of the building is on solid rock and the other isn’t.

Basilica de Nuestra Senora Guadalupe

Basilica de Nuestra Senora Guadalupe

From the Basilica we traveled out of town to Teotihuacan, which was once massive city covering the entire valley and the location of the famous Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon. (Though my guide pointed out that these names are misleading, as they imply that the people who built them worshiped the sun and the moon, which was found to not be true. It’s been learned that worship was of the god of rain and the goddess of the rivers and lakes.)

It’s important to note that the Aztecs were not a part of building these pyramids or the city. The Aztecs came hundreds of years after this city had collapsed and were so impressed by the city that they mimicked the culture and the construction when they built their own impressive city on the five lakes, where Mexico City now stands. And it was the Aztecs who named the location Teotihuacan.

Teotihuacan was not homogeneous, as it housed at least four main ethnic groups, each of whom spoke their own language. The city was a site for people in the North, South, and surrounding areas to come and trade, making it a hub of many cultures and peoples.

Teotihuacan Teotihuacan

Above is the temple of Quetzalcoatl and another god (whose name I don’t remember). These images are so well preserved, because at some point the people of Teotihuacan built over the old temple, erasing the images on the outside, but preserving those within.

A temple, the red paint is original.

Pyramid of the sun.

2013-07-15 14.09.39
Standing atop the sun with the moon in the background.

One of the pre-Hispanic murals. The swirls coming from their mouths is the people singing or speaking.

The tour of the pyramids was fantastic. I saw how some of the mural paints were made (with ant eggs on the back of a cactus leaf, which turn red when crushed and the cactus juice acting as a sealant). I climbed the pyramid of the sun (the larger of the two and quite a hike with an awesome view). And I saw the pre-Hispanic murals, which many visitors don’t see, because they don’t realize that they are there. Actually, the only downside to the day was that I left my sunscreen at home, which left me terribly, terribly sunburned.

Touring El Centro Historico

The second tour I took was a half day walking tour around the Centro Historico, where we visited the Alameda Central Park, the Museo Mural Diego Rivera, the Palacio de Bellas Artes, the central post office, the blue tile house (built by the richest man, who wanted to show off his wealth, so covered his house in Chinese blue tiles, which is the equivalent of covering your house in gold today), and other local buildings and then we walked down to the Zócalo (where tents were setup for a teachers’ strike).

Alvaro, my second guide, was a bit more subdued, but incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about Mexico and its history. He was also not afraid to criticize aspects of Mexico, such as racism or political problems, while also telling me how much he loves his country. His passion was infectious and as he described the meaning behind the Diego Rivera murals we saw, the art and the history of Mexico came alive for me in a way it hadn’t before. Listening to him, I was drawn in I began to feel the pressure of tears behind my eyes. What an amazing morning.

Palacio de Bellas Artes

The Palacio de Bellas Artes, which houses a museum of murals by Mexican artists.

Diego Rivera Mural

Portion of the Diego Rivera mural (inside the Museo Mural Diego Rivera), depicting the entire history of Mexico within the Parque Alameda Central. At center is Diego as a child with Frida Kahlo as his mother.

Zócalo - Mexico City

The cathedral in the Zócalo.

Whirlwind Museum Visits

In the limited free time, I also took the opportunity to do lightning fast visits of the Museo Nacional de Arte and the Museo Soumaya. Both were great, though I sort of powered through them in the hour or two of time I had available — not normally how I do museums, which involves taking my time and stopping for several minutes to absorb and enjoy a favorite piece of art.

The Museo Nacional de Arte is the national museum of art and features colonial art up through Vanguardia artists, such as Rivera and Rufino Tamayo. It was a good collection in a gorgeous building. The interior courtyard was hosting some sort of summer camp, so kids were running around joyfully participating in creative projects and making a lot of noise, which was fun to see.

The Museo Soumaya is amazing for its architecture alone, which is a modern, curved facade made of aluminum hexagons. It was built by Carlos Slim (one of the wealthiest men in the world), who decided to put his private art collection on free display to the public. It houses a litany of artists from many areas and regions, including Salvador Dalí, Leonardo da Vinci, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Joan Miró, Henri Matisse, Claude Monet, as well as Diego Rivera and Rufino Tamayo.


The trip was a great success, both professionally and personally. I adore Mexico and Mexico City and I hope I can return soon and drag some family and friends along for the ride.

Also, more photos on my Mexico City flickr set, for those who want to take a look.

Excuse me, while I dance a jig

So, I keep putting off posting other things, because I need to post about my Mexico trip and haven’t got around to it yet. It was fantastic, by the way, right up until I wanted to leave the country, arrived at the airport, and discovered that my flight no longer existed.

I ended up stuck and exhausted and frustrated, but a new flight was eventually found (which required me to stay the night in Guadalajara) and I made my way home, even if it was a whole day later.

The result has been me getting sick (sniffles and coughing) and right at the time when my day job is particularly swamped, leaving me not wanting to go anywhere near a computer at the end of the day. So, I’ve mostly just been recovering when I get home.

But since I went to the mailbox this morning and discovered a delightful surprise, I just had to post that my contributor’s copy of The 2013 Rhysling Anthology arrived!

So, even though I’m still sick and still recovering, I’m also filled with squee and find myself wanting to prance about the room, preforming somersaults!


Got the 2014 Rhysling Anthology in the mail today with my poem inside! Can't wait to read all the great poems. So exciting! #poetry #anthology #books #rhysling #writing


I am currently in Mexico (since Sunday) doing a combination of fun visiting things and fun work things. I’ve been meaning to post about the sites I’ve visited, but I’ve been too sleepy at the end of the day (which means I have a lot of blog writing in my future).

So, anyway, I’m not missing in action, just doing things. 🙂

Buenas noches.

Aprendiendo Español

En Julio, yo voy a México, D.F. para mi trabajo y para turísmo. Estoy muy feliz, porque me encanta Mexico y puedo regresar a la Casa Azul de Frida Kahlo, el Zocalo, el Palacio de Bellas Artes, y la Basilica de Nuestra Señora Guadalupe. Pero necesito practicar my Español y tengo un pocos possibilidades para esto.

All of which means:
In July, I am going to México, D.F. for work and for tourism. I’m very happy because I love Mexico and can return to Frida Kahlo’s Blue House, the Zocalo, the Palace of Fine Arts, and the Basilica of Our Lady Guadalupe. But I need to practice my Spanish and I have a few possibilities for this (or that).

At least that’s what I think it means, because I wrote the above without using any dictionary translation. So I’m sure there are a few spelling errors, some missed accents, and definitely some screwed up pronouns (since they are all feminine or masculine, as well as different for singular and many), but on the whole I didn’t do too bad.

I have a strong base for Español, because I’ve had multiple classes in high school and college and even spent a semester (10 weeks) in México learning the language. But upon returning home and not speaking it for a while, I feel I’ve lost a lot of what I learned and don’t know anything anymore. But I’m always surprised to find that when I put my mind to it, I do have limited conversational skills.

I’ve always wanted to be fluent, though, wanted to read Pablo Neruda’s poetry in the original language and have legitimate and soulful conversations with native speakers. This trip to México, even though I’ll only be there a week, is spurring me to work toward this goal. Here are a few things I can (and plan) to do to make this happen.

1. Leer libros y escribir blog mesajes en Español — Reading books and writing blog posts in Spanish are kind of two sides of the same coin. Upside: They both have the potential to improve my vocabulary (especially the reading) and both can help me work on the grammar.

Downside: Neither will help much with pronunciation or being able to understand when someone is speaking Spanish a million miles a minute. Also, I’ve tried both for very brief periods of time and then gave them up. The reading is especially hard, because even with children’s books I have to look up words so often that it makes the experience kind of stressful. Reading is supposed to be fun relaxing time for me, so I end up giving up too quickly. Writing is a bit easier, but I’m limited by my vocabulary and so end up repeating the same ideas or phrases over and over.

2. Ver peliculas y telenovelas en la lengua original — Great for getting used to hearing the language, building vocabulary and an understanding of how words are pronounced, and learning slang phrases. Also helps in learning to think in the language.

3. Ir a un café y hablar con una amigo en Español — Definitely the best option, especially if I get to talk to someone who is a native speaker or knows more than me. Nothing builds language skills like speaking the language with someone who actually knows it.

4. Usar unu lengua aprendiendo programa para la computadora — Rosetta Stone is the language learning program that immediately comes to mind, though I’ve seen complaints about it, such as this review that recommends Fluenz instead. Both are on the pricy side, but handle the learning process very differently.

Rosetta Stone is a total immersion program, which means they don’t incorporate any English into the learning process. They go straight to the Spanish words and pair them with images, so that learners are supposed to pick up on it intuitively. The program also has interactive games that allow you to connect with other learners online and live sessions with native Spanish speakers (the real boon).

Fluenz on the other hand provides instructions in English and can pair the Spanish words with their English equivalent. It also provides English instructions for understanding pronoun usage and grammar. The review I linked above notes, “Fluenz believes that while full immersion might work with children, adults don’t learn languages as instinctively. Fluenz believes that adults learn best when they can relate the grammar and syntax of a foreign language to the structure of the tongue they already know — in my case, English.”

I’m sure it really just depends on your learning style, though. For me, I already have a good groundwork of the Spanish language and I understand the grammar and pronoun rules in theory at least, so total immersion is more up my alley. I internally debated for a while whether to spend the money, but Rosetta Stone was having a sale and they do payment plans, so I went with that. It should be here in a few days.

5. Todos los ariba — Really a mixture of all of the above will probably get me the best results, and conversing (or attempting to converse) while on my trip to Mexico will also be a great help.

Have you learned to become fluent a second (or third!) language? How did it work for you?

Cross-posted to my livejournal. You are welcome to comment here or there.

Monday Update

The “getting things done” thing did not go over too well last week. I did do some writing each morning, just letting brief poetic phrases flow out onto the page as part of a morning ritual. It’s a good warm up for the day, and sometimes a real poem actually comes of it.

The coming week is going to be interesting, because I’m 6 days away from arriving in Vegas. Much of this week will be spent in finalizing all travel plans and making any last final purchases for the trip.

My list of Creative To-Dos that get done will be like a bonus round above and beyond all the Travel To-Dos. They’ll have to all get done by Friday, as well, because once I’m actually in Vegas, I’ll be in pure pleasure seeking mode. 🙂

Travel Things That Need Accomplishing in the Coming Week
– get primped: hair cut and colored and eyebrows shaped
– buy bra clip thing-y for use with my fancy schmancy new tops
– get a chiropractic adjustment or two so I’m not totally whacked while I’m there
– figure out where the hell my luggage has vanished
– more will come up, I’m sure, as the week goes on

Creative Things That Need Accomplishing in the Coming Week (bonus round)
– continue to make progress on the story (actually finishing = triple bonus points)
– edit and polish 2-3 of my current poem drafts
– submit a set of poems or a short story for publication
– do 2 marathon training days (all I’ll have room for)
– post a youtube video *fingers crossed*
– art, doesn’t matter what, but something