Thursday, March 27, 2008
A few years ago I pledged to go somewhere interesting for my birthday every year and this year I chose Mexico. I spent most of my time in Mexico City. Lately, I feel like Mexico City is on the way to being one of the new “it” cities due to its mega city status and being a city girl I wanted to see it again. Way back when, in ninth grade, I took my very first international trip to Mexico with my Spanish class and although I have vague memories I felt it was time to see it again. I wanted to see the city through today’s lens.
So what did I think? It was a real surprise. Although I knew I’d see stuff I loved, I was expecting smog, traffic and crime. Instead I got pretty clear skies with views of the mountains from my hotel room, not much traffic and police EVERYWHERE. Honestly, there were police all over and I felt very safe and apparently they have instituted some controls on who can drive their cars into the city and it appears to be working.
So where did that leave me? It meant I could wander freely, discover old architecture, enjoy the kind of pulse that the second largest city in the world can bring, peruse markets, attend moving church services, listen to mariachi music and practice my Spanish. (I have to say the best part of the trip is that I am beginning to feel more confidence with my Spanish which makes me want to spend more time down south soon. Too bad they don’t speak Spanish in Africa!)
Mexico has such a diverse mix of rich and poor. I went out in neighborhoods in the evenings that rivaled New York, London and Paris. They were lined with bars and restaurants. Prosperity was in the air. The people were glamorous. And yet, the markets felt as foreign as any I’ve been to in the world with peppers and tortillas piled high. There is a real sense of history in the city with ruins found in the subway stations and in the middle of the city and old beautiful churches found on even the smallest streets. And yet, there are big modern glass skyscrapers towering in the sky.
The subway was amazing. Its marble floors and walls gleamed and as soon as one car pulled out of the station, another pulled in, and all that for only 20 cents a ride. Frankly it made me a little embarrassed about New York ’s public transportation.
I visited two other towns for one night each to get a better feeling for small town Mexico and enjoyed climbing up into the mountains and sitting in the town squares. These little towns had a lovely historic feel; Tepoztlan with its bright tropical colors and Taxco with its red tiled roofs and white stucco. I got to interact with indigenous people who still only speak their tribal languages even though they are living in medium sized towns that are very close to Mexico City. I also got to see bands parading through the streets playing fun music. Plus I got to try all different kinds of foods.
All in all, it’s a varied place, pretty close to home with plenty to see and do.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
The first weekend in March I headed to Cleveland Ohio for another stop on this years Presidential Campaign. It was my first trip to Ohio, but after going to college in Pennsylvania, this end of the Rust Belt looked pretty familiar. Cleveland has a once grand downtown as a testament to the strength of its old industries. Its trying to polish up its image and renovations are visible all over. It has neighborhoods that are deeply suffering from the economic downturn with empty shops and plywood windows. And we campaigned in suburban neighborhoods with lovely small houses and a fresh coat of snow to make it all more picturesque.
All in all, it looked like I expected but I didn't get to see enough. After all I have really come to love industrial America and I bet Cleveland has more to show me. I'll see you in the Fall.