The Cross-Border Issues Group gathered for breakfast at Del Principado. They had the traditional options of cantaloupe and watermelon, but also had fresh pineapple. They featured many dishes including enchiladas, beans, eggs with chorizo, pancakes, cereals and yogurt. Orange juice or grapefruit juice (toronja) and coffee rounded out the fare. We still preferred having menu choices made for us by Rafa and placed in front of us. We’re a bit spoiled.
Well fed, we decided to head to Chapultepec Park and to the castle of Maximiliano and Carlota. Rodrigo thought it would make the best use of the time we had before needing to check out, get in a cab and get to the airport.
It was a cool, brisk morning and we had the streets to ourselves. Rodrigo told us yesterday that Avenida de la Reforma was a road created by Maximiliano because he wanted a direct route from his home to the Zocalo. Jen decided he had the right idea – nice castle overlooking the city and a beeline to the Zocalo. The castle is resplendent in gold leaf trim, ornate to point of looking downright French. Apparently that was the point. I noticed when looking through my photos that I don’t have any of the gold curly-cues or any of that anything-but “quiet, understated good taste.”
What I did take pictures of was murals. I loved the murals. Must be the peasant in me. Rodrigo and I talked about how murals were used as a tool to teach people, especially those who don’t read. Or, as he told me, the Aztecs didn’t have a written language so they were used to “reading” in picture forms. The murals are wonderful.
One that I particularly liked was “Mural painting of the Mexican Revolution” by Jose Clemente Orozco, painted in 1948. It prominently features Benito Juárez’s face. Juárez was president of Mexico between 1858 and 1872. Because of Juárez’s liberal policies and pro-indigenous stance, he was much admired by 20th century Mexican muralists.
The mural depicts a demonized image of a church figure. Juarez enacted the “laws of reform” in which he separated the Roman Catholic Church from the state. Until Juárez’s Reforma, Catholicism had been the official religion in Mexico and those who were not Roman Catholics couldn’t get a birth, death or marriage certificate.
Juarez also confiscated many of the church’s valuable possessions and lands, including Santo Domingo Church and Convent, which we visited in Oaxaca. From that day on Benito Juárez was admired by the church’s critics and criticized by the church’s followers.
Another mural, this one painted on the ceiling, represents the Niños Héroes, or Boy Heroes. They were six teenage military cadets who died defending Mexico at Mexico City’s Chapultepec Castle, then the Mexican army’s military academy, from invading U.S. forces in the Battle of Chapultepec on Sept. 13, 1847.
Juan Escutia is the centerpiece image of the mural. He was admitted to the Academy as a cadet on Sept. 8, 1847 and is believed to have been a second lieutenant in an artillery company. Legend says Escutia wrapped himself up in the flag and committed suicide, jumping from the roof to keep the flag from falling into enemy hands. His body was found on the east flank of the hill, alongside that of Francisco Márquez. The mural depicts his jump from the roof with the Mexican flag.
The castle is a must-see in Mexico City. From its many balconies and windows, one can see the cityscape from many angles.
We left the castle behind and Rodrigo directed us to the subway so that we could find a place to pick up those last souvenirs, the last bits of trinkety crap to throw into our suitcases to share with family and friends back home.
Rodrigo didn’t steer us wrong. We entered a large artesanias mall and everyone starting looking for those last minute items. I picked up a couple magnets, Jen found the Lucha Libre mask she’d been scouting for, Leah found some handcrafted leather goods and then we realized it was almost 1 p.m. Our taxi to the airport would be waiting.
Leah and Rodrigo lagged behind, but that was OK, because Leah’s plane was about an hour later than ours. We got back on the subway, exited at Insurgentes, our stop on the pink line, and made our way back to the hotel. We saw the hotel’s own taxi waiting for us and we ran upstairs to grab our bags.
We met in the lobby, turned in our keys and watched as the driver tried to figure out how to cram all our luggage and equipment into the taxi. The only way was to put some of it in the front seat while we held other things on our laps.
The drive to the airport gave our eyes one long last look at Mexico and Mexico City. We got to the airport and scurried through with our many bags. We got to the Continental Airlines check in station and had to weigh our bags. Three of them were overweight. Jen to the rescue! She had an extra bag, which cost us an extra $25 to check, but we were able to move things around to bring the weight limit down on the other three. That’s a good thing because they charge more for each overweight bag than they do for an extra bag. Go figure.
I was annoyed because we had pre-selected our seats, but got bumped anyway. I had my window seat and after a while Richard offered to give me a computer, so I started naming the last of the photos and tried to draft this blog post…obviously that didn’t get finished.
We landed in Houston and took our bags for a walk through the airport and through customs. No problems there. Rechecked our bags. I realized I’d lost my boarding pass in the Mexico City airport when we were dancing the luggage tango, so I had to go get a replacement copy. We had several hours to kill and Jen and Richard read some of the migrant stories from a book we’d gotten from Candido Morales. I wandered, watched the planes, wandered some more.
We got hungry. I got us some barbecue sandwiches. About 8:30 p.m., an announcement came over the speaker that they were ready to board our 9:15 flight, but there was no pilot or crew. Now I’m not an airline professional, but I’m pretty sure airports need two things: airplanes and pilots. We had to wait while they flew in a pilot and crew from Atlanta. So, instead of leaving at 9:15, we got off the ground about 10:20 p.m. Jen, Richard and I sat together, thanks to a man who traded seats with Jen, and we watched a very weird movie from Belgrade with Spanish subtitles. Very strange, but it killed the time.
We arrived in Albuquerque, reclaimed our luggage and made our way to the exit. The Albuquerque air was hot, even at 11:30 p.m. We were home!