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Mexico City? – Sí, Señor

Posted By Jay On September 22, 2009 @ 8:15 pm In Featured Articles,International Travel Reviews | No Comments

Mexico City is unlike the more Americanized Cancun – Big City, Aztec Ruins and the largest Bull Fighting ring in the world. Livin la Vida Loca!

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Destination at a Glance

Date of Trip December / 2007
Destination Good for Relax, Big City, History/Culture
Cities Visited Mexico City
Currency/Conv. Rate Peso / 1 USD equals 10 Pesos (Favorable)
Good Way to Get Around Rent Car: No Public: Yes Taxi: Yes Walking: Yes
Appox. Trip Cost Moderate
Speaks English? Relatively Few
Entry Requirements Passport Only
Do it
  • Teotihuacan Region
  • Authentic street food
Skip it
  • Bull Fighting
Didn’t get to do
  • Soccer match
Would I Recommend Maybe – as an add-on to a business trip
Overall Trip Rating

Trip Review

One of the first things you notice when you arrive in Mexico City is that the place is huge and densely populated.  Mexico City is the largest city in North America – by a pretty wide margin.  As my visit occurred well before the recent Swine Flu outbreak, the city itself is relatively safe from most of the issues surrounding the drug wars in other Mexican states.  While kidnapping foreigners has always been an issue in certain parts of Mexico, this generally applies to foreigners living in Mexico – not tourists.  Nothing puts a damper on business like kidnapping an American tourist.

Another thing that’s fairly obvious is the distinction between rich and poor.  On any given downtown street, you can find a sprawling glass coated multi-million dollar high-rise and twenty feet away abject poverty.

Finally, unlike many other Mexican cities that cater to tourists (like Cancun or Acapulco) – very few people in the Mexico’s capital speak English.  This is something to keep in mind as you travel outside of your hotel and or to restaurants.  Many of the menus, staff, and certainly people of the street are not fluent in English at all.

Food

One of the things many American are surprised with is what we think of as “Mexican” food – most Mexicans don’t actually eat.  You’d be hard pressed to find any non-American owned establishments in Mexico City that sell Burritos, Tamales or Enchiladas.  Some Mexicans don’t even know what these things are.  Furthermore, authentic tacos usually don’t have all the stuff you see in the US, like cheese, tomatoes, sour cream, etc. and usually have shredded steak – not ground beef.  In fact, there are very few Taco Bell or Del Taco establishments – I certainly didn’t see any and I find it hard to believe the average person living in Mexico City would choose this over an excellent street vendor.

Anyway, many authentic restaurants serve dishes that are at least familiar to American diets – heavy on pork and beef entries.  One in particular, Focolare made a Caesar salad right in front of your face – dude actually cracked an egg, some oil, spices and whipped it up right in front of us.  Wow.

To be honest, the best food I’ve found was served by the street vendors.  Nothing processed or frozen – vendors cutting up real steak to make tacos or blending real papayas to serve smoothies.  Delicious.

Tequila Village

Near the Teotihuacan region is a makeshift village whose claim to fame is the most industrious uses of the Agave plant.  The first strange use they demonstrated is the ability to pull fibers from the stem of the plant to make rope almost as strong as any synthetic material, such as nylon.  Other uses for the Agave plant is as a food source (leaves & syrup) and using the stalk as a form of musical instrument called a Didgeridoo. Probably the most well known use of the Blue Agave plant is it can be distilled into mescal – or more popularly known as Tequila.  70% of this ‘village’ was devoted to making Tequila onsite – which is why I called it Tequila Village (not the actual village name).  This being a ‘fact finding’ vacation, I felt it was my ‘duty’ to sample the local product to (cough) ensure quality standards (cough).  In fact, I didn’t feel I’d adequately experienced all I could with the first shot of Tequila, further research was necessary – so I experienced 4 more.  All in the name of science folks!!

The other 30% of the villages’ resources were spent excavating, shaping and polishing Marble from the surrounding countryside.  These master craftsmen spend hours in dusty conditions grinding and polishing their artwork for sale in the adjacent shop and across the world.  For a ‘tip’, they were kind enough to create a custom piece for me.

Teotihuacan Ruins

About 30 minutes outside of Mexico City is a prominent Aztec ruin site known as Teotihuacan – home of the largest still standing pyramids in the world.  This historic landmark contains 3 separate pyramid structures – the largest named the Pyramid of the Sun.  Likely because when you get to the top, your scalp will burn off your head if you don’t put on a hat (hence the cowboy hat in the pictures)   There are remnants of an entire civilization surrounding the pyramids, such as several homes with bedrooms still intact, statues and tools.  Unlike the Egyptians – which used their pyramids as tombs – the Aztecs used them primarily as places of worship (including a human sacrifice or two).

While working my way through the ruins, I ran into a few of my ‘fans’.   It all started when 4-5 kids along the ridge start to say something to me in Spanish.  The ‘leader’ says – “Hip Hop” in his best broken English – to which I say “uh, sure – Hip Hop”.  From this, he calls the other 20-25 members of his crew and informs them he recognized me from – well – who the hell knows.    Seriously, these kids obviously thought I was someone famous – and even though we couldn’t communicate – wanted my autograph.    

Question: if you are in a foreign country and someone mistakes you for an entertainer, athlete, or someone famous – you should:

a)    Apologize and inform them you are not famous and can’t sign any autographs

b)    Tell them you are on vacation and would prefer some quiet time

c)    Make everyone happy and sign a few autographs

Which one do you think I choose???  Half an hour and 40 autographs later….chuckle.  I signed autographs on paper, legs, purses, chests – you name it.  The moral of the story is – whenever your fans need you – do your best to accommodate – as I had the chance to make someone’s day – at least until they got home and asked – who the hell was that guy????

“International Known – Locally Accepted” people.  LMAO – check out the video on this one.

…Continued

Bullfighting

I’d wanted to see a bullfight for years – it sounded so exciting when people described it to me.  With my trip to Tijuana canceled a few years ago, I was determined to experience this tradition that has gone back over 300 years.  What better place than Mexico City (well, maybe Spain) to see the real deal?  So we head out to the Plaza México – the world’s largest bull fighting ring.  According to our guide, bull fighting is losing its popularity in Mexico with the younger generation to Soccer – mostly due to the savagery – something I would learn about first hand.  These dudes must have huge Cojones to stand in front of a raging bull waving a red flag – or so I thought.  For the uninitiated, here’s a quick rundown of how bull fighting works.

  1. Bull comes into ring and is promptly stabbed in the top of the neck by a dude riding a horse.  This is done to prevent the bull from raising his head while in the ring (limits peripheral vision).
  2. Bull is induced to charge the Matador waving a colored towel – usually red – while Matador sidesteps bull – people in stands cheer.
  3. This goes on an unbearably long period of time and Matador finally draws a long sword and stabs the bull in the equivalent the human ribcage.
  4. After being stabbed, Matador’s friends get on left & right sizes of the bull and attempt to make the bull turn in their direction.  This turning causes the still impaled sword to further cut the bull’s internal organs.
  5. Once the bull cuts himself to pieces on the inside and falls to the ground, the matador stabs the bull directly in the brain.
  6. Dead bull is chained around the head, dragged by the head out of the stadium and taken directly to the butcher – for which his parts will be on sale in less than an hour.  Repeat!

What makes a ‘good’ matador is how fast they kill the bull – the thought being the faster you kill the bull – the less the bull suffers.  When I visited, 3 or the 5 matadors must have been worth shit – because they had to repeatedly stab the bull – you could hear the bull scream all the way up in the stands.

I’m not sure how something can be so violet (which I generally like) yet so completely boring at the same time?  Add to it that – the entire setup is rigged.  Consider these three points:

  1. Bulls are color blind – the red doesn’t do a thing – they rush based on the movement they were trained to do.  This leads me to point B….
  2. The bulls are ‘trained’ to rush the matador when the flag is waved.  If you were to come across a bull in the wild waving a red flag – 8 times out of 10 – the bull would ignore you.  Again, bulls are color blind.  In training, bull rushes the waving flag and is giving food (or some other reward) for good behavior.  They unwittingly continue this behavior in the bullfighting ring which contributes to their death.
  3. The matadors cheat.  How – they stab the bull in the neck before the matador even gets in the ring.  This prevents the bull from lifting its head – severely impacting their peripheral vision.  They can only lift their head high enough to see the dangling flag – which they’ve been trained to rush. (See point b).

To add this all up, only one combatant knows they are in a bullfight – and it aint the bull.  I have no problem watching a bull get killed in a fair fight – but to do B & C above and call yourself ‘brave’ is – well BullShit!  Add to it the fact that these Matadors look really – really girly in these goofy Pink outfits.  Finally, the pageantry of this event lasts forever – boring you to tears.

My final verdict on bullfighting is fraudulent and boring.  I found myself rooting for the bull to impale one of these assholes – which would have been some great footage.  Note: I had to take out a good deal of the bullfighting video footage because it was just too gruesome – I don’t need any of the PETA people on my ass (and it’s not good taste).

Local Soccer Team Wins

On the way back from dinner one evening, there was a large commotion on the street near our hotel.  Upon further investigation, there were hundreds of people in the street – along with hundreds of riot police.  What the hell is this I thought?  Spoke to the natives and found out one of the regional Soccer teams just advanced in the playoffs.  All these people took to the streets to celebrate this victory – which apparently sometimes gets out of hand.  Most Americans just can’t understand all of the fuss about Soccer – myself included.  To me, watching Soccer on TV is like watching paint dry (the same thing most everyone outside of the US says about Baseball).  In future travels, I’d like to attend a live Soccer game to see if the experience is any different in person.

Closing

Overall – it was a good trip. I gained a few new experiences.  If it were not for the Concierge at our hotel, the language barrier would have been much more of an issue.  We could have certainly gone to the Teotihuacan and Bullfighting adventures; it wouldn’t have been such an enlightening experience.  Finally, I was able to watch Mayweather destroy Hatton in a local saloon for free – does it get any better than that?

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