Thursday, November 7, 2013


I just returned from Merida a few days ago--a trip I'd planned months ago after receiving an email about
a cheap flight ($1200 pesos round-trip from Mexico City). Up to now, Mexico has not had the budget airlines that criss-cross Europe and Asia, but things are getting better.

Listed below are three airlines where you might find inexpensive flights within Mexico, and some to points within the U.S.  Be sure to check their baggage claim policies, which can add to the cost of a ticket.

Register your email address on the website to receive updates about bargain fares.

You can also LIKE their Facebook pages, then point the cursor over the word LIKE,
click 'Get Notifications' and 'Show in News Feed'. Some offers may appear on Facebook only.

I've written up some of my observations and tips about MERIDA on my other blog:

Monday, November 4, 2013


The cost of taking a 'Taxi Autorizado' from the airport into Mexico City keeps going up. I have the following tip in my guidebook, but for those of you you don't have the book, or missed it, here it is again. My neighbor who works for Aeromexico told me all the airport workers use this. 

If you arrive in Terminal One, there is a taxi sitio with metered cabs. It is near Sala D between Puertas 5 and 6. Take the escalator up and cross the bridge--it is where the Aerotren stop is located. Go down the stairs at the far end of the bridge--the taxi sitio is across the street. I just returned home from Merida today and my taxi ride was less than half what a ticketed cab ride would have cost. 

The taxi driver told me that sitio cabs are not allowed to drive into Terminal Two. However, he claims there is a sitio dispatcher on the street in front of the airport who will call you a cab from Terminal One.
You can also take the Aerotren (monorail) between the two terminals--but you must show a boarding pass to get on.

Caution: In no case should you go out on the street and try to flag down your own cab!

P.S. this was added by one reader:  and for those of us non-residents who stay near Metrobus lines 3 or 4 when in the city, we get to enjoy the nearly utopian Metrobus Aeropuerto Express. 30 pesos and it has changed my day of departure from one of anxiety to one of tranquility. Just make sure the card is charged up. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013



Benjamin Franklin had never been to Mexico when he wrote, “In this world nothing is certain except death and taxes”.
With big business tax loopholes, and an estimated 59% of the workforce in the non-taxpaying ‘informal economy’, the only certainty here is death. Each year on Dia de Muertos, Mexicans face that inevitability head-on.
My first experience of Dia de Muertos was years ago in San Miguel de Allende. I waited patiently in a long line of flower-laden visitors to pass through the narrow gateway. Visits to gravesites in the U.S. were dark, sad, and solemn events, with no encouragement to linger. In Mexico, upon entering the vast field of tombstones, it seemed more like a big party, a bit subdued, but festive, colorful, bustling. There were flowers everywhere, candles flickering, guitar players strumming, people eating, talking, praying, laughing, and only a few of them crying. 
With its roots deep in the pre-Christian past, Mexico’s attitude toward death presents one of the strongest contrasts to that of its northern neighbors. Nobel laureate Octavio Paz  wrote, “The word death is not pronounced in New York, in Paris, in London, because it burns the lips. The Mexican, in contrast, is familiar with death, jokes about it, caresses it, sleeps with it, celebrates it; it is one of his favorite toys and his most steadfast love”.
Famed 19th century artist José Guadalupe Posada created a popular image of death,
La Calaca Catrina, that shows up everywhere. With her big feathered hat and wide grin, she looks more like Carol Channing in ‘Hello Dolly’ than any frightening image of the Grim Reaper. The curious phrase “Feliz Dia de los Muertos” shows up on sugar skulls and greeting cards. Death in Mexico, while not exactly a friend, is certainly a member of the family. 
Indigenous peoples believed that the soul did not die, but moved on to a resting place known as Mictlán, from whence it could be summoned home to visit friends and relatives. Before the Spanish conquest, the return of departed souls was celebrated in July and August. The Spaniards changed the date to coincide with All Souls’ Day of the Catholic Church, leaving the newly baptized natives with only two days, November 1 and 2, during which they welcome home the deceased.  The first day is devoted to departed children, the next to adults. 
It’s a long way from Mictlán, so the living must appeal to all the senses of the dearly departed to help them find their way home. Food, flowers, incense, music, even cigarettes and alcohol are used to create altars, known as ofrendas in homes and public spaces all over Mexico. You don’t have to be Mexican to participate in Day of the Dead rituals, however. Visiting a cemetery or preparing an altar at home can be done by anyone.
The best place to stock up on all the necessary items for a home altar is the Mercado Jamaica (Avenida Morelos and Congreso de la Union, metro stop Jamaica on the #9 line). As the city’s wholesale flower market, the quantity of marigolds, coxcombs and other flowers is staggering. Booths set up around the perimeter of the market offer sugar figurines, candles, incense, food, papel picado (die-cut tissue paper), and other items used to create altars.
Although celebrations in rural areas of Oaxaca and Michoacán are often written about, Day of the Dead in Mexico City occurs on a scale befitting one of the planet’s biggest cities.
Getting into the main cemeteries in Mexico City can be a daunting proposition, but altars are set up all over town. You’ll see them in markets, shopping malls, metro stops, banks, hotels, school, hospitals, and outside every Delegación office.  Here are some special places known for their elaborate altars:

The Zócalo, the city’s main plaza in the Centro Histórico
Museo Anahuacalli, Coyoacán (   
Claustro of Sor Juana (Izazaga 92,near Isabel la Católica in the Centro)
Museo de las Culturas  (Calle Mondea, Centro)
Plaza Juarez (on the south side of the Alameda)
Museo de la Ciudad (Pino Suarez 30, Centro)
Museo Dolores Olmedo, Xochimilco
Plaza Civica del Museo Panteon de San Fernando (Plaza de San Fernando 17, Colonia Guerrero, near Metro Hidalgo)
UNAM (on the esplanade near the Rectoría)

Altars are set up between October 28 and 30, and dismantled promptly on

November 3, when Death is given a holiday until next year.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

BICYCLES IN MEXICO CITY--Now for Tourists as well

When Mexico City's 'EcoBici' bike sharing program was first announced in 2010 I thought,
"Who would be crazy enough to ride a bicycle here?" Then one day Nick came home with two green cards, one with my name on it. "Here's your new Eco-bici card. Let's go for a ride."

Despite my initial fears, it didn't take me long to become a fan, and now hardly a day goes by without at least one bike ride. It took some time to figure out routes beyond my immediate neighborhood, Condesa, which is fairly calm traffic-wise. But now I ride off to the Centro Histórico or Polanco, taking advantage of the bike lane along Reforma or a detour through Chapultepec Park. While hardly stress-free, riding in the city is not nearly as bad as I'd feared, and I sense that drivers are becoming more accustomed to paying attention to their two-wheeled neighbors. 

There are now around 100,000 users and 275 stations around the city. You swipe your card to release a bike and simply place it back in the rack when you're done--you can leave it at any station. 

The original program required a proof of city residency, but now it is open to anyone with a passport (or other major ID) and a Visa or Mastercard. You can get a card for one day (90 pesos), three days (180 pesos), or a week (300 pesos). 

You must go in person to sign up. There are offices at Nuevo Leon 78, between Michoacán and Laredo, in Colonia Condesa, or at La Fontaine near Masaryk in Polanco. The offices are open Monday through Friday from 9am to 6pm, Saturdays from 10am to 2pm. Closed Sunday.

Here's the link to their website:

For those hesitant to tackle city traffic, I recommend taking a bike out on Sunday (which means you have to get your card by Saturday). Most of Paseo de la Reforma is closed to traffic from 9am to 2pm on Sundays, and the feeling of freedom and the chance to appreciate the grandeur of Reforma without traffic is exhilarating. Bikes are also allowed within Chapultepec Park. On the last Sunday of each month there is a 30 km. traffic-free bike route that takes you around the entire city.

FREE BIKES are offered by the city at locations around the city--next to the Cathedral, along Reforma and in Polanco, Condesa and Roma. Click HERE to see the map of station locations. You must leave a credit card and passport to take a bike. Of course, the big advantage of the eco-bici is that you can drop it off at hundreds of stations around town, then just pick up a new one when you're ready to move on.

Sunday, August 11, 2013


American born singer Edyie Gorme is best known around the world for her pop hit of the
1960's 'Blame it on the Bossa Nova', or in its Spanish version, 'Culpame de la Bossa Nova'.
But to millions of Mexicans, she is known as the singer who hit it big with the Trio Los Panchos,
creating classic versions of many popular Mexican songs and romantic ballads. Her recordings
have never been out of print and can be found in almost any record store (the few that remain)
or from street vendors everywhere. She was raised bi-lingual (English/Spanish) and many Mexicans I've spoken to are surprised to learn she's a gringa. If you don't own any of these great recordings,
you're missing one of the great pleasures of la musica mexicana--go and buy it.

Here's a bit from youtube:

And her obituary from the NYTimes:

Saturday, July 20, 2013


One of the things I love about Mexico City, and especially Colonia Roma where I work, is the
surprising mixture--and not infrequent clash--of architectural styles. There's still enough of the original early 20th century French-inspired edifices to give the place a bit of class, but especially after the devastating earthquake of 1985, newer buildings of astounding ugliness (have you see that blue hospital on Álvaro Obregón?) and cheapness of construction have left their marks on the old neighborhood like an untimely outbreak of acne on your grandmother's face.

Over the past few years I've been watching the painfully slow construction of a large building a
few blocks from my studio. It's fortress-like bulk and boxy windows that appeared could not be opened gave it a grim aspect. I thought it might be a hospital. Then came the elaborate landscaping--bunker-like planters arranged with military precision. The building appeared far from finished and I watched the plants die slowly.

Then suddenly the buidling was done and it turns out to be another 'love motel', those secretive hideaways perfect for illicit affairs--and appropriately named 'Roma Amor'. Suddenly the landscape scheme made more sense--even the trees are screwing here.

Yes, the place is hideous, but in that brash, boastful way that startles and surprises. And as I look at the photos I posted below, it doesn't seem to bad after all. Home Sweet Home--Viva la Roma!

This building is located at the corner of Tonalá and Chiapas in Colonia Roma.
Their website is

Monday, June 3, 2013


As some of you may have noticed, I've not given much attention to my blog recently. I devoted much of 2012 to my previous career as a visual artist (see website:, have spent a considerable time traveling abroad (I'm already planning my return to India in November), and an even more considerable time developing the fine points of procrastination.

The first edition of my book 'Mexico City: and Opinionated Guide for the Curious Traveler' came out in 2006. I revised it once in 2008, and intended an update for Mexico's bicentennial in 2010. I figure three years of putting off the job is enough and this week began organizing my work. I've been making notes, clipping articles from newspapers and magazines for years now and plan to do a thorough re-working of the book, both in form and content.

I welcome any suggestions for additions to the book. Please send them to my email address:

Monday, March 11, 2013


In recent weeks two editorials, written by Pulitzer prize winner Thomas Friedman, appeared in the New York Times about Mexico's bright economic forecast. Another, entitled 'Mexico: the New China' praised the country as a top choice for outsourcing. And it's not just the New York Times.
Mexico Business Blog recently ran a list of articles about Mexico's rosy economic picture, which includes the Wall Street Journal, The Economist and Forbes among others. After reading so much negative news about the violence from Mexico's drug 'war', it's nice to be able to focus on another part of the picture. Living in Mexico City I see a lot of what Friedman writes about, especially in the privileged neighborhoods where I live and work, Colonias Roma and Condesa.

Our new president Enrique Peña Nieto has done a good job in 2 months giving the old PRI party a new look. Kudos to his PR team. Powerful (and up till now, untouchable) teachers' union leader Elba Ester Gordillo was just arrested, accused of embezzlement. And now he's taking on the big shots of the telecomunicaions industry, one of the country's most strangling monopolies.

One of the people interviewed in Friedman article says, "the confidence is starting to happen." Where could this lead?

Links to referenced articles:

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Almost Home

Although my body has been back from Asia for two weeks, my mind has not fully arrived. I've been hesitant to let go of the excitement of travel, and not quite ready to dive into my next project, which is
to update my guidebook.

Meanwhile, if you'd like to take a look at some of what I saw in India, click the links below:


BEYOND THE TEMPLES: Quirky houses of Tamil Nadu