Thursday, November 28, 2019

Strolling around Colonia Roma

There's a lot of visual stimulation in Mexico City. This show in Colonia Roma stopped my in my tracks. The show, titled 'Headphones', is the work of Mexican artist Omar Zurita. Catch it at KlanDestina Gallery, Campeche 151 (near the Mercado Medellín)

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Colonia Condesa

    I was out for a Sunday stroll when this caught my eye..

They keep coming down! Another building damaged in the earthquake of September 19, 2017 is being demolished. We live with the rubble, we live with the uncertainty that the ground beneath our feet can move at any time. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Architecture fans alert!

    (Edificio Gaona on Bucarelli)

OPEN HOUSE CDMX, a festival of Mexico City architecture, will take place this weekend, September 28 and 29.  More than 80 venues--many never before accessible--will be open to the public. You can see the works of some of Mexico City's most famous architects.

For more information, click the link below:

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

MALINALCO--Mexico's Shangri-La

One way to deal with the craziness of living in Mexico City is to escape to the country once in a while, and my favorite place to go is Malinalco, a magical spot hidden in the mountains of the Estado de Mexico.

The Aztec goddess Malinalxóchitl thought the place magical enough to call it home, and the Mexican government officially endorsed her opinion when it included Malinalco in its Pueblos Mágicos program, which protects and promotes small town culture.

knew it was magical the first time I saw it more than 20 years ago,” said Adriana Pérez de Legaspi, one of a small group of Mexico City residents who have weekend homes here, and who offers tours and cooking classes in ‘pre-Hispanic gastronomy’.  “There’s a feeling of something ancient here, something secure and grounded. ” 

Located 110 km (65 miles) southwest of Mexico City, Malinalco feels like another world. It’s nestled in a lush, semi-tropical valley where flowering shrubs, tumbling vines, banana and palm trees grow in jungle-like abundance, and undulating mountains frame every vista.  Adobe houses with red-tiled roofs and painted stucco walls line the streets around the main plaza; an Aztec shrine, carved into the hillside, presides over the valley.

The division between town and country is blurred here. There’s only one asphalt road, bisecting the town east to west.  Other streets are of cobbled stone, fading off into well-trodden dirt pathways, old creek beds, and winding animal tracks.

Exploring the hills around the town you’ll find rock carvings and paintings that date back to 600 B.C.  When the Aztecs showed up in the 1400’s they built a ceremonial site known as the Cerro de los Idolos (Hill of the Idols).  A zigzag staircase of 427 steps leads to the site, where priests once offered sacrifices to the Aztec gods (closed Mondays).

Down below, just off the main plaza, is another sacred spot, the imposing Church of the Divine Savior, founded by Augustinian monks in 1543. The adjacent cloister is painted with murals depicting local flora and fauna, a mix of indigenous and Spanish artistic influences.

In the market, women with long braids and carefully ironed aprons sell hand-made tortillas and fresh cheese wrapped in cornhusks.  The produce spread out for sale looks pre-historic:  edible, scarlet colorín flowers, pink guavas, granadas chinas (the fruit of the passionflower), wild blue mushrooms, and guajes, wrinkly green pods whose seeds are used to flavor tacos and guacamole.

Several street food stalls stand against the high stone walls of the church yard.  Locals and tourists alike line up for specialties like tacos of cecina adobada (dried, spiced beef) or tlacoyos de haba (oblong corn cakes filled with fava beans).  The enchiladas verdes I ate at one stand were the best I’ve had in Mexico. The ice cream at Malinalli, across the plaza, is made with those exotic fruits you saw in the market like mamey, zapote, or guanábana.  There are several 'nice' restaurants, too, like Los Placeres on the plaza across from the church, which has great food and atmosphere. The local tamales, sold from baskets by women in the market, are flat--they look like they've been run over by a truck--but are delicious. 

Malinalco, whose population is around 7000, is primarily a town of agricultural workers, but it’s been a getaway for privileged city residents for decades--in a flea market in Mexico City I found a travel magazine from 1948 with a cover story on Malinalco. Smaller and less developed than weekend retreats like Valle de Bravo and Tepotzlán, it has a few high-end hotels, a handful of good restaurants, two art galleries, and a private golf community. At the elegant Ollinyotl holistic center ( you can get a massage, take a yoga class, or wander in their meditation labyrinth.
Politicians, corporate executives, a museum director and even the grandson of Diego Rivera have homes here. But most of the wealth is discretely hidden behind high, bougainvillea-clad walls, and on the roads around town you’re more likely to encounter a stray cow or a herd of sheep than a Mercedes Benz.

It’s Mexico’s best kept secret, “ says Ada Marie King, a travel consultant, who along with her architect husband, Lynn Wallach, were among the first foreigners to buy property here.  “Mexicans have heard about the town, but the lousy roads keep people away.”  Indeed, my arrival by car felt a bit like slalom skiing as I swerved frequently to avoid big potholes. But the difficulty in getting there heightens the pleasure of arrival.

Like the mythical Shangri-La, Malinalco seems to exist in another time. Although you are able to connect to the internet and find a decent cappuccino, it’s the feeling that nothing has changed for centuries that makes this place truly magical. 

By car from Mexico City, head toward Toluca (toll road), exit at km 32 (toward Chalma), then follow signs to Malinalco (MX15 is the road number).
By bus from Terminal Observatorio, there are a few direct, second-class buses in the afternoon.  Otherwise take a bus to Chalma (they leave every 30 minutes) and then a taxi (40 pesos) to Malinalco, 10 km away. Look for the Aguila Bus Line. 
There is a kiosk in the main plaza where you can get tourist information.
Pre-Hispanic Gastronomy Tours
Hand woven rebozos
Wednesday is market day when the streets fill with vendors of everything from avocados to zippers—lively and fun.
August 6th is the Feast of San Salvador, the town’s biggest fiesta. There's lots going on during the week leading up to that date. offers a number of houses in Malinalco,

View of the vally of Malinalco

Hand-woven mats sold in the market

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Colonia Roma

I thought this photo--taken down the block from where I work--sums up a lot about Roma. It's a fabulous hodge-podge.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

CDMX: On the street in Colonia Roma

A recent addition to the streets of Colonia Roma are these murals surrounding a parking lot at the confounding intersection of Insurgentes, Yucatan and Medellin (right across from the Hotel Roosevelt). Most of them are on Yucatan, a street that gets little pedestrian traffic. Dedicated to migrants, the scenes of horror outweigh those of joy. It's pretty powerful street art--take a look. 

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Centro Histórico CDMX

Scissors for sale in the Centro Histórico of Mexico City

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

How to deal with an eyesore

The Edifico Insurgentes in Colonia Roma norte long ago went from landmark to eyesore (see story below), but recently got a quick makeover in the form of many gallons of orange paint. If you look close, the old gal is still a mess, but the cover up certainly perks up the skyline of Mexico City.

Previous blog post:

Buildings with tilted walls, crumbling facades, rusting metalwork, broken planters, cracked and bulging sidewalks are common sights in Mexico City, the effect often heightened by proximity to some gleaming new high-rise. There is a notable tendency here to let things go to wrack and ruin, financial investment be damned. Depending on the mood I’m in, I can see it as a charming reminder of the temporal nature of life, or an indication of a complete lack of civic pride. But there's no denying that decrepitude is one of the characteristics that defines this city. Learning to appreciate this quality, like one would the nicks and scars on a piece of antique furniture, is necessary in order to fall in love with Mexico City. 

Among the most remarkable examples of this phenomenon is the high-rise Edificio Insurgentes (Insurgentes 300, between Zacatecas and Guanajuato), known by many here as the Canada Building, for a huge sign that once adorned it. Inaugurated in 1958, it was the most fashionable address in its day for the offices of politicians, doctors and lawyers. Now its a veritable urban ghost town. 

Its heyday lasted about 10 years, and then things started to go downhill. The earthquake of 1985 was the nail in the coffin, but a fire, and the murder of a tenant didn’t help. Spirits of those killed in the fire supposedly haunt the 15th and 16th floors. 

Elevators no longer work, graffiti covers much of the ground floor, and upper floors are a hodge-podge of slapdash additions and makeshift alterations. In 2012 the city ejected the remaining tenants and closed the building. Rumor has it that it was being used as a halfway house for illegal immigrants from Nicaragua.

Take a look from across the street to fully appreciate the weirdness of this once grand edifice.

I think all this physical instability helps create a flexible and resilient culture. If you can't trust the ground under your feet, you must seek security elsewhere, preferably from within. Mexicans are the most Buddhist-like of westerners, embracing instability, change, decay and death as normal parts of daily life. Perhaps the remarkable calm one experiences here (at least as compared to my former hometown, New York City) is a result of this acceptance. The phrase ni modo (literally “no way,” sort of a resigned shrug) is more often heard in response to situations beyond one’s control than anything more aggressive or confrontational. A popular song by the beloved ranchera composer José Alfredo Jimenez has the refrain “no vale nada la vida” (life is worth nothing), sung to a sweet and lilting waltz melody. Mexicans of all ages know it by heart.  

                                     More images of decay in Mexico City: 

                                                Calle Puebla in Colonia Roma Norte

                                               Insurgentes and Niza in the Zona Rosa

                                             Abandoned penthouse in the Zona Rosa 

                                               Abandoned store, Calle Bucareli, Centro

Broken sidewalk


Torre Insignia (abandoned)

And this from one of my readers: