Hola, Ciudad de México
A brief overview of the who’s, how’s, when’s, and why’s that defined my experience in Mexico City.
The Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
Mexico City: The largest city in Mexico, resting at a casual 7,350 ft (2,240 m) above sea level. It’s roughly 700 years old and the most populated city in North America, hosting about 9 million people. Most of these facts I didn’t know about before going, but they definitely colored my experience in the city . . . for better and worse. But since this is just the introduction, I’ll run down the basics:
Where did I go?
Mexico City, Mexico
Mexico is a part of North America, not Central America, just in case it slipped your mind as it did mine recently
That blue dot is Mexico City and, gonna be honest with yah, I didn’t realize it was in such a southern, landlocked part of Mexico until after I came back to the U.S. and Googled a map. Prior to the trip, I had automatically assumed it was near the U.S. border or along a coast like the other cities I’d visited.
Here’s some fun facts for you: Mexico City used to be an island, way back when it was founded by the Aztecs in 1325. Back then the city was called Tenochtitlan and the island was a natural/manmade combo with a sophisticated system of dams that controlled water levels and kept salty water away from the fresh water. Fast forward to 1521 and the Spanish destroyed most of the city in their takeover, including the dams. This left the city prone to more severe flooding, and after multiple attempts to drain the lake over the centuries, it was finally accomplished in 1967.
A model of the old city in the middle of the current city
The act of leaving the city literally high and dry had a catch, though: Now Mexico City is too dry. It’s lack of water led to a heavier reliance on its underground aquifers, which has contributed to Mexico City literally sinking into the ground. The city is also prone to soil liquification because the soil in Mexico City is still what I understand to be “lake dirt”, soft soil like clay, sand, and silt. This is a problem because Mexico City, or perhaps Mexico as a whole, seems kind of prone to earthquakes.
When did I go?
Mexico City was nice and green by the time I got there
I was in Mexico City the first week of March 2019, Spring Break for VCU students. It was freezing in Richmond at the time, but very pleasant in Mexico City.
How long was I there?
I wonder how long this agave plant has been here. Look how big it is!
I was there for one week exactly. The first Sunday was half a travel day and the next Sunday was a whole travel day.
How did I get there?
I did fly, but not with these bad boys
I got there via two planes: A 50-seater United Express flight to New Jersey and a 126-seater United international flight to Mexico City. The returning flights back to Richmond were the same, though I was made to check my carry-on luggage at the last minute and that did not go over well.
Who was I with?
The only crowded street I experienced in the city, surprisingly enough
VCUarts Painting & Printmaking students and faculty. There were two faculty members, nine active students (primarily juniors and seniors), and me, a recent alumnus. There were 12 of us total. Coincidentally, two of the students had studied abroad in Qatar previously, part of the same exchange program I had participated in. One of them even went the same year as I did.
Why was I there?
This isn’t a print and it is far from contemporary, but it is unique to Mexican art history
The goal of the trip was to learn about contemporary and historical printmaking in Mexico City.
La Iglesia de Santiago Apóstol in Tlatelolco
I have a lot to say about much of what I just abbreviated, but what I have to say will come in due time. There is one thing I can say now, though:
I felt ready for Mexico City, or more accurately, I felt ready for an international adventure.
I was the prepared and calm in a way I had never experienced before an international trip. Snacks, meds, music, clothes, chargers—everything was in order and the preparation had come very easily to me. I was the most efficient I’d ever been at every step, from packing to TSA. The turbulence on the plane didn’t even startle me. If anything, it annoyed me; all I can imagine is me sitting in the narrow aisle seat, drinking water and listening to Apple Music in my travel uniform while silently fuming, the red anger symbol pulsating on my temple like an anime character.
I also remember Flight 180 repeatedly popping into my head during my prep time and even on the plane, but I wasn’t bothered by that either. Curious? Absolutely. But freaked out, no.
Ah, but like I said, more information will come in time. The thing is, I’m not all that excited to talk about it, the first time I’ve felt that way since starting the blog. Mexico City was just . . . 🤷🏾♀️ But worry not! I shall write this collection because, no matter what, it was a unique, memorable, and undeniably worthwhile experience, even if for reasons I didn’t expect. Til next time, hasta luego!