17 April 2011

Mexican Meanders: Plaza de la República

Mexico City has so many neighborhoods that sometimes it feels like I am in a different city altogether. The feel of Coyoacán is very different from what I get when I was in Alameda. The same thing can be said in this neighborhood, where the Plaza de la República and the Monumento a la Revolución takes center stage.

In order to reach it, we decided that we would walk from the Alameda. The Paseo de la Reforma is a major street, it was even mention in Jack Kerouac's novel On The Road (coincidentally, I read that novel while I was in Mexico City). The first thing that greets us is this abstract yellow gigantic installation called El Caballito. This is the former location of an equestrian statue that is now found in front of the National Art Museum. I took a photo of the older statue here.

It is rather abstract, in my opinion, and it is in the middle of the road. We had to stand in the middle of the road and jaywalk in order to take a picture of it. Good thing that the Mexicans are better in driving than the Italians, or even than the Canadians for that matter.

Behind the abstract horse is the Loteria Nacional. This is a spectacular art-deco building that reminded me of Ayn Rand the very first time I saw it. I saw it, and immediately thought that this building would go very well with the settings of her novels. It is a towering structure, with a facade that gives you a 1920's feel on the architecture.

Unfortunately, when we went, it wasn't a Sunday, Tuesday, or Friday. Otherwise, we could have gone in at 7:30 PM and watched the ceremony where they pick the winning numbers for the day.

Next up, after turning at the corner, we come across Avenida de la República, whih is a pedestrain street lined with Mexican flags, leading to the Plaza de la República. From this vantage point, we can see our next target, the Monumento a la Revolución.

Apparently, this is a tomb complex, and the pillars contain the tombs of the revolutionary and post-revolutionary heroes of the nation. It also functions as an observatory, since people can climb up and watch the panorama of the whole city unfolding in front of their eyes. And that is what we exactly did next.

The five pictures you see above are shots from various points of the dome as we climbed up. I liked the science-fiction feel that the dome had: unlike other domes that I have seen, where they were decorated in a marble stately manner, this one felt like I was in the set of Star Trek. The elevator took us to the center, which was on a high platform, so we had to descend a flight of stairs to actually go to the edge and see the view. The dome is supported by several pillars, as you can see, and these actually function as booths where one can sit down, watch the city, and perhaps kiss and make out with your partner. I've already blogged earlier about how good Mexicans are at making out in public, whether it's in an open space like a park or in a cramped one like the subway.

This post wouldn't be complete if I don't include at least one photo of the view, right? So there's one above.

After spending about an hour on the observatory, we decided to go down, and continue walking. There are a few parks in this neighborhood, and there are a few old colonial buildings that are scattered as well. The two photos above show you some that we found.

Finally, we went to where we started, since the walking tour was more or less circular. But, we were also whistled at by a couple of skimpily-clad women, definitely prostitutes, looking for a customer. I glanced at them, they looked about 17 or 18 years old, and honestly, I found it hilarious. I never expected to be offered sex by a sex worker, that was definitely a first. We just walked by, responding instead to a more pressing and primordial need, that of hunger. It was time for dinner.


  1. Beautiful photos Jeruen and it makes want to travel to Mexico. I used to have a different picture of Mexico, but it looks like their capital city is somehow clean and very nice.

  2. Charles,

    Thanks! Mexico City was a surprise to me too: I landed and took a cab from the airport to my hostel, and immediately, I thought, "hey, this looks just like Manila" with the chaos, the people, the humans. Unlike cities in the US and Canada which may look so sterile compared to this. Of course, there are gritty parts of Mexico City too, but it was not like the impressions I was led to believe by some people, warning me that I would get mugged or kidnapped if I went there.

  3. I was really gobsmacked when I saw the photos in this post. Anyway, it was just like in Paris where there are some parts that looked like Manila, which was definitely a surprise.

  4. It just shows how rumors and stereotypes can be very different from the reality eh? One would imagine Paris to be this romantic city (which I think it is) but the reality of the matter is that like any other city, there are good and bad parts of it. Even Vienna, which I spent some time a few years ago, had areas that I just never ventured into because of safety issues.

  5. I was actually disappointed when I was in Paris and I think the painting of Mona Lisa was overrated. The redeeming part of the tour was when we visited those fabulous designer stores around Champs Elysees, the Palace of Versaille and Les Catacombes de Paris

  6. Charles,

    Oh I heard that too, I've heard that people stared at it in disbelief seeing how small the painting was. I had the same feeling when I saw the Mermaid statue in Copenhagen. But like Paris, there are other places that put the excitement back in the picture.

  7. I said it before but I'll say it again (especially on a greyish day like today!): I love the colors and the variety of styles in the architecture!

    That said, I don't remember Mexicans being great drivers... better than Canadians, really??

  8. Zhu,

    Well, being good in driving is in the eye of the beholder. In Mexico, there were tons of traffic, and so people were slow. In Canada, well, the people are polite but they drive really fast!

  9. I visited Mexico City just last month and the city was a great surprise for me. I imagined more of a industrial feel but I was met with a lot of greenery staying in Polanco which is 2 minutes away from Castillo de Chapultepec.
    Did you stay through Sunday and witnessed the whole city biking through Avenina reforma?

  10. Stephania,

    Hello and welcome to the blog. Like you, the city was a big surprise to me as well. Ah, you stayed in Polanco, the swanky place. I stayed just behind the cathedral in the Zocalo. Unfortunately, I went to a different neighborhood on Sunday: I actually went to Castillo de Chapultepec since they don't collect entrance fees on Sunday, and I wanted to see that.