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Monday, 26 October 2009

My love affair with Mexico City....

..........Mexico Lindo y Querido.........

Mexico. A country full of contrasts, so brutal, so gentle, exploding with colours and tantalizing tastes. Mexico City, makes me feel alive, makes me aware of my pulse, beating faster and faster like the beat of a drum as my eyes interpret the views of magnificent gardens, proud trees, heavenly flowers, mind blowing foods, children working streets selling chewing gum and cigarettes, clowns performing when your car stops at a red light, mothers carrying their babies on their back begging for food. The contrasts inject me with a sense of awareness, there is no escape. You cannot turn off the people around you as you switch off the television. You cannot turn the page on what you face, everyday in this incredible city.

Arriving into this glorious city is the best part of all. Your plane should arrive at night, for it is then that the city glistens. Mexico City lies below you like a black sheet, covered in diamonds, sparkling excitedly in the night. The plane glides gently over this magical place for over twenty minutes. That is how enormous this city is. As a little girl I would be in awe at the sheer enormity of what lay beneath me. I loved seeing the little cars in the streets, the lights covering the ground for as far as my little eyes could see. This is when I would start to get butterflies in my tummy. I still do.

When you step off the plane you feel the altitude immediately. Mexico City lies about 2,240 metres above sea level, and the altitude genuinely makes you feel a bit dizzy at first. You step off the plane, and the carpeting seems to pull you towards it. After a few deep breathes, you are perfectly fine. The deep breaths let you take in the new smells around you. I love how my sense slowly familiarize themselves to the smells, sights, feel of the City, and I very quickly feel at home in one of my favourite places in the world.

After arriving in Mexico City, I love that after you have collected your luggage, just before you go out and are welcomed by warm embraces from family, you have to press a button. Yes, a button. Above this mysterious button is a light, similar to a stop light. You press the button and if you get the green light, you can pass. If you, however, get the red light, you have to open your suitcases. It is a harmless check. They just gently plump your clothes and check for drugs. We always carry several smoked salmons. In fact once, the salmon was on top of all my mothers clothes. The woman checking the bag didn't even bat an eye lid, and totally ignored this delicious fish. Perhaps she didn't know what it was?

There is a cake shop right outside of the airport that we have passed for as long as I can remember. The cakes are enormous. Several tiers high. When I see it, I know I am in Mexico City. I don't know why it takes a cake shop to show me this, but it brings it all home to me.

I love tacos al pastor. A kind of slow roasted pork on a spit with pineapple juice slowly inching its way over the scrumptious crispy meat, coated in a mild chili marinade. Every bite is heavenly. When I was little I believe I ate about twenty tacos on my birthday. My Uncle never forgets that after the meal, when we got home, I announced that I would not be washing my hands. Ever. Why? Because I loved the smell of tacos on my fingers, and wanted to be able to savour the smell forever.

My godparents own a ranch, which is where I learnt to play Roulette and Poker. My first game was when I was about 5. To this day all the children of the family learn. Regardless of age, you can sit and play, but you have to listen to the older ones. Ironically we all pray to God, or as my God mother says, "Santa Rita, Santa Rita, escucha esta alma que te grita!" (Saint Rita, Saint Rita, listen to this soul that calls to you!)

Mexico for me is too many things to write about. I would have to write a book about it. Mexico makes me think of:

markets, bartering with the marchantas, listening to my Grandmother play the piano, going to tientas, eating the delicious food at tientas, listening to people tell jokes, eating guzanos de maguey (worms) , drinking soda from plastic bags with a straw sticking out the top, eating popcorn drenched in chile at the cinema, sitting in traffic and watching people go by, mariachis on my birthday, visiting the Virgen de Guadalupe and being so moved by those who approach her on their knees, having come from all over the country, watching films by Pedro Infante (Escuela de Vagabundos) and Cantinflas, eating Mexican sweets, having papaya with lime and orange juice in the morning, eating freshly made tortillas with butter and salt at my Godparent's house, eating mango's de manila like a lollipop, eating aguacates with my Grandmother...........

.........................smelling the sweet breads at the supermarket, going to church and seeing faith at it's worst and at it's best, arriving in Salamanca and seeing shops called "The king of cuts" (a hairdressing salon in a teeny village in Mexico), going to a tiangis (a market selling everything from TV's to Gucci bags..(not real of course, but just as good), Frida Kahlo's house, the canals of Xochimilco, Diego Rivera's murals, the pyramids, the huge mall in Santa fe because it has marble floors, the zoo, the beautiful Ángel de la Independencia, visiting people's homes, talking to the maids, making sopes, the mercado de jamaica for all it's flowers and for the market community who made friends with my father, the mercado en la zona rosa because I love the silver there and love the marchantas there, the smell of the laundry, and the smell of the air very early in the morning.

There are many more things.

But that is enough for now.

Have a great day,



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