December is one of my favorite months for being in Mexico City. Although the nights and early mornings can be quite chilly, the sun shines gloriously most days, and the Christmas decorations and noche buenas (poinsettias) are displayed in abundance. Additionally, it seems that each Chilango you meet (and there are many – roughly 21 million) has a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face as he sips an atole (a warm corn beverage, vaguely similar to hot chocolate) or ponche (fruit punch, flavored with whole chunks of fruit) in between rounds of holiday shopping at any of the city’s mercados or galerias.
As regards public gathering spaces in Mexico City, the city’s Plaza de la Constitución – or Zócalo – is ground zero. This is the unofficial geographic center of the city, and the third-largest square in the world, after Tiananmen Square in Beijing and Red Square in Moscow. Mexico City’s Zócalo is home to the location of the country’s presidential palace, its largest cathedral, one of its most important Aztec sites, and the capital’s city hall.