A Sunday on Doll Island

I had the opportunity, during my recent February trip to Mexico City, to make a return visit to Xochimilco, the canal district and delegación that has much to offer visitors and Chilangos both.  Xochimilco is most famous for its canals, tranquil (albeit polluted) waterways that zig-zag through largely agricultural acreage.  This was my fourth or fifth trip to Xochimilco, but rather than take the tren ligero (light rail train) to the market-church-and-canal trifecta that I call Xochimilco Town, I opted for a longer, spookier trip.  My destination: Doll Island.

La Isla de las Muñecas (Doll Island) is a small island in a remote section of Xochimilco’s waterways that, as its name suggests, is home to children’s dolls.  Hundreds of them.  Decaying.

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A Reunion of Amigos

Q: What do an entrepreneur, a human resources executive, a high school English teacher, a middle school history and science teacher, and a graduate student have in common?

A: They live in Mexico City, and they are my friends.

My long-awaited (for me, at least) return to “CDMX” was a resounding success.  I didn’t get to see everyone I wanted to see, nor was I able to hit up every one of my former stomping grounds, but on the whole, I was able to stroll through some of my favorite neighborhoods and spend time with old friends – even if it was just for a quick drink.

Would you like to meet them?  (Apologies in advance to mis amigos for posting these pics – although I don’t think the content is anything too compromising.)

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Portrait of a Neighborhood: Pedregal

The next Mexico City neighborhood that I have decided to profile lies in the south of the city, beyond the reach of the subway.  It is a ritzy area of palacial homes, double-decker shopping malls, Aztec ruins, desert gardens, and some of the worst traffic in the city.

Pedregal (full name: Jardines del Pedregal – “Rocky Gardens” en inglés) is an urbanization of land that sits immediately north of Periférico Sur and west of Avenida de los Insurgentes, in the shadow of Picacho Ajusco, the city’s 3,986-meter (13,077-foot) mountain.  Although I have grown to not just like but love Pedregal, its sprawling, plus-sized colonia, filled with diesel-belching buses that drive past gated private residences is not for everyone.

la-esperanza-de-maria-y-periferico-sur-1

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Portrait of a Neighborhood: Condesa and Roma

My blog journey through Mexico City has taken you through a hodgepodge of neighborhoods nice (Coyoacán, San Ángel, Polanco), not so nice (Tepito, Tlatelolco, Doctores), and “in transition” (Iztapalapa, Santa María la Ribera).  The route connecting these barrios “bravos” y “mágicos” would, thus far, be something of a zig-zag…but rest assured that I still have a few more old DF haunts to share with you, Loyal Reader.

La Condesa, west of the Centro Histórico in Cuauhtémoc borough, is – and has long been – the stomping ground of Mexico City’s bourgeoisie.  Impossibly-tall, stiletto-heeled Chilangas enter and exit luxury condos, cell phones in one hand and Fendi purses in the other.  Professional dog walkers handle seven, eight, even nine dogs at a time, and make it look easy.  Tree-lined streets branch off grand thoroughfares and lead to shady parks.  Art Deco architecture competes with glassy high rises for attention and real estate value.

Condesa 8 - Avenida Amsterdam

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Portrait of a Neighborhood: Polanco

Museo Soumaya and Plaza Carso 2

Mexico City is an interesting place.  From above, its layout is very grid-like, particularly in the central corridor and proper Distrito Federal.  But the whole is city is a veritable potpourri (I love that word!) of rich and poor.  Wealthy San Pedro de los Pinos abuts poor Tacubaya.  Upper middle class Narvarte backs up to working class Doctores.  Charming, arsty Coyoacán borders dodgy Tasqueña.  Etc.

Polanco is one of the city’s wealthier neighborhoods.  Like San Pedro de los Pinos and other upscale colonias, it borders poorer corners of DF – in this case, Tacuba and Toreo.  Parts of Polanco’s northern fringe, Nuevo Polanco, are comprised of endless construction zones that, as such, make the area appear, visually speaking at least, as less safe and less charming.  Still, Polanco is a classy neighborhood, one of my favorites in all of Mexico City.

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Portrait of a Neighborhood: San Ángel

San Angel 3

Last week, I wrote the first of what I hope to be a series of articles about Mexico City neighborhoods that I find enchanting.  That portrait, about the colonial neighborhood and greater borough of Coyoacán, is similar in theme to my 2014 and 2015 series on Mexico City’s barrios bravos (Tepito, Doctores, etc.).  The difference?  Coyo isn’t as rough around the edges, and the post was written while wearing a pair of rose-tinted glasses.  I am immediately following that Coyo post with my second entry in this new series.

Just one stop south from Metro Viveros – where subway passengers exit for Coyoacán – is Metro Miguel Ángel de Quevedo, named after the renowned Mexican architect and environmentalist.  Alight here and you’ll see another sculpture of two coyotes in the middle of a traffic roundabout.  Turn left, though, and a ten minute walk along the street of the same name leads you through Chimalistac colonia and into Álvaro Obregón delegación, home to the upscale, hilly neighborhood of San Ángel.

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Portrait of a Neighborhood: Coyoacán

This is a bolillo.

bolillo

Although it looks like a piece of hard bread, it is so much more than that.  I was delighted when my dad brought home a dozen of these from a local Mexican bakery, because they reminded me of guajalotas, my favorite breakfast item whilst living in Mexico City.

Also called a torta de tamal, a guajalota is a steamed tamale unwrapped and served inside this bolillo – roll – and topped with salsa verde or roja.  Spicy, warm, and filling.

Nothing goes better with a guajalota than a cup of café tibia – warm, not scalding, coffee with the slightest hint of cinnamon – from Café el Jarocho.  This chain of inviting coffee shops can be found in just corner of the world – the Coyoacán borough of Mexico City.

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