Photo Locale of the Month – December 2015

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.

Catedral Metropolitano 1.NEF

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Celebrating Feast Day in Mexico City

Basilica de Guadalupe 40

The Basilica of Guadalupe, in northern Mexico City, is the world’s third-most-visited religious pilgrimage destination. It is here that the Aztecs worshipped at a pre-Colombian temple atop Tepeyac Hill. It is here that indigenous monk Juan Diego saw several visions of the Virgin Mary. And it is here that a series of churches exist today in honor of the Virgin’s first appearance.

Today is Feast Day, a spiritual celebration of the Virgin’s first appearance in Mexico, and a day when thousands – millions – arrive in reverence. Each December 12th, the street leading up to the basilica is closed to vehicular traffic and overtaken by pilgrims, many crawling the last several hundred meters on their knees. Mass is conducted around-the-clock, volunteers feed the homeless at a food station behind the basilica, and Aztec drummers keep the rhythm in the adjacent plaza while others dance in a haze of incense. The energy is infectious at any time of year, but doubly so on Feast Day and during the days leading up to it.

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40 at 40 – A GringoPotpourri Q&A

North Rim Grand Canyon 20

I turned 40 two weeks ago. The feeling is a bit surreal. On the one hand, most people tell me that I look young for my age. On the other hand, I can’t believe that I’ve completed four decades of living, and I’m disappointed that I’m not “where I should be” in my life considering that I’m a college graduate who has traveled around the world. At least that dreadful phrase “Over the Hill” has become passé.

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Confessions of a Former English Teacher

As my current tax season job winds to a close, I am reminded of the fact that just one year ago, I was waking up at 4:30 every morning to begin the arduous commute to my rewarding, but short-lived, job as an English teacher in Mexico City.

I have mentioned that job before in passing, but wanted to share some humorous anecdotes with you, Loyal Reader – albeit in a more structured manner than the few bullet points I shared here about my current gig as a tax company waver and marketer.

Today’s entry will be longer, as I taught English in Mexico for 18 months and simply have more stories to tell.

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Top Ten Mexico – The Country

Greetings, Loyal Reader! If you’ve gotten to this point, you either like top ten lists, as I do, or you’re just trying to appease me. Hoping it’s the former and not the latter, it’s time for another list! (My previous top ten list – Top Ten Mexico City – can be found here.)

There is so much more to Mexico than just its capital. Of course, Mexico DF is the biggest and best city in the country – and you’d better believe it’ll make my country-wide top ten list – but you’ll also find beaches, ruins, and smaller cities and towns of note. Any Americans reading this blog, take note: many U.S. cities offer direct flights to numerous destinations in Mexico. Los Angeles, Houston, and Dallas seem especially well connected. Start packing!

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So why Mexico City?

So why Mexico City? “Why not?” would be a great reply to that oft-asked question, but of course there’s a bit more to it than that.

I took my first trip to Mexico City over Thanksgiving of 2002. Ten years ago. Though not my first international trip (I had previously set foot in Europe, Canad-ia, and Brazil), nor my first trip to Mexico (that would be a drunken 1998 road trip from San Diego to Tijuana; is there any other kind?), I now know that my 2002 Mexico City trip/holiday/vacation was the trip to change the course of my life to include more travel than anyone I’ve known. This was the trip because it was my first international trip alone, to a place just four hours from my former homes of LA and Chicago by plane, yet whole worlds apart.

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