De Jefe

No more photographing babies in tiny fedoras for me. I decided to quit my job at the portrait studio and leave the country. I am on a three-month trip around southern Mexico with Rad. He applied for a few research grants hoping that he would get one. Instead, he got three grants so he could hit the archives hard and take a Mixtec language course. All of our belongings except for three suitcases full of clothes, two laptops and three cameras are sitting in a storage unit in Lansing, Michigan.

The first leg of our journey took us to Mexico City; affectionately called De Jefe. The estimated population of the city is 21.2 million people, but some people say the actual population is much greater and it is possibly the largest city in the world.

It has been a couple years since I visited Mexico, so my Spanish vocabulary has eroded quite a bit. Not that I could carry on deep and meaningful conversations before, but I am now relegated to statements about the weather, naming animals and food items, getting to the correct address in a taxi and buying food at the grocery store.

Por ejemplo:

Hay muchas lluvias hoy. ¿No?

¡Mire los perros en la calle!

¿Puedes traer una cerveza y tres tacos al pastor?

I am getting better and I owe it mostly to television and small talk with strangers. Total immersion. That’s the way to go.

Before we left, we heard all the warnings about how dangerous Mexico is from people who have never been there. However, from a few reliable sources, I heard the Mexico City airport is kind of chaotic. As our plane flew into Mexico City, I craned me neck toward the window and looked down at the endless city we were about to touch down in. Get Ready. Passports were in hand. Immigration forms were filled out. We didn’t have any dangerous agricultural products and certainly no cash over $10,000. We got off the plane, waited in the line marked “foreigners,” and to our surprise, went through customs with ease. We only had to fill out our forms two times and press a button that illuminated a green stick figure carrying a suitcase. I’m still not sure why. We hopped into a registered taxi like all the signs say, and were whisked off to the Hotel Imperial on the Paseo de la Reforma, right in the middle of the action. At one end of the famous avenue is Chapultepec Castle and the other is the national palace.

I highly recommend the Hotel Imperial. The folks who work there are helpful, it is within walking distance to museums, the zócalo, The Chapultepec Castle and too many restaurants to list. They also have a gut-busting breakfast buffet that I enjoyed more than once. From our fifth-floor room, we could see a snow-capped mountain that actually turned out to be an active volcano that belched gasses and smoke the whole time we were there. Evidently, the week before we arrived, Popocatepetl shook a little and glowing rock could be seen around the crater.  ¡Fue muy interesante!

Above all, the people in De Jefe are quite friendly when you consider that you are possibly in the largest city in the world, including these two guys who asked if we were from the United States. When we confirmed that we were, they informed us that they loved Starsky and Hutch.

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Mis nuevos amigos

There is not much time to stop in the street and compose photos, so many of these were taken while I was walking.

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El Palacio de Bellas Artes

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the center of the Hotel Imperial just outside our room

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Christopher Columbus

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That cop right there told me I was not allowed to take photos.

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La Zona Rosa

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a nail shop in the middle of the shopping district

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A building near La Zona Rosa

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The view outside our hotel room. That hotel was $140 a night. Ours? $55.

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Amanda Rosa

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Free bikes in the city!

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A hotel down the road from us

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El Universal

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a defunct camera shop

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El Hemeciclo a Don Benito Juárez

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La Alameda

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El Zócalo

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