Sunday, 8 November 2009

City of contrasts on the Day of the Dead

Mexico City - or DF as it's known here - continues to enthrall and perplex with its fast paced, pot-holed highways, its polished modern office towers and local streets strung with black wires and leafy trees. As much of a Jekyll and Hyde city as Edinburgh (on a much larger scale), it feels as if there's a battle going on in its streets between its colonial Spanish past (the monument above is to Christopher Columbus) and a will to use its major petrol resources to build a city to rival any in the lands of the major powers. TV adverts several times a night extol the virtues of the present government in its fight against drugs, the organised crime that control them, and to build a secure and prosperous nation for all of Mexico's inhabitants.

With baby Mhairi Itzel now more settled and sleeping peacefully whenever she's in the car, or out in the fresh air, we were able to spend a few hours exploring the city streets and ended up having a traditional Mexican lunch at the Cafe de Tacuba - a lavishly decorated dining hall with a vaulted ceiling, walls hung with ornate framed, full length portraits of eighteenth century Spanish worthies and wall panels painted in frescos or tiled with gaudy, glorious Mexican craftsmanship. It being Day of the Dead (when all the dead have come back overnight), the waiting staff were dressed as nuns.
After lunch, we drove to the main square - the Zocalo - but didn't find it festooned in orange from the marigold ofrendas to commemorate dead loved ones. The few that we did see had had their petals scattered by the tail end of hurricane winds that had hit the Pacific coast. Despite that, the vast Zocalo, thronging with people enjoying one of the few open spaces in this crowded city, is worth visiting for its ornate Cathedral and its traditional healers, whose rhythmic drums, aura-cleansing smoke and hopping dances alter the passer-by's mind state through a bewildering sensory immersion.

And back home, we had our own little ofrenda, commemorating my late mum, dad and brother - all Scottish - and Aldo's Mexican grandparents. Little would they have expected they'd be linked after they'd gone, in beautiful little Mhairi Itzel.

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