Friday, June 12, 2015

Day 3 in Mexico City: Xochimilco, Xoloitzcuintle, and more Peacocks!

This morning we made the bold decision to drive to the Museum Dolores Olemda Patina a 60,000 square foot hacienda named after the woman who turned it into a museum after having lived there and been Diego Rivera's model. A lot of the museum is dedicated to photos of her and what are absolutely under no circumstances to be misconstrued as her natural eyebrows. She took Frida to the opposite extreme...but without the redeeming talent, I fear.

The grounds are owned by the dozens of peacocks that wander around flashing their feathers and vibrating in demonstrations of masculinity. There were also peahens haphazardly leading around small flocks of baby peacocks which occasionally would end up being shaken violently in the beaks of the adult males. It didn't seem particularly fatherly. In fact, I think the message was: If I kill you, I can mate with your mother. Nature is so sweet sometimes.

The museum is not very large and a portion of it was closed because someone was showing a powerpoint about the importance of understanding pre-colombian culture. We were told to come back at 2:00 so we went to get a beer and some snacks and watch the peacocks either fall in love or maim each other. When we came back after 2:00 we were told that we still couldn't come in, but we insisted and were let in, although they told us we couldn't go into the galleries. I told them I thought this was ridiculous, that they had charged me full price and that they misunderstood themselves. Maybe I should go into diplomacy.

It can be truly frustrating to deal with people of small authority in Mexico because they love to make up rules. What I have learned is that you have to lie back to them. So, when the woman told me I couldn't go into the gallery, I went in but said that I wasn't. She could see that I was going in, but she was stuck arguing with me about whether or not I was in the gallery long enough for me to see it. This is why the rules are held in such contempt here, because they are constantly invented and reinvented by every petty tyrant who wants to apply them simply for the joy of exercising their will. That's why you have to deal with the people in your neighborhood and why life can be so enjoyable - people don't tend to mess with those they have to live with. Outside of those webs of life long connections, people lose their humanity to each other.

In any case, when I was done making enemies - and being interviewed by the umpteenth high school english class student group - we went over to the canals at Xochimilco. As we were entering the area with the canals, a man on a bicycle came up and offered to escort us to the dock. He showed us a laminated 'pass' from the government so that we would know he was legit. Because clearly nobody could forge a laminated pass! He seemed to be going where we wanted to go and soon we were following him as he attempted to circumvent not only all traffic laws but occasionally those laid down by physics in order to get us to the boats.

At first they were asking 3,000 pesos for a two hour trip, we negotiated down to 1,500 (about $100 for a private boat) and we were off. The canals are a floating economy with mariachi in boats that sidle up to your offering a song and floating vendors hawking memorabilia, sodas, and food. Every so often, a gentle accident jars you but on the whole it was extremely pleasant. We didn't hire any mariachi but did eavesdrop on their performances for others. It was also possible to hire a marimba player, something we also declined. There were actually bathrooms all along the route at which we could stop, which surprised me and may actually be the highest concentration of public bathroom facilities per linear foot of any passageway in Mexico. Also, it's the first time I've ever been offered a bonsai by a sales person in a boat.

The drivers of the boat punt down the shallow river using long, thick bamboo poles. Our driver managed to lose his pole at one point and was desperately trying to direct our boat back towards it by using one of the chairs as a paddle. Luckily, the river is never without a group nearby and so another boatman was able to recover our guy's lost stick...but not his lost dignity.

We were nearing the docks when the sky started to darken and had managed to land and disembark just as the clouds broke. This sent the guys watching the parking lot scattering to find shelter and so we didn't have to pay for parking (a rare freebie in Mexico). Back at our apartment, we set out for a walk around the square and to see the local church, a surprisingly beautiful place in which a wedding was being held. On the outside, the church appears as a heavy, hard mass with little to promise, but the paintings on the walls and ceiling on the interior are well worth the visit. And I'm not just saying this because I had finished possibly the best ice cream ever just before entering.

The church is enormous and has not just one, but four creepy Christ statues. That's some serious investment.

We stopped by a wonderful little store that had a variety of delicious looking sauces and bought some chorizo to mix with our leftover potatoes and mushrooms from yesterday and dined like kings.

Tomorrow is our last day here and we're already saying that we need to come back - there is so much to do and see here that 5 days isn't enough, five months probably still wouldn't be, but I don't think my heart could handle the stress of driving in this madness for that long, so better to do it in chunks.

But I hope I don't have to wait too long.

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