visited Mexico on several occasions, each time drawn back by
the reliably wonderful weather, golden beaches, luxurious hilltop villas, endless choices of culinary
delights, and seemingly never-ending sporting activities and
nightlife. Perhaps like most visitors, you wandered away
from the beach for a few hours to visit pyramids of the Maya on
the Yucatan, or the ancient city of Teotihuacan?
enjoyable, but Mexico has much more to offer those visitors
wanting to complement physical relaxation with intellectual
consider stopping over for a few days in Mexico City.
Founded in 1325 by the Aztecs, there are literally hundreds
of places of cultural and historic interest within two or
three hours drive of your downtown hotel.
recent visit, I stayed at the Hotel Casa Blanca. Offering
comfortable accommodations at reasonably affordable rates,
the hotel is conveniently located in the historic quarter,
only a few minutes walk to the city’s main cultural and
business activities. From this base, you have easy access
to about 2,600 restaurants, 100 museums, 50 art galleries,
and the many convention centers.
Here are just two attractions of special interest to those
of you wanting to explore “something different” within a one
hour drive or train ride of the city center, and just a few
minutes apart. *
The Delores Olmedo Patino Museum.
5843 Avenida México in the town of Xochimilco,
(So-chi-milko), the museum
occupies what was originally the main house of the Hacienda
La Noria that dates from the sixteenth century.
Olmedo Patino purchased the ruins of this once magnificent
ranch in 1962, converted it into what is now a world-class
center for Mexico’s cultural heritage, and then donated it
in trust to the people of Mexico.
First opened to the
public in September, 1994, the museum features the works of
Mexico’s three most important artists, Diego Rivera, Frida
Kahlo, and Russian-born Angelina Beloff.
collections, as well as the beautiful furnishings that once
graced Dolores Olmedo’s home, have been divided into several
gallery and Room 2 contain many of the paintings and murals
of child prodigy Rivera. The portrait of his mother, painted
when he was only ten years old, astounded art critics with
its simplistic brilliance.
Room 3, the
original dining room, is devoted to the inventiveness and
skills of the Maya. Also on display in this room is
Rivera’s last painting, the unforgettable “The
well-planned circuitous route leads into The Kitchen. Laid
out as typical of colonial times, even the traditional stove
is a unique work of art. Here, you will see specially
commissioned silver tableware and porcelain literally fit
for an Emperor.
continues with some of Mexico’s finest lithographs,
drawings, and paintings until
reaching my favorite displays relating to the pre-Hispanic
custom of the "Altar to the dead."
Several large rooms are
crowded with highly colorful masterpieces in various woods
and metals, glass, papier mache’ and other materials.
Mainly rural in origin, they reveal incredible diversity of
imagination as artisans depict birds, freakish beautifully
dressed human skeletons, and plant life.
museum building is the jewel, its setting is a vast expanse
of well-manicured lawn, plants, mature trees and a glorious
rainbow of flowers.
Look carefully, and you may catch sight
of the original Mexican hairless Xoloitzcuintle dog.
and children under six admitted no charge. Free admission
to all on Tuesdays.
Xochimilco – Mexico’s hidden Venice.
the 19th century, Xochimilco, a Nahuatl word that
means "garden of flowers," was a lake and the main water
catchment area for Mexico City.
encroachment, land fill and water run-off have gradually
turned the area of about 125 square kms. into raised
agricultural fields called chinampas, flower markets, and
residential housing sectioned off like a jigsaw puzzle by
140 kms of peaceful, winding canals.
recognized as a tourist attraction in the 1920s. European
guidebooks romanticized the gardens and described Xochimilco
as "the Venice of Mexico." As testament to the site's
historic value, UNESCO declared Xochimilco a Cultural
Heritage Site in 1987.
In 1993 as
part of a multi-million dollar ecological rescue project,
the federal government divided the land into a traditional
area and an ecological park. Both areas offer excellent bird
"floating gardens" are formed by alternating layers of
aquatic weeds, muck, and earth packed inside rectangular
cane frames firmly rooted to the lake floor. They are
anchored to the lake bottom by trees planted along the edges
of the fields.
region depends on tourism to maintain jobs for thousands of
workers - from musicians to cooks to craft vendors. Access
to the canals is free, but tourists can hire a colorful,
flower adorned wooden punt, or trajinera, for about 150-200
pesos an hour. Sit back and relax as the boatman poles
gently underneath towering cypress trees, past gardens
overflowing with an amazing variety of sweet-smelling
flowers, neat waterfront homes, and vegetable gardens.
appears into view from around the next bend, you hear the
sounds of marimba,
salterio, or mariachi music drifting along the surface of
the canal from a trajinera carrying a smartly dressed group
of musicians. Other trajineras may be seen carrying
musicians serenading young lovers, or excited school
children enjoying a day on the water.
thirsty? Then wave over yet another trajinera and buy spicy,
locally produced foods, or a refreshing soft drink.
important. Have camera ready, for you are guaranteed to take
some of the best reminders of your trip to Mexico, along
with all the"usual" pictures of sand and sea.
* It is advisable to use the services of a tour operator,
taxi, or limousine driver rather than risk getting flustered
driving a rental car in this huge city of twenty-three
million people, eight million cars, and unfamiliar traffic
Mexico Tourism Board
For further information:
Mexico City Dept. of Tourism
Delores Olmedo Museum