In Pictures: San Angel

South of the center of México, D.F., along the western side of Insurgentes Sur, is the neighborhood of San Angel (map).  The relaxed atmosphere, colorful architecture, and open-air stores and restaurants make this colonia popular with both locals and tourists.  San Angel also happens to be near ITAM, where I spend many of my days, and I occasionally choose to walk through its cobbled streets to the metrobús on Insurgentes Sur on sunny days as an alternative to my commute to the metro.

 

México, D.F.

My (Bad) Experience with Ticketmaster

It’s always comforting, especially during the holidays, to find things here in México, D.F. that remind me of being up north in the U.S.  For example, Ticketmaster’s service in Mexico is just as dreadful and overpriced here as it is back home. 

Yesterday evening, I went to see El Buen Canario at Teatro Insurgentes.  This new John Malkovitch-directed play has received quite a lot of hype here, as much for it’s director, who I’ve heard doesn’t speak Spanish, as for lead actor Diego Luna.  I’m not a major patron of the theatrical arts, but I thought the show was fantastic and the entire cast put on a great performance.  Getting the tickets to the show, however, was not so enjoyable.  Ticketmaster (TM), just as back in the U.S., has a practical monopoly on online ticket sales for events in Mexico City.

Placing the order for tickets was a frustrating experience(s).  I had wanted to buy tickets as a gift and to go during the holidays, but I didn’t have a particular date in mind.  TM made searching for seats to be a real pain, as each time you view the seats for a performance, you need to decipher one of those visual keys that is used to deter people from writing programs that buy tickets for online brokers.  Of course, I’ve got 20/20 vision and am a native english speaker, yet I still have trouble with these.  (Why they would need such a filter for performances that aren’t in ultra-high demand, I am baffled….)

Dessaur through??

Dessaur through??

TM only lets you search one performance at a time, so I had to search for seats to each show individually.  Each time, TM would offer to me the “best” seats for that show.  However, TM’s interpretation of the best seats usually meant most expensive.  For example, TM kept suggesting a pair of seats in last row of the front section, but all the way in the corner — definitely not good seats — even when there would be availability front row center only one or two rows behind in the next, and less-expensive section.  As a result, I not only needed to search show-by-show, but also section-by-section; each time having to fiddle with one of those anti-broker visual cues.  I know a little about the system of inter-tubes… but using TM’s website to find tickets took me the better part of forty-five minutes.  Are you kidding me?!?

Publish tightly??

Publish tightly??

By the time I found the show/seats I wanted, I was fuming.  This frustration was, of course, exacerbated by the ordering process.  The first time I placed a ticket order, as a resident of México, D.F., I chose will call for delivery, which has a fee, only to have my order rejected because I used a U.S. credit card.  Consequently, I needed to start all over again (more of those annoying visual tests).  The second time, I succeeded in placing the order, but was told that I needed to pick up the tickets myself at one of two dozen locations around the city, but not at the theater.  At the time, this didn’t seem like a huge deal… after all, they provided a nice list. 

delivery 111??

delivery. 111??

Of course, the list of places to pick up tickets on Ticketmaster’s website is incorrect.  I went to a location near my house (a forty-minute walk), a Mixup music store, only to find that, while Mixup places “Ticketmaster” orders, they won’t print tickets for anything purchased online.  What?!?  Forty minutes, later, I found myself at a Liverpool, a department store out at Parque Delta, where, after waiting in line for 15 minutes, finally received my order.  Of course, the Liverpool wasn’t in the list of “pickup” locations on the website.  Total time to pick up ticket?  Two hours.

Sofia whined??

Sofia whined??

And for the “privilege” and “convenience” that TM provides, they charge exorbitant fees.  For example, for our 450-peso seats at the teatro, the nice folk at Ticketmaster tack on 80 pesos per seat for “convenience” plus additional “per order” and “delivery” charges.  I’m not sure what’s convenient about it, nor can I figure out where TM is spending all this money — I certainly didn’t receive 200 pesos worth of service!  Sigh… well, somebody in Mexico is making a fortune out of this.

Island Calvé??

Island Calvé??

I found out later that I could have skipped Ticketmaster altogether by purchasing tickets at the theater box office.  Ah, that’s probably why they wouldn’t let me pick up my tickets there.

 

México, D.F.

Got Lost the Other Day…

Christmas Day evening, we got lost on the way to a birthday party in the southern part of the city.  It’s amazing how quickly nice areas here en el D.F., with gardens and wide, planted, recently-repaved avenues can turn into the poorer, dusty, unkept, graffitied housing tracks that are sprinkled throughout the city.  While much of Mexico City could be described as blue-collar, with small, adjacent houses and plodding public services, the desolation and widespread graffiti of this part of Calle Diez Sur Pedro Henríquez Ureña (map) (which seems to be alternately described as the neighborhoods of Fraccionamiento Pedregal de San Francisco, Colonia Pedregal de Santo Domingo, and Fraccionamiento Copilco Universidad) was striking.

Perhaps my impression was promoted by the holiday, in which so few other people were out, and perhaps it was only along the very wide (and presumably very busy) thoroughfare of  Diez Sur and isn’t indicative of the inside of these neighborhoods.  For example, I can attest that other parts of Colonia Pedregal de Santo Domingo, are much more well-cared for.  The sharp contrast, however, between the wealth along Miguel Angel de Quevedo, a boulevard just to the north, the prim, quaint order of San Angel to the west, and the university-minded collective of Copilco was startling.  That said, despite the down-trodden nature, it didn’t feel unsafe, only desolate and uncared-for.  Perhaps any other night I might have felt different, but on this particular evening, I was given the fortune of seeing part of the world I would never otherwise experience.

Mexico City is both a good city to get lost in and a bad city to get lost in.  It’s fear of the latter that keeps many away, sadly, though a little common sense, the company of a few friends, and an inquisitive nature, will help ensure the former.

 

México, D.F.

 


This might also be a good time to point out the new map feature that’s been added to the blog.  Look up!  It’s hard to miss.  The map is focused on Colonia Escandón, but you can zoom/move to find quippets and links to entries about the places in Mexico City I’ve mentioned in this blog, plus a few others.

Five-Star Street Tacos

If there is such a thing as high-end gourmet street tacos, then I very well might have experienced them last Wednesday.  On a desolate calle near ITAM, where I work, (actually on Torres de Ixtapatongo, I believe, across Periférico from San Angel Tizapán) is a family-run street-side taquería — four posts and a plastic tarp roof.  The street on which this particular taquería is located is unusual because it’s on a small hillside and surrounded by empty lots.  There are few buildings, tons of parking, and no other changarros.  Such isolation is rare in this city!  But the street around this taco stand is packed with cars, all customers for what may described as “deep-fried goodness.”

My order (thankfully recommended) was for two tacos, one with a chicken cutlet and the other with stacked slices of ham and cheese.  Each filling is breaded and then deep fried in a huge cauldron; the resulting piece of heaven is then sliced into strips and heaped onto two warm tortillas.  Yeah, there are salsas and limes, too.  But it’s really about what goes in, and not on a taco.  The chicken is warm and moist and flavorful and the ham and cheese, which I must admit I was a bit skeptical of when ordering, was stellar: the melted cheese, warm ham, and crunchy breading are an outstanding combination, especially when they are fresh from the hot oil.

I need to go back.

I need to go back.

It was a good day for a diet.

 

México, D.F.

Mexican Decoration in the Holiday Season

I must admit that, after having become accustomed to the the widespread gaudiness (of course, it is a matter of opinion!) of decoration in Mexico, I expected the Christmas season to bring some truly spectacularly kitschy public displays.  After all, back home in the states, people seem to revel in the “spirit” of the holidays, with entire neighborhoods lathering sheets of blinking lights, monument-sized, air-filled, blowing snow globes, and six-foot, animated, plastic reindeer.  

But here in México, D.F., it almost seemed as if, given my expectations, that holiday decoration was, well, tasteful.  Most buildings had (relatively) little external decoration, with most of the effort spent on decorating trees placed in living rooms and expansive nativity scenes, proudly displayed on fireplace mantles.   That’s not to say that there weren’t hordes of little robotic singing Santa figures for sale at local markets and plenty of evidence of the holiday’s commercialization… but the general absence of glaring lights and gaudy lawn displays seemed to make the holiday and the “holiday spirit” feel, well, more genuine.

One of the most festive parts of the holiday are seasonal markets that spring up on street corners and, especially, around the permanent neighborhood markets in the center of many of the colonias.

...dozens of holiday stalls filled the porticos around the market in Escandón....

...dozens of holiday stalls filled the porticos around the market in Escandón....

The market in Escandón seemed to double in size, as perhaps three or four dozen stalls opened up under the porticos along José Martí, selling everything from warm ponche, fried potatoes and plantains, and the more ubiquitous quesadillas, tortas, and tacos to gifts, wrapping paper, and Christmas trees.  Some of the more interesting stalls sold supplies for nativity scenes, with little figurines, toy ceramic houses, and sheets of various dried mosses and lichens that are used to landscape the scenes.

In the center of the city, the zócalo was also dressed for the holidays, with large scaffolds of lights covering the government buildings surrounding the plaza, a huge decorative tree, and interactive displays and rides… even a sledding hill and an ice rink.  In the afternoons and evenings, the zócalo would fill with people coming to experience the spectacle, festive crowds adding to the energy of the moment.

 

México, D.F.

In Pictures: A Trip to Tepalcates

Tepalcates is the eastern terminus of the new Metrobús line in México, D.F., Linea 2.  I’ve already mentioned my own shock and awe about the construction and rapid completion of the project.  So, last week I decided to take a trip out there to see the new line (and what $65 million bought).  If you’re looking for stats/info on the new line, check out this prior post.

The ride itself, was relatively painless.  I got on as Escandón, which, despite it’s proximity to the western terminus at Tacubaya, was already standing-room-only.  At Nuevo Leon, the next stop and only real transfer point, enough people got off that I was able to snag a seat… some days I don’t feel like standing for forty-five minutes.  The ride out to Tepalcates was straight-forward and relatively uninteresting, and SRO almost to the end of the line.  Most of the stations look alike and the route isn’t particularly scenic.  Although I did get to see an interesting, gradual change in the neighborhoods from the wealth of La Condesa to the blue-collar colonias near the airport. 

My surprise at the sudden start of service of the new line was due to the apparent lack of completion of the station by my house.  In fact, they had only started running test service (as far I saw) five days before opening the gates to fare-paying passengers.  But, I must admit, given my initial impression, I was really surprised at how functional most of the stations were.  Of course, heading east to west (from more to less wealth), the stations were gradually under a greater state of incompletion.  It started with unfinished bathrooms, progressed to missing lights and signs, and finally ended with the very-under-construction (or constriction?) hub of Tepalcates.

Of course, the need to use your imagination at Tepalcates is only a temporary issue… while the loose interpretation of what determines a “convenient transfer to the metro” is not.  At a few of the published MB-metro transfer points (Patriotísmo, Etiopía?) the metro and metrobús stations were adjacent.  At others, like Coyuya/Canela, you might want to take a taxi.  And then there’s Tepalcates, where it seems as if they might have designed the walkways so that people will need to walk further than necessary in order to transfer, just so they walk past shops.  (Though, in fairness, Tepalcates was still so far from complete that it was hard to tell what’s intended!)

The trip, itself, won’t be the highlight of any touristic itinerary, but there are some pictures posted below for the transit geeks among us.

 

México, D.F.

Street Noise

Just imagine how much quieter Mexico City would be if people had to pay one peso for every time they used their car horn.

 

Beep!    México, D.F.    Honk!

A Day at the Fights: Theater Arts for the Common Male

This is the second of three posts on a trip I took to the bullfights last Sunday (you can read more about the fights, themselves, in the first post).  

One of the first impressions made upon me, even more than the fight, itself, is the traditional pomp and circumstance that accompanies the bullfights.  At the beginning of the day, the matadors, picadors, banderilleros, and a host of men (and an occasional woman) that organize the fights parade around the center of the ring.  As I understand, this tradition is meant to symbolize the “clearing of the ring,” from when fights were held in town squares and not specialized and dedicated bullrings.

Each of the participants in the fight, from the various toreros to the officials to the men who remove the slain bulls are dressed in elaborate costumes, referred to as traje de luces.  

...this banderillero dressed in cream...

...this banderillero dressed in cream...

The costumes include ornate and elaborately decorated pants and shirt, with stitched patterns, dangling tassels, and an interlay of dark and brights colors.  The various banderilleros wore costumes with black on cream, red, or green, but the matadors all wear gold — by tradition, the only ones allowed to do so.  And, of course, there are the capes, in pink and yellow for the banderilleros and red for the matador.  Toreros also wear special hats, which seem like they might be more appropriate at Disneyland; although the striking similarity between the hats, or monteras, and Mickey Mouse’s ears make me wonder if it wasn’t Walt D. himself who borrowed the design.

The picadors, the men with lances on horseback, and even the horses, themselves, are also dressed in elaborate uniforms.  The riders wear intricately designed shirts that are similar to those of the banderilleros, special wide-brimmed hats… and armor to protect their legs.  The horses wear blindfolds and padding, each festooned with colors.  I’d have to figure the horse knows that something’s not right when they strap on the padding.

Of course, I’m no expert on fashion, nor does it really interest me.  But I do find that the costumes worn by the toreros to be an integral part of the appeal of bullfighting.  Much like opera (Toreador!  Toreador!) or ballet, the costumes add to the spectacle and drama.  In bullfighting, the costumes are also steeped in tradition, most of which I will never know.  Perhaps in this sense, bullfighting is theater for the bourgeoisie; costumes, music, dancing, and a little death in the afternoon.

The similarity to dancing isn’t that far-fetched, as the matador’s movement with the bull seems like a choreographed duet and the banderilleros often prance on the tips of their toes as they run up, arms and points held high, to the glaring bull.  What’s more, the shoes that each wears (take a look at the pictures!), also part of the costume, might be better suited for the stage at Lincoln Center than the blood and dust of the Plaza de Toros.

 

México, D.F.

Tried as hard as he could, but Godzilla could never be a puppy

Last month my roommate, on impulse, purchased a small green lizard, or lagartijo.  I think it might have been an iguana, but, you know, I’m no expert on these things.  From the very beginning, however, this little guy and my roommate were clearly a match that would not last.  From the first day, she (the roommate, I have no idea of the gender of the lagatijo) had difficulty hiding her disappointment.  This lizard, as they so often do, was prone to spending large amounts of time doing, well, nothing.  They get cold, they sleep.  I think she had wanted a puppy, one of those fuzzy, furry, fake-love and utter-dedication-balls-of-energy to cuddle with.  This lizard wasn’t quite matching up to expectations.

A day into the adventure, the lizard still hadn’t been christened with an official name, although the rest of us began referring to it as Godzilla.  It seemed an appropriate a name as anything.  My roommate would worry that Godzilla, which was still doing, well, nothing, was depressed.  Do lizards get depressed?

The next day, Godzilla was given to a girl at the pet shop down the street. 

 

He tried, but Godzilla could never be a puppy.

He tried, but Godzilla could never be a puppy.

 

México, D.F.

Mexico Pledges to Halve Carbon Emissions

Last week at the UN Conference on Climate Change in Poznan, Poland, the Mexican Secretary of the Environment and Natural Resources Juan Rafael Elvira pledged that México will reduce its carbon emissions to half of the 2002 levels (EX Online, Milenio).  

I must admit, I’m a bit skeptical of the sincerity of the pledge as Mexico’s per capita consumption of carbon is already well below the developed world.  Furthermore, it’s not clear to me that Mexico has the political structure capable of addressing climate change — I’m not really sure of what Elvira’s role in Mexico’s climate change policy is.  And then there’s the technical challenge of finding ways to drastically cut already low rates of carbon emissions.  Of course, the target date for such reductions is 2050.  Do such promises really mean anything?

 

México, D.F.