Tag Archives: D.F.

Tenochtitlan: Aztecs Under the Cathedral, Mexico City

The Aztecs dominated Mexico for over two hundred years and left a legacy for many more centuries than they existed. They created modern Mexico and called themselves Mexicas.

Tenochtitlan under the Cathedral, Mexico City

Remains of the Aztec Empire and their city Tenochtitlan continue to be discovered in the heart of Mexico City after archeologists started excavations in 1978.


Yesterday, I spent three hours in the archeological site and adjoining museum and it was not enough. While nowhere near as extensive as the famed Anthropology Museum, this archeological site holds the keys to the kingdom. Many Mexicans claim their identity from the Aztecs, and nationalism and its attendant symbols are rooted here.


For all the times I have visited Mexico City, I must confess that this was my first visit to Tenochtitlan. Bad me. I would recommend it as a starting point to anyone wanting to know more about Mexico culture, beliefs and identity.

Serpents are important Aztec symbols

Serpents are important Aztec symbols

The museum holds many important pieces that have been discovered over the years, most recently the wall of skull masks.  Skulls figure prominently in pre-Hispanic Mexican tradition, symbols of conquest, ancestor worship and the continuous journey of life to death.

Skull wall detail

Skull wall detail

Ceramic and stone sculpture of deities like the Chac Mool, Tlaloc and Eagle Warrior are housed here, too, along with trade jewelry and articles used for ritual sacrifice. There is a section on natural history, textiles and other art forms.


The site is different each time I view it above from the restaurant terrace at El Mayor (top floor, Libreria Porrua bookstore).  A tribute to INAH‘s dedication to restore Mexico’s pre-Hispanic history.


On this day, it was cloudy and overcast, the sky filled with rain clouds. My photos are shades of gray and muted colors as I continue to practice with the new Olympus mirrorless camera with Zuiko 12-40mm lens.


How to Enter Tenochtitlan: By foot, walk by the front of the Cathedral toward the Palacio Nacional. Make a left turn at the plaza with all the larger than life bronze sculptures by Javier Marin. Continue to the end where you will see an entry kiosk. Admission is 65 MXN pesos (about $4 USD at today’s exchange rate).  Wear a sun hat or take an umbrella for shade. No food or beverage allowed.

Three stone figures lay where they were found

Three stone figures lay where they were found

Two spaces left in the Textile Study Tour, February 3-11, 2015, featuring the ikat rebozos of Tenancingo de Degollado, Estado de Mexico. Contact me!


How safe is Mexico City for a single female traveler?

This question just came in: How safe is Mexico City for a single female traveler?

This is my experience.  I have been flying from the USA directly to Mexico City for the last several years. I do this to know Mexico better.  Usually I travel solo, alone, single, without a companion.  The Mexico City airport is very safe and secure.  I always buy a taxi ticket from the Taxi Seguro ticket stand in the airport after you exit from baggage claim.  This secure taxi service is licensed and registered by the Distrito Federal (D.F.) officials.  The cost from the airport to the historic center is about 200 pesos.

Mexico City is filled with culture, art treasures, stunning architecture, great restaurants and street food.  It is where Diego Rivera murals adorn public spaces to visually convey the history of Mexico from pre-Conquest to the socialist ideals of Communism.  It is filled with energy and beauty.  It is clean and overall safe. Definitely worth a stopover, in my opinion.

In the historic center I walk everywhere with my BIG Nikon camera and small purse (long straps crisscrossed over the my body) — to FONART, to Palacio Bellas Artes, to Mercado de San Juan, to Museo de Arte Popular, and to Palacio Nacional.  You need a taxi to the anthropology museum in Chapultepec Park.

If I’m there on the weekend, I will call a friend to go with me to Lagunilla flea market.  This is an all-day adventure.  There is a Saturday and Sunday Plaza del Angel antiques market in the Zona Rosa that is safe and accessible, and perfect for solo traveling.

I have taken the Metro with friends, but not yet solo.  Taxis are reasonable and plentiful.  Your hotel can call you a taxi they know to be secure and safe.  One Australian friend who has lived in D.F. for four years says to only take the white radio taxis that are available at marked corner stands.  I’ve used red and gold city taxis with no problem.

On past visits, I have asked my hotels or B&Bs to arrange a car and driver for a full day of sightseeing at about 100-120 pesos an hour.  We’ve gone to Casa Azul, the Dolores Olmeda Pineda Museum, and Xochimilco. The driver stays with us.

Two nights in Mexico City only gives you one full day, so I recommend at least three nights minimum to really get a flavor for the city.

As with all travel anywhere — in the USA or any foreign country — be mindful of your surroundings, only take cash out of an ATM during the day, keep your camera slung across your chest, don’t walk and use your SmartPhone at the same time (someone can easily grab it), check the taxi seat and floor before departing to make sure you don’t leave anything behind, stay alert, move away from people you think are suspicious.  I always carry my Passport with me for identification, but I’ve heard advice to the contrary.

I’m in Chicago this weekend and a platoon of policemen were heading toward Water Tower Place on the Magnificent Mile this morning for patrol duty.  Locals say there are a lot of iPhone thefts in that neighborhood, so there you go!

What else would you like to know?





In-Between, Let It Rain, and Murex Sea Snail Purple Dye

August 26, 2013–In Mexico City it’s raining, it’s pouring.   I left Oaxaca this morning to a full-tilt drizzle that went on through the night.  The maize fields are almost saturated.  Whew!

My Zapotec friends told me about the mysteries of the ancients. Don’t worry, they said a few days ago.  It will start raining on August 26.  I didn’t believe them.  Yes, they said, the ancient Zapotecs know.   It’s part of the natural cycle in time for the Calendula. It will rain throughout September, they said. Ah, hah, I discovered the rain will produce the wild marigolds so essential for Day of the Dead celebrations.  The rhythms of nature.  When we move too fast, we don’t have time to put our ear to the earth and remember our history.   This has been a wonderful part of my learning experience living in a small Mexican village.

A friend sent me an email that I read during the six-and-a-half-hour bus ride to Mexico City.  I am in-between leaving Oaxaca and arriving in the USA.  We are in-between two tropical storms, Ivo and Fernand, bringing rain on two fronts, east and west, one from Baja, the other from Veracruz.  I am now sitting in the shelter of historic Downtown Hotel, sipping a tequila (they offered it gratis, though I prefer mezcal) and listening to the deluge pouring on the soft roof of the courtyard just beyond my door.  It is a wonderful sound. The earth in Mexico is thirsty.

Mexico City has become another stopover favorite, in addition to Puebla.  It’s why I like to take the bus and take a few extra days between Oaxaca and the USA.  I can stay over a night or two and discover another part of Mexican culture.  Tomorrow morning I’m meeting a writer friend for breakfast.  Then, rain or shine, I will make a beeline to see more Diego Rivera murals and revisit the street food vendors I met in July.  What I like about this hotel location is that it’s two blocks from the Zocalo, walkable to everything, in a restored colonial house with great restaurants and textile shops.  Very convenient.

On Wednesday, I leave D.F. on a very early flight to Chicago for a reunion with friends and the Grant Park Jazz Festival.  Then, briefly back to North Carolina, before going on to North Africa.

When I retired from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Nursing, where I raised $23 million, for endowments, student scholarships and faculty support, the Foundation Board of the school gifted me with a surprise.  A trip to anywhere!  I am SO grateful.  Now, almost two years later, I’m going to use that gift to travel to Marrakech and Essaouira, Morocco, for three weeks in September-October, with a very brief stopover on the way back in Madrid.  I’ve never been to either of these places and I’m traveling with a friend who knows Morocco well.

My question is:  Are you interested in hearing about my experiences in a part of the world far from Oaxaca?  The connection, of course, is the history of weaving, textiles, and natural dyes.  I plan on investigating whether the purple dye once used to distinguish the togas of Roman senators is still in existence on the Atlantic coast of Morocco.  The murex sea snail is at risk of extinction on Oaxaca’s Pacific coast and is guarded carefully, under governmental regulation.  The rocky shoals of Essaouira, Morocco produced some of the finest purple in the world.  And, I understand the textiles there are magnificent.

Let me know your thoughts.  If I write about it, will I be digressing too far from your interests?

Thanks for the feedback!