Desperately Seeking Lo Nuevo – Alternative Mexico City

Coche VW, México DF

I have been fortunate to pass through Mexico City many times over the past decade.  It is an exhilarating city: lively, approachable and full of vitality.  Its wonders abound:

  • the awe-inspiring pyramids at Teotihuacán with foundations greater in size than those at Giza in Egypt
  • the world-class Anthropological Museum with a stunning displays of Mexican culture through the ages
  • the expansive zócalo flanked by the teetering cathedral, the foundation of the Aztec templo mayor, and the National Palace with Diego Rivera’s masterpiece mural of Mexico’s history
  • the irresistible Plaza Garibaldi with hundreds of mariachi bands serenading the locals
  • quaint Coyacán featuring Trotsky’s home (replete with fortified walls still with bullet holes) and Diego and Frida’s “blue house” studio
  • dining in the centro histórico at establishments such as Café Tacuba with superb Mexican food and atmosphere
  • strolling with the locals on a Sunday in Chapultapec Park, eating ice cream and enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells of a day of leisure
  • the illustrious Casa Museo Dolores Olmedo with exceptional modern art and extensive grounds roving with peacocks and the curious Xoloitzcuintle dogs, a pre-Hispanic canine
  • the many markets, especially La Merced covering 16 square blocks with its own subway stop at its center

The list goes on and on. During each visit I saw and experienced new things, but this time I was eager to do something different in the city.  Find the “alternative” Mexico City, or at least something new to me.  So in the 2.5 days I spent in Mexico City before returning to the United States I found the following “new” things that were well worth checking out.

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Lucha Libre – High Jinks and High-flying Theatrics in Mexico City

Lucha Libre cartelera at the Arena Coliseo

Strolling through the ever-fascinating La Merced market in Mexico City, I happened upon a poster advertising a lucha libre, or “free fighting” match today, not far from my hotel in the centro histórico in Mexico City.  And with a threatening thunderstorm rolling in, I dashed to the arena and purchased a mid-priced ticket after repeated attempts by the boletero to sell me the high-priced ringside seats.  I wanted to experience the “alternative” Mexico City, but not necessarily from the front row.  I was happy on this occasion to simply sit back inconspicuously and take in the experience from the relative afar.

And what a crazy experience it was – I expected to stay perhaps 45 minutes or an hour tops just to get a feel for the “show” but in fact after a couple beers and a surprisingly entertaining atmosphere, before long I found myself shouting on the edge of my seat as the finale neared at the end of Hour Two.

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CouchSurfing through the Canals of Xochimilco and Beyond

Trajineras (flat-bottomed gondolas) in Xochimilco, Mexico DF

Sitting in my hotel in Mexico City, tired after a day of walking and sightseeing – alone – I decided to check out the CouchSurfing groups in Mexico City to see if I could meet up with some locals and travelers to socialize a bit.  I’m a fairly recent arrival to the CouchSurfing scene, and since joining about a year ago we have hosted a half-dozen CouchSurfers in our home in Kittery Point, Maine.  And all experiences were unique and wonderful – everyone we hosted was full of wanderlust and shared the “change the world, one couch at a time” spirit of the exceptional CouchSurfing community.

There seemed to be a fairly active group in Mexico City, so I responded to a message offering to meet up on Saturday for a boat ride in Xochimilco, an area at the end of the light rail south of the city center.  Famous for its trajineras (flat-bottomed gondolas) that wind through the canals, the last remaining vestige of ancient Tenotichlán, the Aztec capital built in the middle of a lake in this central Mexican basin cradled in a basin between snow-capped volcanoes.  On a previous trip to Mexico City I visited Xochimilco alone and chose not to go for a ride.  All the other boats were filled with merry groups celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, special events or simply a fun, relaxing afternoon with family and friends.  Feeling conspicuously alone at the time, I just wasn’t in the mood to go solo on the gondolas.

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