One Sunday every four months Cochabamba celebrates “Pedestrian Day,” a surreal phenomenon when all streets in the city are closed to motor traffic (except emergency vehicles) and residents take to the streets en masse. Side streets remain tranquil and quiet, with dogs sleeping on the pavement and the only sounds are children playing soccer on fresh asphalt fields.
Major thoroughfares are filled with dance groups, live music, children’s’ rides and of course a huge variety of food. Families and friends gather, grab bicycles and head to the fume-free streets for a day of healthy fun in this fair city.
The Día del Peatón holiday started in thirteen years ago in response to the choked streets of Cochabamba and to raise consciousness about fossil fuel pollution in this especially congested city.
From the start it was a huge success and something residents now look forward to and genuinely enjoy. Today an estimated 300,000 citizens, young and old, fill the city’s streets. A study this year determined that contamination levels are 80% lower on Día del Peatón, reason indeed to leave the house and breathe in some much cleaner air.
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.