Monday, August 26, 2019

Welcome to Mexico City Ambles: Navigating the Blog

Welcome to Mexico City Ambles! Here we seek to present el imaginario, a vision of the city as embodied in its cityscape, public art and neighborhoods (coloinas). While we seek to cover the physical and historical breadth and depth of the City, this has led us to focus on the life of its lesser-known neighborhoods, many of which were indigenous pueblos existing long before the Spanish arrived and took over 500 years ago. We visit these original pueblos when they are celebrating their traditional fiestas, which are lively, colorful celebrations of their centuries-long communal continuity and unique identity.

¡Bienvenido a Paseos por la Ciudad de México! Aquí buscamos presentar el imaginario, una visión de la ciudad como encarnada en su paisaje urbano, arte público, pueblos y colonias. Si bien buscamos cubrir la amplitud y profundidad física e histórica de la ciudad, nos ha llevado a centrarnos en en la vida de sus pueblos y barrios menos conocidos, muchos de los cuales eran pueblos indígenas que existían mucho antes de que los españoles llegaron y se hicieron cargo desde 500 años. Visitamos estos pueblos originales cuando celebran sus fiestas tradicionales, que son celebraciones coloridas y animadas de su continuidad comunal por siglos y su identidad única.

Escribimos en inglés porque somos norteamericanos y para dar a conocer a otros norteamericanos y hablantes de inglés la ciudad más allá de los lugares turisticos típicos. Sin embargo, es fácil traducir una página en español: vaya a la columna a la derecha. En la parte más alta hay una ventana etiquetada "Translate". Desplace la flecha abajo hasta encuentra "Spanish". Click en ese y inmediatamente todo el texto estará traducido en español por Google. Con certeza, habrá varios errores, pero creemos qué el sentido se quede bastante claro.    

Organization of the Blog


Each post appears in the blog chronologically by publication date. Scrolling down takes you to the most recently published post. Most posts, however, are related thematically or geographically. So, as a navigation aid, we have created individual PAGES (left-hand column) which organize posts according to major aspects of the city or themes in its history. These pages provide short descriptions of and links to posts grouped by theme or geography.

Setting the Stage | Introductory Pages:


I. Making Sense of Mexico City: The first four pages acquaint you with Mexico City's organization (it does have one, despite its parent chaotic appearance).
  1. First, we introduce you to its sixteen delegaciones (boroughs, officially called alcaldías, mayoralties, since 2017) into which it is divided spatially and politically. Each one is distinctive in its physical character and its history.
  2. We address why Mexico City architecture seems to be such a hodgepodge of historical epochs and we present a way to view it as a horizontal archeological site, with one era sitting right next to another.
  3. Then we present the history of how the city grew from a small city on an island in the midst of a huge lake to its present huge size (at 573 sq. miles, slightly smaller than Houston [599] and bigger than Los Angeles [469]). 
  4.  Third, we describe the Metro, the "subway", which is the fastest and cheapest pathway (US25 cents) to get to most of the places we explore. If you avoid morning and late afternoon rush hours, it's fine. Taxis are also plentiful and safe, and now Uber and other phone-ap car services are here. 
  • Mexico City's Sixteen DelegacionesMexico City is shaped rather like a lumpy pear: skinny at the top—it even has a "stem"—then rounds out to a very fat bottom. Originally called the Federal District, in 1928, it was divided into sixteen delegaciones, or boroughs, of greatly varying sizes, shapes, population densities and histories. On January 2016: el Distrito Federal, the Federal District, officially became Mexico City and the delegaciones were renamed alcaldías, mayoralties.
  • Making Sense of Mexico City: Architectural Hodge-podge or Horizontal Archeological Site?Your first experience of Mexico City, especially as you walk through Centro, is of an architectural hodge-podge, an incoherent batiburrillo, a jumble of buildings from various eras. Structures from the colonial period, adapted to contemporary uses, are enmeshed with newer neighbors from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. So what to make of this hodgepodge of eras, these fragments of disconnected history, this batiburrillo
  • How Mexico City Grew From an Island to a MetropolisHow did Mexico City, which started on an island in Lake Texcoco— replacing the Mexica (aka Aztec) altepetel (city-state) of Tenochtitlán—grow into the metropolis it is today, incorporating both ancient and new neighborhoods, side by side, all parts of the contemporary batiburrillo (hodgepodge)? Here is the story. 
  • Mexico City Metro: The Mexico City Metro (officially, the Collective Transportation System) is a network of subway and surface electric train lines enabling chilangos (city residents' name for themselves) and visitors to get around the city quickly, cheaply (US25 cents) and safely. The system has 12 lines, each distinguished by a specific color on its signage. There are also multitudes of taxis and yes, they are safe. Now, of course, there is also Uber and other phone ap systems for calling a private chauffeur.

II. Mexico City's Natural Environment: The next set of pages acquaint you with the natural environment: its year-round temperate, sunny climate, its spectacular geographic setting in the midst of large, mostly dormant volcanoes, smaller, but historically important volcanoes within the city, and its history as one of large lakes. 
  • Mexico City Climate: Seasons, Sun, Sky, Clouds and Rain: If you are looking for a place to live year-round, permanently, in Mexico, our advice is to head for the hills. The "hills" are comprised of the high plateau of Central Mexico know as el Bajío and the cross-country mountain chain just to its south, called the Eje Volcánico, the Volcanic Axis or Trans-Mexico Volcanic Belt. This area has year-round moderate temperatures because it is located more or less around 7,000 ft. above sea level, which keeps the climate quite stably moderate and usually sunny. Mexico City sits at 7,000 ft. altitude. Here is our account of the City's mild climate: its seasons (there is no real winter), the sunshine (which occurs most days), the sky (which can be an unbelievable blue), the clouds (which can be dramatic towering cumulus), and the rainy season, more or less from May to October. Don't worry, it doesn't rain every day and usually, it's in late afternoon or after dark and consists of brief, at times intense, thunderstorms. They serve as natural airconditioning and air purifiers, keeping the summer air dry, the temperatures moderate during the day and cool at night and, usually, with clearer air. 
  • Encountering Mexico City's Many Volcanoes, Part I: Giants on All Sides: Mexico City, as most everyone knows, sits in and takes up most of the Valley of Mexico. It is, in fact, a spectacular valley because it is surrounded by tall mountains, all of them volcanoes. Only one, Popocatepetl, (The Smoking Mountain), the tallest at nearly 18,000 ft (more than 10,000 feet above the Valley floor) is active, regularly emitting a plume of steam and sometimes erupting with huge columns of ash and lava. Popo, as he is familiarly called, is joined by his beloved frozen princess, Iztaccihuatl (The White or Sleeping Woman), at 17,000 ft. However, they are only the tallest and most dramatic members of the ring of volcanoes that surround the Valley. Here is an introduction to the many giants that envelop the city and make its geographic setting unique.
  • Encountering Mexico City's Many Volcanoes, Part II: Little Volcanoes With Big Histories: While the huge volcanoes of Popocatéptl, IztaccíhuatlAjusco and the other in the Cordillera de Chichinautzin, the Sierra de las Cruces and the Sierra del Río Frío dominate the Valley of Mexico and the interest of residents and visitors when they are in clear view, there are other volcanoes right within the city´s limits. They are small ash cone volcanoes, but despite their diminutive size, at least four of them have played prominent roles in the development of human settlements in the Valley and thus in the history of Mexico City. Here is our introduction to the four.
Cerro de la Estrella, Hill of the Star
Called Huizachtecatl (in Náhuatl) by the Mexicas.
  • City of Lost Lakes, Islands and VillagesThe Valley of Mexico, now filled by urban sprawl, was originally nearly filled by a chain of five lakes (covering about 580 sq. miles). Lake Texcoco was the largest, most central and lowest of them, thus receiving water from the other four. Because of the surrounding mountains, they had no outlet to the sea, and Texcoco was salty. The original Mexico City and its predecessor, Mexico Tenochtitlán, were on an island in a large bay in the southwest corner of Lake Texcoco. In addition, there were hundreds of villages that occupied the land around the lakes, as well as many on islands in the lakes.
Over the centuries, the lakes have been almost totally erased since the Spanish began draining them in the 17th century to prevent the annual flooding of Mexico City during the summer rainy season, so the islands eventually became part of the mainland. We have been searching out these "lost" islands, which are still-existing pueblo neighborhoods within the city. Here we introduce ones we have visited and the history of the changes they have undergone from islands to urban neighborhoods.
Five original lakes of the Valley
with some of the major cities and villages
around them and on their islands.
III: Mexico City Architecture: This group of pages focuses on the architectural qualities which predominate, particularly in the Cento Historico of the city, the original Ciudad de México which Hernán Cortés began to build on top of the indigenous altepetl, Tenochtitlan of the Mexica.
  • Grandeza Mexicana: Grandeur of Mexico CityWalking the streets of Mexico City, from its Centro Histórico to various of its late 19th to early 20th century colonias, (planned neighborhoods) and modern boulevards, acquainting ourselves with their architecture and public art, we have noted the recurrence of what becomes a visual theme: an architectural grandness that relays a message of wealth and power. This city is, or has been, a seat of major political and economic power, expressed through physical grandeza, grandeur. Here we explore the particularly Mexican roots of this impulse to grandeur.
Zócalo
Main Plaza

second largest plaza in the world, 
after Red Square in Moscow.
  • México Barroco | Baroque Art: Representing Divine Ecstasy, Evoking AweIn Mexico, the art of the Baroque epoch (mid 17th to mid 18th centuries) is all around you in Centro and many in old churches throughout the city. It is the art of the height of the Spanish Empire and its realized its most elaborate form in Nueva España. An excellent Wikipedia article on the Baroque helped us see its character as centered on grandeur, lavishness, and drama. We also came to realize the goal of its religious forms was to express holy ecstasy (stepping outside the ordinary world) and evoke awe. With that perspective, we explore the central and quintessential expression of Baroque religious architecture in Mexico City, the Metropolitan Cathedral. There are innumerable other examples in churches around the city.
El Sagrario
The Tabernacle portion of
the Metropolitan Cathedral,
in high Baroque style

Thematically or geographically related pages

  • Mexico's History As Embodied In Mexico City: Lists and links to all posts addressing the many stages in Mexico City's history as they are manifested in the cityscape, from the indigenous reign of the Mexica/Azteca through the Spanish colonial period (1521-1821), and the 19th and 20th centuries, up to the Mexican Revolution (1910-17) and its aftermath. 
Chapultepec Castle,
scene of several significant events
of the 19th century.
  • Mexico City's Original Indigenous Villages and Their Spíritual ConquestContemporary Mexico City is an amalgam, not only of the Spanish Colonial Centro and its expansion beginning in the late 19th and across the 20th century, but also of ancient indigenous pueblos, villages, that, beginning some three thousand five hundred years ago, were established on the shores and islands of the five lakes at the center of the Valley of Anahuac. So Cortés and the Spanish not only had to transform Tenochtitlan, they also had to transform a geographically extensive civilization and culture via the "evangelización de los indios," or "los natuturales", what has been called the Spiritual Conquest. This series of posts explores the churches, neighborhoods and fiestas that continue to embody the encounter and synthesis of the two civilizations. (This is our current work-in-progress).
Original, 16th century chapel of San Francisco,
in Quadrante (Quarter) of San Francisco,
originally the indigenous village of 
Hueytetitlan, now in Delegación Coyoácan.

  • Centro: El Centro, the Center of Mexico City, actually consists of five colonias, or neighborhoods: Centro Histórico, and East, West, North and South Centro. Spanish colonial palaces and smaller residential and commercial buildings from that period are numerous, but mixed in among them are buildings from the 19th and 20th centuries. Within them, and flowing among them in the streets, is the everyday, timeless activity of selling and buying.
Portable shoeshine stand
in Plaza 
de Santo Domingo
  • Chapúltepec Woods and Paseo de la Reforma: Five kilometers, three miles, southwest of Centro, on what used to be the western shore of Lake Texcoco, sits the ancient, sacred site of el Bosque de Chapúltepec, Chapultepec Woods. The first place that the Mexica/Azteca tried to settle down near the end of the 13th century, and later their royal retreat and source of fresh spring water for Tenochtitlan, the Spanish turned it into a park for themselves. Subsequently, a "castle", actually a palace, was built by a viceroy (ruling representative of the king of Spain) at the top of its landmark hill, an ancient ash cone volcano. After Independence was won from Spain in 1821, it served as the Mexican Military Academy and, in 1847, it was the scene of the last battle in the U.S. invasion of Mexico (aka Mexican-American War). In 1864, Emperor Maximilian I, put in place by Napoleon III of France at the request of Mexican conservative forces, decided to make it his palace. To connect it with the City Center, he had a boulevard built and named after his wife the Belgian Princess Carlotta. After his overthrow by liberal reform forces led by Benito Juárez in 1867. it became Paseo de la Reforma.
Paseo de la Reforma,
seen from Chapultepec Castle
  • Reign of Porfiro Díaz and Neighborhoods of the Early 20th Century: As the 19th century approached its end, Mexico City's well-to-do, who had increased in numbers under the economic policies of Porfirio Díaz (multiple times reelected president and dictator from 1876 to 1911), sought new residences outside the old Spanish Colonial Centro Histórico. They began to develop colonias, planned neighborhoods, to the west, along Paseo de la Reforma boulevard and to its north and south. Díaz and the well-to-do had a great admiration for French culture. Hence, these colonias have a French flavor. Posts on six of these neighborhoods, with introductions, are listed.
French Second Empire-style homes,
with characteristic mansard roofs.
  • Mexican Revolution: Overview of Its Actors and Chapters: The Mexican Revolution (1910-1917) was a watershed between traditional and modern Mexico. Actually a series of four civil wars fought between a diverse cast of characters with widely disparate histories and motivations, the war and its aftermath can be divided into five stages or chapters, each consisting of a number of critical episodes. This Page offers an overview of the war and links to Pages with fuller accounts of the personalities and each chapter of the war and its volatile aftermath.
Monument to the Revolution
  • Mexican Muralists: During the Mexican Revolution, a revolution in Mexican Art was triggered. After the Revolution, it unfolded in a group of buildings in Centro and expanded across the city throughout the 20th century. This page provides links to posts on the sites and their murals—works by the "Big Three": Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and their successors, who continue to produce works up to the present.
Mural of Cortés and Malinche,
representing the mixing (mestizaje)
of Spanish and indigenous peoples.
by José Clemente Orozco,
in the museum San Ildefonso.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Original Villages | San Lorenzo Acopilco, Cuajimalpa: Rural Pueblo in the Forest

We did it! We made it to a fiesta in Delegación/Alcaldía Cuajimalpa, the last of the sixteen delegaciones/alcaldías comprising Mexico City that we have visited!

Delegación/Alcaldía Cuajimalpa lies on the far west side of the City and sits atop a ridge in the Sierra de las Cruces mountain range. Its average altitude is 9,000 ft (2,750 meters) above sea level — that's about 2,000 ft. above the Valley floor. The top of the ridge is at 10,000 ft. (3.050 meters).

Before the Spanish arrived, the Tepaneca of Azcapotzalco (which we just visited, also for the first time) had established villages in the mountains — dedicated mostly to cutting firewood and making charcoal for sale to pueblos in the Valley of Mexico below.

Delegación/Alcaldía Cuajimalpa
is the light magenta area on the west side
of Mexico City.

Getting to Cuajimalpa


The fiesta that we attend on a Sunday in early August is that of San Lorenzo Acopilco. We are extremely fortunate that one of our regular taxi drivers, Sr. Sánchez, who has transported us to many fiestas around the city, is quite willing to undertake the hour-long drive from our base in Coyoacán, in the center of the city, up into the mountains and to seek out San Lorenzo Acopilco. Between my Google map and Sr. Sanchez's knowledge of the route to Cuajimalpa, we arrive in the delegación without difficulty.

However, it is a little more difficult to find San Lorenzo Acopilco. It sits at the southern end of the populated portion of the delegación. Like other delegaciones that rise into the mountains, the southern portion of Delegación/Alcaldía Cuajimalpa is forest preserve. Also, the road signage isn't clear, so Sr. Sánchez stops and asks people by the roadside for directions. At one point, it means learning which road of a Y to take. It is the one to the left, which leads to a larger highway that eventually goes down the mountains to Toluca, the capital of the adjoining State of Mexico.

Soon we enter the tall, dense pine forest and seem to have left civilization behind. Just as we are wondering if we missed the turnoff for San Lorenzo, we see a good-sized sign saying "Acopilco" and pointing to a narrow road running uphill and deeper into the forest. (Afterward, we wish we had taken a photo of this roadway through the evergreens. It was difficult to believe we were still in Mexico City.)

View of the forest from San Lorenzo Acopilco.
The pueblo, at 10,000 ft. (3050 meters) is one of the two highest in Mexico City.
The other is to the south, on the slopes of Mt. Ajusco in Delegación/Alcaldía Tlalpan
.

Not far up the hill, we start to encounter houses. We have entered San Lorenzo, but we still have to find Avenida de las Flores, the street leading to the church. People along the roadside tell us we have just passed it, so we turn around and quickly come to the avenue — actually a narrow street typical of old pueblos and barrios. We head further uphill until we come to an intersection where — as is typical for fiestas — the road ahead is closed.

So we pay Sr. Sanchez, along with a sizeable tip for the quite herculean task he has undertaken to get us here and because he has a long, passengerless trip back to his company's taxi sitio (stand) in Coyoacán. We also thank him profusely for making it possible for us to finally get to Cuajimalpa and the fiesta of San Lorenzo Acopilco.

The Churches of San Lorenzo Acopilco


Walking a short distance uphill, we come to the town plaza. Several rows of folding chairs are lined up in front of a kiosk which is decorated with a floral portada and occupied by statues of the Virgin Mary and Jesus. A statue of San Lorenzo (St. Lawrence) stands to one side. Evidently, this is where the fiesta Mass is to occur.

The lettering on the floral portada says,
"San Lorenzo, thank you for your blessing."

The portada is made with fresh mums.

The Virgin Mary and Jesus as Cristo Rey, Christ the King.

San Lorenzo, St. Lawrence,
was 
martyred by Roman Emperor Valerian in 258 CE
by being roasted on a grill.
As with all martyrs,
he holds the tool of his martyrdom in his hand;
the grill is hidden behind the bouquet of flowers.
 

Behind the kiosk, we can see the top of a church dome, as well as the bell tower of a second church. They are evidently in an atrio (atrium) about a half-story below the town plaza. To the right of the kiosk is a low bandstand where a wind band is enthusiastically playing to entertain the few people in the plaza.


Further to the right, we see a ramp leading down to the churches. A house — evidently the church offices — sits at the bottom of the ramp, next to the second church. We are disappointed to find the entrance to the atrio cordoned off with chicken wire, so it cannot be entered.

At that moment, a woman coming from the office approaches to tell us both churches are closed because they were severely damaged in the major earthquake of September 2017. We express our sorrow for the damage, which we have encountered in other churches, and our regret that we are unable to see inside either one. 

Original chapel, built in 1536,
making it, remarkably, one of the oldest remaining Colonial buildings in Mexico.

Later, in research, we learn (from Spanish Wikipedia) that the first, smaller chapel was built only fifteen years after the Conquest, under the direction of Don Vasco de Quiroga, about whom we know much from our time living in Pátzcuaro, Michoacán. He was a member of the Second Audiencia, a commission sent by King Charles I (Holy Roman Emperor Charles V) in 1530 to govern Nueva España, thus replacing a badly functioning First Audiencia whose leader, Nuño Beltrán de Guzmán, turned into a conquistador and ravaged the western part of Nueva España, including the Purépecha people of Michoacán, searching for gold the inhabitants did not have.  

De Quiroga, a church lawyer, was immediately struck by the abuse the indigenous people were enduring from the conquistadores who, under Hernán Cortés' initiative, were seizing their land as encomiendas, land grants. The native people residing on these lands were forced to work for the encomenderos, the grant-holders. Quiroga left the Audiencia in 1532 to begin to set up "hospital" towns, refuges modeled on St. Thomas More's book Utopia (published in 1516), where the indigenous could live safe from abuse. The first hospital town he established was in the Sierra de las Cruces which he named Santa Fe (Holy Faith). The pueblo still exists not far from San Lorenzo. The chapel here is only four years younger than Quiroga's first in Santa Fe. Unfortunately, the one in Santa Fe has been destroyed, but we still want to visit the pueblo someday.  

Subsequently, Quiroga was made a bishop and sent to Michoacán to try to restore an orderly, autonomous life for the Purépecha people who had been ravaged by de Guzmán. There, he established another Santa Fe del Lago on Lake Pátzcuaro, and several other towns into which the indigenous were gathered. He had the residents of each town assigned a craft with which they could make a livelihood, as their lands had been taken as encomiendas. He is still highly revered by the Purépecha of the pueblos he established. They affectionately call him Tata Vasco, Papa Vasco. Each pueblo still makes the craft he assigned them. We have many of their artesania (criafts) in our apartment, reminding us daily of the Purépecha and Tata Vasco. 

The second, "newer" and larger church was built in 1771, in Neoclassic style.

The Fiesta


Returning to the plaza and passing the church office, we see an announcement posted on its wall listing fiesta activities. We have been looking for this. It tells us that a cuadrilla (cuah-DREE-yah) de arrieros, a team of mule drivers, is to perform in the plaza at 10 AM.

We encountered arrieros for the first time not long ago at three fiestas, two in Tlalpan, also in the mountains, and the other in Coyoacán, where they were visitors from Tlalpan. The cuadrillas of mule drivers were evidently centered in these mountain pueblos, as they were on the trails from Mexico City to other cities in Nueva España and continued to be the means of commercial transportation for four hundred years, until the 20th century, when they were replaced by trucks and highways. 

The announcement also tells us that a procession has begun at 9 AM on the outskirts of the pueblo to welcome other pueblos coming to attend the fiesta Mass. It is now winding its way through the streets for three hours before arriving in the plaza for the noon Mass. We will await its arrival.

The Castillo


While we are waiting for the arrieros to arrive, we watch the construction of the castillo, a "castle" tower on which elaborate fireworks displays will be ignited after dark as the climax of the fiesta.

Construction of the castillo is fascinating. As tall as they may be, they are always built the day of the fiesta and always finished in time. Even more fascinating, they are built from the bottom, using a power winch to lift wooden box frames that are stacked one upon another and simply tied together. As the winch lifts the growing tower of boxes ever higher, a worker slides one frame after another underneath.


Various shaped constructions, loaded with fireworks
are then raised and attached to the frame.
When lighted, they will also spin
.

The castillo nears completion.
A second, smaller castillo rises to the left rear.

Professional companies construct the castillos.
This one says, "Illuminating the heavens with art.
Pyro(technic) Art and Fire."
Note, it honors the Virgin of Guadalupe.
One entire town in the State of Mexico is
dedicated to producing these pyrotechnic displays.
With all the fiestas in the Valley of Mexico, they are kept busy.

Arrieros


Soon, and suddenly, the cuadrilla of arrieros enters the plaza, led by men on horseback. The horses are another reminder that parts of Mexico City are still rural and retain traditions from before our contemporary times. 

Cowboys lead the way.

La cuadrilla de los arrieros enters in double file.

They bring their patron saint, Jesus Christ as Cristo Rey, Heavenly King.

A burro follows, bearing several items,
evidently to be used in the ceremony.
We recognize a large pottery platter for food;
a gray metate, the curved stone used for thousands of years
for grinding corn, as the first step in preparing masa, dough,
for making tortillas, tamales and atole, a corn-based drink,
and some firewood.
We saw the ceremony of 
some previous arriero
 
 dancers end with the preparation
of food to share with the community.

On a stage at the west end of the plaza,
a mariachi band provides music for the arrieros' dance.

The dance begins.
The dancers move in two rotating, narrow ovals
to the front and then to the back.
It is a simple, four-beat rhythm

The leaders.
The leaders' attire 
 a skirt over the traditional pants, all of white manta
 muslin — is different from what we have seen with other arrieros.

The attire is also quite elaborately embroidered.
One leader is dressed in "Western" cowboy attire.

Women, in charro dresses, a more elaborate style of cowgirl attire,
remain dancing at the rear of the men's lines.


Even the youth are really into the dance.

Some of the embroidery,
a traditional Mexican art.

After a considerable time dancing, two of the leaders, dressed in cowboy attire,
then carry on a long, formalized dialogue
which seems to have to do with the need of the cuadrilla to prepare to feed the community.

The burro is brought forward.
The metate hangs upside down on the right.

A fire has been built and a huge metal cauldron placed on top of it.
Atole, a corn-based drink that can be flavored in many different ways, is being prepared
to share with everyone who comes to the fiesta Mass.

Fiesta in the Pueblo's Main Street


As the arrieros engage in preparing the atole and noon is approaching, we decide to walk from the plaza along the pueblo's main street, a typically narrow calleja (cah-YEH-hah), hoping we will run into the procession that is out there somewhere in the labyrinth of similar streets.

Main calleja running along the flat top of the mountain ridge.
Typically, it is lined with temporary puestos, stalls, selling cooked meals for fiesta attendees.
We wonder how the procession will manage to wend its way through,
but we know from past experiences, that they always do.






Flowers are also for sale for people to purchase and take to the Mass to honor San Lorenzo.

Papel picado, cut paper, hangs above the street.
Its colors are those of San Lorenzo.

The Procession


We stop at one of the puestos selling pizza and buy a slice, with pepperoni. As we are eating, we hear from a nearby side street the sound of cohetes, the rocket-style firecrackers used to announce the progress of the procession. So we hurry to the corner just in time to meet the procession as it arrives at the main street. Fortunately, it stops to rest, so we are able to rush ahead in order to get into position for the best photos.


San Lorenzo (upper left) leads the way.
Following are the Virgin of Guadalupe, the Lord of the Garden of Gethsemane
(on the night before Jesus's crucifixion),
and the Virgin of Candelaria
(Feb. 2, Forty Days after Jesus' birth when he was presented at the Temple in Jerusalem).

Standards and statues representing various pueblos, including
Las Cruces, San Jose, San Miguel follow.
The Christ is the Christ of the Sacred Heart

Finally, comes la banda, keeping everyone moving to its rhythm.


The tuba always brings up the rear.
It is actually a Sousaphone,
as the player in one banda informed us,
an invention of John Philip Sousa
making the orchestral tuba portable
for marching bands.

It is our favorite instrument,
as it is the foundation that keeps the beat.

Satisfaction in Coming Full Circle


The procession moves on to the plaza for the celebration of the Mass. By this time, we are tired but very satisfied. We have sought for a long time to make it to Delegación/Alcaldía Cuajimalma, the most distant and difficult to reach from our home in Coyoacán and, therefore, the last of the sixteen delegaciones/alcaldías we have visited. Today, finally, with the help of driver Sr. Sánchez, we have succeeded in arriving. 

San Lorenzo Acopilco, surrounded by evergreen forests, reminds us very much of pueblos in the similarly forested Meseta Purépecha, the Purépecha Highlands, in the state of Michoacán, where we lived for three years before moving to Mexico City. Furthermore, we are awed that here, in San Lorenzo Acopilco, totally unexpectedly, we have also encountered one of the first chapels built by Don Vasco de Quiroga before he moved on to seek to protect the Purépécha people in Michoacán. We feel that, in some way, we have come full circle, both from the beginning of our ambles to the originally indigenous pueblos in the sixteen delegaciones/alcaldías of Mexico City but also back to the realm of Tata Vasco

Now we just need to find a taxi to take us back to Coyoacán. A bit nervous, being so far from home, in an isolated pueblo in the mountains, we ask a couple who are selling food on the street if there is a taxi sitio nearby. They smile and reply, "¡Oh, sí! Todo derecho." | Oh, yes, straight ahead, at the bottom of the hill where the main street ends. So, relieved, we walk down the hill and there, at the intersection of the main street with the road that comes in from the highway, are a number of taxis waiting. We ask the first driver if one of them will take us all the way to Coyoacán, wondering whether they will want to go that far or, perhaps, just take us to the main west-side bus station called Observatorio where we know we can get another taxi. He says, "Sí" and that it will cost us 200 pesos, about $10. Sr. Sánchez's meter had charged us more than 300 pesos, so this is a bargain. He points us to one of the cabs. We greet the driver and tell him where we are going, get in, and we are off for home in the center of the City and the modern world. 

Delegación/Alcaldía Cuajimalpa
Its Pueblos and Colonias.

San Lorenzo Acopílco
is marked by the red/yellow star.
The colonias south of it are modern development
s.

The State of Mexico is immediately to the west. 
Delegación/Alcaldía Álvaro Obregón is to the east.