Saturday, April 18, 2020

Mexico City's Flowers

In our ambles through the colonias, pueblos and barrios of Mexico City, we have been focused on the important buildings, primarily the original 16th-century churches built by the Franciscans or other orders of monks, and most of all on the people and their celebrations of their traditional fiestas.

However, also being a gardener, we have taken photos of the many kinds of flowering plants, vines, shrubs and trees that lend the beauty of nature to the city's neighborhoods, particularly their plazas and the atriums of their churches. There are also many parks. So, in this time of confinement, when we cannot take ambles, we thought we would present our collection of flower photos.


Southern Mexico does not really experience distinct seasons, except the "dry season" of winter to mid-spring and the "wet" season from May through September. The somewhat cooler temperatures of "winter" (daytime highs of high 60s to low 70s) are an indistinguishable blend of what, in the northern U.S. is early fall with late spring. Deciduous trees don't all lose their leaves at the same time in October. Each one has a "fall" of its leaves in a sequence between October and February, and its "spring" of new leaves within a month of the "fall". Therefore, we call this "season" "Fling", a merger of fall and spring.

Canna lily

As a result, there is no clear season for flowers, except for some that like the dry time for blooming while others like the rainy season. Thus, there is no clear order in which they bloom. Roses bloom in the midst of winter and poinsettias bloom from November through April. Hence, our presentation has no chronological order that a northern gardener would be able to display.

In any case, we hope you enjoy the flowers of Mexico City. Interestingly, many come from other tropical climates: South America, Southern Africa and Southern Asia. So the tour is also a botanical tour of these other continents!

Jacaranda  (hah-kah-RAHN-da) tree

I have placed the flowers in a Google Photo Album, Flowers of Mexico City. Clicking on the link will take you there. Then click on the first photo to enlarge it. In the upper right-hand corner is an icon consisting of the letter 'i' in a circle; clicking on it will open a sidebar of information about each flower. I have done my best to identify each one, but there are several I haven't been able to. Enjoy!


San Francisco Tlaltenco, Tláhuac | Carnaval of Disguises and Faces

San Francisco Tlaltenco is one of seven originally indigenous pueblos in the Delegación/Alcaldía of Tláuac, in southeastern Mexico City. Until the latter part of the 20th century, it was still rural, with residents raising crops on chinampas, man-made island gardens in the former Lakes Xochimilco and Chalco. San Francisco Tlaltenco was originally on the south side of the Iztapapalpa Peninsula, on the north shore of Lake Xochimilco. Some chinampas and remnants of Lake Chalco still exist in eastern Tláhuac. (See our post: Tláhuac: Crossroads Between Two Lakes and Two Cultures.)

Each spring, during the Catholic season of Lent, between Ash Wednesday and Holy Week, many of the pueblos in Tláhuac and its neighbor, Delegación/Alcaldía Iztapalapa, hold Carnavales. They can be extended over several weeks, with various comparsas (troupes of parade dancers) marching through the streets each weekend, accompanied, of course, by the music of brass bandas.

Carnaval in San Francisco Tlaltenco

We have been to four of the other pueblos of Tláhuac, usually for their patron saint fiesta or some other fiesta. We haven't been to one of their Carnavales, so we are doubly eager to get to the one in San Francisco Tlaltenco. It turns out that this weekend is devoted to a parade of comparsas de disfraces, of disguises.

Arriving via taxi from the nearby Tláhuac Metro Station to a corner where the Carnaval's Facebook page says it will pass, we find it is in front of a small chapel where mass is being held. In the blocked-off street, people are standing or milling about, some are wearing disguises of all types: princesses, Aztec death warriors, chinelos (Moorish-style costumes), space creatures, cartoon characters. It´s quite a conglomeration. We wait un rato, a while, before anything happens.

Then, suddenly, a banda appears and begins to play. Apparently, the parade is about to begin.

Lower Left is the shirt of a committee member of the Comparsa (parade troupe)
called los Cupamaros (cupar is to suck, a maro is the seed of a lavender plant
considered medicinal).
Second from bottom right is a chinelo, a frequently seen style of parade comparsa
in Mexico City and in the State of Morelos, where they are said to have originated to spoof the Spanish.

Egyptian Princess

Anubis, Egyptian Dog God of Death and the Underworld
A large float appears, decorated with peacocks, a favorite symbol of royalty. A beautiful young woman with flowing blond hair, dressed in a sequin-covered evening gown and crown is assisted in mounting a tall podium from which she will preside over the parade. 

Princess Dayan (Dah-yahn)
Dayan tosses candies to the crowd.

The Parade Gets Underway

A  golden angel leads the way.

Followed by esqueletos, skeletons.
The vivid contrast of eternal life and death is a central theme in Mexican culture

One esqueleto is holding a michelada, a beer with chile added and salt on the rim.
The salt actually cuts the picoso or piquante hotness of the chili.

A large float appears, decorated with peacocks, a favorite symbol of royalty. A beautiful young woman with flowing blond hair, dressed in a sequin-covered evening gown and crown is assisted in mounting a tall podium from which she will preside over the parade. 

There is a Greco-Roman god, Neptune, and an indigenous one.
The jaguar is a traditional indigenous symbol of the sun god at night,
on his journey through the Underworld.

comparsa with more explicit and elaborate Mardi Gras-style Carnaval disfraces is next. 

Then some more ominous figures, including the appearance of two angels of death.

They are followed by some comic relief.

Then there are the inevitable vaqueros, cowboys.

This is a charro (fancy-dressed cowboy) of death.
We have seen many fiestas
with large comparsas of such charros.

More death, but in more ordinary vaquero dress.

Then another dramatic change of theme:

Two Hydras.

Followed by some sci-fi figures.

Finally, just sheer beauty!

We feel like we have been at a Halloween parade, with the wide variety of disguises presented. But this is springtime Carnaval, when Mexicans can discard their ordinary identity and disguise themselves as anything they wish to represent, be it angels of light or darkness, monsters or Greek gods, cowboys of death, cartoon figures, sci-fi heroes, or princesses. Their imagination and inventiveness is remarkable. 

When the parade is over, happy that we have come to San Francisco Tlaltenco for this holiday from daily routine, we hail a cab to take us back to the Tláhuac Metro station and la cotidianidad, daily life. 

Delegaciones or Alcaldías of Mexico City
Tláhuac is the dark brown one
in the southeast. 

Seven Original Pueblos of Delegación Tláhuac
(Each pueblo is divided into various barrios)

San Francisco Tlaltenco (red/yellow star) is in the northeast corner.

Gray-green areas marked by rectangles are chinampa fields.
Other gray green areas to the north and south are volcanic mountains.
A remnant of Lake Chalco remains to the east.