In 8th grade Spanish class, my name was Anita and Freddy’s was Fed. Ms. Orejela loved Fed. He shined at verb conjugations. I, on the other hand, did not. I could recall the entire French National Anthem that I’d learned from Ms. Lapidus in 5th grade (I still can), but I could barely remember the Spanish word for “to sing.” My song memory is stellar. My foreign language verb memory is depressing. If only I’d made a song of our Spanish verbs…Ms. Orejela would have given me an A+.
Nearly two decades after 8th grade Spanish, Fred and I took a trip to Mexico City, D.F. (D.F. is the Distrito Federal… Mexico City’s D.F. to Washington’s D.C.) We had both heard the city was magical, so we decided to explore and discover it for ourselves. We met there a few weeks ago, on March 28th, during Semana Santa (Holy Week). Upon arrival the evening before Good Friday, the city felt both enormous and hushed – like that small window of time at a surprise party before the guest-of-honor walks through the door.
It turns out we’d heard right – the D.F. is magic. Its history is one of the greatest stories ever told. The city is dripping with culture, art and sunshine. Its people are contented. Its tacos are unparalleled. Its parks are enchanting. Its margaritas are perfection on the rocks.
My ode to DISTRITO FEDERAL…
D is for DIEGO RIVERA. Artist. Husband of Frida Kahlo. Painter of vibrant, inspiring, massive murals scattered throughout the city.
I is for IMMACULATE. Not conception. Although that would work too, since we were in town during Semana Santa. Immaculate because the D.F. is a clean machine! Yes, there’s smog but the city (at least, what we saw of it) was almost spotless due, it seemed, in large part to an abundance of street sweepers and garbage collectors.
S is for SALSAS AND SAUCES. They come in tiered towers at taquerias. The D.F. may like sauce as much as I do. And that’s saying mucho. I didn’t name this blog Happelsauce for nothin’.
T is for TRANSFORMATION. Around 7,000 BC, crop cultivation began. This transformed lives. Around 2,000 BC, Mexicans were rolling corn flour dough for tortillas and cooking them on hot stone slabs. They grew cacao, tobacco, agave and “chewed the chicle resin of the chicozapote tree.” In other words, about 4,000 years before the rest of us, the Mexicans were sipping tequila and chewing gum.
R is for RIDING THE METRO. The subway system works! It’s efficient and cheap and hilarious. Every trip we encountered a different young guy wearing a backpack with enormous speakers stuffed inside. He would enter the car, hit “play” on his stereo and try to sell passengers his CD mix. The Eagles and Neil Diamond are still hot in Mexico, apparently.
I is for IN THE PARK. The parks are magnificent. We must have explored dozens. We watched men practice their matador moves in Coyoacon and spent Easter Sunday in a few spots with what seemed like the entire population of Latin America. There were paddleboats and popcorn a plenty. I loved it.
T is for TACOS. I mapped out a taco trail on our last night and we proceded to crawl our way from Huequito in Roma to El Califa in Condesa, with stops inbetween. Al Pastor tacos – spit-roasted pork with grilled pineapple – are the local specialty. They are divine and dime-sized in comparison to what we have at home. I ate dozens during our time in the D.F. So worth the tummy rebellion.
When I asked this guy if I could take his photo, he grabbed his big knife and turned up the flame behind the spit. Masked meat master!
O is for OFF THE MAP. Fred and I got lost. A lot. But, we saw sides of the city we otherwise wouldn’t have seen. Like the inside of a shopping mall on a Saturday night…and that spot near San Angel where ten freeways seem to merge into one.
F is for FREDDY. Mi amigo. Mi hermano. We drive each other crazy sometimes, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
E is for EASTER WEEK. Jesus was everywhere.
D is for DESAYUNO. We stayed at the plush Habita Hotel. Our initial reservation at another spot fell through and we lucked out with this place. Their breakfast made getting out of bed easy. Good espresso. Bowls of fresh, tropical fruit. Eggs. Yogurt. Cereal. Watermelon juice. Me attempting to read the newspaper en espanol.
E is for ENSALADA DE POLLO. The only thing I ordered that I couldn’t eat. It was my fault. I thought I was getting a salad with grilled chicken on top. I was wrong. Very wrong. What arrived was a gigantic mound of mayonnaise-y chicken surrounded by soft cheese rolled in bologna and garnished with green pepper. Lesson learned.
R is for ROOFTOP. At the Habita Hotel it has a pool and a bar. And movie screenings on the wall of the building across the street. We didn’t utilize any of these rooftop perks enough because we were too busy exploring, but they were very much appreciated nevertheless.
A is for AEROPUERTO. Duty-free. I got a bottle of good tequila (aged in whiskey barrels), spicy root vegetables (habenero potato chips), gum and pepitas. Basically, I purchased goods to take back to my native land that would make the ancient Mexicans proud. Oh, and I hung out with Justin Bieber.
L is for LUCHA LIBRE. Mexican wrestling in all its glory happens on Friday nights at Arena Mexico. The masked luchadores and their overtly dramatic, crotch-kicking moves were entertaining and absurd. Fred and I watched for an hour in awe. And then we left to go eat tacos.
Mexico City, D.F. You stole my heart. Muchas gracias y hasta luego.