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One of the first things that Mexico City makes you feel is incredibly small. I savor the feeling–realizing how small I am gives me perspective and makes me realize my context in a larger world. Not only does this immensely vast city make you ponder a larger world, but also a longer timeline that stretches far back to bygone civilizations. On every corner antiquities interestingly juxtapose with the present giving you clues to the past. As we begin our decent into the city there are no open spaces–just solid buildings as far as the eye can see.

Aerial view of Mexico City.

Aerial view of Mexico City.

We are staying at the Camino Real Polanco which was designed by the architect Ricardo Legorreta in 1965. Legorreta also designed the public library in my home town of San Antonio. I was really excited to experience this classic hotel, and as you enter the courtyard you are taken away from the bustle of the street and transported into another world. Everywhere you rest your eyes is a celebration of color and light–grounded and made elemental by the central fountain.  Some of the 60’s touches are missed–the hotel once housed a Calder sculpture which they sold in 2003 and now the space it occupied is a coffee bar.

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The Camino Real Polanco

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Early morning light before we set out for the day.

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The San Antonio public library, also designed by Ricardo Legorreta

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The Calder in place at the hotel, now the space is a coffee bar

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Lobby then…

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Lobby now…I miss those low sofas!

Our first outing is to the fabulous Museo Nacional de Antropologia, just a short walk from our hotel. Another amazing fountain marks the entrance to the world of the museum, this one with water that seems to fall from the sky. Again on my trip I am reminded of my scale, and feel smaller yet again while viewing the long and colorful history of homo sapiens. There is a representation of Lucy, a very complete set of fossilized bones found in 1974 that make up a hominid from the rare Australopithecus Afarensis species. It is amazing how many distinct species of Hominids there were before the Homo Sapians killed them all off. Violence and death were part of everyday life for people in these cultures, and yet they communicate great beauty across time through the buildings and objects they created.

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On the front of the Museo

Collyns Mexico City Anthropology Museum

The central  fountain

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Lucy and a Neanderthal in death

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Outdoor space at the Maya room at the Museum of Anthropology.

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Animal shapes are used to make vessels

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I found some typography I love carved on the wall in the same area as some amazing Aztec codices. Codices are books written by pre-Columbian and colonial-era Aztecs. These codices provide some of the best primary sources for Aztec culture. The pre-Columbian codices mostly do not in fact use the codex form–that of a modern book–and are actually long folded sheets.

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Detailed colored codices

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Black and white codices

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Beautiful typeface

I also found a series of snakes that I loved. Snakes were revered in Aztec culture as a sign of their god “Quetzalcoatl”. The name Quetzalcoatl can be roughly translated to serpent of precious feathers. The word is a combination of the word “quetzal,” which is a beautiful green Guatemalan bird and is combined with “coatl,” which means serpent. Hence Aztecs priests and the Aztec society came to regard the snake as as a sign of their god.

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Headress attributed to Moctezuma ll, green as in the serpent

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After the museum, we head off to eat what could be one of the best lunches of my life. It is impossible not to mention the fabulous food everywhere in the city, but the best I had by far was a prix fixe tasting menu at the restaurant Pujol created by the famous chef Enrique Olvera. Beautiful to look at and so layered in flavors, it was not only a meal but a work of art.

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Baby corn came perfectly seasoned and smoking in a gourd

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Baby corn, powdered chicatana ant, coffee, costeño chile mayonnaise

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Egg inadita, chapulin sauce, bean with avocado leaves

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My favorite course of all, fish in a tomato sauce covered by this edible wafer thin leaf

There is far to much to explore of this amazing city in just a few days, but I consider my first trip to Mexico city as if it was a tasting menu–cherishing each small glimpse of the city as you do small tasting bites–and I can not wait to go back and glimpse again.

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Mexico City by Pablo Lopez