Last night after our big first discovery of Mexico City I had a couple of hours of rest before Vanessa and her mom took me to one of the most picturesque areas in the city: Coyoacán, an area located south of the downtown core. The traffic to get there, as you can imagine, was absolutely incredible – 4 lane streets with no markings, people squeezing in and out between cars as they pleased, trucks cutting in right in front of us with just millimeters to spare…
Fortunately we made it without a scrape and we finally got to our destination: the well-preserved colonial area of “Coyoacán” whose name literally means “Place of the Coyotes”. Sure enough, in the center of the Jardín Centenario there is a big fountain featuring two coyotes.
The fountain featuring the famous coyotes
Coyoacán is one of the most historic areas of Mexico City and almost 5 centuries ago, Hernán Cortés, Mexico’s conquistador, and his Indian mistress “La Malinche” spent a lot of time here. Today the whole area is full of cafés, restaurants and bars, and there are a variety of crafts and food markets to be visited here.
Three famous personalities had their homes here and all three buildings have been turned into museums. The house of Mexico’s most famous muralist, Diego Rivera, has been turned into a museum. His one-time wife, Frida Kahlo, also lived in Coyoacán and spent most of her life in this house and eventually died here. Her ex-husband Rivera donated the house to the public in 1955, shortly after Frida’s death.
The beautiful Jardin Centenario
Leon Trotsky, the Russian revolutionary, also lived in a house in the Coyoacán area after he had lived with Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. Trotsky invested great efforts to safety-proof his house to protect him from Stalin’s assassins, yet in May of 1940 his house was attacked and machine-gunned for twenty minutes. Then 3 months later Trotsky was fatally wounded after having been stabbed with an ice pick. So Coyoacán has some pretty interesting historic tidbits to offer.
We sat down in a quaint café next to the Jardín Centenario and had some snacks. I enjoyed a crepe with a variety of syrups such as strawberry, mango and blueberry. Vanessa’s best friend, whom she has known since they were 12 years old, and her boyfriend, a sociologist, joined us. There was lots of noise: live music coming at us from behind us in the restaurant, from the restaurant next to us and from the street musicians that would stop right in front of our table.
Views of Coyoacán
Social sciences always hold great interest for me, so I took advantage of the opportunity of talking with a sociologist. We had a very interesting conversation about how tough it is to find a job in his field under a government that has a “neoliberal” agenda. According to him, the social sciences are not funded very well in Mexico, but a lot of funding is dedicated to private universities for engineering and science projects. He also gave me a quick overview of Mexico’s political parties, very interesting since national elections are coming up on July 2 of this year.
After our animated discussion we returned to rest up for another big day of discoveries tomorrow.