Mexico City: The Aztec City

The Flag at Zócalo

So in my constant pursuit of visiting as many countries as possible, I booked a last minute trip to Latin America to visit some friends. This was an interesting trip for me since it marked the first time I’ve went anywhere in the Americas outside of Canada and the United States.

One of my friends is in Mexico City for the summer so I figured it would be a good opportunity to go visit since I’d have a place to stay and someone to show me around. The timings straight up worked out well so I just decided to go.

Reforma from Chapultepec Castle
The view of Reforma from Chapultepec Castle.

A lot of Canadians go to Mexico but most of them end up going to some resort or something and don’t really get to experience the “real Mexico”. I’ve never been to a resort but it doesn’t necessarily strike me as something that I would be interested in. Regardless, some people were surprised I’ve never been before since a lot of people go.

So this was my first foray into Mexico and of course, no resort for me. I went to Mexico City and just DIY’d the entire trip. One of the things I love about traveling is to see how other people live and experience a different slice of life. Of course, when you’re a tourist it’ll never be exactly the same but it’s still a bit more authentic when you’re wandering the streets of the city as compared to just chilling at some beach.

What I found the most interesting about Mexico City is that it was built over the ruins of an Aztec city. Legend has it that the Aztecs wandered through the Americas until they found an eagle eating a snake while standing on a cactus. It just so happened that this happened on a lake and so they decided to build a city there.

Tenochtitlán, the city Mexico City was built on.

It’s quite an interesting story and when you’re in the historic downtown area, you can see a bunch of the ruins that they unearthed over the years. We joined a free walking tour which brought us around the area and told us some of the history that pertained to the city. It was a pretty nice tour and our guide was incredibly knowledgeable.

Between the tour and my visit to the Museum of Anthropology, I learned a lot about the Aztecs and their city. You see all these renderings of the city when it was the Aztec capital and it’s absolutely crazy to think about.

You’re talking about a conquest-centric civilization that performed elaborate rituals and regularly conducted human sacrifices to the gods. A civilization that decided to build their capital in the middle of a lake because of some bird they saw. It’s amazing.

I can only imagine what the Europeans thought when they first arrived and saw them; it must’ve been incredibly terrifying.

The Aztec Sun Stone
The Aztec Sun Stone.

But alas, all empires fall and the Europeans took over, eventually forming modern day Mexico. This is a pretty classic story of the Americas but it’s interesting because I’ve never really put much thought into it until I looked at the names of the places in Mexico City and realized that a lot of them weren’t in Spanish, they were in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs.

It makes sense because you’d imagine the people would keep the traditional names of places. Canada is like that too. Pretty much all of our places are named after some European thing or based off of a word from an Aboriginal language.

It was a bit of an odd realization but it made me realize that Mexico and Canada are more similar than I thought. You have some land that had a native civilization that was essentially taken over by the Europeans and now it exists as some weird (but interesting) mixture of cultures.

Trotsky's Tomb
Trotsky, Mexico’s Soviet connection.

Looking past the historic aspects of the city, Mexico City has all of the things you’d expect from a big city. It has a big and modern downtown area which is located around Reforma, a large street that runs through the center of the city.

There’s a lot of stuff to see and do around Reforma and I spent a decent amount of time walking around there.

It was a pretty nice walk. What stood out to me was that there were a lot of statues and monuments scattered around that area. It’s not a huge surprise considering how it’s a giant boulevard so it would be an ideal place to put these things, but there were so many.

Of course you had the statues of key Mexican figures and events, like the Monument to the Revolution and the Angel of Independence. But then you also had some random stuff like Roman gods and goddesses and I’m not really sure how that relates to Mexico.

The Monument to the Revolution
The Monument to the Revolution.

But I think by far the highlight of my visit to Mexico City was on my first night when me and my friend went and watched Lucha Libre. It was one of those things that we kinda just decided to do for fun and we didn’t really expect much from the show.

We showed up and got terrible seats so we decided to just take over some empty seats until we got kicked out of them. We swapped seats like this a bunch of times throughout the night but it was totally worth it because we had a much better view of the show.

Lucha Libre Introductions
Wrestler introductions for one of the rounds.

And man, the show was awesome. The commentary was all in Spanish and of course we’ve never followed it before so we had no idea what the storylines were, but the crowd was incredibly hype and everything about it was so fun. It was like two hours of solid fun for $10, really can’t complain.

The crowd got so into it and there were so many people yelling and cheering and booing that it was so hard to not get sucked into the hype. The wrestlers also preformed some genuinely awesome moves like ones where they would jump from the ring, over the ropes, and smash into a dude on the ground.

Of course there were those comically laughable moments like when three dudes would “kick” a guy on the ground, but they just all added together into this package of fun. Highly recommend; it was great.

Lucha Libre
This show is ridiculous.

Lastly, the food was pretty great too. Ever since my visit to San Antonio last year I was really excited to try Mexican food in Mexico since I figured if it was that good in Texas it had to be better in its origin country.

It was definitely good, but also different than I thought. For example, whenever I think of tacos the image of Taco Bell always comes into my mind. Now, Taco Bell sucks but the image of a taco where you have like, lettuce, meat, and other stuff wrapped into a tortilla is pretty much how I’ve always envisioned it in my head.

But the taco places I went to in Mexico City certainly looked different, but were also incredibly tasty. On my first night in Mexico we went to three taco restaurants and had three different types of tacos. All of them were great and I would totally go back and have more.

Steak Taco with Cheese
A steak taco with cheese.

And of course, you can’t go to Mexico and not try some tequila. Me and my friend went to a few bars and I got some cocktails made from both tequila and mezcal, another agave-based alcohol. I think over the years I’ve come to understand that tequila is probably my favourite liquor. So, I thought they were great too haha.

Overall I had a pretty good time in Mexico City. I honestly wasn’t there for that long and I felt like I could’ve stayed another day or two. I think that’s probably a good sign that it was an interesting city. It’s such a large city that I think there’s a lot to do and explore. It should be pretty fun to spend some more time there and check out some of the less touristy things.

Author: Gary

Explorer, Creator, Gamer. #IDKAIST MSc and #UOITGameDev Alumni.

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