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Saturday, May 19:  On Saturday morning, those of us who survived last night’s party go out to a restaurant near our hotel for breakfast.  As you can see, there aren’t many survivors.

breakfast with my fellow students

breakfast with my fellow students: me, ??, and Chris

the breakfast restaurant in Mexico City

the breakfast restaurant in Mexico City

My room at Hotel Gillow

My room at Hotel Gillow

After breakfast, some of us go out to explore.  We go first to the Zócalo, the main plaza or square in the heart of the historic center of Mexico City.  The plaza used to be known simply as the “Main Square” or “Arms Square,” and today its formal name is Plaza de la Constitución (Constitution Square).  Plans were made to erect a column as a monument to Independence, but only the base, or zócalo, was ever built.  The plinth was destroyed long ago but the name has lived on (Wikipedia: Zócalo).

Since 1982, due to efforts to revitalize the city center, the Zócalo has become the scene of a number of artistic and cultural events. There are daily impromptu shows of Aztec dancers dancing to drums, wearing feathered headdresses and anklets made of concha shells.

Aztec dancers

Aztec dancers

Aztec dancers

Aztec dancers

The Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary of Mexico City is the oldest and largest Roman Catholic Cathedral in the Americas and seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese in Mexico.

the Cathedral

the Cathedral

Today happens to be the last day of one of Mexico’s most vibrant international arts festivals, the Festival de Mexico en el Centro Historico.  This festival features numerous events including opera, concerts, theater, art exhibits and dance productions. Proceeds from the festival go toward the rescue and restoration of the art and architecture of Mexico City’s historic downtown area.  (Festival de Mexico)

We walk around the festival exploring the different booths and performances.

?? and Aaron

Derek and Aaron

The Zócalo has been a gathering place for Mexicans since Aztec times, having been the site of Mexica ceremonies, the swearing in of viceroys, royal proclamations, military parades, Independence ceremonies and modern religious events, such as the festivals of Holy Week and Corpus Christi. It has received foreign heads of state and is the main venue for both national celebration and national protest (Wikipedia: Zócalo).

playing with confetti

playing with confetti

folk dancers at the festival

folk dancers at the festival

street scene in Mexico City

street scene in Mexico City

the ubiquitous green taxis

the ubiquitous green taxis

copper goods for sale

copper goods for sale

??, Aaron and me

??, Aaron and me

the view from my hotel window

the view from my hotel window

The modern Zócalo in Mexico City is 57,600 square metres (240 m × 240 m), making it one of the largest city squares in the world. It is bordered by the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary of Mexico City to the north, the National Palace to the east, the Federal District buildings to the south and the Old Portal de Mercaderes to the west.  In the center is a flagpole with an enormous Mexican flag ceremoniously raised and lowered each day and carried into the National Palace.

the Zócalo

the Zócalo with the National Palace on the far side

The Zócalo ~ taking the flag down

The Zócalo ~ taking the flag down

After relaxing a bit, we congregate in the lobby of our hotel at 7:15 to head to the Hotel Majestic for our welcome meeting.  At the rooftop restaurant of the Hotel Majestic, we have a group dinner overlooking the Zócalo (Hotel Majestic).

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