A Travellerspoint blog

Love, hate, anguish,loss and hope

all in the first week in Mexico City

sunny 24 °C

We've been here one week, and experienced every emotion known to humankind. Each day brings brand new experiences and demands a high level of energy to take it all in. What the street life does not provide, the museums offer in abundance - lots to think about. The outstanding Museum of Memory and Tolerance moved us both deeply - it bears permanent witness to the horrors of seven genocides.


The largest section is devoted to the Holocaust, from the desperation of 30's Germany to HItler's rise to the Nuremberg Trials. The photos, short movie clips and artifacts were extremely difficult to look at - piles of children's shoes, dead bodies thrown into trenches, faded pieces of cloth with yellow stars, bunks filled with starving, dying human beings - all the more painful as that history is so well-known to us. Included is a portion of a box car that took Jews to their deaths. We walked up onto the platform and felt a semblance of something. I could not bring myself to take photos. That portion of the exhibit finished with the words NUNCA MAS! (Never More).

But of course, that was not the case, as we walked through horrifying exhibits with vivid photos outlining the genocides of the former Yugoslavia, Guatemala, Rwanda, Cambodia, Darfur and the 1915 Armenian genocide. The next section of the museum is devoted to Tolerance, and helped to illustrate how we may not even understand our own biases and prejudices - it was quite illuminating. This trip is helping to bust up some of our preconceived notions about Mexico and Mexicans - my impressions have changed a lot, even from last year. I'm losing those easy stereotypes.

Outside the museum is a wish tree, and in the spirit of peace and understanding, is an invitation to post wishes.
There are hundreds of little notes fluttering in the breeze.


I selfishly and superstitiously used this chance to post my wish for my children.


In the same museum is a temporary exhibit by Yoko Ono, called Tierra and Esperanza. It was a relief, after the emotional wringer we had been put through for the past three hours. I don't know much about Yoko Ono, and a lot of her exhibit is silly (A ladder with magnifying glass attached points out the word "Yes"). I'm realizing I do not possess the patience for wading through conceptual art, and this provoked a huge discussion with Stephen and me about the meaning of "art" (whole other blog posting, obviously).

While this message seemed counter-intuitive after witnessing the effects of seven genocides, we had to admire her optimism.


In another part of the city, an outdoor exhibit of a Yoko Ono retrospective included this famous photo
of John Lennon and Yoko Ono's "bed-in."


With the subject of hate out of the way, let's move on to love. Billionaire Carlos Slim, one of the world's wealthiest men, built a museum as a love letter to his late wife, Soumaya. It houses their extraordinary collection of art, which include coins, paintings, miniatures, and sculptures, including the world's second-largest Rodin collection. The museum design is both striking and controversial, much like its benefactor.


The interior of the museum follows the same, sinewy curves of the exterior.




Salvador Dali


Van Gogh


Ginny filling a frame


Slim has donated the Soumaya Museo as a gift to the Mexican people, with free admission and free events and concerts. There is also a glossy magazine ( free of charge) outlining The Carlos Slim Foundation's many charities. It's hard to love a billionaire in a poor country, and as it has been said, "if you have to talk about it, it ain't charity." I don't have the foggiest idea where Carlos Slim fits in the hearts and minds of the average Mexican, but his museum lacked focus and passion, in our humble opinion(s). It felt like a pretty warehouse, filled with pretty things.

Soumaya Museo is in Polanco - an upscale neighbourhood filled with beautiful parks, leafy streets, high-end restaurants and snazzy shops. We stopped for lunch on our way to the museum, grabbed an outside table at the popular Le Pain Quotidien, and enjoyed the people-watching almost as much as the food.


This park runs the length of three city blocks - a delight on a warm, sunny Saturday afternoon.


The park was busy with kids, dog-walkers and a bridal shoot.


The enduring appeal of Tiffany's


A typical Polanco home


And finally - ending on a high note - Papa! We are neither Catholic nor religious, but it was hard to resist the massive excitement that the papal visit had on most residents of Mexico City. There were a few protests and some griping about the road closures, but mainly, it was a very big deal. We did not go to the zocalo yesterday for His Holiness' address to the people - it felt way too intimidating to be part of those crowds. Today, our intention was to take part in the Sunday bike ride - we would rent bikes and join the throngs on the Paseo de Reforma (closed to cars every Sunday for five hours.)

As we approached the street, and saw dozens and dozens of police and hundreds of people lined up, we knew something was up. A major highway was closed and everyone was waiting for Papa to arrive up the ramp, onto Reforma, enroute to his afternoon appointment. I took a photo of the highway - probably the one time this year it has looked like this. (check out the smog - it was bad this morning)


Our timing was perfect! Within fifteen minutes, the radios started crackling, the cops closed in, and we could see the procession coming up the ramp - a motorcycle cop leading the way, with the Popemobile in full view. I can't believe how excited I was - I saw a couple of women crying and I was not that far from shedding a tear myself. Stephen took both Pope photos - we loved this one. Not even the cops are immune to Papa. The police officer who is directly in front of the Popemobile (and presumably supposed to be watching the crowds), is taking a photo!


With bike riding off the table, we headed over to the unbelievable Museum of Anthropology, and spent five hours there. This will be the next blog - was to much to include here. Well as we were heading home, dang if the Pope was not coming back down the same road, and we had a second chance to see him again. He looked a little tired this time around.


It will be hard to top this day. See you again in a day or so.

Posted by millerburr 19:44 Archived in Mexico

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Funny that your blog was in part about the Pope, last week on my way to work and back I got soaked to the bones three times and was daydreaming about getting a pope mobile, or at least the same kind of cover!

by Laurence

Bless you my children.... Good on you to wish for your children...I would not have expected anything different. Travel safe.

by Nanc

As always my day is highlighted by reading your posts. Love them.

by Annie

Great blog, travel well!

by dave N LAUREEN

Oh my gosh? I can't believe it! You managed to see the Pope not once, but twice! What a thrill!

by Heather

Wowzaa. Thank you for sharing such a moving account of the Museum of Memory and Tolerance. I had no idea this place existed, and is now on my personal list of places to visit. xo

ps: the Pope - chido!

by Alexandra

Over the top - really!!!

by Carol Martin

chido! My new Mexican Spanish modismo (slang!) Thanks, Ali -

Now I just have to figure out how to casually slide it into my limited conversations.

by millerburr

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