Archive for ‘January, 2014’

URBAN OBSERVATIONS


The Aztec stone serpent head

I’ve spent the past few months writing city tours with a cultural slant for a well-known media company (all to be revealed in the spring). One lovely aspect of this work was that it reacquainted me with – and deepened my knowledge of – some of the cities that have most inspired me, including Mexico City. I spent a month in this sprawling metropolis in 2009, an experience that massively enhanced my understanding of Latin American history. The art deco neighbourhood of Condesa, the city’s layered – quite literally – Aztec and Spanish architectural and cultural history, the retro aesthetics of the subway, the world-class museums and galleries, the green-and-white VW Beetle taxis (which were sadly retired in 2012) – all were aspects of the city that made me vow to return to ‘Distrito Federal’ in the near future. Five years have passed since then (where did they go?) and, alas, I haven’t made it back yet, but my recent research has added fuel to my burning intention; perhaps 2014 will be the year.

aztec stone photoHere is one of my favourite images from my last visit. It’s of an Aztec stone serpent head that forms a corner of the Museo de la Ciudad de México (Mexico City Museum) in the Centro Histórico, a few blocks from the Zócalo. The boy in the photo with his hand on the serpent’s nostril was watching a street dispute, unaware that I was snapping him – in national football strip glory – at the same time: a succinct example of modern-day Mexico meets pre-Colombian heritage. The colonial building that houses the museum was constructed in the 18th century, and the architects incorporated the Aztec serpent head into its design; perhaps the stone came from the base of an Aztec Temple that the Conquistadores destroyed. No-one knows for sure. What we do know is that the great Aztec civilisation – which built the city of Tenochtitlan, the blueprint for Mexico City – came to an end after the siege of Tenochtitlan in 1521, from which Conquistador Hernán Cortés emerged victorious.