Oh to be in Mexico when the Sun is mild and the nights provide that touch of chill... No, this is not borrowed from any lyrics on this wonderful city but just words that came to mind when we reached Mexico. Comfortable is the essence but many who have been living here vouch that late February to April is perhaps the best period still to be in Mexico. It is spring then, the jacarandas would be in full blown to lend a violet touch all over and the weather is generally milder than now.
Meet a friendly race, a friend back in India had quipped when plans were ready for this trip. To be sure the first impression was spot on with the 'Bienvenido a Mexico' that a Mexican had greeted us as we came out of the airport for the first feel of the new atmosphere. If the skyscrapers that dot the city is an indication of the country's development and perhaps the capital city's outlook, then the heavy on-road traffic is suggestive of the economy as such. But there is more to all this, for, this is a city steeped in history, evolved from multiple civilizations before the Spanish invasion of the Aztecs completed the final touch.
It is said that where Mexico City is now, was once a place of lakes! According to a report that had appeared in the New York Times more than a decade ago, one of the consequences of the Spanish invasion of Aztec City and its destruction was conquering the lake waters. The natural environment was reordered and five inter-connected lakes that formed the base of the Aztec empire gave way to the coming up of what now has transformed into a megapolis of over two crore people.
A bit of that history comes to light at the heart of the Mexican city and they have named it Zocalo which is a base or a square measuring over 52000 square feet and rightly considered one of the world's biggest squares. This dates back to the 16th century during the Aztec civilization. The Spanish conquest brought the changes, the presidential palace on one and a huge block on the opposite side, which houses the government offices now and in between the two on the north is the Cathedral Metropolitan, considered the oldest in Latin America.
The significance of all these structures that depict Spanish architecture at its best had come on Aztec works underneath. The Cathedral for instance is atop Aztec temple precincts and the remains or ruins of the destructed site still lies there next to the Cathedral. Today it is a UNICEF heritage site.
The square or the plaza is a beehive of activity that range from important government events (there is a huge mast which carries aloft one of the biggest size Mexican national flag and it is said that the flag is on a daily basis is raised at 8 am and lowered at 6 pm by army personnel with a ceremonial touch).
The square also houses at times some of the best in arts and concerts of eminent persons as also turns a forum for mass protests at times. On other occasions, like a normal day, the area is also for mass relaxation, with people of all hues whiling away time lying there, even sleeping! No trees exist but perhaps the thrill of soaking in history.
The importance of Zocalo does not end there. On the distant side, next to the Cathedral is where attraction is of a different kind, the Aztec dancers, men and women, in their snakeskin loin clothes, shell bracelets and feathered headgear. Drum beats add edge to their rhythmic dancing. The belief is that they are supposed to have the powers to purify the human souls through a communion with the Almighty.
One could see a queue of people waiting for the personalised tribal treatment. One tribal dancer would with smoking mugs and a clutch of herbal plants in hand do the elaborate purification process involving moving these things in hand around the 'patient' from head to foot, all with a touch of rhythm!
Modernity is all pervasive but yet beliefs too have a strong place. Mexicans clearly love their past.
What strikes one is the neat blend of the past with the present, the beliefs and modernity and the harmonious setting of tradition and business. For, all around this sacred site is a string of streets that provide the essence of marketing in the city. “From a safety pin to the most modern electronic set and everything you could think of,” is the refrain on the choice available for the tourists and the citizens in this place. Come to Zocalo and you get the pulse of the Mexican City.